Domestic violence has marred the history of humankind since time immemorial as it has established itself in our societies. This topic has acquired attention from psychologists, sociologists, and other researchers in a bid to root out its effect by examining its causes and impact. The definition of domestic violence varies from one source to another. However, there is a convergence point in which it is referred to as the incident or act of threatening conduct, violence or abuse from one member of family to another. The abuses may be financial, sexual, emotional, psychological, or physical (Thompson et al., 2006). When this topic is brought up, the obvious notion that comes to mind is the act of violence and aggression between two adults in a family and who have been in intimate relationship, regardless of the gender. Domestic violence is important to me as I have experienced it from the way my uncle treated my aunt and her children. Being a drunkard, he would come home and start roughing up the wife and children over small arguments. Thus, this paper is aimed at providing the synopsis of various studies that have been conducted.
Whenever people talk of domestic violence, it is always associated with the abusive actions that men perpetrate against women. However, there have been isolated cases of women abusing men. This paper will focus on the abuse that is perpetrated against women, as they are the majority of victims (Ellsberg et al., 2008). Domestic violence against women cuts across the globe transcending national boundaries as well as distinctions between classes, races, cultures, and socio-economic settings. It is considered a problem that lacks frontiers. The issue does not only spread wide across geographical spaces, but also extensive in incidence. This makes it become typical and to some extent and accepted behavior.
Despite the problem drawing attention from scholars, its research has only begun recently, in the last twenty five years. The occurrence of domestic violence is not an isolated, individual issue but instead a continuous pattern of repeated acts that the perpetrator employs to gain dominance and control over the victim. This is different from stranger-to-stranger violence as the abuser repeatedly assaults the victim. The attacks are often physical but can also be sexual (Bonomi et al., 2006). But, the abuse is not only sexual and physical, and can also take the form of psychological. The latter means that the abuser applies intense and repetitive humiliation, which makes the victim isolated. The perpetrator controls the actions of the victim through manipulation or intimidation (Dutton et al., 2006). Domestic violence often appears to become intense and more frequent over time. The act of physical assault seems to be sporadic but the other tactics of manipulation are used on daily basis. Nevertheless, each and every tactic of control and dominance has profound impacts on the victim.
The abusers can be found in all racial, age, religious, occupational, educational, linguistic, socio-economic, cultural and ethnic groups. However, in the United States, the individuals that are from socially and economically disadvantaged groups are the most vulnerable to most cases of domestic violence than those that are from advantaged populations (Thompson et al., 2006). For example, the Native American populations have 60 percent of women facing assaults from spouse in their lifetime. Domestic violence is experienced in any type of intimate relationship. It does not matter whether the individuals are opposite or same sex, are dating or married, or are in a pats or current relationship. What is clear is that there are two important aspects in domestic violence. First, the victim and the perpetrator have been in an intimate relationship at some point in time. Secondly, the abuser chooses to gain dominance and control over the other by employing the means of violence. The greed for power and authority is at the core of the vice (Ellsberg et al., 2008).
The actions are often carried out to show the level of one’s authority over the other. The abuser just wants to manifest dominance and exercise authority. Domestic violence can also occur in lesbian or gay relationships, and the victim can be male while perpetrator female. But, the reported cases account for 85 percent involving men committing the acts to women who are spouses or ex-spouses (Thompson et al., 2006). The level of manifestation of domestic violence in the society is guided by the attitudes that are carried around that women are the weaker sex (Bonomi et al., 2006). This has led to the fact that most victims are women and children. Statistically through history, it is evident that the predominant gender that is exposed to the impacts of domestic violence is female. Also, the aggression that is aimed at women by the men is often more damaging than the other way round. It always has higher intensity than those perpetrated by women. Part of this is due to the idea that boys are brought up to psychologically to be strong and not back down when faced with a challenge. On the other side, the girls are raised to be emotional individuals and thus making them vulnerable to violence.
The prevalence of domestic violence is shocking as it has large numbers. Each year, the US Department of Justice estimates that the numbers of women who are assaulted by their intimate partners are as high as 1.3 million while men account for 835,000 (Thompson et al., 2006). Averagely, a quarter of all women in the United States experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Statistics from the crime sector also points out that close to one in every three of all female homicide incidences victims were killed by a spouse or ex-spouse.
The causes of domestic violence have long been theorized into many factors. One of reasons is the notion is the patriarchal nature of our societies that lead to gender inequality. Men are naturally believed to dominate and have more social power in many areas of the society including religion, politics, cultural beliefs, workplace, and media. Thus, the perspective brings the common but false belief that men have the right to control women. Women have been long treated s possessions rather than equal beings to the man. In ancient times, women were considered subordinates to the husbands and Old English Common Law permitted the man to punish his wife with a stick not thicker than his thumb (The Rule of Thumb). Thus, it is not uncommon to associate the cause of domestic violence to the provocation or loss of control by men. Apart from sexism, other factors include alcohol and drug abuse. Men are the most users of alcohol and excessive indulgence creates the effect of impaired judgment, which leads to the less awareness in committing crime.
Another important cause of domestic violence is the history of the abuse itself. It is believed that people who have grown up in abusive families develop the same actions in future. The males who commit these abuses grow up in families where they experience their mothers being beaten by the fathers and thus pick up from them. It can also be that they have been assaulted themselves. This is in line with Freud’s model which suggests that all mental illness spring from the trauma a person experiences during childhood (Bonomi et al., 2006). The family of orientation becomes a factor in development of aggression in the procreation family. In fact, the abuser is considered mentally ill as the self they express during the assault is different from what they show when outside the home.
The effects of domestic violence are numerous depending on the type and they can be financial, physical, or psychological. For the sake of this paper, the psychological effects of interest. The vice accounts for most nonorganic mental disorders in their victims. One of the most common disorders is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Bonomi et al., 2006). This disorder comes from a person being exposed to a traumatic incident that makes them feel horror, helpless, or fear. When the intensity of the abuse is too high, the individual may experience episodes of flashbacks and nightmares. This happens even long after being removed from the abusive episodes. The victims become emotionally detached in order to avoid being associated with PTSD and they lose sleep with the fear that the abusive events will come up again in future (Dutton et al., 2006). When the women and children exposed to violence and perceive threats, their cortisol levels rise leaving them in a state of flight, fight, or freeze.
The other psychological impact is the manifestation of depression when the detachment continues. The women always feel that they are victimized and thus try to cover up for the emotional abuse they were exposed to. When the partner uses mind games and withholding affection, the women are left with anxiety and passivity (Bonomi et al., 2006). The perpetrators often employ isolation to further control and dominate over her. Depression thus becomes a reaction to the psychological abuse. Other causes of depression in this case are the lack of social support or resources, severity and duration of violence, personality traits and exposure to childhood assaults. After the victim has left the relationship, the depression can lead to them developing drug abuse.
The other effect of domestic violence is the borderline personality disorder which develops in exposure to the extreme childhood physical and sexual assault. This is particularly true in male children and the victim shows signs of manipulation, all or nothing thinking, and dominance over the others. BPD is a common diagnosis in the perpetrators of domestic violence who are survivors of past assaults.
In conclusion, domestic is a problem that has been experienced throughout history with part of it being supported by the patriarchal society. The occurrence of domestic violence is not an isolated, individual issue but instead a continuous pattern of repeated acts that the perpetrator employs to gain dominance and control over the victim. The causes have been attributed to the natural dominance of the male gender, alcohol, and history of violence among others. The effects are dependent on the type of violence and can take the form of financial, psychological, or physical. The psychological ones include post-traumatic stress, depression and borderline personality disorder. The vice is global and thus require joint interventions to its reduction.
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Dutton, M. A., Green, B. L., Kaltman, S. I., Roesch, D. M., Zeffiro, T. A., ; Krause, E. D. (2006). Intimate partner violence, PTSD, and adverse health outcomes: Journal of interpersonal violence, 21(7), 955-968.
Ellsberg, M., Jansen, H. A., Heise, L., Watts, C. H., ; Garcia-Moreno, C. (2008). Intimate partner violence and women’s physical and mental health in the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence: an observational study. The Lancet, 371(9619), 1165-1172.
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