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Domestic violence is the “verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of one’s partner” (Alejo, 2014). Domestic violence and intimate partner abuse have been issues in our communities for hundreds of years. As early as Roman societies, women were under the control of their husbands and treated as property that the men owned. Men were allowed to abuse, beat, or even murder their wives if they did something against their husband’s beliefs. It has generally been viewed as “okay” or “normal” in a marriage, until the 1970’s. This is when society started viewing it as a crime, which justified the criminal justice system stepping in. Women are the victim in an overwhelming amount of the cases reported to the police. Research suggests that some are the victim about 85% of the time, with the offender typically being male (Erez, 2002). But, domestic violence can be between parents, roommates, children, or sibling as well.
The problem is that domestic violence is the most common form of violence against women. For example, in India, about two-thirds of married women have experienced domestic violence. Also, “violence in India kills and disables as many women as cancer and its toll on women’s health surpasses that of traffic accidents and malaria combined” (Kaur, 2008). Seeing that the physical effects can be horrible, we also have to consider the effects on women’s mental health. They are likely to develop sleeping and eating disorders, social issues & problems with social functioning, and possibly suicidal tendencies (Alejo, 2014). Women with these issues are more likely to be abused again because they are more vulnerable to repeat violence. They stay in unsafe relationships and environments, making them open to re-victimization.
Domestic Violence is a public health problem along with being a public safety concern. The numbers alone are shocking: more than a million women experience serious physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States each year (Waller, 2014). These statistics really make us question what the health implications are of this form of abuse. This paper will go into the research on the prevalence of domestic violence, the health implications of domestic violence on the victims and society, as well as touch on the effects it has on the perpetrator.
For the research aspect of this paper, I looked into several journal websites. I used the Sacramento State Library’s Criminal Justice catalog, as well as Google Scholar to find the appropriate journals and information for the research. I searched for credible sources that contained information about domestic violence, its history, and the health implications for both the victims and the community. I made sure to find information on the consequences and injuries that the batterers face, as well, because most people believe the victim is the only person that faces harm. The following Section is a review of previous literature on this topic.
Kaur (2008) explains that domestic violence causes physical injury, as well as injury to the victim’s mental health. This also includes the victim’s reproductive and sexual health. he researched the short-term and long term effects on women’s health after being abused in a relationship. He found that the effects can be catastrophic, affecting women psychologically, emotionally, mentally, and physically. It can also severely affect children in the household. His research found that victims often find it difficultly to recognize the mental abuse over time because their mind becomes beaten down. Women’s physical injuries and mental troubles often end their educational and career paths that they desired to complete. This can lead to poverty and a lower quality of life. His evidence also shows a lower reproductive rate among women that have experienced domestic violence. These women are more likely to get HIV or other STDs, along with a higher rate of unplanned pregnancies. Kaur’s qualitative studies conclude that continuous psychological abuse can be just as damaging as being physically abused. High rates of suicide are shown in women that have been mentally abused, especially when their sense of self-esteem is undermined.
Alejo (2014), Gerlock (1999), and Coker (2009) show similar points, agreeing with Kaur. Alejo (2014) cites a survey of 24,097 women, aged 15 to 49, that aimed to estimate the prevalence of domestic violence and the health outcomes. in most cases, they found that 30 to 60 percent of women had experiences partner abuse, with physical and sexual abuse being the most common.
Gerlock (1999) researched the victims and perpetrators to identify their medical visits and lasting effects from domestic violence. This showed that male batterers visit the hospital 29 percent and victims 64 percent of the time for medical and mental health problems that were directly related to domestic violence. Perpetrators are usually visiting for self-inflicted injuries from their battering. Gerlock also found that batterers identified with greater levels of stress on several scales.
Coker (2009) conduced a study on the relationship between domestic violence and cervical cancer. The study confirmed Kaur’s findings that women who hav experienced domestic violence were more likely to contract HPV, and he added that they were more likely to use drugs and smoke cigarettes. All of these are contributing factors to cervical cancer. The study determined that women who were victims of domestic violence and smoked had the highest rate of cervical cancer at 4.6 percent.
Waller (2014) ties all of these ideas and studies together in his book. He discusses the lasting impacts of violence on women: they can include physical pain and injuries, longstanding emotional impacts, persistent fear of people around them, especially males, and severe anxiety. He analyzes a survey done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that confirms that nearly 1 in 4 women have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner and nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in intimate situations.
Researching a topic like domestic violence can be harmful to the victims that are participating in the surveys and studies. It has the potential to bring back thoughts or images of possible assaults, which can be damaging all over again for the victim. Even hearing a testimony of another woman on TV, such as the Kavanaugh case, can bring back memories of how their lives were being with someone who was violent or hurtful to them. We need to proceed with caution when involving victims in a study, for the sake of their future well-being.
The findings were overwhelming when looking at multiple sources on the same topic of domestic violence and its health consequences. the research found that domestic violence is a larger problem than most people realize. In fact, 30 to 60 percent of women have experienced domestic violence in their lives (Alejo, 2014). Of those that are victims of intimate partner abuse, about 85% are women (Erez, 2002). This violence against partners, especially women, can have lasting long-term impacts on the health and well-being of the victim. These health implications can be physical, emotional, mental, or can even show up in people around the victim, such as their children.
Some of the physical health implications that we have seen through studies include “cuts, bruises, bite marks, concussions, broken bones, penetrative injuries such as knife wounds, miscarriages, join damage, loss of hearing/vision, migraines, disfigurement, arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, and STIs that can lead to cervical cancer and eventually death” (Alejo, 2014). Women that have been sexually abused can also show a lower rate of fertility and are more likely to get HIV and STDs, so they are also more likely to get cervical cancer in the future. These women are also more likely to smoke cigarettes and do drugs, so they have an even higher risk of getting cervical cancer, at 4.6 percent, according to Coker (2009).
Victims of domestic violence also face severe mental health implications, whether it be right away or in the long-term future. The can face many emotions, including anger, fear, or confusion, or possibly not feeling anything at all. PTSD is the most common form of mental trauma that victims face. Symptoms of PTSD include difficulty sleeping, outbursts of anger, feeling on the edge or tense, etc. Other common symptoms of domestic violence are depression and anxiety. The most common form of anxiety is fear of males (Waller, 2014). This shows up as severe anxiety around most males because the loss of trust between the victim and the opposite sex.
Victims also face issues in the future because of the pain they are feeling. A lot of victims turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with the physical and emotional pain they are feeling. Victims also have a high suicidal rate. Kaur (2008) explains that the emotional impacts can lead to a lower drive for educational and career goals, so they often drop out or lose their job. This can cause even more depression, which can lead to poverty and a lower quality of life.
As for the perpetrators, Gerlock (1999) showed that they tend to visit the hospital after assaults for self-inflicted or defense wounds. They also tend to show higher levels of stress, anger, and anxiety, which is most likely why they “take it out” on their partners.
Discussion of Results
Domestic violence is a serious issue in our country, as well as around the world. The long-term effects are staggering. Victims are on a spiraling path with domestic violence and health concerns that never end. The victim is abused, suffers from temporary physical pain, and starts down the path of depression and anxiety. These health consequences are not usually obvious, but often obscure, indirect and emerge over the long term. The victim starts to lose interest in life activities, turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with those emotions. This spirals them further down the path of losing their jobs and their relationships, leading them further into depression and loss of interest. At this point, they can start to develop serious medical conditions, such as cervical cancer, chronic pain, and even heart disease. These health implications can lead to a shorter life for these victims.
Most people see domestic violence as broken bones, bruises, and concussions; But, violence against women is so much more than that. In the recent years, it has only gotten worse for women as victims of intimate partner violence. We need to make some serious changes to how domestic violence is viewed, how effective offender treatment is, and how well health personnel is trained to see domestic violence early.
Barocas (2016) has a few recommendations for the change that is needed in the field of intimate partner violence. She suggests two major changes to state’s standards and legislation. First, she suggests state standards for offender treatment programs be modified to accommodate the broad legal definition of domestic violence, which includes intimate partner violence, family violence, and both male and female offenders. The second suggestion is that state domestic violence offender treatment programs provide more extensive training to better math the variety of offenders and experiences. This would make offender treatment more successful, and studies have shown recently that the standard treatment ignores intimate partner violence as a typology. So, the current treatment may be ineffective for particular types of violence.
Kaur (2008) also has suggestions on how we can better address domestic violence. An effete response to the victim would be to meet the practical needs of the victim experiencing abuse. These programs would also provide long-term follow up and assistance, focusing on chaining the ideas and cultural norms that violence against women in a relationship is okay. He also suggests that the health sector could help in identifying abuse early, and providing victims with the necessary treatment and care. This would include more training for doctors and nurses to be aware of what abuse can look like.
Research has shown that whether we call it domestic violence, intimate partner violence, or family violence, it is a common problem. For too long it was viewed as appropriate to abuse your wife in the confines of your own home. As that idea is fading, we are still seeing some communities and religions that have those views. The change in domestic violence starts with how society views the problem. Most people are not aware of most of the health concerns that come with abuse, but making society more aware would be a step in the right direction. Changes in the way we observe and treat women, as well as changes to offender treatment would make outstanding changes for possible future victims. Helping just a fraction of the women that experience violence every year would be a great start to stopping that spiraling path that victims go down.
- Alejo, K. (2014). Long-Term Physical and Mental Health Effects of Domestic Violence. Themis: Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science, 2(5). Retrieved from http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/themis/vol2/iss1/5
- Barocas, B., Emery, D., & Mills, L. G. (nov 2016). Changing the Domestic Violence Narrative: Aligning Definitions and Standards. Journal of Family Violence, 31(8), 941-947. doi:10.1007/s10896-016-9885-0
- Coker, A. L., Hopenhayn, C., DeSimone, C. P., Bush, H. M., & Crofford, L. (2009). Violence against women raises risk of cervical cancer. Journal of Women’s Health, 18(8), 1179-1185.
- Erez, E. (2002). Domestic Violence and the Criminal Justice System: An Overview. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 7(1). Retrieved from www.nursingworld.org/ojin/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Volume72002/No1Jan2002/DomesticViolenceandCriminalJustice.aspx.
- Gerlock, A. A. (1999). Health impact of domestic violence. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 20, 373-385.
- Kaur, R., & Garg, S. (2008). Addressing Domestic Violence Against Women. Indian Journal of Community Medicine, 33(2), 73-76. doi:10.4103/0970-0218.4087
- Waller, I. (2014). Smarter Crime Control: A Guide to a Safer Future for Citizens, Communities, and Politicians. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
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