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Who is Affected By Domestic Violence

With one in four women victimized by domestic violence in her lifetime, each of us knows someone who has been affected, whether we know it or not. The survivor may be a family member, a coworker, someone who worships with you, a friend, or an acquaintance.

Domestic violence occurs in every culture, country, and age group. It affects people from all socioeconomic, educational, and religious backgrounds and happens in both same-sex and heterosexual relationships. Children are also affected by domestic violence, even if they are not abused or do not witness it directly.

The majority of victims of domestic violence are women, although men can also be victimized. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, women are 90-95 percent more likely to be victims of domestic violence than are men. Those men who are victimized include both men who experience intimate partner violence in gay relationships and men who are battered by a female partner.

Women with fewer resources or greater perceived vulnerability, including girls and those experiencing physical or psychiatric disabilities or living below the poverty line, are at the greatest risk for domestic violence and lifetime abuse.

Here are examples of how specific constituencies have been affected by domestic violence.

Immigrant Communities
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community
Women with Disabilities
Elderly Women


Teens – with technology at their fingertips – are increasingly vulnerable to dating violence.

  • Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.i
  • One in five tweens – ages 11-14 – say their friends are victims of dating violence, and nearly half who are in relationships know friends who are verbally abused. Two in five of the youngest tweens, ages 11 and 12, report that their friends are victims of verbal abuse in relationships.ii
  • Teen victims of physical dating violence are more likely than their non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, engage in unhealthy diet behaviors (taking diet pills or laxatives and vomiting to lose weight), engage in risky sexual behaviors, or attempt or consider suicide.iii
  • Technology has become a quick and easy way for stalkers to monitor and harass their victims. More than one in four stalking victims reports that some form of cyberstalking was used against them, such as e-mail (83% of all cyberstalking victims) or instant messaging (35%)iv. More and more teens are using these communication vehicles to stay in touch with one another.


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Immigrant Communities

Fear is the driving force behind many immigrants’ reluctance to report acts of domestic violence to the authorities.

  • Reporting crimes and domestic violence to police or authorities generates fear of deportation, whether the immigrant is documented or not.
  • Language and cultural barriers also serve as roadblocks to safety. As a result, some immigrant victims often don’t know their rights, how to gain access to services, or how to work with police.
  • Batterers exert control. Many deliberately give their victims misinformation about the laws. Abusers often keep control of immigration documents, and threaten their victims with deportation or loss of access to children if domestic violence is reported.v

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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community

The same issues of power and control can be present in the whole continuum of relationships, no matter a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity:

  • In a survey of men in gay relationships, the lifetime prevalence of domestic violence was 39.2%. And 22% of men reported physical abuse in the last five yearsvi

View the DCADV Fact Sheet about LGBT Domestic Violence.

View the Directory of Community Service and Domestic Violence Service Providers for the LGBT Community. This Directory was prepared by DCADV's Committee for LGBT Concerns. The service providers listed in the directory have self-identified as being LGBT "friendly" with a knowledge of domestic violence (updated November 11, 2008).

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Women with Disabilities

Women with disabilities, including mental illness, and Deaf women are at greater risk for intimate partner violence than women without disabilities. Not only does their disability make them more vulnerable, the barriers to seeking safety can be higher.

  • An abuser can utilize many tactics to keep a partner with disabilities under control. These range from manipulation of medication to refusal to help meet basic needs to destruction of adaptive equipment.
  • Mobility and accessibility barriers may keep a woman with disabilities from leaving an intimate partner or reporting violence.
  • Again, fear is a significant factor. Fear of losing independence and fear of losing vital support can keep a woman in an abusive relationship.vii
  • Women with disabilities tend to stay in dangerous relationships longer than their counterparts without disabilities: 11.3 years versus 7.1 years in situations of physical abuse, for example.viii

DCADV is working to address this problem. In 2011 we began collaborating with the Center for Disabilities Studies at the University of Delaware and the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Delaware to increase awareness among individuals with disabilities and providers about the dynamics of domestic violence, and to connect them with services and supports using a Trauma-Informed Approach. At the same time, we are expanding the awareness among domestic violence service providers of the special needs and vulnerabilities of victims with disabilities, including those with mental illness. Read more about our Mental Health, Trauma, and Disabilities work.

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Elderly Women

The challenge to assist elderly women facing abusive relationships may escalate as the “baby boom” generation begins to enter old age. Today, it is estimated that:

  • More than one in ten women over 50 suffers from physical, sexual, or verbal abuse perpetrated by an intimate partner.
  • Abuse of elderly women by their spouses is growing among the “over 60” demographic in the United States.ix

Advocates have identified two categories of domestic violence against the elderly:

  • Domestic violence grown old – this is a pattern of violence that continues into old age.
  • Late onset domestic violence – this begins in old age, and may be linked to challenges surrounding retirement, disabilities, new roles for family members, or sexual changes.x
  • The symptoms are the same as those associated with physical or sexual abuse in younger women. Other characteristics of domestic violence against elderly women include:
    • Injuries occur more often and become more severe over time.
    • Victims often experience intense confusion and disassociation.
    • The violence is preceded by periods of intense tension, which are followed by periods of apparent contrition on the part of the abuser.xi

View the DCADV Fact Sheet Elderly Victims of Domestic Violence.

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Domestic Violence is a business issue that cannot be ignored. Many people facing domestic violence spend at least eight hours a day in the workplace. Domestic violence affects employee health and well-being, productivity, benefits, costs, and risk to employer. It is therefore important that employees who are victims or perpetrators and employers notice the signs and find ways of dealing with the situation.

The cost of domestic violence – both to victims and to our economy – is devastating. The cost to our economy is more than $8.3 billion, in health care, mental health services, and lost productivity.xii The National Institute of Justice found that the total yearly cost to victims of domestic violence is more than $8.8 billion.xiii

Learn more about Domestic Violence at Work.

Learn about DCADV’s efforts to prevent domestic violence at work.

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i Davis, Antoinette, MPH. 2008. Interpersonal an Physical Dating Violence among Teens. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus.

ii Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Study, Teenage Research Unlimited for Liz Claiborne, Inc. and the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline. February 2008.

iii Silverman, J. Raj A, et al. 2001. Dating Violence Against Adolescent Girls and Associated Substance Use, Unhealthy Weight Control, Sexual Risk Behavior, Pregnancy, and Suicidality. JAMA. 286:572-579.

iv Baum, Katrina, Catalano, Shannan, Rand, Michael and Rose, Kristina. 2009. Stalking Victimization in the United States. U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics.

v NNEDV website, Public Policy, May 2011.

vi Greenwood, Gregory L., PhD, MPH, et al., “Battering Victimization Among a Probability-Based Sample of Men Who Have Sex With Men”, American Journal of Public Health, December 2002, Vol. 92, No. 12.

vii In Brief: Interpersonal Violence and Women with Disabilities: A Research Update (September 2009)

viii Devine, Holly MSW and Briggs, Carol. Disabled Women and Domestic Violence,, March 2011.

ix Melissa M. Batt, “Domestic violence in elderly women: A systematic review” (January 1, 2010) Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). Paper AAI484206.

x National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse,

xi Ibid.

xii Max W. Rice, DP, Finkelstein E, Bardwell RA, Leadbetter S. The economic toll of intimate partner violence aganst women in the United States. Violence and Victims 2004; 19(3):259-72. Via the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence.

xiii Lawrence A. Greenfield et al., US Department of Justice, Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends, March, 1998

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