Domestic Violence: Causes and Tolls


Domestic violence is a relevant issue amongst society due to the fact that it affects all possible ranges of people. Regardless upon whether partner violence is male-on-female, female-on-male, or same-sex violence, it is important to consider the negative repercussions these implications create within long-term and short-term health. General facts and statistics concerning all types of victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) were examined within this research. Such knowledge focuses upon California’s prevalence of domestic violence within both males and females; regardless of sexual orientation and ethnicity.

The research then analyzed the potential risk factors and contributors that lead to acts of domestic violence while also describing laws and regulations implemented by the California state in order to decrease such probabilities and ensure the rights of victims. Outcomes of potential treatments and intervention programs upon perpetrators, victims, and witnesses are also included, providing an all around cause, effect, and solution outline.

Keywords: domestic violence, IPV, risk factor, California, victim, perpetrator


Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), can take many forms, and consists of a variety of complex causes and consequences.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2018) describes the term intimate partner violence to be “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner,” (para. 1). IPV can occur amongst LGBTQ+ couples, “does not require sexual intimacy,” and may occur between a current or former dating partner (2018). Such categories of partner violence are organized into four rulings under the CDC (2018); physical, psychological, sexual, and stalking.

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Physical violences are described as the “intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing death, disability, injury, or harm,” (para. 6). The second ruling, psychological aggression, is defined as the “use of verbal and nonverbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally, and/or to exert control over another person,” (para. 9). The third categorization of IPV is stalking. Stalking is described as the pattern of unwanted harassment or threats “that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone else,” (para. 8). Lastly, sexual abuse is divided up into five different categories. The general definition of such abuse is defined along forcing sexual activity or experiences without consent, “including cases in which the victim is unable to consent,” (para. 7) whether attempted or completed.

Discussion of Research

According to Hamel’s Facts and Statistics on Prevalence of Partner Abuse (2012), intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime. IPV is not discriminatory, and therefore is not limited to purely female victimization, as stereotypes would suggest (2012). ⅓ of women and ¼ of men in the US experience some form of IPV within their lives (2012). In fact, 24% of individuals are assaulted by a partner at least once in their lives , and 32.9% of California women and 27.3% of California men experience domestic violence/stalking in their lifetimes (2012). Intimate stalkers account for almost ½ of all stalkers, and 72% of all murder-suicides involved an intimate partner (2012). Daily, domestic violence hotlines receive 21,000 calls per day, 15 calls per minute (2012).

One step to better understanding the issue of IPV lies upon locating and understanding potential risk factors and contributions that lead up to such violence. According to Licht, (2014) being a danger to oneself and others is most likely due to substance abuse rather than mental health. However, substance abuse does indeed contribute to mental health issues in various cases, hence the negative connection and stigma concerning those with mental health disorders (2014). Risk factors apply equally for men and women, with few a exceptions. Hamel states that demographic risk factors include young age, low income/unemployment, and minority group membership (2012). Male and female IPV perpetration contain similar motives; revenge at a partner for emotional stress, cheating, jealousy, and expression of anger and/or feelings (2012). Studies reported that anger or retaliation is more likely to be a motive for women’s violence than men (2012). However, it is possible to have defense against possibilities of IPV victimization or perpetration. Such protective factors include positive, involved parenting during adolescence, encouragement of nonviolent behavior, and supportive peers (2012).

Domestic abuse leaves scarring emotional, psychological, and physical tolls not only within the victim, but witnesses and batterers as well. According to Alejo’s (2014) research journal, victims suffered from more physical injuries, poorer physical functioning and health outcomes, higher rates of psychological symptoms and disorders, and poorer cognitive functioning. Women who experienced IPV were more likely to contract papillomavirus, use illegal substances, smoke cigarettes, and be diagnosed with cancer (page 10). In fact, those “who smoked and were exposed to domestic violence had the highest rate of cervical cancer at 4.6%, the rate of those who did not smoke but had experienced violence was 2.4%…the rate of those who had never smoked or experienced violence was .09%,” (page 11). Mental health problems that occur ultimately include “depression, alcohol or substance abuse, anxiety, personality disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, sleeping and eating disorders, social dysfunction, and suicide,” (page 5). Research has proven that emotional injury is more damaging to long term health as opposed to physical injury, for physiological disorders make a victim more prone to repeat victimization, furthering risk to long-term health and suicide (page 13). Female victims also tend to engage in poor behaviors, such as becoming less likely to perform household duties and engaging in risky sexual behaviors (page 13). In heterosexual relationships, “women are likely to sustain the more severe physical and psychological injuries because they are the primary victims,” (page 5). In homosexual relationships, both men and women in the relationship are likely to experience similar levels of physical and mental health problems,” (page 5). Unfortunately, according to Alejo (2014), in studies aimed to determine the rates between men and women victimization, only a “small percentage of abused men are willing to speak out in fear of ridicule, social isolation, and humiliation,”(page 7). In fact, only 7.5% of men self-reported having experienced domestic violence when experiencing IPV while 25.5% of women self-reported (page 7). Therefore, statistics are more than likely underestimated concerning the prevalence of violence against men. However, “more research would have to be conducted to verify those claims,” (page 7). Hamel (2012) also states that there is a significant correlation between witnessing violence between internal (anxiety/depression) and external outcomes (school, aggression) for children and adolescents (2012). Children exposed to IPV are more likely to show aggression towards peers, family members, and future dating partners (2012). The children are also more prone to experience trauma, depression, family violence in adulthood, hostility, and withdrawal from others(2012). There are greater effects for mother-child relationships and child outcomes during toddler years while there being greater effects for father-child relationships and child outcomes during school-age years (2012). IPV within partners also aids in a decrease in parental sensitivity, warmth, and consistent discipline, and an increase in harsh discipline and psychological control (2012).

From a young age, children are able to learn from aggressive behaviors shown within their lifetime. This comes from a psychology’s cognitive-behavioral learning system. According to Licht, (2014) there are four types of latent learning; three of which show possibilities of how a child may “learn” aggressive behavior through exposure. The first is habituation learning, and is the phenomenon of exposure to events causing responses to lessen with intensity (2014). Therefore, if a child were to experience ongoing exposure to IPV, there is a possibility that they will have a watered-down concernment of the issue, thus potentially turning a blind eye or committing the crime itself. The second type of learning is observational learning (2014). Observational learning is described through the act of watching and intimidating others (2014). If a child were to apply observational learning when witnessing IPV, they are subjected to a greater chance of becoming a perpetrator within future relationships. The third form of learning, latent learning, is naturally occurring and not evident until needed (2014). For example, it is unknown whether a child may possess abusive behavioral tendencies until they are faced with a situation that brings out such unconditioned responses.

Domestic violence is not only applicable within adults, but is also prevailed within minors starting from the age of 11. According to a survey by Fifth & Pacific Companies, Inc (2008), ⅓ of tweens ages 11-14 report evident sexual behavior among friends or themselves. The survey also suggested that dating violence starts at ages 11-14 (2008). In fact, there was a significant correlation between early sexual experiences and later dating abuse (2008). According to another national survey on teen relations and dating violence by Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (2014), 68% of teens reported experiencing adolescent relationship abuse victimization. Of those surveyed, 30% were victims of sexual harassment, while only 4% admitted to have sexually harassed another person (2014).

Considering the relativity of domestic violence, the online directive, Theresa’s Fund, Inc, (2018) states that there are only two domestic abuse programs located within Salinas to help provide resources, treat the victim, children, witnesses, and the perpetrator themselves. Of these organizations, none offer a hotline and only one offers an emergency shelter (para. 1). Organizational programs are important for the betterment of all whom have been affected by IPV. According to Hamel’s (2014) Evidence Based Domestic Violence Perpetrator Treatment, therapy and intervention programs have indeed been found to be effective. Program reviews and formatting have shown to be “save for victims as a traditional group,” and objection to intervention and therapy programs are based on “reports or clinical experience, and therefore are not evidence-based,” (para. 11).

Specific tactics and strategies are incorporated into interventions in consideration of the best possible treatment. Hamel (2014) states that when a coordinator is a “client-centered, empathetic, non confrontational,” (para.18) facilitator, a strengthened client-alliance is formed, thus contributing to the client’s success. The timely spacing in which the client is given such treatment is also relevant within their overall progression. The Taylor’s (2001) RAC experimental study “found reduced rates of recidivism for men who completed a 26-week group compared to 8 weeks.” Members of the same study “found significantly lower rates of moderate-severe violence recidivism among men who completed a nine month group compared to three months.” (para. 13) In order to reach success, therapists will enable five specific progressive goals when dealing with perpetrator intervention; overcoming stress and managing emotions, change pro-violent and irrational beliefs, identify unhealthy and abusive integration patterns, acquire communication and conflict resolution skills, and overcome mental disorders and past trauma (para. 19-25). Hamel’s data has shown that it is unclear what types of intervention groups are the best, for both mixed-gender and same-gender groups have advantages. In fact, when comparing the results of two African American male perpetrators who completed a homogeneous group therapy and a heterogenous group, there was no apparent difference in the outcome (2014). When concerning the betterment of developing of a perpetrator’s actions, it is also unclear as to which types of therapy are superior. However ,most “batterer intervention programs are those of the psychoeducational variety, based on the Duluth or the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy models,” (para. 10).

Laws implementing protections, services, and procedures vary based on state. According to the Judicial Branch of California, (2018) California law allows victims of IPV to apply for emergency protective and restraining orders in both civil and criminal court. Insurance of an order does not depend on physical harm, for imminent harm and emotional abuse may still qualify (2018). A mother or father has the right to file a restraining order on behalf of their child, and children 12 years and older may apply for their own (2018). California enacted the “Yes means Yes” law in 2014 in effort to improve how rape and sexual assault cases are handled (2014). This clarifies the standards of what sexual assault means (National Public Radio, 2014). The law emplaced before it, the “No Means No Law,” was blamed to bring vagueness within sexual assault cases (2014). Therefore, the new law clarifies that sexual activity must include affirmative and consistent consent and cannot be given when asleep or intoxicated (2014). Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent,’ the law states, ‘nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time,” (2014). The Child Welfare Information Gateway (2016) states that California law claims when a child is considered witness of IPV when the batterer “is or has been a member of the household of the child or the victim of the offense, is a marital or blood relative of the child or the victim, or the offender or the victim is the natural parent, adoptive parent, stepparent, or foster parent of the child, and the offense contemporaneously occurred in the presence of, or was witnessed by, the child,” (page 4). The presence of a child witness “shall be considered… in aggravation of the crime,”(page 4), when determining the perpetrator’s sentence (2016). According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (2012), the There’s No Place Like Home laws protect housing rights for survivors of domestic and sexual violence (page 1), for the leading contributor of homelessness is IPV (page 6). In some areas of the country, ¼ homeless adults claim that IPV contributed or caused them to be homeless (page 6). Under these laws, 40-80% of US states have enacted legislation allowing the exclusion of a batterer from residence, regardless on ownership circumstances (2012). However, only four to eight percent of states have enacted legislation that requires the local housing authority to report on the frequency of domestic violence on their property and the number of terminations made based on incidents of domestic violence (page 12). Exclusively, only two to four percent of states have enacted a legislation allowing a survivor to take leave off of work in order to relocate and seek housing, and just 13-16% of states have enacted housing laws prohibiting landlords from discriminating against IPV survivors and victims (2012).

Personal Bias

Throughout my life, from childhood to present time, I have been around very unhealthy and unsuccessful relationships, as shown through my parent’s marriage, my grandparent’s marriage, close relatives, and my dad’s former marriage. It is hard for me to recall a simple, fruitful relationship within my family. In fact, I do not believe in the current existence of one within the family. None of these futile relationships and marriages would have been classified along the lines of IPV, with the exception of a most recent incident. My recent (and former) step-mom was arrested after our neighbors made a concerning call of noise disruption and IPV. She was served with a court ordered restraining order protecting my sister, my father, and I from her presence. Because of the incident, I have seen my family stress about the difficulty of finding a woman guilty of IPV, along with seeing my father’s pride deteriorate. Within a week of the arrest, I was assigned to find a topic for my research project. My recent witnessing of domestic violence ignited a urge to bring a light to IPV, not only for women victims, but men as well.

Implications for the Future

Salinas, California should incorporate more IPV programs in order to help those seeking for refugee, physically or mentally. Such programs should incorporate education about domestic violence and the threat it creates towards one’s well being, along with more family therapy sessions issued by the court. Laws implemented for victim rights, anti-discrimination against victims, protection of a witness, defined sexual assault, and availability to restraining orders are all protective factors against IPV. However, such laws, regulations, and codes should not only be enacted within few states within the US, but all states. If treatments were to be combined with clinical studies, the prevalence of domestic abuse within our communities may be decreased. Such laws, programs, protections, and codes are able to be achieved through political and social reform. It is therefore important for individuals to vote and voice concerns for such topics.

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Domestic Violence: Causes and Tolls. (2021, Apr 05). Retrieved from

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