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victims; at least half of all men who batter their female partners also abuse their children (6) and it is estimated that 1 out of every 20 individuals 60 years and older is the victim of elder abuse. (7)

Domestic violence has its roots in a long history of social and legal traditions that have permitted and supported men's abuse of women and children in family relationships. These legal and social sanctions, rooted in sexism and misogyny, have allowed family violence to remain a "private matter," immune from public scrutiny and intervention, for centuries. In fact, the vast majority (91-95%) of victims of partner violence are women who are abused by their male partners. (8)

The pattern of abuse

Although it is most obvious when abusive men commit physical assault, domestic violence is best understood as an abuser's pattern of coercive behavior that serves to establish and maintain power and control over family, household members, or intimate others. An abuser establishes and maintains power over the victim through the use of a variety of coercive tactics that can include physical, psychological, sexual, economic, and emotional abuse, resulting in a fixed imbalance of power between the abuser and his partner.

An abuser's tactics of control can progress very slowly, making domestic violence difficult to recognize in its early stages. Although abusers' coercive tactics often include criminal conduct such as threatening or harassing the victim in person or over the phone, stalking, as well as perpetrating physical assaults, early on, their tactics of abuse are often non-criminal and/or non-physical. For example, they may use emotional abuse, attempt to isolate the victim from friends and family, and/or exert control over financial resources. These forms of abuse can be very difficult to recognize as domestic violence, not only by the victim, but by friends, family members, and helping professionals.

Although these forms of domestic violence are not necessarily violations of law and therefore may not warrant a criminal justice  intervention, they should be taken seriously. The coercive tactics other than physical violence that abusers use to control their intimate partners not only can cause serious emotional and psychological harm to all family members, but are often precursors to physical violence.

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