What You Need to Know About Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is one of those topics talked about in kitchens and bedrooms in hushed tones, in courtrooms in legal terms, but rarely in human terms.

This needs to change. This conversation needs to happen on a smaller scale. Woman to woman, heart to heart.

For violence on a worldwide scale to end, it needs to end in the home.

For any abhorrent behavior to change, it needs to first be understood.


  • One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.
  • Women accounted for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence, men for approximately 15%.
  • Women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
  • Separated and divorced males and females are at a greater risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
  • Women of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner.
  • Intimate partner violence affects people regardless of income. However, people with lower annual income (below $25K) are at a 3-times higher risk of intimate partner violence than people with higher annual income (over $50K). (Those with less resources are more likely to report incidents of violence.)
  • On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.
  • Approximately one in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.


Marsalee Nicholas, the sister of Henry Nicholas, was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. After founding the nonprofit, Justice for Homicide Victims, Henry went on to vigorously campaign and succeed in passing Marsy’s Law, a bill of rights for the victims of crime, named after his sister, Marsy, in 2008.

Domestic violence is a crime. Marsy’s law guarantees you 17 legal rights in California. Here are a few of them:

  • To be treated with fairness and respect for your privacy and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse, throughout the criminal justice process.
  • To be reasonably protected from the defendant and persons acting on behalf of the defendant.
  • To have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in fixing the amount of bail and release conditions for the defendant
  • To refuse an interview, deposition, or discovery request by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any such interview to which the victim consents.
  • To be heard, upon request, at any proceeding, including any delinquency proceeding, involving a post-arrest release decision, plea, sentencing, post-conviction release decision, or any proceeding in which a right of the victim is at issue.
  • To restitution.
  • To provide information to a probation department official conducting a pre-sentence investigation concerning the impact of the offense on the victim and the victim’s family and any sentencing recommendations before the sentencing of the defendant.
  • To have the safety of the victim, the victim’s family, and the general public considered before any parole or other post-judgment release decision is made.


Battering often begins subtly before it becomes overt. Physical aggression becomes focused on controlling, intimidating, and subjugating the other person. Emotional abuse is always a component, often involves injury, and generates fear in the victim.

If you think you may be in a potentially volatile relationship, click here to learn the signs.

If you’re married and forced to have sex against your will, this is rape. Click here for more examples of abuse.


This is the first and most obvious question. Why do women stay in abusive relationships? Financial incentives, children, and nowhere to go are the answers that come to mind. We think if only we could empower women, encourage women, assist women, they would have the strength to leave.

Perhaps, instead of focusing on the women, we should be focusing on the men.

Researchers and clinicians are finding, to their surprise, that the question is not so much, Why do women stay? as it is, What makes the men so vulnerable, so dependent?
The thought is that violence arises from feelings of powerlessness. When men resort to force, they are actually losing control. It’s not necessarily something they enjoy, but it results from a lack of power.

“These men give women too much power—to take care of all their needs, to solve their loneliness, for example. They expect women to be their psychic nurses,” says family therapist Virginia Goldner, Ph.D.

This is just one aspect of domestic violence, often overlooked, that needs to be considered.


If you’re in a violent relationship, physical or emotional, or a victim of stalking, here’s a few things you need to do:

  • Make a plan.
  • Keep evidence.
  • Save money.
  • Get a protective order.

Domestic violence is a destructive, insidious crime that collapses our society from the inside out. Speak out and stand up for yourself or anyone you know in this destructive pattern. There is help and support available.

All you need to do is ask.

1-800-799-7233 (U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline)

photo by: FranUlloa