Domestic Violence

Looking at the statistics of domestic violence, how serious is the problem of domestic violence? Somewhere in America at this very moment, a woman is being abused. Yet, as America progresses through time, no one solution has been proven to significantly reduce the ongoing domestic violence occurrence.

Domestic Violence. It shatters lives, destroys families, damages communities and affects every part of our world – and it’s affecting the next generation. Domestic violence can happen to anyone. “4 million American women experience a serious assault by a partner during an average 12-month period” (“Abuse in America”). Domestic violence is a serious crime that often goes unreported by the victim, mostly in fear of even more retaliation. People need to be educated about what domestic violence is, who it affects, the specific types of domestic violence, the cycle of domestic violence, and how people can help if they have a loved one who is experiencing domestic violence. Domestic violence is qualified as violence that occurs within a household, most frequently between spouses, and the husband is most often the instigator of the event.

Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and truly last a lifetime.

Domestic violence is definitely on the rise in Louisiana. It seems like every day you are hearing about it on the news or reading it in the newspaper. Not only are you hearing about women being abused, but also about women being murdered or seriously injured by their husbands, boyfriends, ex- husbands, or ex- boyfriends. There are laws in Louisiana for domestic violence that have been enacted to protect the victims of such violence. However, these laws need to be better enforced.

Over the last decade in the United States, domestic violence has qualified as a public health epidemic. In fact, The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence indicates that, “a woman is beaten by her intimate partner every fifteen seconds”. The abuse may be emotional, mental, or physical and done through intentional threats, intimidation, and/or physical violence. Oftentimes, the abuser is the husband and the victim is the wife.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is observed every October nationally by victims, survivors, as well as friends and families of victims and survivors. Precisely so there is a reminder that domestic violence is a crime against a human being. In Louisiana alone, we lead the nation in number of deaths from domestic violence as reported by The Violence Policy Center, based on FBI data. That is not surprising, as the crime of domestic violence happens in Louisiana nearly six times the national average.

One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
85% of domestic violence victims are women.
Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they knew.
Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.

Many times, women’s self-esteem is so low as a result of spouse abuse that they are unable to see themselves as worthy of seeking help, or they rationalize the abuse, believing they caused or deserve it. Police complain that often when they arrest an abuser, the victims want them to drop the charges. Victims of domestic violence are reluctant to report abuse. Women very reasonably fear retaliation against themselves and their children by the abuser and fear the economic upheaval that may follow the report. Studies show that the highest risk for serious injury or death from violence in an intimate relationship is at the point of separation or at the time when the decision to separate is made. “Threats and violence are control strategies used by the batterer, the woman’s leaving may threaten his sense of power and increase his need to control the woman and children.”

When a person wants to protect themselves from their abuser, they are able to obtain a Temporary Restraining Order. In turn, the victim goes to court to get a permanent injunction against the abuser. That document is put in place to offer full protection of abuse to the victim, but more often than not, that document is not being enforced to the fullest extent of the law. With more women than ever being abused and murdered by the hands of their significant other, we need stricter, more enforceable laws. Laws that will put the abuser behind bars, take away some of their rights and privileges, as well as get the abuser the much needed counseling they obviously need.

Domestic violence crosses all age, ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, and educational boundaries. There are doctors, ministers, psychologists, police, attorneys, judges, and other professionals who beat their partners. Battering also occurs in same gender relationships. 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, boyfriend, or girlfriend per year to 3.9 million women who are physically abused per year. Thirty percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year. Abusive relationships can be defined as a relationship in which one partner uses a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors to maintain power and control over the other partner. This includes couples who are married or unmarried, gay or straight. Types of abuse can include physical, emotional, social, economic, and sexual aspects.

Does your intimate partner….
Insult or drive away your friends or family?
Continually criticize you, call you names, shout at you?
Ignore your feelings?
Use lies and contradictions to manipulate you?
Humiliate you in private or public; refuse to socialize with you?
Mock or insult your personal beliefs, religion, race, or heritage?
Regularly threaten to leave, or tell you to leave?
Threaten to get custody of the children?
Threaten to kidnap the children?
Abandon you in dangerous places?
Drive recklessly or force you to drive recklessly?
Hide or take away your car keys?
Lock you out of your house or apartment?
Prevent you from taking medication?
Refuse to help you when you are sick, injured, or (if applicable) pregnant?
Threaten to, or abuse your loved ones?
Threaten to, or abuse your pets?
Demand that you account for your daily activities, expenses, travel?
Use a hidden tape recorder or camera to spy on you?
Stalk you either physically or through e-mail or repeated phone calls or text messages?
Check your mail, answering machine, caller ID, e-mail?
Insist you dress in a more sexual way than you want?
Minimize the importance of your feelings about sex?
Become jealously angry, accuse you of sexual activity with others?
Insist that you perform sexual acts which make you uncomfortable?
Force you to have sex?
Forbid you to use protection against sexually transmitted diseases?
Forbid you to use birth control?
Force you to have sex with others, or force you to watch others having sex?
Videotape you during sex?
Pressure you to view or read pornography?
Force you to incur debt or ruin your credit?
Control your money?
Hide income, bank accounts or investments?
Gamble, borrow money that forces you into debt?
Refuse to pay family bills?
Force you to sign fraudulent claims, checks, tax returns?
Threaten to call your employer and lie about your mental health or personal history?
Forbid you to work, go to school, accept a promotion?
Force you to regularly be late to work, absent, or leave work early?
Corner you, push you, throw you down?
Throw things at you?
Pull your hair?
Slap or grab you?
Scratch or bite you?
Kick or punch you?
Choke you?
Threaten to use or use a weapon against you?
Inflict any type of physical abuse during pregnancy?

Emotional abuse is when an intimate partner has:
continually criticized you.
called you names or shouted at you.
insulted or driven away your friends or family.
humiliated you in private or public.
kept you from working.
controlled your money.
made all the decisions.
refused to work or to share money.
taken car keys or money from you regularly.
threatened to leave or told you to leave.
threatened to kidnap the children when the abuser was angry with you.
abused pets to hurt you.
manipulated you with lies and contradictions.

Physical abuse is when an intimate partner has:
pushed or shoved you.
held you to keep you from leaving.
slapped or bitten you.
kicked or choked you.
hit or punched you.
thrown objects at you.
locked you out of the house.
abandoned you in dangerous places.
refused to help you when you were sick, injured or pregnant.
forced you off the road or driven recklessly.
threatened to hurt you with a weapon.

Sexual abuse is when an intimate partner has:
minimized the importance of your feelings about sex.
criticized you sexually.
insisted on unwanted or uncomfortable touching.
withheld sex and affection.
forced sex after physical abuse or when you were sick.
raped you.
been jealous or angry, assuming you would have sex with anyone.
insisted that you dress in a more sexual way than you wanted.

The best way to define an abusive relationship is when one partner uses violence to control the other. When a victim lives in constant fear, the abuser is in control. This use of violence is usually part of a pattern that gets worse over time. It has been described as the “cycle of violence.”

Phase 1 – Tension Building
A victim often senses that the abuser is becoming edgy and more prone to lash out at trivial frustrations. The victim may learn to anticipate abuse and try to control it by being more nurturing and compliant or by simply staying out of the abuser’s way. This phase is marked by many “minor” abusive actions that gradually increase in severity. Quite often the event which will trigger the battering phase is initiated by the abuser who may make a demand which the victim cannot meet, and responds to her/his refusal or inability to act with explosive behavior. A victim of abuse often accepts the building rage in a partner as being legitimately directed towards her/him. The abused individual internalizes the responsibility of keeping the situation from exploding. If she/he does their job well, the abusive partner will become or remain calm; if she/he fails, the victim believes it is their own fault. A victim who has been battered over time knows that she/he can do nothing to stop the tension from building, but denies this knowledge to help cope with the partner’s behavior.

Phase 2 – Acute Battering Incident (Explosive Incident)
When the abuser finally explodes, the severity of the assault and where it occurs is impossible to predict. This phase is characterized by explosive and unpredictable rage. This may involve pushing, shoving, shaking, or hair pulling. It may involve hitting with an open hand or a closed fist. It may involve intense yelling and name calling. It may be over in a moment or last for hours. If the assault has been physical, there may be visible injuries, but often an experienced batterer will leave no marks. The attack rarely takes a single consistent form. The attack is followed by shock, denial and disbelief. Most victims consider themselves lucky that it was not worse, no matter how bad their injuries are. They often deny the seriousness of their injuries and refuse to seek medical help if it is needed. The abuser denies violence, and justifies the behavior by saying the original intent was to simply teach the victim a lesson, and she/he “just lost control.”

Phase 3 – Aftermath: Loving Respite (Re-engagement Phase)
Victims may enter the criminal justice system after an acute battering episode, but after the assault comes a period of calm, loving, contrite behavior. Both the abuser and the victim feel guilty about the event and resolve never to “let” it happen again. The batterer will very typically treat the victim with apparent respect, love and affection. This is a great relief for the victim and is precisely what was desired from the relationship all along. The abuser apologizes for what happened and asks for forgiveness. The abuser may even believe she/he will not do it again. The abuser promises to control her/himself and will never again hurt the partner she/he loves. An abuser may even agree to go to therapy (but will usually drop out when the relationship resumes the tension building phase). The abuser tells the victim that she/he would fall apart without them, and the victim wants to believe she/he will no longer have to suffer abuse. An abuser’s reasonableness and loving behavior during this period support the victim’s wish that the partner can really change. The victim takes responsibility for their abuser’s well-being and for the abuse. If the victim has made police charges against the “reformed” partner, she/he may consider dropping them. As long as the abusive partner continues to behave affectionately, the victim becomes increasingly reluctant to jeopardize such good behavior by proceeding with a prosecution or any other consequences to the abuser.

Long-term effects of domestic violence on women who have been abused may include:
Chronic depression
Chronic pain
Dissociative states
Drug and alcohol dependence
Eating disorders
Emotional “over-reactions” to stimuli
General emotional numbing
Health problems
Panic attacks
Poor adherence to medical recommendations
Repeated self-injury
Self neglect
Sexual dysfunction
Sleep disorders
Somatization disorders
Strained family relationships
Suicide attempts
An inability to adequately respond to the needs of their children

In a 1999 study from Johns Hopkins, it was reported that abused women are at higher risk of miscarriages, stillbirths, and infant deaths, and are more likely to give birth to low birth weight children, a risk factor for neonatal and infant deaths. In addition, children of abused women were more likely to be malnourished and were more likely to have had a recent untreated case of diarrhea and less likely to have been immunized against childhood diseases.

Most battered women take active steps to protect their children, even if they do not leave their batterer. Domestic violence can severely impair a parent’s ability to nurture the development of their children. Mothers who are abused may be depressed or preoccupied with the violence. They may be emotionally withdrawn or numb, irritable or have feelings of hopelessness. The result can be a parent who is less emotionally available to their children or unable to care for their children’s basic needs. Battering fathers are less affectionate, less available, and less rational in dealing with their children. Studies even suggest that “battered women may use more punitive child-rearing strategies or exhibit aggression toward their children.” When children cannot depend on their parents or caregivers – for emotional support and for practical support – their development can be seriously delayed or, in severe cases, permanently distorted. Children without an emotionally available parent may withdraw from relationships and social activities. Since childhood is the time when social skills and attitudes are learned, domestic violence can affect their ability to form relationships for the rest of their lives.

One of the greatest concerns for any victim of violence is how the relationship has affected the children. For any child growing up in a home where violence occurs, the impact is huge. A victim who is not safe, cannot keep the children safe. Parents who have been traumatized by violence must cope with their own trauma before they are able to help their children. The perpetrator may be the child’s own parent, step-parent, an other relative or a domestic partner. There is a high correlation between growing up in an abusive home and becoming either a victim or perpetrator as an adult. The important message here is that witnessing violence affects kids in profound ways that shapes their personality and coping abilities throughout their lives. If your child is watching abuse, get help. If you do nothing, he/she will carry this burden alone throughout his/her own life, and the legacy of violence will pass to the next generation.

Every child reacts differently depending on his/her age or temperament, but here are some common responses:
Fear: Fear of harm, fear of abandonment, fear of losing family, fear of having to run away.
Anger: Anger at the abusive parent for the pervasive violence, anger at the victimized parent for not stopping the abuse, anger at self for not knowing what to do to make things better.
Guilt: Guilt because a child feels responsible for the family problems, guilt for loving a parent regardless of the abuse, or guilt for hating a parent who is causing so much pain.
Shame: Shame for the family trouble, wondering “What is wrong with us? Will anyone else find out what is happening? Nobody else knows how this feels.”
Confusion : Confusion about why this is happening to the family. “What can I do to fix it? What is wrong with me?”
Powerlessness: Children have no control over any of the circumstances. They are absolutely powerless to change anything. “I did not choose this family, I cannot choose to leave, I do not want to stay. I don’t know what to do. I just want the bad stuff to stop.”
Withdrawal: Kids who are scared and confused can close off relationships and isolate themselves from friends and family. This can lead to problems in school and at home.
Aggression: Kids who are scared and angry can strike out and have difficulty managing their own relationships. Fights at school and aggression toward siblings are common.

In conclusion, there are different kinds of domestic violence, but all kinds are very hurtful and damaging to a family and it’s members. To stop the violence we must make sure facts and information about violence in homes are well publicized. If they are not the statistics will never change and the amount of domestic violence cases we are seeing today will never drop. Having stricter laws and regulations is important since most abusers are given a slap on the wrist, and it usually does not teach them a lesson at all. All it does is give our society a message that domestic violence is not a major crime and that they can get away with it. When communities can establish policies to arrest abusers, a message is sent from the police to the society that domestic violence is a crime that will and should not be taken lightly.