Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, dating abuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of behavior which involves the abuse by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage, cohabitation, dating or within the family. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, battery), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation.
Alcohol consumption and mental illnesscan be co-morbid with abuse, and present additional challenges in eliminating domestic violence. Awareness, perception, definition and documentation of domestic violence differs widely from country to country, and from era to era.
Domestic violence and abuse is not limited to obvious physical violence. Domestic violence can also mean endangerment, criminal coercion, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, trespassing, harassment, and stalking.
Laws on domestic violence vary by country. While it is generally outlawed in the Western World, this is not the case in many developing countries. For instance, in 2010, the United Arab Emirates's Supreme Court ruled that a man has the right to physically discipline his wife and children as long as he does not leave physical marks. The social acceptability of domestic violence also differs by country. While in most developed countries domestic violence is considered unacceptable by most people, in many regions of the world the views are different: according to a UNICEF survey, the percentage of women aged 15–49 who think that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances is, for example: 90% in Afghanistan and Jordan, 87% in Mali, 86% in Guinea and Timor-Leste, 81% in Laos, 80% in Central African Republic. Refusing to submit to a husband's wishes is a common reason given for justification of violence in developing countries: for instance 62.4% of women in Tajikistan justify wife beating if the wife goes out without telling the husband; 68% if she argues with him; 47.9% if she refuses to have sex with him.
Traditionally, in most cultures, men had a legal right to use violence to "discipline" their wives. Although in the US and many European countries this right was removed from them in the late 19th/early 20th century, before the 1970s criminal arrests were very rare (occurring only in cases of extreme violence), and it was only in the 1990s that rigorous enforcement of laws against domestic violence became standard policy in Western countries.