NC State Extension Publications


"Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”

-The Department of Justice

  • Children who witness domestic abuse are negatively affected.
    • Witnessing abuse in the home teaches a child that violence is a normal way to deal with problems.
  • Economic cost on society.
    • The medical expenses of abuse victims, missed work, and therapy adds up. The cost has been estimated to be around 5.8 billion; 4.1 billion was for medical and mental health costs.
  • Counseling can be very beneficial.
    • It is not unusual for a victim of domestic violence to develop alcoholism, drug addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses.
  • Increased health problems in women.
    • Chronic pain, gastrointestinal issues, and eating disorders.
    • Higher levels of sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal infections, kidney infections and bleeding during pregnancy.
Cycle of violence.

Cycle of violence.

Types of Abuse

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Physical abuse is causing physical harm through bodily force.

Sexual abuse is when one is forced to engage in a sexual act against their will.

Psychological abuse (also known as emotional abuse) entails causing someone mental anguish. This could be in the form of physical threats to the victim or the victim’s loved ones. It could also involve destruction of property and being isolated from other people.

Economic abuse is when one is blocked from their money in an attempt to create dependents and it often fosters isolation.

The Stats

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  • Roughly 3 women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States

  • In 2008, women experienced 2 million injuries from intimate partner violence.

  • 1 in 4women in the U.S. has experienced violence by a spouse or boyfriend.

  • Women make up 84% of spousal abuse victims.

  • There were 248,300 rapes/sexual assaults in the United States in 2007; that’s more than 500 per day.

  • 90% of battered women’s children witness their abuse.

Risk Factors

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Individual Risk Factors

  • Young age, low self-esteem, and poor academic performance

  • Low income, unemployment, and heavy alcohol or drug use.

  • Aggressive or delinquent behavior as a youth

  • Depression

  • Anger and hostility

  • Antisocial personality traits and borderline personality traits

  • Prior history of being physically abusive

  • Having few friends and being isolated from other people

  • Emotional dependence and insecurity

  • Belief in strict gender roles (e.g., male dominance and aggression in relationships)

  • Being a victim of physical or psychological abuse

  • History of experiencing poor parenting as a child

  • History of experiencing physical discipline as a child

Relationship Factors

  • Marital conflict-fights, tension, and other struggles

  • Marital instability-divorces or separations

  • Dominance and control of the relationship by one partner over the other

  • Economic stress

  • Unhealthy family relationships and interactions

Community Factors

  • Poverty and associated factors (e.g., overcrowding)

  • Low social capital-lack of institutions, relationships, and norms that shape a community's social interactions

  • Weak community sanctions against IPV (e.g., unwillingness of neighbors to intervene in situations where they witness violence)

Societal Factors

  • Traditional gender norms (e.g., women should stay at home, not enter workforce, and be submissive; men support the family and make the decisions)

*Center for Disease Control

Where to Find Help

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The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE

National Sexual Assault Online Hotline

Safe Horizons
Crime Victims Hotline, 800-621-4673
Rape and Sexual Assault & Incest Hotline, 212-227-3000

Other Organizations:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 303-839-1852,

Faith Trust Institute


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Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: Jan. 1, 2013

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