Prevention and Referral Services

Office of Domestic Violence

Program Office


What is Domestic Violence?

woman in yellow shirt

Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners or former partners to establish power and control. It may include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and economic abuse. It may also include threats, isolation, pet abuse, using children and a variety of other behaviors used to maintain fear, intimidation and power over one's partner. Domestic violence knows no boundaries. It occurs in intimate relationships, regardless of race, religion, culture or socioeconomic status.

Child abuse is also prevalent and often occurs in the same families as domestic violence. Research indicates, as well, that merely witnessing domestic violence can have profound effects on children. Childhood exposure to domestic violence is associated with increased aggression, depression and anxiety, lower levels of social competence, and poorer academic functioning. Next to substance misuse, "Family violence threatens child" is the alleged maltreatment most reported to the Florida Abuse Hotline every year. Childhood exposure to family violence also significantly increases the likelihood of either perpetrating or being the victim of violence as an adult.

The effects of violence are visible in the burdens placed upon our health care, educational, social service, child welfare, and criminal justice systems, and in the workplace.

If you know someone being abused . . .