Domestic Violence Essay, Research Paper
For my psychology paper I chose to do Service Learning. I volunteered 20 hours at the Benton County Women’s Shelter. I enjoyed the time that I served there. They really made me feel needed and welcome. I decided, however, that I would not be capable of a career in this field. Just in the small amount of time that I volunteered there my heart wrenched for the girls there. I felt helpless to do more for them. And yes, I even felt sorry for them. That is not to say that I am not going to continuing volunteering. I have arranged with the organization to volunteer two Saturday’s a month. Perhaps it is me that is weak. I suppose to some degree we are all weak. But the women I encountered there had the confidence of a child just beginning to walk: determined, but shaky. I couldn’t watch the inner conflict and pain these women endure on a daily basis. I have gained a respect and admiration for those who can. However, my chosen field of study is Public Relations and it is my hope to someday gain a position at a charitable organization and become a spokeswoman for a greater cause.
The Benton County Women’s Shelter is a non-profit organization, a corporation with an overall purpose to work towards alleviating the problems of family violence. They provide shelter, counseling and financial assistances to women in an effort to instill a sense of self-purpose and self-esteem. I learned within my first hours of service what a benefit this service is to the women there. Without it, several would have no where to go. However, through my volunteer work, I seemed to see the same pattern repeat itself over and over. The women had little or no self-esteem. Most came from poverty situations. All of the women I encountered had children. All seemed unsure of their ability to support themselves and their children. Alcohol reappeared over and over again. Aggression problems surfaced in both the women and their children. Mostly, all just seemed lost and were searching for a source of comfort and security. That is what we do at the Benton County Women’s Shelter. We give the women a sense of self-worth. We teach them how to beat the cycle of abuse.
Domestic abuse in the United States is a large-scale and complex social and health problem. The family is perhaps the most violent group, with the home being the most violent American institution or setting today. Sadly enough, the majority of people who are murdered are not likely killed by a stranger during a hold-up or similar crime but are killed by someone they know. In one out of every six marriages, the wife is physically
abused. Every fifteen seconds a women is battered in the United States. Daily, four American women lose their lives to their husbands or boyfriends, equaling more than one-third of all female homicide victims. These numbers report that too much violence is directed toward women.
Violent families are easy to describe but difficult to explain. Research on family abuse has, on a consistent basis, found that the phenomenon is associated with intergenerational transmission, low socioeconomic status, social and structural stress, social isolation, and personality problems or psychopathology. Traditional theories on the causes of domestic abuse focus on such factors as people’s individual characteristics and life experiences, including the presence of problems such as social and structural stress, social alienation, unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, past child abuse, personality disorders, psychopathology, and depression. While domestic abuse can be studied through “mental lenses” that are psychological or sociological in nature, it is important also to examine this issue from a medical/public health perspective. While many theories have been proposed to explain the causes of family abuse, one of the most useful has been the social learning theory (Wade and Tavris, 285-289). It has been proposed that learning be composed of both a modeling component and “reciprocal influence”. The latter suggests that we can shape our futures by influencing our environments. In explaining how social learning theory explains family abuse, psychologist O’Leary (Wekesser and Swisher, 1994, 232) analyzed the effects of modeling on behavior, the role of stress, the use of alcohol, the presence of relationship dissatisfaction, and aggression as a personality style. Modeling involves the observation by the child of physical aggression by the parents or the direct experience of having been physically abused (Websdale, 184-186). In a study of wife abuse and marital rape, it was found that viewing parental violence was equally important in creating a future pattern of abuse as the direct experience of child abuse itself. Modeling, therefore, increases the likelihood that one will use violence in order to handle interpersonal difficulties.
Domestic abuse typically follows a “cycle of violence” pattern. There are three phases in the cycle of violence: tension-building, acute battering and the honeymoon
phase. During the tension-building phase, the batterer becomes increasingly moody, hostile and critical of his partner. Minor battering incidents may occur. During the acute battering phase, the batterer is likely to assault the victim. Major assault of the victim, physically and psychologically, usually distinguishes the acute battering incident from the minor battering incidents that may occur during the tension-building phase. Shortly after the acute battering phase is the honeymoon phase. The batterer may apologize, beg forgiveness, or promise that the violent behavior will never happen again.
There are numerous answers to the commonly asked question of why a woman would stay in an abusive relationship. For many women, no other sources of financial support or housing exist. The responsibility of childcare further complicates the problem. The most serious reason for concern is the fear of retribution by the abuser. Batterers frequently threaten to kill the woman or other family members if they tell anyone that they are being beaten. Despite the abuse, a woman may still love her partner and, consequently, will lie to protect him. Many victims possess low self-esteem caused by repeated abuse, both physical and emotional, and believe that they don’t deserve help. Finally, the pure fact of being embarrassed or ashamed may be sufficient reason for the victim to stay.
Aside from medical and psychiatric treatment for injuries, potential victims of abuse can be given information and counseling from the health care provider in order to prevent further victimization episodes. Patients can be informed about the risk factors involved that would increase the chances of serious harm to them. Psychological counseling, administered by either the primary care provider or a mental health professional, can assist the patient in ending personal relationships with abusive individuals. Additionally, the patient can be provided with telephone numbers and encouraged to contact existing community resources such as crisis centers, shelters, protective service agencies, or the police department if there is fear of injury.
It’s amazing to me that of all crimes in today’s society; domestic violence is the one that is still on the rise. It is time to take domestic violence seriously and combat it aggressively. In order for a positive change to occur, our legal system needs to protect the
battered and not the batterer. A majority of battered women are murdered if they try to leave an abusive situation. Why is that? Because they don’t have the protection they need. The criminal justice system needs to start a victim relocation program for domestic abuse victims. This would ensure their safety and allow them enough courage to leave a horrible situation. There are an estimated 1,500 women’s shelter in the United States today; however, there are over 3,800 animal shelters. In a nation that detests racism and protests animal cruelty, why are women and children still subjected to torture and violence in their own homes at the hands of their husbands and fathers? In a politically correct world too many of us still view women and children as inferior, as property. The media portrays women as sex symbols and often with a very noticeable lack of intelligence. Often doctors turn their backs on damage left as the result of abuse because of the fear of embarrassing their patients. It is time to declare war on domestic violence. Domestic violence will always be a part of our culture. Women are still not considered equal and historically it was acceptable to beat your wife if she was out of line. With today’s broken marriages and extensive abuse of alcohol and drugs, the matter will only get worse. If strong initiatives are not instilled now, there will be many unnecessary deaths due to the rise in abuse.
It is important that we, as a community, stand up and voice our detest of domestic violence. It is important for all of us to decide to aid the battered instead of turning the other cheek. I am relatively certain that at some point of everyone’s life they have been a spectator of domestic violence. I myself, recall when I was 11 years old, we heard the man in the apartment next to ours, slapping his wife around and calling her names. I asked my daddy if we shouldn’t call someone. My dad responded that it is best to leave your nose out of other couple’s disputes. I wonder if the women that was being beaten felt the same way? It is no longer acceptable to “turn the other cheek”. You must stand up and speak out against domestic abuse. It will take millions of very loud voices to end the cycle of abuse. You never know when the battered will become your friend, your sister, your daughter, or even yourself.
Websdale, Neil. Rural Woman Battering And The Justice System, An Ethnography. Ed. Michelle Lingre. London: Sage, 1998.
Swisher, Karin and Wekesser, Carol. Violence Against Women. Ed. Bruno Leone. San Diego, GA: Greenhaven Press, 1994.
Wade, Carole Wade and Tavris, Carol. Invitation to Psychology. Ed. Priscilla McGreehon. New York: Longman, 1999.