Nature Of Domestic Violence And Wife Abuse Criminology Essay

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In this chapter the concepts and theories of domestic violence and wife abuse are reviewed, and the conceptual framework of the research is outlined. The first section describes the nature of domestic violence and wife abuse. Then, the theoretical explanation of domestic violence and wife abuse are discussed. The risk markers related to wife abuse and the consequences of wife abuse are outlined. The last section presents the issues concerning the subject of intervention in wife abuse.


This section discusses various views of the definitions of domestic violence and wife abuse. The types of domestic violence and the forms of wife abuse are also presented from a variety of viewpoints.

Overview of Domestic Violence and Wife Abuse

Violence according to Fraser (1995, p. 2453) connotes domestic violence, street crime, and school-related offenses. Violence is about producing injuries, and it is defined as any purposeful act that threatens or actually inflicts physical harm or pain or injuries to another person (Straus & Gelles 1988; Gelles & Cornell 1990; Reiss & Roth 1993). Violence is considered in terms of unjustified use of force, often vehement force, in order to inflict physical injury on people or damage to property (Andermahr, Lovel & Wolkowitz 1997, pp. 208-209). The definition of violence used by WHO (2002a) associates intentionality with committing of the act itself, irrespective of the outcome it produces, and excludes the unintentional incidents.

The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation (WHO 2002a, p. 5).

When we speak of abuse, battering, and assault, we must take into account the concepts of intention, consequence, and degree of repetition. Emery and Laumann-Billings (1998, pp. 121-135) considered that violence is a subtype of abuse. They defined violence as involving serious endangerment, physical injuries, and sexual violation, and explained minimal or moderate forms of abuse, such as hitting, pushing, and name calling, as maltreatment. The word battering is defined by Smith, Thornton, De Villis, et al. (2002, p. 1210) as "a process whereby a member of intimate relationship experiences vulnerability, loss of power and control, and entrapment as a consequence of the other member's exercise of power through the patterned used of physical, sexual, psychological, and/or moral force". The Centre for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE 1999, p. 5) include wife beating, battering or domestic violence, and "It frequently includes controlling behaviour such as isolating a woman from family and friends, monitoring her movements, and restricting her access to resources" as violence against women.

The WHO World Report on Violence and Health (Krug, Dahlberg, Mercy, et al. 2002, p. 89) states that battering is repeated assaulted within a single relationship. However, the words violence, abuse, and battering are frequently used interchangeably (Hegarty, Hindmarsh & Gilles 2000, p. 1). Assault, on the other hand, reflects a legal connotation that the violence was unlawful (Straus 1991, pp. 19-47).

The term domestic violence came into common use in the 1970s to define the problem of wife abuse with the primary focus on women as the victims (Davis 1995, p. 780) including the behaviours defined as battering (Saunders 1995a, p. 789). The UNICEF 2000a Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls report (see also Hawke 2002) explained that the term domestic "refers to the types of relationships involved rather than the place where the violent act occurs" and that "violence in the domestic sphere is usually perpetrated by males who are, or have been, in positions of trust and intimacy and power" (p. 3). The UN (1993, p. 6) also noted that "domestic violence is used to describe actions and omissions that occur in varying relationships". The range of behaviours includes and is not limited to incidents of physical attack, in the form of physical and sexual violations. The Australian Medical Association (1998, p. 2) produced a statement asserting that

Domestic violence is an abuse of power. It is the domination, coercion, intimidation and victimisation of one person by another by physical, sexual or emotional means within intimate relationships.

Geffner, Sorenson and Lundberg-Love (1997, p. 122) contribute:

... the use of physical force, or threat of force, against a current or former partner in an intimate relationship, resulting in emotional and/or physical suffering.

The frequently substituted terms of spouse abuse, marital violence, and partner abuse also refer to domestic violence. Spousal abuse may be defined as the use of intentional force to cause pain or injury between two persons involved in a relationship that often includes sexual intimacy (Pagelow 1984, pp. 277-278). Early on, definitions of spouse abuse did not include sexual abuse, rape within marriage, emotional, psychological financial abuse or coercion. Restricting spouse abuse to physical violence proved to be far too limiting (Schechter 1982; Straus & Gelles 1986; Chalk & King 1998; Magyar 2002).

Wallace (1995, p. 164) categorised two forms of violence, the lesser form including yelling and throwing things and the more severe form including striking and hitting. Wallace also explained that the word spouse is gender-neutral, meaning people who are married, cohabiting or involved in a series of relationships, and "spousal abuse is defined as any intentional act or series of acts that cause injury to the spouse" (1995,

p. 164).

Marital violence may be defined as behaviours generated to perpetuate intimidation, power, and control by the abusing spouse over the abused spouse. These patterns may "occur in physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and economic forms" (Straus & Gelles 1986; Walker 1991 cited in Hampton & Corner-Edwards 1993, pp. 113-114; Hampton 1999, p. 169). Both the above authors state that the abuse of spouses in studies of family violence showed that "large numbers of women are likely to be the intended victims of men's violence, which ranges from simple assault to homicide". The scope of the problem of marital violence is difficult to define, due to the fact that labelling interpersonal interaction as abusive is a very subjective matter. It has been placed within the context of a serious social problem, however, because of its grave consequences. In the United States of America, the National Institute of Justice, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Women's Freedom Network 1997, p. 1 cited in MenWeb 2011, p. 1) states that "domestic abuse causes more injuries to women than rape, auto accidents, and muggings combined".

The Human Rights Watch on Women's Rights Project (1995, p. 34) emphasised that

... domestic violence is one of the leading causes of female injuries in almost every country in the world and it accounts, in some countries, for the largest percentage of hospital visits by women.

This is supported by the CHANGE report (1999, p. 1) which stated that

Around the world at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Most often the abuser is a member of her own family.

The United Nations Populations Fund-UNFPA (2000, p. 1) noted that "violence against women is a pervasive yet under-recognised human rights violation".

Thus, the term wife abuse used in this study means a type of domestic violence where the wife is the victim, and her husband is the abuser. Both wife and husband, cohabit in either a legal or de facto relationship. It may include physical, emotional and other forms of abuse.

Types of Domestic Violence and Wife Abuse

Domestic violence has been described in various forms, for instance the abuse and neglect of children, the sexual abuse of children, violence between spouses, abuse and neglect of the elderly, violence between siblings, and courtship violence and abuse. Various authors both researchers and practitioners, have sought to categorise the different types of domestic violence. Many have models with at least four types (Rodenburg & Fantuzzo 1993, pp. 231-236; Aguilar & Nightingale 1994, pp. 35-45; Wallace 1995, p. 3; Murni 1999, p. 5). Within these the most common identified are physical abuse, psychological abuse or emotional or controlling, sexual abuse, and economic abuse. Other writers separated the types of domestic violence into seven categories: child physical abuse, incest involving young children, extra familial child sexual abuse, women battering, elder abuse and neglect, psychological maltreatment of children, and psychological abuse of women (Ammerman & Hersen 1990). Sarantakos took a different perspective and developed a six-type model related to the types of perpetrators and victims. The most comprehensive model that is directly related to this study derives from National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Canada (2000) who added financial abuse and religious abuse with a resultant eight category model.

Physical violence includes physical abuse and entails physical actions or the use of weapons, such as knives, guns, sticks, and other objects, as well as the administration of chemicals or other substances as abuse (Eddington & Shuman 2005, pp. 3-4). This type of violence produces visible signs such as bruises, cuts, lacerations, and burns, broken bones, addiction, incapacitation or death (Tjaden & Thoennes 2000, p. 15; Campbell, Jones, Dienemann, et al. 2002, pp. 1157-1163; Plichta 2004, pp. 1296-1323). The expression of the physical abuse may be in a variety of actions, such as biting, hitting, slapping, pinching, and choking and others. The perpetrators of physical violence sometimes carry out their actions on things, such as breaking items that are dear to another person, slamming doors, or kidnapping or physically hurting children instead of their spouse (Thompson, Saltzman & Johnson 2001, pp. 886-899; Bancroft & Silverman 2002, p. 7).

Emotional abuse, sometimes called psychological abuse, is expressed in a variety of ways and includes actions such as mental cruelty, prolonged silence, refusal to communicate, or cold war tactics; it means doing things that aggravate the partner or not doing what one would expect, as well as other actions. The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Canada (1996, p. 1) and Pandey (2004) also describe the emotional abuse as the expression of excessive jealousy or mistrust, control, treatment, verbal abuse and destruction of property. Pandey (2004, p. 132) notes that "Men who are psychologically abusive may try to limit whom their partners visit or talk to on the phone, so that the women become isolated from friends and relatives".

Verbal abuse involves verbal assault and aims to cause psychological pain to the spouse. It comprises constant criticism, blaming, false accusations, name-calling and disrespect toward a family member or the people or things he or she cares about. This form of abuse is thought to be as damaging as or more damaging than physical violence and often occurs together with other forms of violence. Generally, verbal abuse is often reported to be used by women more than men, but Straus and Sweet (1992, p. 270) reported the opposite. In their study it was found that both men and women used verbal abuse equally, and it was not a replacement for physical violence. Their study concluded that verbal abuse was often associated with alcoholism and drug use, and that the use of verbal abuse decreased with age and with the number of children.

Social abuse refers to actions and behaviour that are intended to restrict the partner's social actions and relationships or limit the movements of a relative. The aim of most social abuse is to isolate a family member from friends and relatives, forbid some activities, criticise the victim's role performance, and restrict work opportunities and/or other community involvement, including enforcing beliefs and standards. Social abuse has been proven to be as destructive as other forms of abuse (Lissette & Kraus 2000,

p. 42), and both men and women can inflict it on their family members.

Sexual abuse is any forced sexual activity, and includes infecting women with a sexually transmitted disease by engaging in unsafe sexual practices. Bergen (1998,

pp. 3-5) and the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence - Canada (2000, p. 4) say that for the most part sexual abuse comes together with sexual assault. "These acts include rape, demands for sex in a way that degrades the victim, use of penetrating objects and any form of physical abuse directed at the sexual areas of the body or done during sexual activity".

Passive abuse is explained as some form of neglect, such as emotional neglect and physical neglect (Sarantakos 1996, p. 270). The spouse can inflict it upon the partner, the partner's parent, or upon the children. This form of violence can be as serious and damaging as any other form of violence.

Financial abuse is described as preventing someone from having financial independence, economically exploiting a family member, or preventing a family member from having any control over the family's money and expenditure decisions (Murni 1999, p. 5).

Religious or spiritual abuse involves ridiculing someone's beliefs, using religion to manipulate someone, or denying someone involvement in spiritual or religious practice. This kind of abuse tends to occur in religious cults or sects that stress patriarchy, obedience to authority, submission of women to men, and physical punishment for religious infractions. Such groups tend to be regarded as deviant in modern societies and are commonly labelled by others as cults (Mignon, Larson & Holmes 2002, p. 33).

Wife Abuse and the Extent of the Problem

CHANGE (1999) found that in close to fifty population-based surveys internationally, between 10% to more than 50% of women over 18 report being struck or otherwise physically wounded by an intimate male partner. CHANGE (1999, p. 5) states that "Physical violence in intimate relationships almost always is accompanied by psychological abuse and, in one-third to over one-half of cases, by sexual abuse".

A report by Alvazzi del Frate and Patrigini (1995) on the victimisation of women in developing countries indicated that wife abuse is a severe problem in many developing countries. They found that among these developing countries, in Papua New Guinea it was revealed that 67% of women living in rural areas and 56% of women in urban areas had been hit by their husbands. One out of four women in Argentina had been beaten by their partners, according to a 1988 report. In Ecuador, a 1989 report revealed that 80% of the interviewed women had been beaten by their partners. A report from the Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute by Alvazzi del Frate and Patrigini (1995, p, 2) noted that a Puerto Rican study in 1986 found "that 60% of all the interviewed married women were victims of physical and/or emotional violence by their husbands, and that the majority endured the situation for some 6 to 9 years before seeking help". For Puerto Rico in 1977-1978 50% of women victims of homicide were murdered by their husbands or ex-husbands. A Bangladeshi study covering (1983-1985) demonstrated that 50% of 270 cases involving the homicides of women were caused by family conflict. The majority of the murder victims were women, both in rural and urban areas, and the vast majority of those arrested were husbands. Studies in the United States, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Peru, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka agree that there is a strong correlation between domestic violence and suicide. UNICEF (2000a, p. 4) reported that women who have been abused are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than women who were never abused.

Psychological or emotional abuse is the second most common type of wife abuse and it has been shown to have a serious negative effect on women's health and the mental health of victims who experience domestic violence (Yoshihama 1996). Benninger-Budel & Lacroix in their report on violence against women (1999) and Pandey (2008) state that the victims/survivors of psychological abuse reported that ongoing psychological violence or emotional torture is often more unbearable than "... the physical brutality, with mental stress leading to a high incidence of suicide and suicide attempts" (Pandey 2008, p. 32). Women have reported that the worst aspect of battering was not the violence in itself but the mental torture and living under terror.

An analysis of thirty-five studies from industrialised and developing countries by the World Bank (1994), shows that 25-30% of all women have suffered physical abuse inflicted by a present or former intimate partner. They reported that "an even larger percentage of women have been subjected to psychological violence".

It is through emotional abuse that the abuser undermines, isolates, and terrorises the abused woman. The researchers (Mouradian 2000, pp. 2-4) graphically described the methods of men who have learned to terrorise their wives without touching them, thus avoiding the legal consequence of actual physical abuse: (1) isolation, (2) humiliation and degradation, (3) crazy-making, (4) threats to harm the woman and those she loves, and (5) suicidal and homicidal threats.

Sexual abuse, a form of wife abuse, which includes rape by a husband or "an intimate partner, is not considered a crime in most countries" (UNICEF 2000b, p. 1), including Thailand (Pongsapich & Jamnarnwej 1998, p. 32). Forced sex, when cohabiting with the perpetrator, is not consider as rape in a marriage in many societies. A global study found that "10-15% of women reported being forced to have sex with their intimate partners" (Heise, & Germain 1994, p. 4). While many women fear rape by a stranger, in reality, most sexual abuse of women is committed by current or former male intimate partners (Browne 1997). Finkelhor and Yllö (1985) described three types of marital rape or sexual abuse by male partners. The first type is battering rape, which occurred in one-half of marital rape cases in their study. The rape essentially is a continuation of battering behaviour. Force-only rape occurred in relationships with little other violence. Perpetrators use only as much force as needed to get their wives to have sex with them; the purpose was to have sex and not to hurt the woman. Obsessive rape involves a preoccupation with sex. It usually includes a desire for unusual sexual activity such as anal intercourse, bondage, and insertion of objects into the vagina.

To understand more clearly about sexual abuse, Dunham (1990) explained that attitudes are affected by gender labelling. According to Dunham women have been labelled as passive while men are considered active agents. Men are perceived as the producers of fertility, and women as reproducers, as passive agents and child bearers. Because of this labelling, men are more likely to control women's sexuality.

Davis (1995, p. 782) defines economic violence or financial abuse as "having no or little access to the family's money, such as cases where the wife has no control over what is spent or saved, over any decisions about what will be bought, and she is allowed no money for personal use". This kind of abuse occurs when women are denied access to the resources to which they are legally and morally entitled. Women may be prevented from obtaining the education needed to obtain a decent job or may be barred from working even if they are well qualified. Murni (1999, p. 7) stated in her report, a study in Indonesian society, that sometimes men were not capable of providing adequate financial support for their families for reasons such as losing a job, lacking enough education to find a job, getting drunk, using drugs, gambling and other problems. Murni also explained that a common cause of economic violence was related to the traditional role of men to support their families economically. Sometimes the men did not want to give money to their wives at the correct time although they had it in their hands. Sometimes it was found that men liked to manipulate the family financially in order to control their wives by not giving them what they needed and not letting them handle household money. When their wives were financially dependent, the husbands felt they could control them.