Defining domestic violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior meant to exert power and control over another in an intimate relationship.

Michigan State University Extension believes it is important to promote healthy relationships and this includes being able to recognize when a relationship becomes unhealthy or abusive.

So you might ask yourself, what is domestic violence? Many people think it only happens to others and that there are obvious signs like a black eye or a broken bone. The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic violence (also called intimate partner violence) as a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. It happens to people who are married, divorced, partnered or even just dating. It does not discriminate by social economic status, education levels, race, sexual orientation, age, religion or gender. Anyone can be a perpetrator or a victim.

Domestic violence includes exerting power and control over another person by means of physical or sexual harm, threats, isolation, coercion (making someone do things they don’t want to do) or even financial (withholding assets for basic needs, wants, etc.).

The effects of domestic violence are pervasive and substantial. Children who witness domestic violence are at risk for a number of things including becoming either an adult victim or perpetrator. Even before children can talk, witnessing domestic violence can affect healthy brain development and lead to emotional and behavioral challenges.

Besides the physical, social and emotional effects, there are economic factors to consider. According to the National Council Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence costs the U.S. economy between $5.8 billion and $12.6 billion per year in lost productivity, job loss, and medical and legal fees. 

If you or someone you care about is experiencing domestic violence, please look to the following resources as a starting point:


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