Are Policies Helping in Curbing Domestic ViolenceClick here for Part 2.

Conceptually, a policy is the most tangible representation of the government’s effort to put its society under control (Wooldredge & Thistlewaite, 2002). Policies become the skeleton by which the social condition is formed. Government policies should cover everything that could potentially affect peace and order, economy and security of its citizens. This includes domestic issues such as domestic violence. The constitution provides a blanket protection on all its citizen but the justice system and its implementation are unwieldy and complicated. Arrest policies go through changes and its execution are affected by logistic including training of police officers, new legislations and amendments, errors or shortcomings in documentation. These things affect cases that might be filed.

McIntosh (1981) was able to prove that government policies actually encourage the dependence of women towards men. For example, men are required to provide for their children and wives. This financial reliance of wives towards their husbands sets a framework where women are conditioned to be dependent on men.

Kelly (1988) went deeper as to include mainstream cultural practices such as insinuating jokes in the creation of a strong support towards the marginalization of women. The patronization of mainstream culture towards the dominance of men over women support the cycle of violence towards women.

These two literatures support major points that Hoyle (2000) made on how police response may not be as valuable as society perceive it to be when it comes to curbing violence against women. These three papers emphasize the need to look at the psychology of the women who get into and choose to stay in an abusive relationship.

Hoyle (2000) emphasized the need to understand that domestic violence cannot be viewed in the same light as other criminal cases because the aggressor in a domestic violence have a strong bond with the victim. Victims love their attacker and sometimes, children are involved. This provides them with a reason and motivation to go past the crime. Such a connection and with so much at stake, legalities are often ignored. Policies become useless. In some way, the policies actually become a deterrent in the willingness of women to seek outside help.

This paper intends to critically examine the major domestic violence policies discussed by Hoyle and how considerate these policies are on the psychological framework of the different parties involved in an abusive relationship.

It’s a Psychological Warfare

Hoyle (2000) pointed out several important facts that are often overlooked by policymakers. One of this is that even if domestic violence is supposedly no different from other violent acts committed on the streets, there should be a lot of consideration given to the fact that there is a strong relationship between the aggressor and the victim. In many cases, these two are bonded by children, history and marriage. This relationship influences how a victim would want to deal with the situation. When harmed by a stranger, the concern is to catch the perpetrator and put him in jail but when there are children involved, there will be some second thoughts on putting the father behind bars. Many studies have women with children are more likely to stay in a relationship even if it is abusive (Carlson, Harris, & Holden, 1999; Harrell & Smith, 1996). 

There is also little recognition that the victims are also psychologically sick. Policies don’t take into consideration the long process that a relationship goes through before it reaches an abusive stage. There is seduction, manipulation, dominance and others. These stages are also recognizable but the mere fact that women proceed with the relationship even when there are clear signs on where it is going is a sign that they are not in their proper mental state.

These two major factors affect the way a victim will react towards the policies in place to stop domestic violence. Since the policy considers domestic violence a criminal act, it subjects the plaintiff to criminal proceedings with the danger of receiving sanctions afforded to criminals. Often, this is not what the victim wants. What victims desire is for the abuse to stop but for the relationship to continue.

There are three major policies that are in place intended to deal with domestic violence but all these fail to address the problem cohesively because none of it understands the disposition of the victim.

Protection Orders

Hoyle enumerated several processes and policies put in place that is made available to victims of domestic violence. Protection Order (PO) is one of them. A protection order is a civil in nature. This means that only the individual has the right to make use of them. It is the state that implements it. The intention is for to prevent an individual from committing an act or doing an activity because of its harmful consequence. This may include preventing an abuser from living in the same house as his wife or living in the same state as his family.

Regardless of the particulars, the general goal is to keep an abuser form doing anything that may eventually lead to physical abuse. When a PO is violated, that’s when it becomes a criminal offense. As such, a crime is committed against the people of Britain and not just against the individual.

For a PO to be issued, the court must be convinced that if the action being requested is not stopped an abuse will happen (Finn & Colson, 1990). This is when the contradiction happens and when women are disempowered. While the objective of P.O. is prevention, the court will not issue a P.O. unless there are undisputable proof a woman has already been abused. POs don’t do anything in making domestic violence any more illegal than it already is.

It is important to note, though, that the civil court does not need physical proof of abuse to issue a P.O., it only needs to be convinced of the probability. This may already be a reason for the civil court to issue a P.O. On the other hand, a criminal law will require that the crime be proven beyond reasonable doubt.  However, what makes it even more difficult to obtain a P.O. is the fact that both parties must agree to the terms.

This requirement becomes the number deterrent in obtaining a P.O. Physical abuse rarely happen in the early stages of the relationship. Usually, there is an escalation. It starts with verbal abuse which is when the abuser brainwashes the victim into thinking she is powerless. Only when the victim has lost self-confidence will an abuser physically abuse the victim. As such, the act of facing someone whom a victim believes to have power over her is emotionally difficult.

The alternative is to get an Emergency Protection Order or (EPO) but it only lasts for a limited time. This does not require that both parties agree to the terms but it can expire in 24 hours. This opens the victim to greater danger.

There have been some attempts in measuring the effects of POs in deterring domestic violence but none have been successful (Holden, 1999). In fact, different studies have shown different results. For example, Harrell & Smith determined that abuse is less likely to happen again after a PO but Klein (1996) determine the exact opposite.

These results largely put PO in a questionable status as a deterrent in domestic violence. The contradiction between the objective and the process by which it can be obtained already shows that there is a disconnect and lack of understanding on how abuse happen. Abuse is not just about inflicting pain but about control which is psychological. As such, requiring a victim to face its abuser serves as a major hurdle in making PO a significant tool to prevent domestic violence.

Click here for Part 2.