“Domestic violence” can be defined as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and other systematic behavior [designed] to be part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.” It is a contagion impacting people in every community regardless of social station in life, age, gender, racial background, nationality, or religious pursuit. This action is commonly followed by psychological abuse and extreme domineering dispositions against the other partner; however, this is only a fraction of the structured pattern designed to force and domination over the other. Ultimately, the action of domestic brutality can result in physical harm, emotional damage, and in serious cases, murder. The effects of domestic brutality can cross over generational lines and linger for a lifetime (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015, p. 1).
Acts of domestic cruelty can be segregated into five primary forms: physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and financial. Physical brutality can be done in ways such as the infliction of injuries; inclusive of these actions include grabbing, biting, arm twisting, punching, and shooting, among others. Physical abuse may also take the form of non-contact abuses-withholding financial means for that person to acquire the means to maintain good health; denying financial means to purchase medicine or medical equipment, depriving sleep, nutrition, or forced intake of medicines, alcohol, or narcotics.
Sexual abuse is committed by physical and verbal means; traditionally, sexual abuse is committed by assaults on the victim’s “private parts,” sodomy, forced sex with other individuals, beatings, and marital rape, among others. However, sexual abuse is also done by way of denigrating the person in a sexual manner, criticizing the sexual performance of the person, and even accusing the person of infidelity. Mental abuse is committed by bullying, instilling dread in the victim, blackmail, threatening to illegally detain the children, or killing the pets and stalking the victim. Another means to mentally abuse the person is isolating and “fencing off” the person from the friends, harassment of people in the victim’s social circle, constantly accompanying the victim, and illegal detaining the person.
Emotional cruelty is done debasing the ability and competence of the spouse/partner, “name-calling,” maneuvering the emotions and perceptions of the victim to generate feelings of guilt, “making and breaking” promises to the victim, and weakening the relationship of the victim to their children. Lastly, financial abuse is done by severely restricting access to their financial resources, inclusive of restricting the victim’s access to his/her own wages, prohibiting the partner from seeking gainful employment, generating liabilities and withholding that information and the victim will eventually be forced to settle, inordinate frequency in “checking up” on the victim at work, and constantly looking to have the spouse justify and account for every cent spent, even though the offender is not contributing any to the coffers of the relationship (Woodbridge Domestic Violence Response Team, n. date, p. 1).
However, it must be noted that in domestic violence cases, there are no “typical” factors. Any person can be a victim to domestic brutality; regardless of economic station, age, educational attainment, religious pursuits, ethnic grouping, racial background, and lifestyle choice, people can fall victim to this act. The victim must also not be seen as weak and or lacking in self-esteem. Though the actions that are done by abusers vary, what is consistent in these relationships is the diverse tactics employed by offenders to acquire and sustain that power over the hapless victim. Studies show that 30 percent (3 out of 10) women and 10 percent in men (one out of 0) have been subjected to acts of sexual violence, physical attacks, and shadowing committed by one’s current or former partner. In addition, the sample lot also intimated that aside from these latent effects, these also experienced feeling at least one effect of abuse in the relationship (National Coalition, 2015, p. 1).
Reasons why abusers commit abuse
Domestic cruelty draws upon the inordinate desire of one partner to gain a monopoly and chain their partners; the abusive partner may even derive some form of perverted pleasure over this capricious exercise of power. In addition, the offending partner has an unyielding belief that the main priority in the relationship is the satisfaction of their own vested interests, and depreciate the worth and value of their partners, making them less deserving of respect and esteem in the relationship.
Abuse is an acquired mindset; the person may witness the violence in a family context, or at times see their friends or peers commit acts of violence against their partners. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that cruelty is a deliberate action; people choose to be violent against their partners and it is not a societal action in that society does not impose the commission of such an action on the individual. There are individuals who witness or are victimized by domestic abuse and do not commit these perverted actions against their partners. Though external elements such as narcotics and alcohol abuse can contribute to the commission of domestic abuse, it must be stated that these elements per se do not trigger acts of domestic abuse (National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2013, p. 1).
Incidents of “domestic violence” begin after one spouse or partner perceives the need to manipulate and tyrannize the other. Offenders can experience the need to dominate their partner owing to low self-respect, inordinate resentment, and frustration in controlling their anger and other aggressive emotions, or when the offender feels that he/she is inferior to the other. A number of men with very set attitudes believe that these have a right to dominate women, and women are inferior to men.
This monopoly shifts into psychological, physical or even sexual molestation. Research shows that belligerent behavior is often triggered by the interplay of individual and circumstantial factors. Simply put, abusers acquire their hostile behavior from a number of influences such as their family, their community, and other environmental and social factors as the abusers mature to adulthood. These individuals may have witnessed incidents of violence within these groups or these may have been victimized themselves (Goldsmith, 2015, p. 1).
Traditionally, when “domestic violence” is mentioned, people picture a scenario where the partner inflicts physical abuse on the partner. Physical assault is only one of the many forms of domestic cruelty; this action can be physical, psychological, economic, or sexual in nature. Becoming involved in a situation of domestic cruelty can develop perceptions of powerlessness and self-depreciation (Find Law, 2015, p. 1).
Phases of abusive relationship
The impacts of domestic cruelty can evidence itself in a number of ways. Knowing the effects will help in bringing an enhanced understanding of the action and also help in understanding the situation of the victims. Latent signs of abuse can include cuts, contusions, and serious bone injuries. Premature birth is also a sign of abuse, and victims can also experience new injuries as these heal of the old injuries inflicted. Abuse victims will often try to conceal the abuse being committed against them; one possible sign that a person is being abused is when these begin to wear long sleeved shirts even though the temperature is warm, or sunglasses indoors.
Aside from external marks, victims can also display illnesses that are related being victims of abuse and cruelty. Among these illnesses include stress-associated conditions such as sleeping and eating disorders, fatigue, headaches, and backaches. Fear-associated conditions such as hyperventilation, “panic attacks,” and irregular heart rhythms can also be seen; mental issues such as depression and alcohol addiction as well as suicidal thought patterns can also display itself among victims of abuse (New York, n.date, p. 58).
Domestic cruelty is not a “one-time” incident; it is an archetype of repeated behaviors done over a period of time. Many derisive relationships follow a pattern of belligerence, divided into three phases: the “explosive incident,” the build-up of the hostility in the relationship, and the “honeymoon phase.” In the stage where the tension rises in the relationship, the forebodings of brutality in the relationship start to evidence themselves. These can replay over time, thee may vary over time; however, whether these change or remain static, these will be present.
During this phase, there is an increase in the frequency of outbreaks of arguments between the spouses. In addition, the offender will often yell at the other for no reason at all. The offender will also throw baseless accusations at the other. Lastly, the victims are led to believe that everything that these do is wrong or error-filled, and are filled with dread that any additional action that these do will exacerbate the situation.
This is followed by the “explosive incident;” it is here where the brutality occurs. This can take the form of psychological, physical, or sexual brutality; however, it is a violent outburst. The initial step is the threatening of the victim with physical harm; this will degenerate into actual infliction of harm on the part of the abuser. It is also noted that during the abuse, the offender will scream and shriek at the victim in a hostile fashion. When the offender is able to get a hold of an object, this will violently hurl the object across the room at their victim. Often times, the abuser will harm the pet; and worse, the abuser will likely sexually molest or attack the victim.
In the last phase, the “honeymoon stage,” the offender will seek to rationalize, defend, or reduce the abuse. Here, the abuser will try to “make up” for their actions against the victim by showing inordinate kindness to cover up the attack. The offender will also hinder the victim from leaving the abusive relationship. Lastly, the abuser will try to redirect the blame from themselves to the victim, making the victim feel guilty of contributing to the attack. In this light, the abuser will make the victim feel that these are the ones responsible for the outburst; the victim then will feel guilt-stricken and not take legal action or seek help. After this stage, the cycle begins again; the “tension building” stage will be shorter and shorter to deteriorate to the “explosive incident” which will be more lethal and belligerent, and the “honeymoon stage” will become less and less (Advocates to End Domestic Violence, n. date, p. 1).
Domestic cruelty does not stop when the victim leaves the abuser, attempts to end the relationship, or seeks assistance. Often times, the problem worsens as the abuser feels a loss of power or control over the situation. The offender here will persist in harassing, threatening, shadowing, and even attempting to reestablish control over the victim even though the victim is no longer under the physical control of the abuser. As a matter of fact, the victim is actually in a more dangerous position in the immediate aftermath of the victim’s escape or when the victim is able to get help. The grim statistics evince this dangerous time; approximately one-fifths of murder victims that have restraining orders from the courts are killed after two days after securing the orders, and one-third are killed in a month after the orders are given (National Coalition, 2015, p. 1).
Why victims stay in abusive relationship and the needed support for victim to leave relationship
If possible, victims of domestic brutality should try and escape from their abusive partners and relationship. Nevertheless, this is not always the prevailing circumstance in most relationships. Offenders will go to inordinate lengths to chain the victim to the relationship; literally, leaving an abusive partner is the most dangerous time for the victim. In one study, it showed that women who were murdered by their abusive partners showed that the women threatening to leave the partner or the actual leaving of the partner were the most evident factor seen in the timeline of the murder of the victims.
It is difficult to comprehend the reasons why victims opt to stay in an abusive relationship. The issues involved are extremely complex and at times are founded on the fear that the abuser will follow on with their threats to keep the victims chained to the abuser; the victim will either be seriously hurt or even killed; if the victim will not be the target, the abuser will center the rage against the children, or the children will be taken away from them, the household animals will be butchered, or the finances of the victim will be forcibly acquired by the abuser.
No one knows the actual capability of the abuser than the victim. These are the most accurate gages of the actual capacity of the offender to follow through with their threats to ensure their control over their victims. The victim may not be able to adequately safeguard the wellbeing of their loved ones; in a study on the issue, it was seen that two out of 10 murder victims were not the victims, but their family members, friends, neighbors, “good Samaritans” who wanted to help, innocent bystanders, and even law enforcement personnel.
Aside from the fear of the abuser, victims also face multi-faceted issues that tend to dissuade them from leaving the relationship. Societal norms and expectations also pose a significant barrier. Aside from financial loss, the victim has to contend with the possibility and the fact of losing custodial rights over the children and being labeled as a deserter, respectively. The victim is also fearful that leaving the abuser will result in a major decline in the living standards the children as well as the victim is accustomed to.
In addition, the absence of substantive support from law enforcement and police officers that tends to categorize domestic cruelty as a “domestic conflict” rather than tagging the action as a criminal act where a person is physically harming another. It is a common occurrence that even though the victims claim to be defending themselves from the attacker, the police will most likely arrest the victim and charges them in court. However, even if the police sided with the victim and helped in securing a protection order against the abuser, the order is useless in restraining the abuser from returning to the relationship and replaying the abuse again. These possibilities are reinforced in that societal norms are built on the women being able to “keep a man;” if these are not, these are labeled by society as deserters (National Coalition, 2015, p. 1).
Spouses who have been brutalized by their partners do not want the relation to end; these just want to prevent anymore brutality and hostility to end. Even under optimal circumstances, it is extremely difficult to terminate a relationship. Collective memories, love, family considerations, and dedication to the spouse are near-unbreakable bonds. Societal and religious factors can also prevent the spouse from considering terminating an abusive relationship. Immigration status can also prove to be an effective “barrier” to seeking help in ending the brutality-immersed relationship. Though ending the relationship is difficult for both partners, women who are contemplating of ending the abuse-ridden relationship are faced with the additional threats of physical and emotional damage.
Physical abuse risks include a higher risk of violence against the victim, the victim’s children as well as the friends, and family members and even pets. Two, there is a possibility that the victim will be subjected to persistent stalking, verbal and psychological assaults, particularly in cases where the suspect has access to the battered spouse. Aside from external threats, the abused partner can contemplate suicidal options (New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, 2014, 9).
Under reporting of cases of domestic violence
The responses of the police to domestic brutality have varied over time. These have depended on the mindset and philosophy taken by the officer investigating the case. Up to the late 1980s, domestic cruelty incidents were accorded negligible to no attention from the criminal justice system. The needs and women and children falling victim to domestic cruelty were passed over repeatedly by police; in fact, the police tended to arbitrarily and arrogantly dismiss cases.
Initial research actions into these allegations recorded the cocky and demeaning that police personnel processed instances of “domestic disputes.” These types of instances were traditionally seen as private issues between partners, and not worth the effort of the police who were more interested in actual crimes. Regrettably, the sympathies of a male-dominated police force commonly aligned with the abusive spouse. Female victims reporting their cases to various assistance groups decry the fact that the police do not provide sufficient protection to the victims.
Majority of women do not report incidents of domestic abuse; oftentimes, women will contact police in a contingency, but for many, engaging the police will not be the first option, as this is regarded as the last step to be chosen and avoided, if possible. In a poll taken by the British Crime Survey, only four out of 10 incidents are reported to the police. Women are fearful of calling the police. Women believe that the police will be cavalier about their complaints and will not be given effective responses (Women’s Aid Federation of England, n. date, p. 1).
Programs available to abuse victims
There are groups that operate shelters that can offer transient shelter options for victims escaping from their abusive partners. Priority is given to women and children who have no shelter options immediately after their escape. The shelters can provide a variety of shelter options from 72 hour shelter options where the staff at the shelter can assess the situation and then determine whether the shelter option is viable, to yearlong “transitional housing” for clients that have graduated from the long term housing program of the support groups (Advocates, n. date, p. 1).
Nevertheless, there are plans that the victims can lay out to prevent or eliminate instances where abuse can occur. It is an avenue that the victim can improve safety and protection options in an emergency. For example, victims should keep vital items such as keys and money in a nearby location so that these can be gotten quickly if there is a need to depart from the area. The children and other individuals in the house can be given encrypted words to sound out an emergency. In cases where the offender has been served a restraining ruling, and there is a possibility that the offender will violate the order, it is important to have a copy of the order readily available (Domestic Violence Response Team, n. date, p. 1).
Advocates to End Domestic Violence (n.date) “Domestic violence facts” Retrieved 25 July 2015 from <http://www.aedv.org/index.php/domestic-violence-facts
Domestic Violence Response Team (n. date) “Domestic violence is” Retrieved 25 July 2015 from <http://www.woodbridgedvrt.org/pages/fiveforms.html
Find Law (2015) “Types of domestic violence” Retrieved 25 July 2015 from <http://family.findlaw.com/domestic-violence/types-of-domestic-violence.html
Goldsmith, T., (2015) “What causes domestic violence?” Retrieved 25 July 2015 from <http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-causes-domestic-violence/
National Coalition against Domestic Violence (2015) “What is domestic violence?” Retrieved 25 July 2015 from <http://www.ncadv.org/need-support/what-is-domestic-violence
National Domestic Violence Hotline (2013) “Why do people abuse? Retrieved 25 July 2015 from <http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/why-do-people-abuse/
New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (n. date). “Domestic violence: finding safety and support” Retrieved 25 July 2015 from <http://www.opdv.ny.gov/help/fss/fss.pdf
Women’s Aid Federation of England (n. date) “Why don’t women always call the police for help when they are experiencing domestic violence?” Retrieved 25 July 2015 from <http://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic-violence-articles.asp?section=00010001002200400001&itemid=1402