Domestic violence consists of acts committed in the context of an adult intimate relationship. It is a continuance of aggressive and controlling behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, that one adult intimate does to another. Domestic violence is purposeful and instrumental behavior directed at achieving compliance from, or control over, the abused party. It is one of the most under-reported crimes in the United States, and the Department of Justice in 1998 estimated that there are between 960,000 and four million domestic incidents each year. In 1994, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that about 92 percent of domestic violence cases involve female victims.
Legal definitions of domestic violence are usually delineated by the relationship between the parties and by the nature of the perpetrator’s abusive behaviors. For example, the relationship may be a current spouse, a former spouse, a family member, a child, parents of a child in common, unmarried persons of different genders living as spouses, intimate partners of the same gender, dating relationships, and persons offering refuge. Such definitions recognize that victims may not be exclusively women, and domestic assaults may not just occur between heterosexual couples. The types of behavior frequently encountered in domestic violence are physical attacks, sexual attacks, psychological abuse, and the destruction of property or pets.