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Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anybody regardless of ones gender, size, strength yet this problem has been excused, overlooked or denied by many. This type of violence can be physical, emotions or psychological. Domestic or spousal abuse often happens when a person in a marriage or in an intimate relationship attempts to dominate and take control of the other partner. Perpetrators engaging in domestic violence use various avenues to achieve their objectives (Swan & Snow, 2006). Often perpetrators use guilt, fear, intimidation and shame to wear down the victim. This may be done directly to the victim or even to people closely related to them for instance, where children are involved. Domestic violence entails violence directed towards both male and female including those in gay and lesbian relationships. Physical violence exists in two forms: frank terrorism and occasional outbursts of discretional violence. Physical violence includes pushing, assault with weapons, holding, choking, kicking, punching and binding. Psychological abuses encompass threats of physical harm, coercion, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule and false accusation (Waltz, 2008). Sexual abuses on the other hand, may be administered through painful or non-consensual sexual acts.
Introduction of the Group: Female Perpetrators of Violence
For decades, female violence has not been recognized within legal structure dealing with domestic violence. Most of the available literature trade blame on the male counterparts as the only perpetrators of domestic violence. This implicit denial has failed to address the matter in an objective manner making the vice to be defended, denied or even minimized. The issue has been understood on a feminist tenets resulting to far reaching implications. By dismissing the possibility of women engagement in domestic violence has prompted many legal and social norms to ineffectively deal with the vice. This problem of domestic violence by women threatens both the practice of domestic law as well as the feminist theory.
About a decade ago it was commonly assumed that females did not participate in violent activities against children or youth but research by professionals working in this field have proofed otherwise. The mounting research has shown that sexual abuses by teen and adult females have increased challenging initial assumptions regarding the neglected issues. According to findings of Letourneau and Borduin (2009), the percentage of teenage and female perpetrators ranges from 3 to 10 percent. Also, the research reveals that when the victim is a female, female perpetrators accounted for 6% to 17%. On the other hand, when the victim is male, female perpetrators accounted for 1-24 % of the abuses. Moreover, Waltz (2008) found out that female perpetrators accounted for twenty five percent or more of the total abusers.
A study by Swan & Snow (2006) on female typologies indicated that based on context and motivation, women perpetrators can be classified into Partner-Only (PO) and Generally Violent (GV) aggressors. GV aggressors employ more severe form of abuse, are more physically abusive, more psychologically abusive and cause more unjustly as opposed to the PO aggressors. Research findings by Letourneau and Borduin (2009) indicate that women with low avoidance substance scores were more likely to resort to perpetrate violence as opposed to those with avoidant attachment style. Women with high anxiety score resulting from distress over fears of abandonment; jealousy, and poor regulation of emotions are likely to engage in violence with a spouse or children.
Also, this group of women is linked with history of trauma resulting from violence in their families of origin and on their romantic relationships or those experiencing symptoms related to post traumatic stress disorder. Examples are difficulty in emotion regulation, intrusive experiences and anger.
Out of the five articles used to conduct this analysis on women perpetrators on violence against their spouse and children indicated that a women use violence at a greater rate as compared to wives but the authors of the four articles believe that such result are recognized as being skewed as half of the patients were derived from social agency service and police blotter report. These reports represent male–perpetrated domestic violence disproportionately. All the authors of the selected articles on domestic violence indicate that physical violence committed by wives against their spouses is at a higher rate as opposed to those committed by male perpetrators. It is arguably true that women rate similarly to men in perpetrating violence against spouse; it is evident that the issue is still understudied and more research is needed to yield results on the severity of the matter.
Literature comparison can not be sufficient to avail reliable data on the problem especially as it pertains to definition of domestic violence. Many Conflict Tactics Skills (CTS) based studies define domestic violence to encompass ‘throwing ‘of something at a spouse to ‘using a weapon’. Such definition can only be used to show frequency and type of violent behavior but fails to indicate the severity of the violence employed. Documented evidence shows that different types of violence are utilized by different sexes (Letourneau & Borduin, 2009). In their study, they observed that women perpetrators preferred throwing things at spouses, biting, and punching or kicking their husbands whereas men were more likely to push, grab, beat up or even use a weapon. However, this has not been sufficient to classify men as being more prone to engage in violent acts against women. Empirical studies over the years unequivocally show that women engage in more severe forms of violence than their counterparts, men (Morgan-Lopes, 2006).
Reasons for Engagement in Violence
Most of the reasons that prompt women to engage in violence are largely theoretical. Studies have suggested that women engage in violence as way of ensuring their survival after oppression or an abuse. Emerging empirical evidence suggests that women engage in violent acts because of varying reasons distinct from those used by male counterparts. Most women perpetrate violence not as method for self-defense because of issues relating to low economic status, inability to handle stressors, related traumatic experience, poverty and aberrant personality styles (Carney & Buttell, 2004). Gang affiliation has been suggested to encourage women violence because of the risk factors involved being and adaptation as a means of self preservation. Moreover, women violence is linked to substance abuses and is likely to be placed in an interpersonal context.
An assessment study by Carbone-Lopez (2006) on motives behind acts of violent women reveal that their motives were centered around five themes. The most common violence were in response to disrespect towards them (20%), self defense (18%) and as a result of jealously from partner’s infidelity. Other motivating factors that were less common comprises of self-help or seeking of cooperation or restitution from others and participation by their victims. Basically, women engage in violent acts as a result of inability to manage their negative emotions, resentments, and substance abuse.
Correctional Programs for Violent Women
There are considerably few empirical studies that have examined women perpetration of violence against intimate partners. Despite the fact that intervention measures that have been used on male aggressors have also been applied on female aggressors, only limited research has been carried out to establish efficacy and generalizability of these designs in treating female batterers.
Several programs have been developed to address the problems of violent female perpetrators. One such program is the emotion control therapy mainly used in Netherlands. Also, the spirit of warrior program is another intensive intervention that targets violent women in Canada. Other programs include anger and emotion management program, and intensive treatment program for female violence perpetrators and sex offender’s therapy for women.
Open Membership versus Closed Membership
Before commencing treatment of the work group, it is essential to make decisions concerning the membership of the group involved. According to Morgan-Lopes (2006), group membership plays critical role in ensuring that the work group is effectively treated by the designed protocol. From the study Morgan-Lopes was able to gather crucial information on the merits and demerits linked to group membership. One advantage of using open work group during treatment is that limited changes occur in the group leading to more positive outcomes from the process. The disadvantage with using closed work group is the tendency of delayed treatment until the group is complete; process that may prompt members already recruited to drop out of the group thus limiting positive outcomes.
From the articles reviewed, all the authors appreciate the fact that many positive outcomes are derived from open group as opposed to closed groups under treatment. Some of the disadvantages associated with open work groups are related to difficult in composing a group as result of constant movement in and out of the group. Its advantages include low drop rates and heterogeneity. Generally, most authors agree that more positive outcomes are evident from treatment of open group membership as opposed to closed group membership.
Important Treatment Factors for Group Work
According to McGowan & Engle (2009), various treatment factors are significant in treatment practices of work groups of female perpetrators who commit violence against spouse or children. Based on critical analysis of the five articles on the issue, there is a common consensus that various treatment factors provide positive outcomes of treatment of the group. Some of the factors identified to contribute to effective therapeutic results include; characteristics of individual members of the group, formal change theory, and group process, characteristic of the group leader as well as the female group structure undergoing treatment protocol. From the review, many factors are described to be successful in treating the work group. On the other hand, remains the biggest challenge especially because of limited and inconsistent reporting of female perpetrators on their progress after group treatment.
Another important factor in administering treatment to females who have violent behaviors entails empathic leadership. According to Carney & Buttell (2004), empathic leaders play a significant role in the overall positive outcomes of the treatment process. Empathic leaders also promote group unity, group therapeutic alliance, and contribute positively towards behavioral change.
Great progress has been realized with respect to the issue of female perpetrators who commit violence against spouse of children, especially as it pertains to the significance of accompanying psychological issues. That aside, however, a great deal of information is lacking regarding the domain of treatment in general. This should encourage more experts to conduct studies with special interest in targeting at Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), as it is one of the contentious issues that require empirical attention (Valera & Berenbaum, 2007). Moreover, despite the great effort already put in the studying the problem, more studies are required to explore in detail the possibility of in-group variations as it relates to psychological issues like trauma, personality organization and attachment. Such detailed empirical evidence will help in ensuring that the treatment needs of the group of women are met.
Critical analysis of scholarly evidence unambiguously contend that female perpetrators of domestic violence have far reaching implications for intimate relationships while others are more pervasive and relate to woman psychopathology. Attachment related issues share symptoms with trauma symptomology and personality psychopathology. They include impulsivity, anger, and difficulty in emotional regulation. Several approaches are being used to help address the issue of female perpetrators of violence against spouse and children. The best mode of treatment appears to be self-regulation that treats both attachments; related issues as well as personality psychopathology. This is because the method allows offenders with elevated Cluster B traits to learn to self-control and thus, reduce impulsive behavior as well as modulate their emotions. DBT is the most recommended mode of treatment that can help in treatment of personality disorder like borderline disorder. However, this model requires a coordinated and constant monitoring by the consultation and treatment team. Considering the increasing number of arrestees relating to female perpetrators of domestic violence, it is not prudent to treat both women who are predominantly aggressors and victims with the same treatment and therapy protocol. Each group should treated using specifically tailored protocol that meets charactological and situational needs of the diversely heterogeneous group of female penetrators of violence.
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