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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Update

by Becky Sisk, (c) January 29, 2003


Domestic Violence occurs "When spouses, intimate partners, or dates use physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, harassment, or stalking to control the behavior of their partners (American Bar Association, 2002)."  Victims and perpetrators can be of any age and from any religion or socioeconomic class. Most victims in heterosexual relationships are female.  Most perpetrators are males who have witnessed domestic violence as a child.


More than 650,000 violent crimes in 2000 were committed by someone with whom the victim was intimate (National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women, 2002). The incidence of same sex domestic violence averages 13,740 for males and 16,900 for females.


Traditionally, the relationships within a family have been considered personal.  Now, however, domestic violence is considered a crime (4Woman.go, 2002).  Domestic violence can take many forms (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2003): 

  • Physical abuse - physical attack or battering

  • Sexual abuse - unwanted sexual activity

  • Economic abuse - withholding money; restricting from employment

  • Emotional (psychological) abuse - verbal abuse, harassment, excessive possessiveness, isolation from friends and family, destruction of personal property

Assessment of Domestic Violence

How can you tell if domestic violence is occurring in a family (Women's Issues and Social Empowerment, 1998a)? Consider domestic

violence if:

  • The victim has obvious physical injuries.

  • The victim shows signs of depression or suicidal ideas.

  • The victim has a history of poor health or medical problems.

  • The victim expresses confusion, indecisiveness, or anxiety.

  • There is a history of domestic violence in the victim's family of origin.

  • The victim has a lack of control over his or her own finances or frequently seeks financial help.

 Nursing Interventions:


In personal encounters with domestic violence victims:

  • Accept the victim and listen to his or her concerns.

  • Believe what the victim says.

  • Find a safe environment for the victim and children (safe house).

  • Assure the victim that domestic violence is not the norm and that one does not need to stay in the situation.

  • Provide information on community resources; refer to support systems.

  • Assure the victim of confidentiality.

  • Assist the victim in making his or her own decisions.

To work within your community against domestic violence (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2003):

  • Get your local media involved.

  • Go to community leaders.

  • Involve educators.

  • Seek funding for programs. 

  • Go to the grassroots.

  • Target education to children and teenagers as well as possible perpetrators and victims.

  • Target all information providers, small local community papers as well as metropolitan newspapers.

  • Build coalitions between educators, service providers, media, community-service organizations, and faith-based programs.

  • Evaluate your efforts and revise them if they are ineffective.

Working with families experiencing domestic violence is complex. Do not blame the victim.  Assuming an antagonistic view to the perpetrator is likewise not helpful. The Duluth Domestic Abuse

Intervention Project (Women's Issues and Social Empowerment, 1998b) is based on a theoretical model of power and control, where coercion, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, and other behaviors reflect an imbalance of power in the relationship. Interventions are geared at negotiating, using non-threatening behavior, respect, trust, and other positive behaviors to take control and power out of the relationship. The process is documented in Pence et al. (1993) and Shepard & Pence (1999).


References: (2002).  Violence against women.  Retrieved January

25, 2003.


American Bar Association (2002). Multidisciplinary responses to

domestic violence. Retrieved January 25, 2003.


National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women (2002).

Toolkit to End Violence.  Retrieved January 25, 2003.


Pence, E. et al. (1993).  Education groups for men who batter: The

Duluth Model.  New York: Springer.


Shepherd, M.F., & Pence, E.L. (1999). Coordinating community

responses to domestic violence: Lessons from the Duluth model.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


Women's Issues and Social Empowerment (1998a). Interpreting the

signs of domestic violence. Retrieved January 25, 2003.



Women's Issues and Social Empowerment (1998b). The Duluth 

Domestic Abuse Intervention Project. Retrieved January 25, 2003.



Try the Domestic Violence Update Clinical Crossword (c)!


Books on Domestic Violence From

Books on Domestic Violence
Books on the Duluth Model


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This article was taken from Volume 2, #1, of the "Clinical Nursing Resources" newsletter.  To subscribe, send a blank email to:

Students: The intent of this article is to summarize material on evidence based nursing.  It is a secondary source.  Please go to the references, which are primary sources, and use them to prepare your paper or presentation.