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Domestic violence is a prevalent and preventable social problem that occurs within the broader context of gender and social relations and affects people, particularly women and children, in the most intimate and personal aspects of their lives. An agreed definition of domestic violence is vital in understanding the tenets of this social problem as well as the recovery for women and children. By definition, domestic violence is the repetitive use of violent, controlling, coercive, and threatening behavior by an individual against a family member, or against someone with whom they have had, or still have an intimate relationship. Domestic violence includes not only physical violence, but an array of control and power tactics used along physical assault such as direct and indirect threats, psychological and emotional torment, property damage, sexual assault, social isolation, economic control and behaviors that cause a person to live in constant fear.
Incidence and Facts of Domestic Violence
Research on domestic violence indicates that it is both an under-reported, chronic and gendered problem in which children and women are considerably over-represented. Although men also report being physically abused by their female partners, population-based studies indicate that most victims of domestic violence are women. On the same note, domestic violence is the chief cause of injuries to women aged 15 to 44 years in America, more than muggings, car accidents, and rape combined (National Institute of Justice 78). Every year, over 3 million women in the United States are battered in their homes by their spouses, male lovers or ex-husbands. In every 15 second, four women experience domestic violence in the hands of their intimate partner (National Institute of Justice 15). One in every four women (75%) will experience this social problem in her lifetime. Reports from police indicate that over 50 percent of the calls they receive, particularly on the night shift are inclined to domestic violence (National Institute of Justice 68).
While studies on this issue are heavily inclined towards adult victims, there is need to shift some of this attention on the children who witness domestic violence. In every hour, 115 children experience domestic violence in their homes. Over 3.3 children witness their mothers being abused by their fathers every year (U.S. Department of Justice 47). Moreover, 90 percent of American children from violent households witness their mothers being beaten by their fathers (U.S. Department of Justice 79). 63 percent of all boys, aged between 11 and 20 years kill the man who often abused their mothers. Children who live in violent homes are neglected or physically neglected or abused at a rate 1500% more than the national average (U.S. Department of Justice 98). It is asserted that the more severe a mother is abused by her spouse, the worse the child is abused. Child victims of severe domestic violence find it difficult to make friends, are prone to temper tantrums, have increased chances of recording failing grades and have problems at home and in school.
Causes of Domestic Violence
Many theories have tried to establish the causes of domestic violence. These include social theories, which emphasizes on external factors in regards to the perpetrator’s environment, as well as psychological theories, which consider the mental and personality traits of the perpetrator such a social learning, family structure and stress (Cardarelli 197).
As stated earlier, psychological causes of domestic violence are inclined on the perpetrator’s mental and personal characteristics. Personality traits include poor self-esteem, poor impulse control. Psychological theorists hold that abuse experienced as a child often lead the perpetrators of this vice to be violent as adults (Kubany and McCaig 156). Likewise, some correlation has been established between domestic violence in later life and juvenile delinquency. Jealousy is another psychological factor that leads to domestic violence. Husbands or boyfriends become violent when they suspect their partners of infidelity or are planning to quit their relationship. Evolutionary psychologists contend that such cases of domestic violence occur because men often want to control their partners’ reproduction and ensure sexual exclusivity for themselves by becoming violent or threatening to be violent (Bancroft and Silverman 56).
Social theories tend to look at external factors that define the perpetrator’s environment, such as stress, family structure and social learning, which include rational choice. Social theorists also contend that since women are dependant on their partners for economic well being, they have fewer resources or fewer options that can help them change or cope with their partner’s behaviors (Cardarelli 109). On the other hand, social learning theory suggests that individuals are more likely to become violent in their homes after observing and modeling the behavior from other people, for example, a son from his father.
Power and control is another leading cause of domestic violence. It has been established that there are higher chances of violence to occur in a relationship where one or both partners wants to exercise more power and control of the relationship. This culminates to some kind of bullying that leads to social learning of abuse. Perpetrators’ urge to dominate their partners have been related to low self-esteem, hostility, stress of poverty, childhood conflicts, resentment towards women, and other forms of personality disorders (Bancroft and Silverman 187). Domestic violence is sometimes associated with psychiatric disorders or mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, alcoholism, schizophrenia, and drug abuse. It is approximated that over one-thirds of all perpetrators some type of psychiatric disorder.
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Effects of Domestic Violence on Women
Women who are victims of domestic violence often suffer or experience various problems that are a direct consequence of such abuse. These problems always affect all facets of their lives, and can be chronic or short-lived. First of all, domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women (Bancroft and Silverman 200). Numerous studies have indicated that 40 percent of all homeless women cited domestic violence as the main contributor to their homelessness (). As a result, most of these women become helpless and hopeless to a point where they believe that they cannot to assert themselves, make meaningful contributions, and improve their miserable lives.
Apart from being rendered homeless, victims of domestic violence, especially women are prone to injuries. In last year, 6 percent of women sustained severe injuries, 20 percent sustained moderate physical injuries, and 46 percent sustained minor injuries (). Domestic violence also leads to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. Survivors of this social evil become vulnerable to many mental health disorders. It has been established that severe anxiety and depression are some of the common problems that affect battered women. In case the relationship breaks up, a woman is more likely to develop post-traumatic disorder, which results from trauma. In most cases, women victims of domestic violence are at greater risk of developing problematic substance abuse. In extreme cases, domestic violence often leads to death. Statistics indicate that 46 percent of all female homicide victims were killed by their current or former partners between 2001 and 2002 (Strauss, Gelles and Christine 209). In total, over 110 women were killed by their current or former partners.
Effects of Domestic Violence on Women
The sad truth is that whenever a woman or mother is abused by her spouse, the children are also impacted, in both subtle and overt ways. Children respond to domestic violence depending o a number of factors including their personality, age, gender and family role. It goes without saying that whatever hurts the mother hurts the child. An obvious effect of domestic violence to a child is the guilt that culminates from their supposed inability to protect their mother or they are the main cause of the strife (Child Welfare Information Gateway par 6). Children also get hurt when they when they witness their parents yelling at each other or even fighting. This might lead to fear, confusion, shame, and stress. Children in violent homes grow up knowing that it is fine to hurt someone or let someone hurt them. It has been established that one-third of all children who have witnessed their mothers being battered develop emotional problems. Likewise, male children who witness their fathers’ batter their mothers are 10 times more likely to be violent and abusive in their adulthood (Abrahams 56). Other short-term impacts of domestic violence on children are being withdrawn, excessive crying, and shyness.
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Long-term effects of domestic violence to a child are detrimental. It has been established that children who grow in violent homes are at greater risk of being suicidal, runways, committing criminal activities, and even killing his father for mistreating his mother (Child Welfare Information Gateway para. 3). A child who has been brought up in a violent will most probably solve most of his problems in a violent way. Children who grow up in violent homes are at higher risk of becoming alcohol and drug abusers. It is imperative to understand that a child does not have to be abused for him or her to be affected by domestic violence.
Recovery for Victim of Domestic Violence
For victims recovering from domestic violence, role models can play a major role in recovery (Abrahams 67). Victims need to have a direction of where they are heading to in their recovery. While it is not right to imitate someone else and lose an identity, knowing that another person who came through the ordeal and struggle to prosper and establish their own strength can help one in her journey to recovery. When a victim meets such people, they should ask how they came out of their ordeal. Victims will learn that these women did not necessarily do it well, or that they still struggle with this problem. Although victims will be given practical advice, they should understand that some of these advises may not work well for the victim. Nonetheless, these advices will act as eye openers and deepen the victim’s connections with other women, thus broadening their support network
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Besides finding role models, victims in recovery from domestic violence should take some time out of relationships. During this time, the most important person that one should be in a relationship with is yourself. It is imperative to understand that every other relationship flows from this vital relationship. If the victim is busy hating herself, what kind of message will the victim give other people? Abusive partners will zero in on this weakness in a second. Therefore the first step in learning to love oneself is to stop mistreating yourself (Strauss, Gelles and Christine 223). After a victim has stopped mistreating herself, self-esteem and self confidence begin to grow.
Strauss, Gelles and Christine (154) assert that participating in therapy sessions, self-esteem support groups, and activism, retreats and women’s studies groups helps a victim to recover rapidly. Victims should look for ways to grow, learn and take new risks that can increase self-confidence. Additionally, victims should try and nurture their friendships, and learn to seek for support and help whenever need arises. Many victims will discover that the recovery process is difficult at times. Whenever new ways of doing things are not working and the victim is tempted to go back into the old ways, just remember how it felt living with the violent partner.
Unlike mothers who are victims of domestic violence, children need guidance during the recovery period. To begin with, the concerned part should get support to take the necessary actions against the violence. Kubany and McCaig (34) contend that whenever possible, ensure that all children are protected from violence by taking them far away from the scene. Children should be reassured that none of the violent episodes was their fault. Enlist a trusted person to give the child some emotional support during this period (Abrahams 156). Children should be discouraged from violence, either at home or at school. During the recovery period, reassure the child that he or she is loved. In severe situations, seek professional help for the child from qualified counselors
Domestic violence is a real problem and the only solution to it is to treat it for what it is-a crime. People must fight the societal values that encourage the men to act violently and aggressively to solve problems. The assertion that women are weak, and should therefore be submissive and accept make dominance must be discouraged. Children should also be taught that violence is unacceptable by living exemplary lives.
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