Domestic Violence Essay, Research Paper
Violence in an intimate relationship is often referred to as domestic violence. It is not only wife/husband abuse but also includes sibling, elder, and child abuse. My essay will discuss spouse abuse and why there are such high rates of it in our society.
Domestic violence has many names. Some include family violence, battering, wife beating, and domestic abuse. All these terms refer to the same thing, which is abuse by a marital, common law, or a dating partner in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence however is not limited to physical beatings. It is any behavior that is intended to subjugate and control another human being through the use of some sort of abuse which can include humiliation, fear, physical or verbal assaults, and financial abuse. Domestic violence is very important issue in today’s society because it has such a profound negative affect on the abused, mentally and physically. Even though reports of abuse have skyrocketed in the last twenty years, not enough is being done to protect the abused and prevent further abuse. Although the advent of programs such as victim s surveys can more accurately define the scope of the problem, we are still a long way from the defeat of this appalling facet of society.
The history of intimate violence is a long one. Since the time of an established society, the dominant people have used physical force to keep subordinate groups in their place. Males have typically always been physically larger than females and since most societies are patriarchal, it is really no surprise that women have almost always been the victims. In Roman times, a man was allowed to divorce, chastise, or even kill his wife for adultery, attending public games, or public drunkenness. All of which the man was allowed to freely partake in. During the Middle Ages it was mans right to beat or kill his wife for so little as giving her husband a dirty look. The first recorded advocate against domestic violence was a French woman named Mary Wollstonecraft. Wollstonecraft s famous paper A Vindication of the Rights of Women was published in 1792 and was a devastating critique of the ‘false system of education’ which she argues forced the middle-class women of her time to live within a stifling ideal of femininity. Even though she pushed for society to realize the injustice that occurred almost everyday, no action was taken until the 1840’s when the American women’s movement brought up the issue while fighting for the right to vote. No U.S. State actually passed a law making wife beating illegal until 1883 and even though a few laws were passed to make it illegal, none of them were strictly enforced. Even up until the 1970’s, wife beating was still fairly acceptable. The police would attend calls of domestic violence but would leave issues to be resolved by the family. This ease and lack of enforcement allowed for the continuation of the abuse and further harassment. The 1970’s became a period of protest and change for the women’s rights movement. By the 1980’s major changes started to take place. Police no longer ignored calls of domestic violence and more people were being convicted and punished for the crime of domestic assault and battery. The effects of domestic violence are still seen today in our culture. The Expression “rule of thumb” comes from English Common Law which states that a man could beat his wife with any reasonable instrument as long as it was no thicker that his thumb.
Finding the reasons and causes of domestic violence can be difficult. Usually, violent tendencies stem from witnessing violence or being acted upon violently as a child or from a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is quite arduous to pin point the one or two factors as to why one chooses to engage in domestic violence but it usually begins with a lack of self confidence and in the absence of being able to control their own life, they try to control someone else s. The violence can begin with verbal insults and degradation. It escalates into constant suspicion and controlling behavior and finally to physical violence. The abuser does not abuse once or twice but rather over a lifetime and they usually have a case history. There are many different stressors and factors that trigger these inherent abusers to begin the abuse. They often stem from monetary or drug problems but can also include unemployment, different religious backgrounds, low-income levels, lower education levels, and sometimes just a disagreement triggers a drubbing. None of these factors are meant to be excuses. Rather they are factors that come up in domestic violence cases time and time again.
When domestic violence occurs there is several different types of abuse that take place. The first is physical violence. Physical violence includes slapping, kicking, burning, punching, choking, locking a person out of the home, restraining, and other acts designed to injure, endanger, or cause physical pain. The second type is emotional abuse which consists of consistently doing or saying things to shame, insult, ridicule, embarrass, demean, belittle, or mentally hurt another person. The third type is sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is when someone is forced to partake in sexual activities against their will. This can include but is not limited to molestation, pornography, mutilation, and rape. Just because a couple is married or has been seeing each other for a long duration of time does not mean that the consent to engage in sexual relations is a constant. At any time, a person in a relationship is entitled to say no and have the issue end there. Unfortunately that does not always happen. The other person in the relationship might reason that they have had sex before and that it is all right even if the other person says no. Rape can occur in marriages and no other type of abuse has been proven to be more detrimental in the course of someone s life than sexual abuse.
When it comes to domestic violence and intimate abuse the most perplexing question is why? We know how dangerous and emotionally destructive it is for children to grow up in a violent home. We also know that it is very emotionally destructive to the abused. Most societies have condemned child abuse and I praise the efforts to help the abused and stop the violence. But still I wonder why it does not go away. The first reason is the cycle of violence which can be very hard to break. Tension builds due to stress and the abuser becomes critical, edgy and irritable. They gradually become more abusive and more severe incidents of abuse start to occur. Both parties can sense the loss of control which only fuels the tension. With the second stage of the cycle come violent outbursts with acute battering. The abuser will fly off into a rage for no apparent reason and there is total loss of control. The third stage comes after the violence has stopped. The abuser becomes remorseful and apologetic. This is commonly referred to as the honeymoon phase. They often beg for forgiveness and swear it will never happen again. They go out of their way to be kind and loving and they swear that they will change. This phase explains why the abused comes back and allows the cycle of abuse to begin again. The abused wants to believe that the abuser will try and make things work and they are often reluctant to leave the abusive relationship because of a feeling of dependency. The second reason why this problem does not go away is the abused person’s dependency on their partner and their “learned helplessness”. Learned helplessness is a psychological term first identified by psychologist Martin Seligman. People who are abused tend to think that there is no way out because they are so dependent on their partner. They continue to cope with the abuse and learn of ways to deal with it.
So what one might ask, creates an abuser? Abusers usually share common traits, backgrounds, and behavior patterns. It has been agreed upon that the goal of the abuser is power and control over their partner. These same people usually depend on their partner for emotional support since they are severely lacking in emotional skills. The abuser tends to conform to the stereotypical view of the post nuclear family. The man goes out and makes the money to support the family while women stays home to cook, clean, and look after the kids. These people often have trouble accepting responsibility for their behavior abusive and otherwise. They usually feel guilt or shame for their actions but they try to justify or deny their behavior. It has been found that many abusers share the same personality disorders such as lack of empathy, depression, general hostility, and feeling of victimization. They also seem to lack social skills so they envelope themselves with their work and their family. They tend to interpret innocent situations that arouse their jealousy as having been done with hostile intent. Those who abuse adult partners often grew up in homes marred by violence between adults and against children. However, it is important to remember that growing up in a violent home does not necessarily mean that a person will become abusive. I think that it is very important to understand and recognize people with abusive personalities so that they can be stopped and treated for what some would call a disease.
Many psychologists believe by teaching our children that violence is inappropriate and instructing that violence is not the way to solve problems, we can instill them with a sense of moral character that will teach them that violence does not solve problems. One of the key components in making this notion work is to lead by example and establish positive reinforcement for them to settle disputes in other fashions than violence. Educating society as a whole is also a very important key to ending domestic violence. Educating society is accomplished through changes in public policy and practices. Much tougher laws are needed since most abusers are given a night or two in jail only to stew in their antipathy toward that person who put them there. This gives reoccurring abusers and other people like them the message that domestic violence is not a major crime and they can get away with it. When communities establish mandatory arrest and prosecution policies like they have incorporated here in Oregon, a message is sent from the police and the courts that domestic violence is a crime that society will not tolerate! When they join with counseling programs for abusers, the message will also be that those who want to change will be given a chance.
It has been agreed upon by all those trying to end domestic violence that not only individual abusers need help, but society as a whole needs help. Domestic violence is still subtly allowed, even encouraged some say, by various groups. Our media and entertainment industry still glamorizes and tones down the gravity of domestic violence. There are still police that ignore and trivialize domestic violence and judges that give weak punishments or simply let the abusers off. These are problems still plaguing our society and making it more difficult to end domestic violence. I think that we are on the right track to ending domestic violence but our effort is just not strong enough. Our message that domestic violence is a crime is not strong enough either. What are these abusive people supposed to think when they are arrested, given a slap on the wrist and then released the next day. My research has opened my eyes and made me cognizant of what is going on and that I need to do my part not to allow or tolerate any sort of intimate violence.