Relationships are complex and take time and energy to maintain whether it is a healthy relationship or one that is steeped in domestic violence. Domestic violence is universal, cutting across all economical status and walks of life. It is not confined to any particular ethnicity, race or gender.
As professionals became more aware of the problem, they began to uncover details of the batterers and the victims of domestic violence. A common thread of both is that they learned their roles in the drama through modeling, either having seen the violence or been victims in their family or origin.
Understanding Domestic Violence
Domestic violence has far reaching consequences for the victims. It is a method of control for the perpetrator. Victims of domestic violence will do anything they can to avoid the assaults which can be physical or emotional or a combination of both. This takes a great deal of energy; the victims attempt to anticipate the wishes, needs, and whims of the abuser.
Batterers believe they have the right to control their partners or children; they consider them property and that violence is acceptable and productive. The violence has far reaching consequences to not only the batterer and the victim, but also to others around them such as children, extended family, friends and co-workers. Consequences can include physical injury, death, loss of job and/or home, and vulnerability to substance abuse and addiction. Victims generally have low-self esteem and often believe they are undeserving of a better relationship, feelings which the violence exacerbates.
The Cycle of Violence
Most people are familiar with the wheel of the cycle of violence. Stage one is the escalation. This is a period where stress and tension increase. It involves non-physical behavior such as yelling, screaming, cursing and threatening. The intent is for the batterer to control the victim. The effectiveness partially depends on the batterer's ability to instill fear in the victim.
Stage two is the acute battering incident. This stage involves physical assault on the victim; shoving, pushing, hitting, and punching. The intent is to reinforce power and control and instill fear in the victim. The abuser may even resort to brandishing a weapon and threatening to kill the victim and/or the children.
Stage three is the de-escalation stage. The batterer apologizes, expresses regret and promises not to do anything "like that" again. The victim has feelings of confusion, but desperately wants to believe, thus keeps the hope alive that the batterer will change. At this point, thoughts of calling for help are often pushed aside. Not all abusers will go through this stage. This stage is still abusive- the batterer's intent is to manipulate the victim's emotions.
The cycle of violence is fueled by the victim's desire for the abuser's love; the hope for change; and the fear of the consequences should the victim decide to leave.
Signs a New Acquaintance is a Potential Batterer
Of course not everyone who exhibits certain traits can be labeled a batterer; however, most abusers tend to display many of the same characteristics. Characteristics are progressively more serious as the probability of being an abuser increases. Warning signs indicate the relationship might be better off moving very slowly if at all. Some warning signs include:
- Quick involvement- wants to move the relationship along too quickly
- Loner- does not want you to meet family, co-workers, or friends if there are any
- Blames others
More serious characteristics that may indicate a potential abuser should give an individual pause to think about steering clear of an intimate relationship with this person. Caution signs include:
- Isolator- wants to cut the abused off from family and friends, quit job and social organizations
- Jealous or possessive
- Control freak
- Verbally abusive
- Unrealistic expectations
- Sexist attitude
- Sudden mood swings
- Short fuse
- Cruel to others
- Forceful sexual encounters
Danger signs are serious enough to warrant a "stay clear" attitude toward the person. Danger signs that someone could be a potential abuser include:
- Argues with force
- Threatens violence
- Breaks or strikes objects
- History of battering
Statistics on Domestic Violence
Domestic violence in varying degrees happens across all demographics. Experts estimate that it is under-reported and thus a much larger issue for society than it appears on the surface; it is believed to be the most common crime in the country. Here are some interesting facts about domestic violence in the United States:
- More than 32 million Americans are affected by domestic violence every year.
- Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women.
- 85% of victims of domestic violence are women.
- Females between the ages of 20-24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal violence from an intimate partner.
- Most cases of domestic violence are never reported.
- Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their partners and/or children when they become adults.
- 30-60% of abusers also abuse the children in the household.
- Witnessing violence between parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor in perpetuating the violence through generations.
- Less than one-fifth of those reporting an injury from domestic violence seek medical treatment for that injury.
- Domestic violence results in more than 18.5 million mental health visits each year.
- One in six women and one in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape.
- One out of 12 women and one in 45 men have been stalked in their lifetime.
- 81% of the women stalked by their intimate partner or ex-partner have been physically assaulted by that partner.
- Sexual assault occurs in about 40-45% of battering relationships.
- Domestic violence costs over 5.8 billion dollars each year. 4.1 billion dollars is for direct medical and mental health services.
- Victims of domestic violence lose over eight million days of paid work each year. This is equivalent to 32,000 full-time jobs.
Domestic Violence Laws
Each state has laws concerning domestic violence and has differing definitions as to the type of relationship that qualifies under those laws. Most states require the perpetrator and the victim to be current or former spouses, living together or have a child in common. Some states include current or former dating relationships. Currently only three states, Delaware, Montana and South Carolina specifically exclude same-sex relationships in their laws regarding domestic violence.
Only about 20% of the victims of domestic violence annually obtain restraining orders. About half of those orders who are against batterers who physically assaulted are violated; while more than two-thirds of restraining orders against partners who raped or stalked the victims are violated.
Where Victims can Get Help
Domestic violence is a serious issue and victims need a strong plan to escape without further injury. Victims of domestic violence often feel trapped and alone. There are various organizations that help battered women and their children and other victims of domestic violence. Important numbers to access are:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline number: 1-800-799-7233.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673.
The National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 1-866-331-947.
The copyright of the article "Domestic Violence is a Serious and Under-reported Social Issue" is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.