Recent changes disempower women.
With domestic violence rising, the consequential changes to the definition of domestic violence by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women undermine victims. Previously, the Obama administration expanded the definition based on national experts in the field to include types of nonphysical abuse. The Trump administration walked back these important changes in ways that now leave many victims vulnerable, unheard, and unprotected.
Defining Domestic Violence
In 2015, the US Department of Justice defined domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one intimate partner to gain or maintain power and control over another partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.
“Experts have long recognized that the manipulative behaviors identified in the Obama-era definition as restricting a victim’s liberty or freedom can cause greater and more lasting damage than physical harm. I know this from my experiences over a decade working with survivors of domestic violence. In nearly every case, the bruises and broken bones eventually heal, but the psychological scars can last a lifetime.” (Nanasi, Slate, 2019).
The current definition of domestic violence developed by the Trump administration claims only when the harm constitutes a felony or misdemeanor crime can it be called domestic violence. Eliminated are behaviors of manipulation and coercion that intend to undermine, intimidate, and disempower the targeted person.
“So, for example, a woman whose partner isolates her from her family and friends, monitors her every move, belittles and berates her, or denies her access to money to support herself and her children is not a victim of domestic violence in the eyes of Trump’s Department of Justice.” (Nanasi, Slate, 2019).
Psychological Abuse Compared to Physical Violence
Psychological abuse, the aspect of domestic violence that’s the most elusive, is more pervasive than physical violence, often a precursor to violence, and endangers women the most impacting their mental and physical health.