Thursday, June 14, 2012

One in three women may suffer from abuse and violence in her lifetime. This is an appalling human rights violation, yet it remains one of the invisible and under-recognized pandemics of our time. Violence against women is an appalling human rights violation. But it is not inevitable. We can put a stop to this.
– Nicole Kidman

If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms, and it would be the lead story on the news every night.
– Rep. Mark Green

Non-violence can truly flourish when the world is free of poverty, hunger, discrimination, exclusion, intolerance and hatred – when women and men can realize their highest potential and live a secure and fulfilling life. Until then, each and every one of us would have to contribute – collectively and individually – to build peace through non-violence.
– Anwarul Chowdhur

We are asking people to understand that slavery still exists today; in fact, according to a recent New York Times article, if you count the number of women and children in bonded labor, domestic slavery or sexual slavery today, there are more slaves in the world than at any other time in history.”
– Charlotte Bunch

10 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics for 2011

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Detailed research has been documented on what causes domestic violence. According to Kernsmith (2006) learning theories, such as socialization, social learning, and elements of feminist theory, assert that behaviors are learned throughout our lives through our interactions with others specifically as children or with what was exposed and witnessed by a victim’s child. These interactions teach individuals, in mostly subtle ways, what behavior is and is not appropriate, as well as what rewards and consequences will be brought about due to these actions (Mihalic and Elliot 1997). In this way, an individual learns the emotional and physical tactics of domestic violence and incorporates them into his or her behavior. Learning and generational models claim that emotional, physical, and sexual violence are learned behaviors, most often modeled after witnessing violent behaviors of family members whether the violence was inflicted against the child or just observed being inflicted on a parent (Cappell and Heiner 1990; Gortner et al 1997).

While research has shown that women report domestic violence abuse more often than men, the reasons stated vary significantly specifically when the domestic violent act was witnessed or suspected in another party. According to Seelau and Seelau (2005) women were more likely to say that they would have called police had they witnessed a dispute, whereas men expressed a preference to talk to a couple who were disputing himself, or simply leave them alone. Although women agreed with men that the best resolution to the dispute was to leave the couple alone when the victim was male, they were more likely to favor system intervention when the victim was female.

Gender differences whether reporting or being the victim of domestic violence has generally been one-sided. Johnson (2010) states that studies using agency samples (e.g., law enforcement, courts, hospitals, shelters) indicate that in heterosexual relationships intimate partner violence is largely male perpetuated;  in contrast, studies using general samples indicate that intimate partner violence is roughly gender symmetric in terms of perpetuation.

A major point Johnson (2010) argues in regards to Langhinrichsen-Rollings review of intimate partner violence is that gender is central to the analysis of intimate partner violence, and the coercive controlling violence that most people associate with the term “domestic violence” is perpetuated by men against their female partners. While research supports the indication that women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, Allen and Wozniak (2011) state that the real cost of intimate partner violence significantly exceeds the estimated financial cost annually as the lifelong physical, emotional, and financial impact of violence that is felt by women. Thus the researched perceptions show that women are more likely to be the victim of domestic violence both who have reported to the courts and those who have sought other social service agencies for help with domestic violence.
Other research supports race, gender, and disability correlations as supporting factors in the victimology of domestic violence. Henning and Feder (2004) state with their study that female arrestees were younger than the male arrestees and twice as likely to be younger than their respective victim. Male arrestees were slightly more homogenous with regard to their racial distribution than females, but the majority of both groups were African American.

Lightfoot and Williams (2009) state that similar to the growing realization that people of color have differing needs regarding domestic violence, the field of domestic violence is now recognizing the differing needs of people with disabilities. Lightfoot and Williams (2009) go on to say that there has been a growing awareness in the area of domestic violence that generic services and support for women experiencing domestic violence are inappropriate for all women.  

Women of color and women with disabilities have unique experiences of domestic violence and distinct needs for services and outreach and are reporting domestic violence at an alarming rate but are not met with person-focused attentiveness that is needed. There has been extremely limited research on the nature of and intervention regarding domestic violence among people with disabilities.

In conclusion, of the scholarly articles researched, Evans (2005) aims to make visible the class disparity and poverty in wider conversations about domestic violence. She argues that studies claim there exists a relationship between poverty, low income, and higher frequency of violence in addition to higher severity of domestic violence and that people have been mistaken for too long in the domestic violence field, particularly with regard to privileging gender above a person’s skin color, disability, ethnicity or class when analyzing power or understand access to power.

Allen, Karen. & Wozniak, Danielle. F. 2011. “The Language of Healing: Women’s Voices in Healing and Recovering from Domestic Violence.” Social Work In Mental Health. 9(1): 37-55.
Cappell, C. & Heiner, R. B. 1990. “The Intergenerational Transmission of Family Aggression.” Journal of Family Violence. 5(2): 135-152.
Evans, Susan. 2005. “Beyond Gender: Class, Poverty and Domestic Violence.” Australian Social Work. 58(1): 36-43.
Gortner, E. T., Gollan, Jackie. K. & Jacobson, N. S. 1997. “Physiological Aspects of Perpetuators of Domestic Violence and Their Relationships with the Victims.” Psychiatry Clinic of North America, 20(2): 337-350.
Henning, Kris. & Feder, Lynette. 2004. “A Campaign of Men and Women Arrested for Domestic Violence: Who Presents the Greater Threat?” Journal of Family Violence. 19(2): 69-80.
Johnson, Michael. 2010. “Langhinrichsen-Rolling’s Confirmation of the Feminist Analysis of Intimate Partner Violence: Comment on “Controversies Involving Gender and Intimate Partner Violence in the United States.” Sex Roles. 62(3/4): 212-219.
Kernsmith, Poco. 2006. “Gender Differences in the Impact of Family of Origin Violence on Perceptions of Domestic Violence.” Journal of Family Violence. 21(2): 163-171.
Lightfoot, Elizabeth. & Williams, Oliver. 2009. “The Intersection of Disability, Diversity, and Domestic Violence: Results of National Focus Groups.” Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. 18(2): 133-152.
Mihalic, Sharon. W. & Elliot, Delbert. 1997. “A Social Learning Theory Model of Marital Violence.” Journal of Family Violence. 12(1): 21-47.
Seelau, Sheila. & Seelau, Eric. 2005. “Gender Role Stereotypes and Perceptions of Heterosexual, Gay and Lesbian Domestic Violence.” Journal of Family Violence. 20(6): 363-371.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What is Domestic Violence?

Unfortunately inaccurate definitions have surfaced and rumored within society that it is simply a couple having a disagreement or at worst having a “fight.” On the contrary there is much more involved in domestic violence than just a domestic dispute. Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in an intimate relationship that is used to gain power and control over an individual. It is a prevalent problem in our society.

Signs of domestic violence are verbal, mental, economic, sexual, and physical abuse. Some behaviors within an abusive relationship are dominance, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, hitting, forcing of sexual acts, and financial control. Domestic violence is not discriminatory. It doesn’t matter what your race is, your age, gender, sexual orientation, etc.; domestic violence can happen to anyone.

Perceptions, and thus definitions, of domestic violence abuse vary from individual to individual. Actions that are viewed by one as normal or acceptable might be considered abuse by another. Although there are a wide range of abusive tactics, there are four general categories of domestic violence abuse: physical, mental/emotional/psychological, sexual, and economic/financial.

Physical abuse is the use of physical force against another person that injures the person, or puts the person at risk of being injured. Some acts include: pushing, throwing, kicking, slapping, grabbing, hitting, punching, beating, choking, shaking, biting, holding, restraining, confinement, assault with a weapon such as a knife or gun, burning, and murder.

Mental, psychological, and/or emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. “Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner consists of more subtle actions or behaviors than physical abuse. While physical abuse might seem worse, the scars of verbal and emotional abuse are deep. Studies show that verbal or nonverbal abuse can be much more emotionally damaging than physical abuse” (De Benedictis, Jaffe, and Segal 2006).

Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner may include: threatening or intimidating to gain compliance, a way of instilling fear of further violence, yelling or screaming, name-calling, constant harassment, embarrassing, making fun of, or mocking the victim, either alone within the household, in public, or in front of family or friends, criticizing or diminishing the victim’s accomplishments or goals, not trusting the victim’s decision-making, telling the victim that they are worthless on their own, without the abuser, excessive possessiveness, isolation from friends and family, excessive checking-up on the victim to make sure they are at home or where they said they would be, saying hurtful things while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and using the substance as an excuse to say the hurtful things, blaming the victim for how the abuser acts or feels, making the victim remain on the premises after a fight, or leaving them somewhere else after a fight, just to “teach them a lesson”, and making the victim feel that there is no way out of the relationship (

Sexual abuse is often easier to identify because of the specific acts involved and areas of focus. Some examples of sexual abuse are sexual assault: forcing someone to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity; sexual harassment: ridiculing another person to try to limit their sexuality or reproductive choices; and sexual exploitation (such as forcing someone to look at pornography, or forcing someone to participate in pornographic film-making) (De Benedictis, Jaffe, and Segal 2006).

Economic or financial abuse includes: withholding economic resources such as money or credit cards, stealing from or defrauding a partner of money or assets, exploiting the intimate partner’s resources for personal gain, withholding physical resources such as food, clothes, necessary medications, or shelter from a partner, and preventing the spouse or intimate partner from working or choosing an occupation (De Benedictis, Jaffe, and Segal 2006).

Research has shown that domestic violence is a learned behavior (through observation, experience, reinforcement, culture, family, community) and is rarely caused by substance abuse, genetics, stress, illness or problems in the relationship, although these factors are often used as excuses and can exacerbate violent behavior (PCADV 2012).

Data suggests that women are more likely than men to be perceived as the victim in a domestic violence situation because statistically women report domestic violence more often than men do. When domestic violence is mentioned in the media, quoted in a news article, almost every time, the female is the victim and the male is the offender. Why is the portrait that is painted about domestic violence filled with women? Is it because the people that are reporting are women and therefore the assumption is that they are the victim?

Women are seen as the weaker sex and therefore are usually the ones being dominated by their male partners. Women are often vulnerable, trusting, and emotional. These are all characteristics that can be endearing but they can also be characteristics that offenders prey on. Female victims have traits that offenders see as weaknesses and they use them to abuse and manipulate the woman.

As we know, domestic violence does not specifically target sexually intimate relationships; it can also be classified with intimate familial relationships. Although men are the primary offenders in a domestic violence situation they are not exclusive. The power and control that is the driving force behind domestic violence does not start nor stop with a sexual intimate relationship. There are women who are victims of domestic violence by their own immediate family. People they have known for their entire lives can abuse them and use the advantage of being family as a means to control them.

Authorities assume that when someone reaches out for help they are the victim in the situation. This is not the case in all circumstances. The offender is a master manipulator and knows how to use the system to their advantage. Unfortunately this happens often with protection from abuse cases. Both parties file and it is up to the courts to decide who the “real” victim is. Women are still the majority of victims of domestic violence but could this be because men don’t report as often? Or are the statistics correct that women are more likely to be the victim in a domestic violence situation?

De Benedictis, Tina., Jaffe, Jaelline. Segal, Jeanne. 2006. “Domestic Violence and Abuse: Types, Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Effects.”  Retrieved May 23, 2012 (
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 2012.“Domestic Violence Information Center: An Overview of Domestic Violence.” Retrieved May 23, 2012 (
There is Life After Abuse. 2012. “Verbal, Emotional, Mental, Psychological Abuse.”Retrieved May 23, 2012 (