This general term includes all forms of destructive behaviour, physical and emotional, committed between persons who are married, living together or who otherwise enjoy a close personal relationship. Such physically abusive behaviour may include slapping, pushing, pounding with fists, or attacking with a lethal weapon. Emotional abuse does not have physical battering concomitants and is usually demonstrated by teasing, coercion or ultimatums.
Family violence is cruelty exercised on those nearest, most vulnerable, least able or inclined to defend themselves; in short it is usually practised on women and children. Within the confines of the home - which is supposed to be a refuge of warmth and security - private violence takes the form of child abuse, spouse beatings (usually of the wife), rape and sometimes even murder. And once violence becomes routine, there is no way of stopping it. The husband beats the wife, the wife may then learn to beat the children, the bigger siblings learn that it is permitted to hit the little ones, and the family pet may be the ultimate recipient.
Mate abuse is a crime and is legally referred to as assault and battery. Assault is the attempt to commit injury while battery is the actual use of force. Assault and battery are usually punishable as a misdemeanour; however, they can be charged as a felony, depending upon the amount of injury involved or the instrument used. Mayhem is charged when the attack results in permanent damage. Both mayhem and assault with a deadly weapon are usually punishable as felonies.
Domestic violence in rural families is complicated by the greater social pressure to maintain the appearance of family unity. Safe transition houses and anonymous support networks may be able to help urban families caught in a violent spiral, but such measures are inapplicable in rural communities.
Official reported cases of battering do not reflect the entire extent of the abuse problem since victims are usually unwilling to report for fear of reprisal from their mate, or because social support systems are unable to provide adequate services to protect victims.