Almost 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner on average every minute in the United States. This amounts to over 10 million abused people annually in this country.

Domestic violence – also called intimate partner violence, or IPV – and domestic abuse are terms often used synonymously for the same problem. They concern issues or alleged issues between people currently or formerly living together and/or related such as spouses, ex-spouses, parents, children and housemates. They are also prevalent in all socio-economic, cultural and religious groups and within heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual relationships.

Domestic abuse and domestic violence involve the attempt from one person within a family or domestic living situation to control another through the use of various intimidation techniques. Abuse is a deliberate effort to exert power and dominance over another and may include physical, emotional, psychological, financial and sexual abuse. While women account for most of the victims, men also experience abuse typically in the forms of emotional or verbal abuse.

Domestic abuse often escalates into violence, which can be prosecuted under both civil and criminal law in North Carolina. When prosecuted under criminal law, the crime is not always specifically focused on domestic violence, but on general criminal acts such as assault, rape or battery. In that scenario, if a judge determines that a personal relationship exists, the judge can order certain terms for the perpetrator’s probation, such as medical or psychiatric treatment, counseling, rehabilitation, alcohol monitoring, and/or house arrest. Misdemeanors are punishable with up to 150 Days in jail, community service, anger management, fines and restitution while punishment for felonies varies depending on severity of the crime and the offender’s prior history of offenses.

For many victims of ongoing domestic abuse, there is a repeated cycle of violence.

  1. Tension Building: First, tension builds leading to brief eruptions that can cause the victim to feel insecure and become overly cautious.
  2. Acute Battering Incident: Despite efforts by the abused to mollify the situation, the abuser becomes aggressive and violent.
  3. Relief Period: Following the Acute Battering Incident, the abuser becomes remorseful, apologizing and promising the violence will not happen again. For a time, the situation may calm down, giving victims an often-unrealistic belief that the cycle won’t repeat itself.

Unfortunately, the cycle of domestic abuse is called a cycle for a reason – it does repeat, and it rarely improves. In fact, the cycle often escalates over time.

Abuse does not have to be physical, however. Emotionally abusive relationships can negatively impact a victim’s self-esteem and confidence, leaving them feeling isolated and hopeless. They may lead to problems sleeping and forms of depression such as anxiety. Because abusers control their victims physically as well as psychologically, the victims often have no access to money, vehicles or shelter should they attempt to leave. It is unfortunately not uncommon for victims of prolonged domestic violence to succumb to their abusers. In North Carolina alone, there were 110 victims of domestic violence-related homicides in both 2016 and 2017, according to the latest NC Department of Public Safety report.