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Domestic Violence

Special Feature


What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence covers a broad range of acts that take place within a household and can be between any two people within that household, including a spouse or partner, as well as siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, roommates, etc. The types of violence and other forms of abuse experienced, along the spectrum of relationships between victims and perpetrators, make this a nuanced issue. As a result, these distinctions have serious legal ramifications as the types of behavior and relationships play into what can be done to address it.

It is important to remember that domestic violence is a category of crime that typically involves physical harm, bodily injury, or assault, or the threat of thereof. Unlike most other crimes, domestic violence is usually not sudden, isolated, or unexpected. These acts can be physical as well as psychological in nature, including financial abuse. Domestic violence harms the victim and presents dangers for immediate household members who witness it, resulting in years of trauma and physical injuries that become more severe or occur more frequently over time.

Law enforcement personnel, child and family services and health professionals, community leaders, educators, and family and community members are critical in identifying, intervening, and providing much-needed services and support to domestic violence victims.

First observed in October 1981 as a national “Day of Unity,” October has since been recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about domestic violence and uplift survivors' needs, voices, and experiences.

The Negative Effects of Family Violence

Domestic violence is linked to immediate and long-term health, social, and economic consequences for the victims and those who witness it. A child’s exposure to violence can cause significant emotional, mental, and physical harm that can last into adulthood.

For example, witnessing violence as a child can increase the likelihood that a child may engage in criminal activity; develop a substance use disorder; and suffer from depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Statistics on Domestic Violence

More than 1.3 million instances of domestic violence were reported in 2022 based on self-reported data collected using the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), with nearly half of the domestic violence victimizations not reported to police.

In Fiscal Year 2020, approximately 618,000 children in the United States experienced abuse and neglect, and 1,750 died.

How OJP Supports Victims of Domestic Violence

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233), a program supported by the Office for Victims of Crime, is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week for victims experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources and information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship.

Through the Strategies to Support Children Exposed to Violence initiative, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevent (OJJDP) helps communities develop and provide support services to children exposed to violence in their homes, schools, and communities.

OJJDP also supports the work and expansion of children’s advocacy centers, which coordinate the investigation, treatment, and prosecution of child abuse cases. Between FY 2019 and FY 2021, OJJDP awarded $71.5 million to help children’s advocacy centers provide victims with care, treatment, and justice.

To help identify successful or promising practices in addressing family violence, the National Institute of Justice’s CrimeSolutions website contains reviews and ratings of programs that aim to prevent family violence, help victims, and reduce the impact on those who witness violence.

More on Domestic Violence from OJP

Visit the following pages for additional information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal agencies:

Domestic Violence Prevalence

Domestic Violence Prevention

Domestic Violence Response

Domestic Violence Training & Technical Assistance

Date Modified: September 13, 2022
Date Created: August 14, 2020