Who Are the Victims of Domestic Violence?

By Toby D. Goldsmith, M.D., and Maria Vera, Ph.D.
22 Nov 2000

Domestic violence can happen in any relationship, regardless of ethnic group, income level, religion, education or sexual orientation. Abuse may occur between a married people, or between an unmarried people living together or in a dating relationship. It happens in heterosexual, gay and lesbian relationships.

However, researchers have found that some people are more likely to become the victims of domestic violence. A likely victim:

  • Has poor self-image.
  • Puts up with abusive behavior.
  • Is economically and emotionally dependent on the abuser.
  • Is uncertain of his or her own needs.
  • Has low self-esteem.
  • Has unrealistic belief that he or she can change the abuser.
  • Feels powerless to stop violence.
  • Believes that jealousy is proof of love.
While abuse can happen to anyone, women are by far the most frequent victims and men are the most frequent abusers. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 95 percent of the assaults on partners or spouses is committed by men against women.

Again, the victims often have some common characteristics. Women who are victims of domestic violence often:

  • Abuse alcohol or other substances.
  • Have been previously abused.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Are poor and have limited support.
  • Have partners who abuse alcohol or other substances.
  • Have left their abuser.
  • Have requested a restraining order against the abuser.
  • Are members of ethnic minority or immigrant groups.
  • Have traditional beliefs that women should be submissive to men.
  • Do not speak English.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Mar 2015
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