Domestic violence occurs when one partner physically, emotionally, or sexually abuses another. It is a series of behaviors where the abuser seeks to exert control over his or her partner. Domestic violence can take place between married, cohabiting, or dating couples and in heterosexual or homosexual relationships. The perpetrator can be a man or woman, and the abuse may occur regardless of socioeconomic status, race, religion, or education levels of those involved.
Domestic abuse spans several types of violence. Physical assault is one common form. Physical abuse includes hitting, punching, slapping, pushing, and choking. It also may involve property damage, where one partner throws objects at another or destroys possessions. These are considered physical abuse because the offender is acting out his or her rage rather than, for instance, abusing through name calling.
Physical domestic violence also occurs when one partner holds the other against his or her will. This may include locking someone in a room, preventing the other person from leaving the house, or stopping the victim from seeking help. It also can happen outside of the home, such as driving recklessly and/or refusing to let the other person out of the car.
Emotional abuse is another known form of domestic violence. Such violence can be harder to detect because it does not result in the bruises and injuries that may occur from physical abuse. Emotional violence is marked by name calling, constant criticism, intimidation, and requiring permission for everyday actions, such as leaving the house or spending money. Emotional abusers usually try to destroy their victim's self confidence. This often makes it easier for perpetrators to isolate their partners, thereby making abuse victims less likely to seek help to end the violence.
Domestic violence also entails sexual abuse against one partner in a relationship. Many jurisdictions consider forced sex a crime regardless of the couple’s relationship status. Sexual violence extends to manipulating a partner into sexual intercourse. It also can occur if the abuse is sexual in nature — such as demanding a partner dress a certain way — even if forced intercourse does not occur.
Both women and men can commit intimate partner violence. Domestic violence occurs in all types of relationships, both straight and homosexual, and in all age groups. Victim advocate groups note that there is no average profile of an abuser based on factors such as race, ethnicity, religious background, or education level. There are commonalities in perpetrator psyches, however. These include a need to control other people and low self esteem.