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Definition of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence encompasses a wide range of acts committed by one person against another in an intimate relationship or within a family.  The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as “a pattern of coercive behaviors that are used by one person to gain power and control over another person”.

Domestic violence affects people of all racial, economic, educational, religious backgrounds and in heterosexual and same-sex relationships. While both men and women may be victims of domestic violence, research shows that the overwhelming majority of adult victims are women, and that domestic violence is a major cause of injury to women.

Domestic violence is a learned behavior- through observation, experience, reinforcement, culture, family, community- and is rarely caused by substance abuse, genetics, stress, illness or problems in the relationship, though these factors are often used as excuses and can exacerbate violent behavior.

Types of Domestic Violence

Physical Abuse can be defined as abuse involving contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, pain, injury, or other physical suffering or harm.  This includes but is not limited to hitting, kicking, slapping, biting, pushing, shoving, punching, pulling, and striking with an object.

Emotional Abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It includes but is not limited to constant criticism, repeated disapproval, refusal to be pleased, belittling, name-calling, and social isolation of one’s partner. 

Sexual Abuse is covers all acts that violate a person’s trust and feelings of safety and occurs any time a person is forced, coerced, and or manipulated into any form of unwanted sexual activity.  This includes rape, incest, child sexual assault, ritual abuse, date and acquaintance rape, statutory rape, marital or partner rape, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, and voyeurism.

Economic Abuse includes but is not limited to controlling all of the finances, not allowing a partner to work, jeopardizing the partners current employment, taking the partner’s money without consent, denying access and knowledge of the finances, and using a partner’s finances or credit for personal gain.

Elder Abuse includes physical, sexual, economic, and emotional abuse.  It also involves the violation of a person’s civil rights.  Neglect refers to willful deprivation by a caretaker of services that are necessary to maintain physical and mental health.  Financial exploitation is the misuse of assets, resources, real and/or personal property of an older adult.  Abandonment refers to leaving someone who needs care unattended without a plan for meeting the individual’s basic needs.