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Domestic violence can be defined as a series of abusive behavior or actions by one or both partners in a relationship such as marriage, family, dating or friends. It can take many forms such as physical aggression which may involve kicking, slapping, shoving and throwing of objects or issuance of threats. It may also involve emotional and sexual abuse, emotional abuse and economic deprivation which is involves the abuser withholding money from the victim at will and forcing them to beg for money. Popular emphasis has tended to be on women as the main victims of domestic violence. Many studies have shown that women experience greater occurrences of injury resulting from domestic violence and that they also suffer higher rates of assault. However, other studies show that while men tend to inflict injuries at higher rates, the majority of domestic violence cases are mutual (Markowitz, 2000).
Modern attention to domestic violence began in the early 70's with the women's movement which referred to a series of campaigns for reforms on women's rights issues such as sexual harassment, domestic violence and voting rights. It was at this point that wives being beaten by their husbands had become a major concern in many countries. It was only in the 1990's that men's movements began gaining significant attention. These movements aimed at supporting men and improving their rights in regard to marriage, child access and victims of domestic violence. A recent study has shown that there was a larger acceptance for abuse by females than by males and that women's physical violence towards intimate male counterparts is often in self defense.
Researchers have shown that domestic violence is often used to in maintain control and that the majority of continued and injurious violence is perpetrated by men. However, it has been noted that men tend to overrate their partners use of violence, while women tend to underrate theirs'. As a result, men are more likely to overrate their victimization while women tend to underrate theirs. When most episodes of domestic violence were analyzed, it was found that the man was the first to strike the first blow but the violence was mutual the rest of the time with both partners brawling. All forms of domestic abuse have one major purpose which is to gain and retain total control over the victim. The abusers may use humiliation, threats, intimidation and denial as ways of dominating power over their spouses.
There are several types of violence which are based on patterns across numerous occurrences and motives of the perpetrators. The major type is the common couple violence which arises from a single instance of an argument where one or both partners physically punt at the other and is not connected to a general control behavior. Intimate terrorism is another type of domestic abuse which may involve emotional and physical abuse. Violent resistance often referred to as "self -defense" is another type perpetrated by victims against their abusive counterparts. Mutual violent control is the rarest type which occurs when both partners act violently with both battling for control (Dobash & Dobash, 1992).
Situational couple violence is the most widespread type of intimate partner abuse which arises from conflicts between partners that escalate to arguments and eventually to violence. This type of violence is seen to occur less frequently between partners and is less serious than intimate terrorism though in rare cases, it can be quite serious and even life-threatening.
As earlier mentioned, domestic violence may be in the form of physical, psychological, sexual, economic and verbal abuse as well as stalking. Physical abuse involves contact intended to cause feelings of pain, physical suffering or bodily harm. It may include hitting, punching, chocking and other types of contacts that result in physical injury to the victim. It may also include behaviors such as depriving the victim of medical care when required, forcing the victim to engage in drug or alcohol abuse against his/her will and denying the victim sleep or other functions necessary to live. It may also include causing physical injury onto other targets like children or pets in order to cause emotional harm to the victims.
Sexual abuse on the other hand is common in abusive relationships and involves the use of force in order to participation in unwanted, unsafe or degrading sexual activity. Forced sexual activities, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom other forms or consensual sexual activities has occurred, is an act of hostility and violence. Sexual abuse may involve the use of physical force to induce a person to engage in a sexual act or an attempted sex act involving a person who is incapable of declining participation, understand the nature of the act or is unable to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act. This may be as a result of illness, disability, underage immaturity, influence of alcohol or other drugs or because of pressure or intimidation.
Domestic violence may also take the form of psychological abuse which is any behavior that intimidates, threatens and undermines the victims self esteem or controls the victim's freedom. It can include humiliating the victim privately or publicly, withholding information from the victim or isolating them from friends or family in order to eliminate those who might try and help them. Constant criticism, name-calling and use of statements that injure the victim's self-esteem are common forms of this type of abuse. Perpetrators of this kind of violence will often use children to engage in the abuse by teaching them to insensitively criticize the victim as well. It involves conflicting actions or statements intended to confuse and generate insecurity in the victims. These behaviors lead the victims to question themselves, causing them to think that the abuse is their fault or that they are making it up (Sherman, 1992).
Verbal abuse is another form of abusive behavior which involves the use of language which may involve oral communication or abusive words in written form. Perpetrators of this kind of violence may ignore, ridicule or criticize the victim consistently, falsely accuse and manipulate them making them feel unwanted or unloved.
Economic abuse alternatively occurs where the abuser manages the victim's money and other economic resources. It may involve putting the victim on a strict ''allowance", withholding the money at will or forcing the victim to beg for it. As the abuse continues, it is common for the victim to receive less money. Economic abuse may involve preventing the victim from obtaining employment or finishing education. It may also involve intentional squandering or misusing of family or communal resources by the abuser. Stalking which refers to unwanted or obsessive attention by individuals to others is often considered a form of psychological intimidation that is meant to cause the victim to feel an increased level of fear.
Domestic violence is presented in three basic phases which are: tension building phase which is characterized by poor communication and tension. During this stage, victims try to calm the abuser down in order to avoid any major confrontations. Violent episode stage is the next stage which is characterized by abusive incidents and outbursts of violence. It is at this stage that the abuser attempts to dominate the victim with the use of domestic violence. The last stage is the honeymoon phase which is characterized by affection, apology and apparent end of violence. At this stage, the perpetrator of the violence feels overwhelming feelings of remorse and sadness. Some may walk away from the condition while others shower their victims with love. However, it is believed that this theory is incomplete and does not reflect the realities of many victims of domestic violence (Trojanowicz & Bucqueroux, 1990).
There are several different theories as to the cause of domestic violence which includes theories that consider personality traits and the mental characteristics of the abuser as well as social theories which consider other factors in the abuser's environment like stress and family structure. A high incidence of the perpetrators of domestic violence have been seen to exhibit personality disorders which include poor impulse control, sudden bursts of anger and poor self esteem. Abuse experienced as a child also leads to people being more violent as adults. Resource theories deals with dependencies where women who dependent on their spouse for their economic well being fear the burden of increased financial strains meaning that they have fewer options to help them cope with their spouse's behavior. Partners who share power equally are les likely to resort to violence when conflicts arise.
Social stress is another cause of domestic violence which may be due to inadequate finances or increased pressures within the family. Nonetheless, violence is not always a result of stress, but may be a common way that some people respond to it. Families and couples that live in poverty are more likely to experience domestic violence as a result of conflicts about finances and increased stress. This theory suggests that when a man is incapable of financially supporting his wife or family and maintaining control, he may turn to substance abuse and violence as a way to express masculinity.
Another theory is a social learning theory which suggests that people learn from observation and modeling other's behaviors. Therefore, if a person observes violent behavior, they are more likely to imitate it. The need for power and control is also another cause for domestic violence. Abusers often bully their victims in order to dominate their counterparts. This can be attributed to a number of factors like low self-esteem, unresolved childhood conflicts, personality disorders and the stress of poverty. However, an abuser's attempt to gain and maintain power and control over the victim cannot resolve the powerlessness driving it which leads to addictive aspects resulting in a continuous cycle of abuse or violence.
Major problems in conducting studies that seek to describe domestic violence are the amount of fear and shame that result from abuse within relationships and families. Another problem is that abusive patterns are likely to seem normal to those who have lived with them for a long time. Also, inconsistent definition of what constitutes domestic violence makes definite conclusions difficult to reach. Recent studies have shown that both men and women have been arrested and convicted for assaulting their partners in both homosexual and heterosexual relationships. However, the majority of these have been men being arrested for abusing women. Determining how many instances of domestic abuse involve men is difficult as male victims of domestic violence are more hesitant to get help.
Recently, domestic violence has also been seen to occur in same-sex relationships. Research suggests that gay men and lesbians are equally as likely to abuse their partners as heterosexual men. Victims of domestic violence arising in same-sex relationships are more likely to face difficulties in dealing with the issue. Some of these difficulties include added discrimination, dismissal by police and some social services and also a lack of support from friends and family who would rather cover up the issue in order not to attract negative attention. Health care insurance/access is also another difficulty faced by these victims in dealing with the abuse (robertson & Murachver, 2009).
Victims of domestic violence can trigger different responses in victims which may include psychological/mental health issues and persistent physical health problems. Some immediate physical effects may include bruises, broken bones and internal bleeding and may require medical attention and even hospitalization. Some chronic health conditions like arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers and migraines have also been linked to victims of domestic violence. Victims in a relationship with domestic violence who are pregnant experience a greater risk of pre-term labor, miscarriage and death of the fetus.
Psychological effects include high amounts of stress, fear and anxiety for victims who are still living with their abusers. In addition to depression, victims are also likely to experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which is commonly characterized by nightmares, exaggerated startle responses and avoidance of triggers associated with the abuse. Victims are also likely to suffer from financial effects once they leave their perpetrator. As a result of isolation, the victim usually has very little money and few people on whom they can rely on. In addition to lacking financial resources, victims often lack education, specialized skills and training that are necessary to find gainful employment.It is vital for victims of domestic violence to undergo counseling. The therapist should asses the victim for domestic violence and should be able to distinguish whether the violence may have been a single, isolated or ongoing pattern of control. If it becomes apparent to the therapist that the victim is undergoing domestic violence, it is recommended that he/she explore options such as police involvement in order to protect the welfare of the client.
Until the middle of the century, wife beating was not considered as criminal behavior. The feminists movements of the 1960's helped to fuel the advocates for the battered women and by the late 1980's, the police force began focusing on the role of the criminal justice system in avoiding and controlling abusive behavior in the home. As a result, many countries introduced laws to clarify the role of the police officer and to provide protection for the victim.
First, legislation requires that the police officer determine if there was a crime in the hands of the victim. The police officer should also view each incident individually and determine the parameter of the domestic violence. If it is established that the victim is undergoing domestic violence, he/she should be provided with protection in the form of protective restraining and stalking orders. A violation of any of these orders by the abuser is considered a felony offense.
It is the mandate of the police officer to check on the victim within a few days of the incident. The officer takes the role of a counselor and discusses with the victim their safety and provides information about their rights under the law. The officer should also explain the procedures for obtaining restraining and stalking orders. The officer ought to also discuss the pattern of violence with the victim but should not tell them what to do.
In addition the officer is supposed to conduct further investigations in order to gather additional information to warrant the arrest of the abuser or to insure prosecution. They are also required to assist the victim in taking actions to prosecute and should assist them through the frameworks of legal institutions which may involve taking pictures of the victim's wounds for the prosecutor, accompanying the victim to court for the restraining order hearings. In these efforts, the police officer combines the role of traditional police officer and that of a counselor (Trojanowicz & Bucqueroux, 1990).