Domestic violence is a crime of epidemic proportions that plaques our society and causes permanent emotional scars, life-threatening injuries and death. Domestic violence occurs regardless of age, race, ethnicity, mental or physical ability, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religious background, etc.
Power and Control in Domestic Violence
Battering constitutes a pattern of behavior that includes the use or threat of violence and intimidation for the purpose of gaining power and control over another person.
Domestic violence robs victims of their fundamental right to maintain control over their own lives. Domestic violence is a substantial public health problem for Americans, that has serious consequences and costs for individuals, families and communities. Victims of abuse may experience:
punched walls, control of finances, lying, using children to manipulate a parent’s emotions, intimidation, isolation from family and friends, fear, shame, criticism, cuts, crying and afraid children, broken bones, confusion, forced sexual contact, manipulation, sexist comments, yelling, rages, craziness, harassment, neglect, shoving, screaming, jealousy and possessiveness, loss of self esteem, coercion, slammed doors, abandonment, silent treatment, rape, destruction of personal property, unwanted touching, name calling, strangling, ripping, slapping, biting, kicking, bruises, punching, stalking, scrapes, depression, sabotaging attendance at job or school, brainwashing, violence to pets, pinching, deprivation of physical and economic resources, public humiliation, broken promises, prevention of seeking medical and dental care, ridicule, restraining, self-medication, forced tickling, threats to harm family and friends, threats to take away the children, threats to harm animals, threats of being kicked out, threats of weapons, threats of being killed.
Power and Control Wheel:
At the center of any abusive relationship is a person’s desire for Power and Control, it is ultimately what fuels the behavior in each of the spokes of the wheel above.
Domestic Violence Statistics
Culture and Society
In all cultures, batterers are most commonly male. Rural and urban women of all religious, ethnic, socio-economic and educational backgrounds, and of varying ages, physical abilities and lifestyles can be affected by domestic violence. There is not a typical woman who will be battered – the risk factor is being born female.
Heterosexual males may also be victims of domestic violence as perpetrated by their female partners. They experience the same dynamics of interpersonal violence as female victims including experiences of disbelief, ridicule and shame that only enhance their silence. However, there are specific cultural groups whose peculiar vulnerabilities may put the members of that population at risk of experiencing violence in their relationships.
Battered immigrant and refugee women in the United States have further complications by issues of gender, race socioeconomic status, immigration status and language in addition to those complications of intimate partner violence. A battered woman who is not a legal resident or whose immigrant status depends on her partner is isolated by cultural dynamics that may prevent her from leaving her husband, seeking support from local agencies that may not understand her culture or requesting assistance from an unfamiliar American legal system. Some obstacles may include a distrustful attitude toward the legal system, language and cultural barriers (that may at the least be unknown and at the worst hostile), and fear of deportation.
Children witnessing domestic violence and living in an environment where violence occurs may experience some of the same trauma as abused children. Not all children are affected by domestic violence in the same way. Children may become fearful, inhibited, aggressive, antisocial, withdrawn, anxious, depressed, angry, confused; suffer from disturbed sleep, problems with eating, difficulties at school and challenges in making friends. Children often feel caught in the middle between their parents and find it difficult to talk to either of them. Adolescents may act out or exhibit risk-taking behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, running away, sexual promiscuity and criminal behavior. Young men may try to protect their mothers, or they may become abusive to their mothers themselves. Children may injured if they try to intervene in the violence in their homes.
Individuals with physical, psychiatric and cognitive disabilities may not only experience sexual and domestic violence at a higher rate from intimate partners or spouses than the mainstream population, but, unlike the mainstream population, they may also experience mistreatment, abuse, neglect and exploitation from their caretakers, including personal assistants, paid staff, family members and parents. Examples can be the denial of medications and personal care, the use of psychotropic medication as a restraint, daily and intimate care mistreatment and neglect, inaccessible organizations and facilities, unavailable or disabling assistive technology devices essential for communication and movement, improper use of restraints and the denial of life-sustaining medical treatment and therapies. Yet, this population gets little attention from the community, the media or policy makers allowing the abuse to continue without restraint in isolation and apathy.
LGBTQ+ Community may also experience domestic violence and sexual assault at the hands of a same sex perpetrator. In some states LGBTQ+ relationships cannot be recognized legally. This could make it difficult to legally separate oneself from the perpetrator. There are also additional obstacles for reporting domestic or sexual violence for LGBTQ+ identified persons. Often there is a fear of outing themselves when seeking help, fear of the way the various institutions they interact with may treat them, fear of discrimination, etc. For trans* identified individuals they may face even more potential for unwanted outing if they are seeking medical or police care and their gender identity is different from what their legal documents say.
Many elderly women, because of generational values may consider what’s happening to them normal, because of how they were raised and what was considered acceptable “back then.” She may be embarrassed or ashamed to disclose the abuse considering how long she has been married. What was deemed acceptable behavior then is now a crime. Due to life circumstances specific to the aging population, many older battered women deal with a special set of obstacles and concerns not encountered by younger women. Older battered women are less likely to seek help because:
- They may depend on the abuser for physical care;
- They have raised in an era where their needs take a back seat to the male’s needs;
- They fear nursing home placement;
- They feel asking for help through social agencies shows a sign of weakness and of personal failure;
- They fear the stigma attached to divorce.
Due to their age and their beliefs, some older women may have difficulty understanding what is happening to them, and as a result, may not seek help.