According to Kentucky law (KRS 403.720), “domestic violence and abuse” means:
. . .physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical injury, serious physical injury, sexual abuse, or assault between family members or members of an unmarried couple.
“Family member” means a spouse, including a former spouse, a grandparent, a parent, a child, a stepchild, or any other person living in the same household as the child if the child is the alleged victim.
“Member of an unmarried couple” means each member of an unmarried couple which allegedly has a child in common, any children of that couple, or a member of an unmarried couple who are living together or have formerly lived together.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes four types of intimate partner violence—physical violence, sexual violence, threats of physical or sexual violence, and psychological/emotional violence. Stalking and cyberstalking are increasingly being included as another type of intimate violence.
Physical violence is the intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing death, disability, injury, or harm (CDC, 2010). Physical violence includes, but is not limited to:
Physical violence also includes coercing other people to commit any of the above acts (CDC, 2010).
Research has shown that physical violence is often accompanied by psychological abuse and in one-third to one-half of cases, by sexual abuse (Heise & Garcia-Moreno, 2002). The violence is usually not limited to one instance. The National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) found that women who were physically assaulted by an intimate partner averaged 6.9 physical assaults by the same partner, while men who were assaulted averaged 4.4 assaults.
Women experience more chronic and injurious physical assaults at the hands of intimate partners than do men. The NVAWS found that more than 40% of women who were physically assaulted by an intimate partner were injured during their most recent assault, compared with about 20% of the men. Most injuries, such as scratches, bruises, and welts, were minor. More severe physical injuries may occur depending on severity and frequency of abuse. Physical violence can lead to death.(Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).
In 2007 in the United States, 700 males and 1640 females were murdered by an intimate partner (Catalano, 2009).
A sexual act is defined as contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus involving penetration, however slight; contact between the mouth and the penis, vulva, or anus; or penetration of the anal or genital opening of another person by a hand, finger, or other object (Saltzman, 2001).
Abusive sexual contact is intentional touching directly, or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person against his or her will, or of any person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, to decline participation, or to communicate unwillingness to be touched (Saltzman, 2001).
Sexual violence involves:
Sexual and physical abuse is often accompanied by controlling behaviors. In a World Health Organization survey of more than 24,000 women in ten countries, the percentage of those who had experienced one or more of the following controlling behaviors ranged from 20% in Japan to 90% in urban United Republic of Tanzania:
Threat of physical or sexual violence is defined as the use of words, gestures, or weapons to communicate the intent to cause death, disability, injury, or physical harm. This includes the use of words, gestures, or weapons to communicate the intent to compel a person to engage in sex acts or abusive sexual contact when the person is either unwilling or unable to consent. A person threatening physical or sexual violence may use words such as:
Or actions such as:
Psychological/emotional violence involves trauma to the victim caused by acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics. It is considered psychological/emotional violence when there has been prior physical or sexual violence or prior threat of physical or sexual violence. Psychological and emotional abuse involves trauma to the victim caused by acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics (CDC, 2010).
Psychological/emotional abuse can include:
Coercive control and intimidation by the abusive partner is considered an underlying component of all of these types of violence. The abusive partner’s ability to control relies on the abused person’s belief that if she or he does not comply with the abusive partner’s demands, the victim, the victim’s children, or other persons or things the victim cares about will be harmed. Often, threats are alternated with acts of kindness from the perpetrator, making it difficult for the victim to break free of the cycle of violence.
The ten-country World Health Organization survey and other research has consistently shown that emotional abuse can have a more profound and negative effect than physical violence. Between 20% and 75% of women across all the countries surveyed reported being the recipient of emotional abuse within the previous 12 months (WHO, 2005).
In addition to the four types of intimate partner violence described above, stalking and cyberstalking have become increasingly common. Stalking generally refers to “harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person’s property” (CDC, 2010).
According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, stalking by intimates is more prevalent than previously thought. Almost 5% of surveyed women and 0.6% of surveyed men reported being stalked by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime; 0.5% of surveyed women and 0.2% of surveyed men reported being stalked by such a partner in the previous 12 months (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).
According to these estimates, more than 500,000 women and 185,000 men are stalked by an intimate partner annually in the United States. These estimates exceed previous estimates of stalking prevalence in the general population. The findings suggest that intimate partner stalking is a serious criminal justice problem, and each state should develop constitutionally sound and effective anti-stalking statutes and intervention strategies (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).
Today, stalkers have at their fingertips a wide array of computers and equipment including the Internet, global positioning systems, cell phones, and tiny digital cameras. In many states, general stalking statues have not kept up with these new technologies. However, changes in the law in 2009 made cyberstalking a crime in Kentucky (KRS 508.130–150). Additional information for identifying and dealing with cyberstalking is available from the Kentucky Attorney General’s office and here.