Is it Domestic Violence, Abuse, Conflict, Violence or Battering?
Domestic violence is any act occurring between people who live together, or have lived together, that causes harm or makes one believe the intention is to cause physical or psychological harm. Domestic violence includes beatings, pushing, hair pulling, name calling, killing pets, threats, child abuse, rape, stalking, food thrown in your face and it includes murder. In the United States, three to four women a day are murdered by an intimate partner.
Domestic violence is a crime that causes more injuries to women than muggings, rape and car accidents combined. Domestic violence crosses all social, economic and cultural lines. Half of all marriages in the U.S. experience at least one episode of violence. We don’t have very accurate statistics about domestic violence because it is difficult collecting the information. Usually, only physical violence is counted since it is most visible, but it is also under-reported. However, it is estimated that every nine seconds a woman is being battered in America. That number does not include other kinds of domestic violence.
Violence occurs between men, between women, and women may also act violently towards men. We also know that this violence occurs between lesbian, bi-sexual and gay partners. Most often we refer to this crime of violence in heterosexual relationships where men are the abusers and women are the victims. This is the type of relationship we see the most when domestic violence happens.
Nationally, 95 percent of the time men are the offenders and women the victims. There is often misunderstanding and confusion about what a person is experiencing and what to do about domestic violence because people use the term to mean different things. Legally, domestic violence covers all acts of violence between people who live or have lived in the same house. It includes children, brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, spouses, elders. Sometimes, people haven’t been taught the differences between conflict, abuse, acts of violence, domestic violence and battering. Our main focus is on battering, a form of domestic violence that includes abuse and violence, but is more complex and has to do with gender (being a man or woman). Below are brief definitions that can help clear up what this word means. Understanding the differences is important in knowing how to best respond to what is going on.
When two people disagree, or when our thoughts and behaviors are different, we have conflict. Conflict can be good and it can be bad. It is good when conflict motivates us to think, grow or do things another way. In healthy relationships, there is no fear when conflicts happen. For those raised in violent homes where a person is out to “win,” rather than resolve their differences through talking and compromise, the conflict can move from a disagreement to abuse or violence. In that case, counseling can be of help.
Abuse occurs when one person’s behavior or words are intentionally aimed at hurting another. Abuse is painful, but does not necessarily stop someone from doing what s/he wants to do. A combination of abusive behaviors can turn the abuse to violence. If certain behaviors stop someone from making choices over their body or life or it takes control over another person’s body or life, that behavior is considered abusive. Not doing what someone wants you to do or making decisions about things you are responsible for without another person’s approval or agreement are not abusive behaviors. There are important differences between disrespect, inappropriate behavior and abuse. Counseling and education are appropriate if any of these are happening. In the case of abuse, it may also be a matter for law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Abuse becomes violence when it causes you to fear for your life. Violence impacts every part of us—physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. Violence takes control of our lives and bodies away from us, at least for a few moments. Violence is a crime; although, it is ethical and legal to use violence as a last resort to protect yourself or another from violence.
Battering is a system of ongoing tactics aimed at maintaining power and control over another. The tactics of battering include all forms of abuse and violence: physical, sexual, emotional/mental, economic, using the children, ritual and cultural abuse, threats, intimidation, coercion. The element of fear for one’s life is very real and constant as a result of these tactics. Battering goes beyond being a mental health issue; it is a violent crime and a violation of human rights.
Based on material from Sacred Circle, National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women, 2002