Why Does Domestic Violence Happen?

For every case of domestic violence, there can be a multitude of reasons for the actions. At any point during or after the relationship, a victim may want to know Why did this happen to me? Why did he do those things to me? Here at Shine the Light Foundation, we do our best to offer specific and relevant information but never to provide definitive answers. That may not sound altogether helpful, however please keep in mind that our main goal for domestic violence awareness is to strengthen the dialogue, not to script it.

Recognizing that each case is unique, we have identified two largely overarching and interconnected reasons from which cases of domestic violence stem:

Power and Control

Perpetrators of abuse have a desire to establish a power dynamic, and to control their victims - physically and/or psychologically. Abusive people often believe they are entitled or have the right to establish these kinds of conditions in a relationship, as a result of or in response to previous experiences. Those who engage in abusive behavior typically hold their own feelings above anyone else's, disregard how their actions and behavior may affect others, and consider themselves and their needs a priority above anyone or anything else. In order to obtain and retain power and control the abuser will employ specific tactics to manipulate and make their partner feel less deserving of respect or worth in the relationship.

Learned Behavior

When a child or teenager is exposed to abuse in the home, the likelihood that he or she will become an abuser or victim of abuse is amplified. It is critical that parents and guardians be acutely aware of their behavior with their significant other. Children and teens pick up on everything, and the mind is most impressionable during its younger years. What better lesson can we teach our children, than the lesson of what real love is: unconditional respect, selflessness, trust, and kindness. 

Abuse depicted in popular culture, fictional narratives, or carried out in relationships of which you find yourself on the periphery (e.g. your best friend's relationship, or your best friend's parents' relationship, etc.) can also impact your impressions and understanding of what love is and what constitutes a healthy, or unhealthy, relationship. 

Exploring the Reasons Behind Domestic Violence

By taking these and other resources to the community and by inviting fellow advocates and professionals to participate in our programs we continue our efforts to strengthen the dialogue on domestic violence. Visit our Programs + Outreach page to learn more about these efforts, and how we are exploring topics and issues related to domestic violence.

Glossary of Terminology

Throughout this site, and perhaps in your own research, you may have come across certain terms used to describe methods or situations of, or conditions that result from, domestic violence. We have compiled an extensive list of these terms that you may find helpful. 

Where Can I Find Help?

If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, or if you think you may be harming your partner, there are resources available in your community and nationally that can provide support and assistance.