This article focuses on domestic violence-generally spousal abuse-in families where one or more members has survived torture, traumatic war experiences, or political or ethnic violence. Domestic violence in this population is a hidden problem, for two reasons. First, research on trauma and its treatment tends to focus on individuals rather than families. Second, many survivors and their families have fled to foreign countries, where language and cultural differences or concerns about immigration status may make it difficult for them to seek help.
The experiences of people exposed to war, torture, or other forms of political violence and their reactions to those experiences vary, so it is difficult to make generalizations about individual experience. But many questions arise regarding domestic violence in these families, and this article tries to answer them by examining an extensive body of research on trauma and domestic violence. The author considers whether being subject to political violence increases the likelihood or severity of domestic violence; whether domestic violence is different in families that have experienced severe trauma; and whether treatment offered to these families should take a different form from that which is offered to domestic violence victims and perpetrators who have not experienced trauma.