The Definition of Domestic Violence

Ebony relationship expert Sil Lai Abrams looks at what constitutes an abusive relationship, the definition of domestic violence and the markers of situational relationship violence.

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When news surfaced of the domestic incident between newlyweds Chad Johnson and Evelyn Lozada recently, the Internet exploded with opinions. Ebony's Sil Lai Abrams explains that if those comments are any indication, most people don't actually know what domestic violence really entails.

Domestic violence is a term that is used today to describe any violence in an intimate relationship. However, not all acts of violence are considered battering (also known as "intimate partner terrorism"). Famous depictions of battering include Ike & Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do With It and Celie & Mister in Alice Walker's The Color Purple.

A batterer is a person who uses all or some of the following behaviors in a recognizable pattern as a means of gaining complete control over their partner: isolation, threats, verbal, emotional, financial, physical, or sexual abuse. A battered woman (or in rare cases, man) is someone whose partner uses abusive behavior as a way to gain total control over the way she thinks, acts, and feels.

Situational relationship violence is when violence randomly occurs in a relationship. The important distinction is that the victim (whose role during the relationship may shift from victim to perpetrator) doesn't have a generalized fear of her partner. An example of situational relationship violence is if you discover that your spouse was cheating and in a rush of emotion, you slap their arm or break a vase. Situational relationship violence is a reaction to a specific incident. There is NOT an ongoing pattern of behavior intended to terrorize a person into submissive behavior.

Read Sil Lai Abrams' entire piece at Ebony.

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