Domestic Violence: An Introduction

Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating. Violence takes many forms and can happen all the time or once in a while. Abuse is not an accident. It does not happen because someone was stressed out, drinking, or using drugs. Abusers have learned to abuse, using their power to get what they want. The abuse may be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological.

Domestic violence crosses all ethnic, racial, age, national origin, sexual orientation, religious, and socioeconomic lines. Domestic violence can happen to anybody. In fact, studies suggest that one fifth to one third of all women will be physically assaulted by a partner or ex partner during their lifetime. In heterosexual relationships, 95% of all victims are female and 95% of all perpetrators are male. In same-sex relationships, domestic violence happens with the same statistical frequency as in heterosexual relationships.

“Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling behaviors, some of which are criminal, that includes but is not limited to physical assaults, sexual assaults, emotional abuse, isolation, economic coercion, threats, stalking, and intimidation. These behaviors are used by the batterer in an effort to control the intimate partner. The behavior may be directed at others with the effect of controlling the intimate partner.” Batter Intervention Standards for the State of Michigan, 4.1 (January 20, 1999).

Domestic Violence Victims

Anyone can be a victim! Victims can be any age, sex, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, education, employment, or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women. Children in homes where there is domestic violence are more likely to be abused and/or neglected. Most children in these homes know about violence. Even if a child is not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavior problems. NOBODY DESERVES TO BE ABUSED! THE ONLY PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ABUSE IS THE ABUSER!

Domestic Abusers

There is no “typical” abuser. In public, they may appear friendly and loving to their partner and family. They often only abuse behind closed doors. They also try to hide the abuse by causing injuries that can be hidden and do not need medical attention. Abusers often have low self-esteem. They do not take responsibility for their actions. They often blame the victim for causing the violence. In most cases, men abuse female victims.

Survivor vs. Victim

In most places, we use the term “survivor” due to our emphasis on empowerment advocacy. This happens when the advocate offers support, resources, advocacy, information, and education.

This is a way of recognizing strength, courage, and survival strategies of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.

Not all women who have experienced domestic or sexual violence see themselves as “survivors.” Remember: Domestic violence and sexual assault is something that happens to individuals; it does not define who they are.


We are a MOVEMENT and our work is different than that of traditional social services in that we:

  • Focus on survivors’ strengths
  • Do not believe that we are the experts in their lives
  • Are survivor-driven, not service driven
  • Understand that violence can happen to any of us
  • Are non-directive in our approach to working with survivors

Instead of viewing survivors as sick or pathological, we believe that survivors are simply reacting in adaptive ways to oppressive societal conditions, restrictive sex roles, and the abusive intimate partners in their lives.

MCADSV New Service Provider training Manual and Resource Guide (May 2006).

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