What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence happens in an intimate relationship between two people when one person uses power to control the other. Domestic violence is also referred to as partner abuse, battering, intimate partner abuse, and/or dating violence. There are several forms of control, including physical violence, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse, and legal abuse. Since domestic violence can take many forms, the signs of control are not always obvious, such as a partner restricting the freedoms of the other partner, or using knowledge of illegal activities to get the partner to comply.

When most people think of domestic violence, the first thing that comes to mind is a man beating a woman. Although incidents of domestic violence are much higher for men abusing women, there are also cases of women abusing men, or abuse in same-sex relationships. Domestic violence can also occur in families, with children being abused by parents or children abusing their parents.

According to the National Organization for Women, women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk for domestic violence, and 1/3 of all murders of women are the result of domestic violence.1 Domestic violence is the number 1 cause of homelessness in many cities and 8.8 million children a year witness domestic violence.2 As many as two-thirds of teenage women who became pregnant were physically or sexually abused in their lifetimes.3

If abuse is not addressed, it can continue or even escalate. Below are some resources for survivors of domestic violence or people who know someone experiencing domestic violence, including 24-hour hotlines and multilingual resources:

  • SAFELINK: up-to-date info on domestic violence shelters’ availability in MA, 24-hour live response hotline for counseling, safety planning, and resources: 877-785-2020
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: (140 languages available): 1-800-799-SAFE.
  • The Network/La Red, Boston. Hotline for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survivors: 617-742-4911
  • Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Cambridge. (24-hour service): 617-492-RAPE; 1-800-223-5001 (Spanish)


1National Organization for Women: http://www.now.org/issues/violence/stats.html

2 Cambridge Public Health Childcare and Domestic Violence Handbook: http://www.cambridgepublichealth.org/lifestyle/domestic-violence-

3Family Violence Prevention Fund: http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/userfiles/file/Maternal_Health/Reproductive_Health_FS.pdf



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