Legal Dictionary

domestic violence

Definition of domestic violence


domestic violence (uncountable)

  1. Violence committed by one member of a family or household against another

Further reading

Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse or intimate partner violence (IPV), can be broadly defined a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, friends or cohabitation. Domestic violence has many forms including physical aggression (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, throwing objects), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse[1][2] (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation. Domestic violence may or may not constitute a crime, depending on local statutes, severity and duration of specific acts, and other variables. Alcohol consumption[3] and mental illness[4] have frequently been associated with abuse.

Awareness, perception and documentation of domestic violence differs from country to country, and from era to era. Estimates are that only about a third of cases of domestic violence are actually reported in the United States and the United Kingdom. According to the Centers for Disease Control, domestic violence is a serious, preventable public health problem affecting more than 32 million Americans, or over 10% of the U. S. population.[5]

Violence between spouses has long been considered a serious problem. The United States has a lengthy history of legal precedent condemning spousal abuse. In 1879, law scholar Nicholas St. John Green[6] wrote, "The cases in the American courts are uniform against the right of the husband to use any [physical] chastisement, moderate or otherwise, toward the wife, for any purpose." Green also cites the 1641 Body of Liberties of the Massachusetts Bay colonists -� one of the first legal documents in North American history �- as an early de jure condemnation of violence by either spouse.

Popular emphasis has tended to be on women as the victims of domestic violence.[7] Many studies[8][9] show that women suffer greater rates of injury due to domestic violence, and some studies show that women suffer higher rates of assault.[10] Yet, other statistics show that while men tend to inflict injury at higher rates, the majority of domestic violence overall is reciprocal.[11]

Modern attention to domestic violence began in the women's movement of the 1970s, particularly within feminism and women's rights, as concern about wives being beaten by their husbands gained attention. Only since the late 1970s, and particularly in the masculism and men's movements of the 1990s, has the problem of domestic violence against men gained any significant attention. Estimates show that 248 of every 1,000 females and 76 of every 1,000 males are victims of physical assault and/or rape committed by their spouses.[12] A 1997 report says significantly more men than women do not disclose the identity of their attacker.[13] A 2009 study showed that there was greater acceptance for abuse perpetrated by females than by males.[14]


  1. Passive Aggressive Behavior, a Form of Covert Abuse
  2. Damm Violence
  3. Markowitz, Sara. "The Price of Alcohol, Wife Abuse, and Husband Abuse." Southern Economic Journal. 67 no2 279-303 O 2000
  4. Dutton, Donald G. (1994) Patriarchy and Wife Assault: The Ecological Fallacy. Violence and Victims, 1994, 9, 2, pp. 125�140.
  5. Tjaden and Thoennes 2000
  6. Green, Nicholas St. John. 1879. Criminal Law Reports: Being Reports of Cases Determined in the Federal and State Courts of the United States, and in the Courts of England, Ireland, Canada, etc. with notes. Hurd and Houghton.
  7. Dutton, 1994
  8. a b c d Strauss, 2005
  9. a b Archer, 2000
  10. Straus, Murray A."State-to-state differences in social inequality and social bonds in relation to assaults on wives in the United States." Journal of Comparative Family Studies. 25 (1994): 7-24.
  11. Deal, J. E., & Wampler, K. S. (1986). Dating violence: The primacy of previous experience. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 3, 457-471.
  12. National Family Violence Survey, 2000,
  13. Violence-Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments, August 1997.
  14. Robertson, Kirsten. Murachver, Tamar."Attitudes and Attributions Associated With Female and Male Partner Violence." Journal of Applied Social Psychology v. 39 no.7 (July 2009) p. 481-512


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex fori
2.     lex situs
3.     lex causae
4.     conclusive presumption
5.     AORO
6.     landed property
7.     lex domicilii
8.     Miranda warning
9.     lex loci delicti commissi
10.     Clayton's Case