Six in ten women consider domestic violence a criminal issue.

National Domestic Violence Hotline:

800-799-SAFE, TDD: 800-787-3224

At the National Domestic Violence Hotline… We believe that every caller deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. We believe that every family deserves to live in a world free from violence. We believe that safe homes and safe families are the foundation of a safe society.

Until the violence stops, the hotline will continue to answer… One Call at a Time. Help is available to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hotline advocates are available for victims and anyone calling on their behalf to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Assistance is available in English and Spanish with access to more than 140 languages through interpreter services. If you or someone you know is frightened about something in your relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

For more information on the President’s Family Justice Center, please visit For more information on the National Domestic Violence Hotline, call 1-800-799-SAFE or visit

Emotional and verbal abuse qualify as domestic violence.

As domestic violence awareness has increased, it has become evident that abuse can occur within a number of relationships. The laws in many states cover incidents of violence occurring between married couples, as well as abuse of elders by family members, abuse between roommates, dating couples and those in lesbian and gay relationships. In an abusive relationships, the abuser may use a number of tactics other than physical violence in order to maintain power and control over his or her partner.

Emotional and verbal abuse

Survivors of domestic violence recount stories of put-downs, public humiliation, name-calling, mind games and manipulations by their partners. Many say that the emotional abuse they have suffered has left the deepest scars.


It is common for an abuser to be extremely jealous, and insist that the victim not see her friends or family members. The resulting feeling of isolation may then be increased for the victim if she loses her job as a result of absenteeism or decreased productivity (which are often associated with people who are experiencing domestic violence).

Threats and Intimidation

Threats – including threats of violence, suicide, or of taking away the children – are a very common tactic employed by the batterer.

The existence of emotional and verbal abuse, attempts to isolate, and threats and intimidation within a relationships may be an indication that physical abuse is to follow. Even if they are not accompanied by physical abuse, the effect of these incidents must not be minimized.


The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), in collaboration with the Polling Company, Inc., conducted two focus groups and a telephone poll of 600 women in June, 2006 to find out how they viewed the crime of domestic violence. The results of this survey research are summarized below.


The majority of survey respondents and focus group participants had a noteworthy command of issues related to domestic violence. When asked directly, most women agreed that domestic violence in the U.S. is a serious problem. Still, the issue did not flow freely when women were asked to cite the most pressing challenges facing women in this country. Further discussion revealed that this is fueled in part by the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality conveniently allowed by domestic violence, whose victims often suffer silently and without conspicuous physical markings. When asked whether domestic violence qualifies more as a criminal issue or a health issue, women were more than four times as likely to say that domestic violence is a criminal issue. The overwhelming consensus among the participants was that any woman could be a victim of abuse regardless of race, age, socio-economic status, or place of residence. Six in ten women consider domestic violence a criminal issue.

The women studied had more than a general understanding of three different types of abuse:

Verbal Abuse: Nearly three out of four of the women surveyed said that name calling or put-downs on a regular basis constituted domestic violence and 44 percent suggested that even occasional harsh words counted. One in three insisted on something akin to a strict liability standard for the perpetrator, saying that put-downs and criticisms that did not hurt the other person’s feelings nonetheless should be considered domestic violence, a sentiment echoed by many women in the focus groups. To these women, verbal battery is a gateway to physical harm and should not be dismissed.

Physical Abuse: The striking and battering of a woman is visible and most commonly associated with violence between intimate partners. That said, nearly all of the women interviewed acknowledged that conduct need not be physical to qualify as domestic violence. Three-fourths of women surveyed agreed that repeated threats to bring harm fit the definition.

Sexual Abuse: Focus group participants did not automatically connect sexual assault and domestic violence. However, nearly nine in ten of the respondents suggested that sexual coercion is included in the term when prompted. Unassisted, only one percent of women surveyed mentioned sexual abuse in their definition of domestic abuse.

More so than a particular word or deed, the women determined that it was pattern and regularity of the behavior that distinguished actual abuse from “relational conflict.”

In the focus groups, the women implied that the severity of the problem was linked to whether it ultimately should be characterized as domestic violence.


The majority of survey respondents agreed that the victim was never to blame for staying with an abuser. Instead, they recognized that victims may struggle with an extremely complex emotional, psychological, even monetary calculus before finally deciding to leave their abusers. Shame, low self-esteem, and fear of repercussions from the perpetrator as well as a financial inability to leave can combine to create a figurative prison that grips women. Still, one-third of women reported that some culpability belonged with the victim.

Most pinned the causes of domestic violence as a learned behavior, meaning the peretrator witnessed this type of conduct in the home while growing up himself, had financial problems, suffered drug and alcohol abuse, or was unable to manage anger. However, these women were also keenly aware that many relationships experience these problems and other stressors, and do not fall into the patterns of domestic violence.


Of all the solutions and organizations discussed in the focus groups, women responded most positively toward the President’s Family Justice Center Initiative and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Survey respondents felt that shelters, a “hotline,” and law enforcement were better options than any other. Women wishing to help, but unsure as to the most effective ways to do so, can point a friend or family member in the direction of these resources without endangering themselves or “butting in.”


Nearly all of the focus group participants were personally willing to roll up their sleeves and volunteer to help women caught in the cycle of abuse. However, many of them also confided that when they were faced with an opportunity to assist a victim in the past, it was often after the victim had already hit “rock bottom” or actively solicited aid on her own.


Strikingly, no single resource was a runaway favorite amongst women when asked to choose the optimal solution. Types of community assistance (going to a shelter, calling a hotline, or calling the police) were given the distinction of “best” by more women than any of the other options (staying with a friend or family member, talking to church or religious leaders, talking to a counselor, or talking to a health professional). Nearly one fourth felt that the solution was a combination of all.

See also…

Domestic Violence and Abuse