INTRODUCTION What is domestic violence? There is no question that domestic violence directed against women is a serious problem. Former U. S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop has called it women's number-one health problem.
The statistics reported in the popular press are staggering: Nearly one third of women in hospital emergency departments are there due to domestic violence, three out of four female homicide victims are killed by their husbands or lovers, and 6 million women are victims of abuse by people they know each year (Journal of the American Medical Association June, 1992). Let us begin by first defining what abuse is: abuse is the use or threat to use physical, sexual, or verbal behavior to coerce the partner to do something one wants; to degrade or humiliate; to gain or maintain a sense of power or control; to act out ones anger inappropriately. Abusive behaviors may include subtle or covert harm as well as life threatening acts of violence. Yet, it seems to be that violence against an intimate partner does not seem to be as serious as other crimes. We know this, because less than half of our states view marital rape as a crime (History of Governor' Commission on Domestic Violence, 2001). The Governor's Commission on Domestic Violence was established by the Weld/Cellucci administration in April 1992, shortly after domestic violence was declared a public health emergency in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Governor's Commission on Domestic Violence leads the nation in its comprehensive and innovative approach to addressing the crime of domestic violence. Some of its many accomplishments include: . State funding for domestic violence prevention and intervention initiatives including: resources for district attorney's offices, battered women's programs and emergency shelters, legal services, school based teen dating violence programs, certified batters intervention programs, and judicial training. For FY 01, state funding totaled over $23. 4 million dollars... The publication of the Annual Prevention and Intervention Plan (House 1 budget) detailing domestic violence initiatives...
The support of progressive domestic violence legislation including Chapter 209 A, stalking law, firearms legislation, and uniform enforcement of out of state restraining orders... The first state wide Domestic Violence Law Enforcement Guidelines... The publication of The Children's Paper, a comprehensive report focusing on the special needs of child victims of domestic violence including a wide range of recommendations... The publication of Safely Toward Self-Sufficiency, a report addressing the impact of victims of domestic violence receiving transitional assistance...
The modification for statewide certification standards for batterer intervention programs... The publication of the Family Violence Prevention Guide (History of the Governor's Commission on Domestic Violence, 2001) Domestic violence has been a priority for Cellucci since he and Weld declared a state of emergency in March, 1992 in response to the rising epidemic of domestic violence. The Governor's Commission on Domestic Violence was established, with a full-time Executive Director, to monitor domestic violence initiatives (M. Laff an & M.
Hogan, 1998). Most abusive partners are between 26-35 years of age with a substantial number falling between the 36-50 year category. Since most abusive partners are between 26-35 years of age, their relationship with their partner most likely began during late adolescence or early adulthood. Most abuse occurs during the first 15 years of partnership. Over 80% of abusive partners have a positive history of childhood abuse or have witnessed abuse against their own mothers. About 35% of abusive partners have alcoholic problems with only 10% of them in treatment programs (Journal of the American Medical Association June, 1992).
Systematic research investigating marital violence began in the 1970's and, by the early 1980's, expanded to include courtship or relationship violence. Several studies using nationally representative samples from the United States have been conducted among married couples, and college couples. In general, these studies reported alarming rates of interpersonal conflict among married and unmarried couples in terms of verbal and physical aggression. Recently, on reviewing the previous 17 years of empirical research revolving intimate relationships, it is estimated that 54% of women will experience at least one physical assault inflicted by an intimate partner during adulthood (American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2000). The magnitude of this statistic may be difficult for some to grasp. Domestic violence is virtually impossible to measure with absolute precision due to numerous complications including the societal stigma that inhibits victims from disclosing their abuse and the varying definitions of abuse used from study to study.
Estimates range from 960, 000 incidents of violence against a current or former spouse or boyfriend per year to 3. 9 million women who are physically abused each year (Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report March, 1998). In the United States, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, which is more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined (Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports, 1991). We have all this information and these statistics and yet, we seem to know surprisingly little about why so many men erupt into violence.
What a scary thought! People who are close to one another need to trust each other. We should trust our parents not to hurt us. We trust them to give us what we need to trust one another too. When someone is abused, this trust is broken. Some abusers were beaten as children. Others saw their parents use violence.
Some abusers are uncomfortable with feelings like sadness, embarrassment, hurt, or even love. When they have these feelings, they get angry. Then they get violent. Some abusers get violent when they run out of words. Some are drunk, some are jealous, some are mentally ill, some feel overwhelmed by problems, Some are just mean (Evan Stark, 1989). Abusers come from all lifestyles.
They can be doctors or lawyers as well as workers in factories or stores. They come from all racial groups. They can be drunk or sober. Most abusers have no mental illness. In addition, most people who were abused as children grow up to become warm and loving adults. When people use violence in the family, it is because they think it will help them to get something they want.
Some abusers use violence because they do not know how to get what they want in any other way. The most common cause of family violence is the desire to control others (Evan Stark, 1989). The effects of domestic violence are far-reaching, affecting not only families but also communities, institutions, and societies a whole. It adversely affects the criminal justice system, social services, the legal system, the educational system, and the workplace. Too often, we hear that some husband has massacred his wife and children and then killed himself, with the details vividly broadcast in national headlines and news clips. One outcome of such media coverage is the marginalization of the perpetrators: These men are portrayed as unusual, psychotic, and deranged.
They are depicted as different from us. We like to believe that the unusual origins of their psychosis explain how they could perform such violent acts. These events appear to be random floating blocks of ice, rather than the tip of the iceberg. Also, the fact of what happened-the ultimate violence against a woman and her children-gets lost in the spectacle of the homicide / suicide . The daily violence against women-the slapping's and beatings, controlling behaviors, streams of verbal abuse, and denigration-seem disconnected from these juicy media stories. And we do not make the connection (Journal of Family Practice, 2000).
Let us now get into some of the 'types' of women an abuser looks for. A woman with a strong character and deep sense of responsibility is a good choice. They figure she " ll hang in there with them until there is practically nothing left of her because; she " ll be willing to take the blame for everything that goes wrong; she " ll pick up the pieces whenever he "goofs up"; she " ll never want to face the fact that she can't change him. Although, occasionally a women like this will walk out on the first time she is abused; chances are thought that she will not.
A second type they look for is the very maternal type. The abuser figures, she " ll want to mother you; she " ll be a sucker for his plays on her sympathy, if there are children in the home, that's a bonus; he will complain she's favoring them over him; this will make her work twice as hard to please him. In just the opposite direction, a non-maternal woman can have all her time demanded and be made to feel bad when she neglects the children. Then there is the gold digger, they figure; give her some money and act as if she's a piece of furniture; and make sure she depends on the abuser for everything and he " ll have right where he wants her. Actually, any woman will do, they can find a way to beat any of them down. They abuser just needs to get to know her a little bit and he will find her weak spot (R.
Connors, 1989). There is no 'type' of woman that is abused. If we knew exactly who was going to 'get it,' we would warn the potentially abused person to avoid her pain, would we not? We could even send out fly ers saying something like this, " If you meet the following criteria, please call this number immediately," and on the other line would instructions on how to avoid dating the abusive type. How simple would that be, no problem would exist, police would have easier shifts, emergency rooms could take a break, counselors and therapist might have to find a new career. If only the solution was just so simple! Psychologists have never been able to isolate a common denominator among battered woman. In fact, most sociologists agree that seeking a common denominator puts the blame for this epidemic on the victims (J.
Statman, 1995). Batterers also come from all racial, ethnic, social, and cultural levels. They too are as varied as the individual circumstances in which they live. Some men become short-term batterers as a way of acting out their rage toward adverse circumstances. Their lack of control over unemployment or business failures leads them to batter the weakest, most defenseless person in their lives. Others are long-term batterers who always beat their woman and often have a long history of criminal activities.
A man who is a batterer was probably physically or psychologically abused in his home as a child, or he grew up in a violent home, in which his father beat or completely dominated his mother. Of course, this was really unfortunate for him. Nevertheless, a woman who is attracted to him must keep in mind that his unfortunate childhood was and is his problem, not hers. If she tries to nurture, care for, and protect him, he will systematically erode her personality and use her for a punching bag (J. Statman, 1995). Violence against women and girls is considered a major health and human rights issue.
In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a declaration on the elimination of violence against women. Yet, although family violence has been recognized as a public health problem for almost a decade, the research on family violence has produced results that are difficult to integrate either conceptually or empirically. The World Health Organization's Violence and Injury Prevention Department plans to publish a report on Violence and Injury Prevention by the end of the year 2001. A chapter of the report will focus on violence against women and intimate partners. A description of the magnitude of the problem will include an analysis of women's response to abuse, the consequences of abuse for health and well-being, as well as preventive and policy issues. The authors of the report will also tackle the issue of data comparability when investigating domestic violence in different countries.
Multiple factors may account for the connection between poverty and intimate violence. Just as child abuse, elder abuse, and other forms of family violence are more common among those who are poor, so, too is wife abuse. When resources are scarce due to poverty, the stressor's that our families face may be compounded. The family with the exception of the military in times of war and the police is societies most violent social institution. Some structural factors that may account for the frequency of violence within families include the greater amount of the time spent interacting with family members compared with others, the intensity of involvement with the family members, and the privacy accorded families, which lessens social control. Furthermore, the family is constantly undergoing changes and transitions, which may increase tensions.
Although all families may face stress, the lower level of resources among those who are poor may make them more vulnerable to its effects. Moreover, poor women may have few options that would enable them to escape an abusive relationship (American Journal of Community Psychology, 2000). However, evidence indicates that some abuse is deliberately intended to prevent women from becoming economically self-sufficient. About 47% of abused women in a welfare-to-work program reported that their intimate partner tried to prevent them from obtaining education and training. Both abused and non-abused in this sample where discouraged from working by their partners, but women with abusive partners face active interference. Among women in three urban women's shelters, 46% of the male partners forbade women from getting job and 25% forbade them from going to school.
Of those who worked and went to school anyway, 85% missed worked because of abuse and 56% missed school because of abuse; 52% where fired or quit because of abuse. Eight percent of randomly selected women in a low-income neighborhood in Chicago reported that their boyfriend or husband prevented them from going to school or work in the last 12 months. Psychological symptoms associated with abuse victimization's, such as depression, insomnia, nightmares, and flashbacks may interfere with employment or education. In our society, strict ideas about how boys and girls behave can cause trouble. This kind of thinking, about what is right for boys and girls, is called "sexism." To succeed in the adult world, people expect you to use words, not physical force, to solve problems.
Girls want boys to respect what they think and feel. Boys deserve respect, too. When boys hide their real feelings, the feelings build up until they explode. This can lead to family violence, or violence at school or in the streets. Many women are away from their children and at work everyday (E Stark, 1989). As a society, we need to show support these women and their young families and support for their abusers to get the help they need.
We are only failing our communities and ourselves by looking away from this social problem and leaving it to the family's alone to solve for themselves. The violence will not simply stop, and it will not get better. Once it starts, it will happen more often and it will get progressively worse. No matter how much a battered woman loves her partner, she should know that she is in real danger. She has to ensure her own safety.
Battered women's centers, crisis intervention services, and family crisis centers have names like Counsel for Abused Families, Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Crisis Intervention Service, or Family Help Place. Family crisis centers provide hotlines that are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If she cannot find a crisis center, she can call the police, sheriff, district attorneys, public library, or Salvation Army. The Salvation Army has kind and caring people who will help her without regard to her color, religion, or ethnic background.
They can put her in touch with the people who can give her exactly the help she needs. A battered women must not stop until she finds that help. Her life depends on it!