Domestic violence is a phenomenon that is not limited to women alone because even men can experience domestic abuse from women. It pertains to maltreatment and neglect occurring between married couples, non-married yet intimate partners, and same-sex partners. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone regardless of culture, gender, economic standing in society, and level of education. It puts the victim on the defense and always in fear. The victim may experience loss of self-esteem and could even lead to the victim’s eventual death. When this happens, the victim’s death does not put an end to the whole cycle, but rather, it becomes a shocking reminder of the pain and depression that the victim experienced and leaves hurtful memories for the victim’s family. Domestic violence may be physical or non-physical in nature, which includes sexual assault, verbal attack physical harm, and other forms of offensive behavior towards the partner.
Women have always been the victims of domestic abuse more than men. It only came to national consciousness when more violence ended up in deaths and suicides among the victims. Reports reveal that domestic violence is often underreported, with only about half of the victims reporting their plight to the authorities (Rana). According to studies, women seldom report abuses and violence because the assaults are non-life threatening such as slapping and hitting. However, even for abuses and injuries that require medical attention, women still opt to remain silent than tell the authorities (Rana).
In surveys conducted in 1995 and 1996, National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) found that “nearly one in four women and nearly one in 13 men surveyed experienced rape and/or physical assault by a current or former spouse/partner/dating partner at some time in their lifetime” (Rana). However, in a survey conducted in 2001, significant decreases in number of domestic abuse showed that from the early 1990s to early 2000s, crime rates involving domestic abuse decreased by about 50 percent in the United States. Reports suggest that this decline in numbers and percentages could be attributed to women learning ways on how to take care of themselves, handle such abusive scenarios, and leave their partners. (Rana).
Domestic violence occurs because a partner wants to threaten, humiliate, intimidate, coerce, manipulate, and inflict harm on the victim. Usually, women experience physical abuse in the form of intentional use of force such as hitting, slapping, and biting. At other times, victims may even be forced to drink alcohol or take illegal substances. Sexual abuse is another form of domestic violence, which takes the form of sexual contact without the consent of the partner, resulting to marital rape, date rape, molestation, or any demeaning sexual acts. Emotional abuse pertains to the abuser’s ways of reducing an individual’s self-worth and weakening the victim’s esteem through acts such as constant condemnation, calling the victim names, and damaging the victim’s morale both in private and in public. Women could also experience psychological abuse in the form of intimidation, forced isolation from family and friends, and threats of inflicting injuries to self or love ones, among others. Another form of abuse is economic abuse, which is done by withholding money and other economic resources to handicap the victim and make him or her dependent on the abuser (“What is Domestic Violence”, 2013).
Many theories attempt to explain why domestic violence is very much part of society. Social Learning Theory states that “family violence arises due to many contextual and situational factors [such as] individual/couple characteristics, stress, violence in the family, or an aggressive personality [and] substance abuse and financial difficulties” (Lemkey). Baker (2011) asserted that this theory is backed up by Albert Bandura’s concepts about the theory that says people are not born violent. Rather, people become violent because of exposure to violent situations that become ingrained in memory through observation and experience. That is the reason why domestic abuse is associated with the social learning theory – because people who abuse their partners often learned violence from childhood according to what they saw from older members of their family or of society.
Baker (2011) further claimed that behavior modeling is a huge aspect in the social learning theory. What children observe in childhood, whether these observations and experiences are positive or negative, produce the same effects on the child when he or she grows up. When a child grows up in an environment that condones violence, then the child begins to think that is the norm and is, thus, an acceptable behavior. Baker (2011) also contends that while parents think children are not prone to understand fully aggressive behaviors they witness at home, these images are retained in their subconscious. Thus, when these children grow older, the experiences they remember as part of their childhood become their basis for what is right and wrong, what is acceptable or not. This then becomes their ways of handling conflict and issues in their adult lives.
Another theory is called Conflict of Violence Theory. According to Lemkey (n.d.), this theory is based on the acceptance of the idea that in some patriarchal societies, the dominance of the father in the family is acceptable, thus, violence instigated by the head of the family, usually the father, is all right. Therefore, violence is considered a normal reaction to solve issues and problems within the household or in certain types of relationships. This theory also holds the idea that violence could be caused by what people see on TV and pornography, which supports “a culture of violence against women” (Lemkey, n.d.). Randall (2010) mentioned that blame can be attributed as well to a “culture of violence in modern Africa” (Randall), which accepts violence as a way to resolve problems because this was how Africans were treated in colonial times. Thus, violence was extended and directed to women as well, which meant women back then suffered from “both rape and domestic violence” (Randall). What is highly noticeable is how this theory does not seem to apply in the United States where cases of domestic violence are also high. Culture never played a part in the description of domestic violence, but rather, it is an individual issue or problem within the family and one which can be resolved through psychological and behavioral therapies.
Finally, there is also what is called Resource Theory, which gives authority and control to the individual who brings in more resources into the relationship. These resources could be in the form of economic, personal, and social resources. It is with the understanding that the individual who has the higher salary, higher educational level, better occupation, and has great interpersonal skills has more command over the partner who brings in little into the partnership. Thus, with better skills and becoming the main provider within the relationship entitles the individual more force and dominance in the relationship (Lemkey). This is one of the reasons why more women end up violated and battered by their partners because typically, when a couple weds, the woman stops working and focuses on becoming a housewife, maintaining the household, and caring for the kids. Somehow, the woman gives up her right to power in the relationship by giving the reins to the husband. In such cases, the balance of power changes between the husband and the wife because as the husband’s contribution in the financial aspect of the relationship increases, the woman’s influence and power in the partnership decreases.
Domestic abuse against women is a human rights violation. Any forms of discrimination and violation cannot be justified by any political, cultural, or religious beliefs. It is not something that only occurs in the United States, but rather a phenomenon that transpire worldwide. Women who experience any of these types of abuses have long-term psychological and health problems that cannot be resolved by therapy alone. It presents huge negative impact on the victim, family, and friends. When children are subjected and exposed to such abuses at home, they, too, experience lasting social, physical, and psychological problems. It could even make them believe that violence is normal and abusing another individual or becoming a victim of abuse is acceptable. The effects that domestic violence has on a nation are huge that more than the costs of legal fees and rehabilitating victims and abusers, the cost to society is much bigger and crucial. Depression, negativity, and deaths will continue to occur if abusers and victims are left fending on their own. Thus, this problem must be stopped immediately.
Baker, Suzette. (2011). The social learning theory of domestic abuse. Yahoo Voices. Retrieved from http://voices.yahoo.com/the-social-learning-theory-domestic-abuse-8467757.html?cat=72
Lemkey, Erin. (n.d.). Domestic violence: Theories of causation. Tripod. Retrieved from http://wost201h_domviol.tripod.com/groupactionproject/id4.html
Rana, Sampson. (n.d.). Domestic violence. Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. Retrieved from http://www.popcenter.org/problems/domestic_violence/
Randall, Vernellia R. (2010). Theories that appear in the African literature of domestic violence. Race, Health Care and the Law. Retrieved from http://academic.udayton.edu/health/06world/Africa03a.htm
“What is domestic violence?”. (2013). The United States Department of Justice. Retrieved from http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/domviolence.htm