Rihanna, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner – all highly successful artists.  But they also have something else in common. They are all victims of domestic violence.

Interestingly, when we think of these women, words emerge such as: strong, powerful and successful. Sometimes, despite their relationship woes, we think they are untouchable.  They are not and were not in their extremely volatile relationships.  In reality, none of us are.

Domestic Violence affects millions of individuals across the country regardless of age, economic status, race, religion or education. Members of immigrant and LGBT populations are especially vulnerable.

State laws specifically designed to address this issue, such as New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, can help provide protection. In fact, a portion of our practice here, and for many other divorce attorneys, centers around the adjudication of domestic violence cases.

The prevalence of domestic violence in our society illustrates the very thin line between wrath and love. Contrary to what we may commonly think, however, domestic violence is not always in the form of male aggression which escalates during the course of a relationship.

In fact, it is far more common for both partners to engage in domestic violence in one form or another.  This is known as “situational violence.”

Murray A. Straus of the University of New Hampshire has determined that 10 to 20 percent of married couples experience “situational violence”, and rates are even higher for dating and cohabitating couples. Situational couple violence is mutual and emerges from relationship conflict that spirals out of control.

In contrast to commonly held views on the topic which suggest that societal influences push couples toward violence, researchers at Northwestern University believe that most domestic violence grows out of the inherent tension present in intimate relationships.  Apparently, how far out of control one person will get depends upon personality, recent events, sobriety and stress.


In a not yet published study, the researchers found that 25% of married couples had been tempted toward violence, while 9% had actually engaged in it. They theorized that these findings show that those who do not engage in violence generally tend to override inclinations to use force to better align their behaviors with their goals, rather than out of fear of retaliation.

Underscoring these findings was a study conducted at the domestic violence prevention program at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which found that those teenagers who scored low in self-control, were 7.5 times more likely to have perpetrated and act of violence toward a boyfriend or girlfriend.

While there is typically no good news when speaking of domestic violence, it is at least interesting to note that working on self-control may tame the wrath that some feel in cases of situational violence.  Northwestern researchers found that those who engaged in self-control exercises expressed reduced violent tendencies.

While taking a deep breath and counting to ten may not always work, these findings do offer hope to couples whose wrath tends to escalate to a point of no return.

In case you missed the first four posts in the “Seven Deadly Sins” series, you can catch up on using the following hyperlinks: Gluttony, Envy, Greed and Sloth.

Next is Lust – stay tuned…


Eliana T. Baer is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or etbaer@foxrothschild.com.