Domestic Violence: Definitions and Statistics

Domestic Violence-Definitions and Statistics

This is the first blog post of a four-part series on Domestic Violence (DV). This first post focuses on definitions and statistics. The second will focus on safety and legislative issues. In the final two posts, I will share some personal experiences, some of which are featured in The Best Girl.

I realize that this topic is hard to read about – I thank you for reading it and look forward to any comments you may have.

What is Domestic Violence (DV)?

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, defines DV as the willful intimidation, physical assault, batter, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. There is a consistent effort on the part of the abuser to maintain power and control over the victim.

Emotional control is exhibited in several ways, including telling the victim they are dumb, showing extreme jealousy over time spent with friends and family, embarrassing the victim in front of others (including children) and restricting access to money/finances. In addition, the abuser takes care to know the victim’s whereabouts at every moment, thereby having the ability of showing up unexpectedly to harass them at school, work and other public places.

The consequences of DV are psychological trauma, physical injury and death.

Who does Domestic Violence Affect?

DV affects individuals in every community, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, gender, race, religion, or nationality.

What is a Personal Safety Plan?

Most police departments have a checklist to address risk of death (homicide) to the victim, and this is done at the scene. If the risk assessment shows a high probability of death, the victim is strongly encouraged to file an immediate order of restraint and is put in touch with a shelter or DV advocate, who works with the victim to find resources and establish a safety plan. If there are no local resources, the victim can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

The plan helps the victim identify everything from a secret code word, to safe places they can access at home, work or in public in the event of an impending assault. The plan is discussed with family members, friends or coworkers, so that all are aware of what to do.

These measures cannot prevent the abuse altogether and, abuse can intensify during this time. According to the National Coalition, obtaining a restraining order increases the risk of homicide up to 33% within the first month. Beyond the restraining order, protection relies on the abuser being held accountable by the judicial system, or on the abuser deciding to stop being abusive and obtain professional help. Without these, protection relies solely on the victim to find a way to escape the abuser. Ultimately, the victim may choose to move into a DV shelter which is a secure facility to offer the utmost protection as well as access to resources.


Nationally, 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 4 men in the U.S. have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. DV hotlines across the U.S. process approximately 21,00 calls a day. It is unclear how many DV incidents occur that are never reported.

In 2013, in my home state of Minnesota, 26 women, 7 men, and 6 family members/friends lost their lives in DV incidents – 56% of these were committed with a firearm. The presence of a gun in the home during a DV incident increases the risk of homicide up to 500%.

Sources: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Domestic Violence Advocacy, 2nd edition by Jill M. Davies and Eleanor Lynn.