Risk Factors for Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is defined as “violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the abuse of a current or former spouse, intimate partner or child.” Any form of physical or sexual abuse and emotional control or manipulation can be categorized as domestic violence. While some types of domestic violence may occur absent a physical altercation, it is not uncommon that other forms of abuse are coupled with physical violence.

While it may not be possible to predict every person who is a potential victim or abuser, there are some risk factors that increase the chances of being affected. It may surprise you to know that the risk factors associated with potential victims and potential abusers are similar. This is because without help, many victims become abusers or are re-victimized later in life.

Common Risk Factors Related to Domestic Violence Include:

Low self-esteem: There seems to be a link between low self-esteem and the risk of being both a victim and an abuser in domestic violence cases. Victims often believe no one wants them or that they don’t deserve to be loved. Therefore, they are more likely to try to endure abuse in hopes the abuser will change. Abusers, on the other hand, often attempt to mask their low self-esteem by degrading others. While it doesn’t make sense to people who are not affected, it makes perfect sense in the mind of both the abuser and the victim.

Desire for power or control: Domestic violence often occurs in relationships where one person has a desire to control another. The abuser may try to control the victim’s social life, travel, and money.

Low academic achievement: Individuals who have poor academic achievement often battle with self-esteem issues. Potential abusers often display aggressive behavior as a way of “distracting” others from what they view as personal lack of achievement. Victims, on the other hand, may feel trapped because they think they are unable to provide for themselves of their children. Therefore, they may stay in an abusive relationship as a means of financial support.

Previous history of being an abuse victim: Unfortunately, without intervention, the cycle of abuse is often difficult to break. Previous victims of domestic violence often tend to either be re-victimized or become abusers themselves. Victims of domestic violence often believe they “deserve” the abuse. This mindset leads them to be less likely to stand up for themselves. Victims who become abusers, on the other hand, often do so because they feel so much anger and frustration related to the experience of being a victim.

Cultural beliefs/traditional viewpoints: It may seem odd to think that culture or traditions lend to the risk of domestic violence, but many cultures have deep-rooted beliefs that men are superior to women. In some instances, those men may resort to domestic violence to gain control of their spouse or children. Cultural traditions do not trump laws designed to protect victims.

Mental illness: As mentioned above, the role of mental illness within the cycle of domestic violence is prevalent. Individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, may go through times of highs and lows when they are unable to control their anger. These people may become aggressors and abuse others. This is especially true if they are not following a medication regimen. Some people who experience depression or other mood disorders are often more likely to be victimized.

Substance abuse: People who abuse drugs or alcohol may fall victim to someone who is abusive. A victim’s need for acceptance or money to support their habit may cause them to be vulnerable to domestic abuse.