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Domestic Settings of Abuse

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

Domestic Settings

Much verbal, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and neglect takes place in the home within the context of the intimate relationships between family members that take place within the home. Abuse between relationship partners is sometimes referred to as "partner abuse", "domestic violence", "relationship violence", or "family violence". Much child abuse and elder abuse takes place within the home as well.

fighting couple in bedWhen people think of abuse within the home, they most often think of a domestic violence situation among relationship partners, where an adult male perpetrator harms an adult female victim. The reason that this sexual stereotype exists (where the abuser is male and the victim is female) is because the vast majority of reported cases of domestic violence are reported by women. According to USDOJ statistics, women report on average more than 572,000 violent victimizations committed by their intimate partners each year, compared to approximately 49,000 incidents reported by men. It is likely that the actual number of men who are assaulted is higher than these statistics would suggest, for the simple reason that men are more likely to feel ashamed of having been assaulted, and are less likely to report assaults. Whatever the actual numbers of assaults are, the take home message is that anyone can be an abuser, whether male or female.

Partner abuse may take many forms. Destruction of property, psychological and emotional abuse, and physical and sexual assault are all common forms. On the milder, but still quite serious side, domestic abusers threaten victims, use verbal put-downs and derogatory names, attempt to publicly humiliate them, and play manipulative mind games. Abusers are often jealous. They may attempt to limit their victim's access to family, friends or employment so as to keep them under better control and away from "outside negative influences" (e.g., away from people who might try to talk sense into them). Abusers efforts to limit victims outside contacts may result in victims not being able to stay in contact with family and friends, being unable to seek employment, or losing employment (due to absenteeism or decreased productivity secondary to abuse). In its more severe forms, partner abuse may involve physical and sexual violence against adult partners as well as child and even family pet victims.

Most child abuse and elder abuse also occur in the home. Child and elder abuse occur in all the ugly forms that partner abuse does; including verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Another form of abuse that children and elders may be subject to is neglect. Neglect occurs when dependent children or adults are not provided with adequate amounts of the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Neglect can also occur when dependent children are not given proper attention and supervision. Neglect occurs for reasons other than lack of financial means. It is instead a choice that some parents (or adult children) make to withhold these necessities.