Defining Domestic Violence:
Over the period of time, as domestic violence has propagated in our society, the focus of sociologists and researchers on this topic has increased. In family studies, abuse and domestic violence has emerged as an area of great interest because of the impact not being limited to a single generation. Over the period of time, a deliberate effort was made on the parts of researchers to properly define the boundaries of domestic violence and lay down clear foundations about the actions that constitute domestic violence and abuse. The definitions provided by Pence and Paymar (1996) and Mullender and Humphreys (1998) are often used as standards for researchers in the field of domestic violence. Domestic violence is usually associated with intimate relationship, including the ones between husband and wife and other categories of romantic relationships. According to Pence and Paymar (1996) and Mullender and Humphreys (1998), domestic violence is characterized by actions which fall into the domain of different kinds of abuse including physical, emotional and sexual. Intimidating actions, belittling and threatening also constitute domestic violence. Domestic violence is often associated with abusive actions performed by men against the women, but there have been instance of men being subjected to domestic violence in abusive relationships as well. Domestic violence can also occur among couples belonging to the same sex. Power and Control issues form one of the most important dimensions of domestic violence and the purpose of the abusive actions is often to apprise one of the partners of the authority of the other. Domestic violence is a primary manifestation of the exercise of control from one party.
Domestic Violence as a social issue:
Now that the definition of the domestic violence is clear, it is important to understand and highlight domestic violence as a problem that is more social in nature as personal. With the levels that domestic violence has propagated to in our society, it has emerged into a societal attitude. The perception in the society about women being the ‘weaker sex’ has a lot to do with the mounting levels of domestic violence among women. It is a known fact that in romantic relationships, women are not always the ones experiencing violence but historical statistics show that the predominant sex who experience violence are usually the women. Also, the violence carried out by men against their partners is far more damaging in its intensity as compared to that carried out by women. Domestic violence is not something that is a characteristic of a specific relationship; rather it is something is often passes down from one generation to another. When children view violence as being a part of their parents’ relationships, they often grow up to be abusers themselves and start viewing domestic violence as a practice that is acceptable. Because of these reasons, it is important that we view domestic violence as a social evil and steps should be taken accordingly for the eradication of this practice.
Research the rates of domestic violence in the United States and in Ohio. Are there upward or downward trends?
Domestic Violence in United States and in Ohio:
There is no doubt about the fact that Domestic violence has been on the rise over the period of time because of withering of the social fabric and other societal changes. Mary Kay Truth about Abuse is one of the national surveys in United States which is carried out to understand the ratio of domestic violence in the country and the state of domestic violence shelters in the country. According to the most recent survey carried out Mary Kay Truth about Abuse in 2011, it has been highlighted that Domestic violence has increased in the country for third consecutive years. This actually shows the critical situation that the American society is facing, with abuse and domestic violence persisting in our households and the funding sources for these victims diminishing over the period of time. (Mary Kay Inc, 2011)
According to the Statistics reported by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre, twenty five percent of all women have experienced domestic violence at some period during their life time. Just by looking at this one statistic, we can imagine the alarming rate at which the domestic violence is increasing in our society, and the levels that it has reached. In case of violence by intimate partners, 85 percent of the victims are women while men constitute only 15 percent of the victims. The range of women in United States subjected to domestic violence each year has been identified to be 600,000 to 6000,000. (Domestic Violence Resource Centre, 2011)
If we specifically consider Ohio, the situation is no better and although domestic violence is considered to be a crime according to the legislation of the State, the crime is one the rise. In even the most densely populated cities of the State, there are very few shelters for victims of domestic violence. Ohio is one of the states where the protection for the domestic violence victims is the least developed and victims often find it very difficult to get out of abusive situations. The condition of these shelters is dilapidated and it is very difficult for them to cater for the large number of victims who seek protection. In as recently as 2010, about eighteen hundred new cases of protection against domestic violence were filed in Franklin County, which is the greatest number that has ever been filed before in Ohio, which shows that domestic violence is not only on the rise, but has reached alarming levels.
Impact on Society:
Understanding the costs related to domestic violence help further strengthen the idea that domestic violence is not a personal issue and is a societal problem. Because domestic violence is a punishable crime in most of the American States, the impact of the domestic violence on the society is usually borne by the government and the law enforcement agencies in the form of court costs and trial related costs. A lot of time is also wasted on the trials and both or one of the parties usually loses their employment while they are pursuing the case because they are not able to give time to their jobs. However the greatest societal impact is faced by the children who are viewing and experiencing an abusive relationship. According to social scientists, there is a very huge probability that children whose parents have an abusive relationship resort to domestic violence in their own relationships as well. These children grow up to be individuals striving for control in their relationships and aiming for it by violating the other partner. Considering the fact that children are the future of the country, raising a generation that is comfortable with domestic violence as a phenomenon is no doubt horrifying. The abusive relationship between the parents and the domestic violence often shapes the personality of the child and has an impact on the way he handles and regards relationships. For valuing relationships and for giving them their due respect, it is very important that a child is raised in an environment where he is taught to respect relationships and nourish them. Apart from that, violence among the parents also causes stress and is detrimental for the emotional health of the children. Stress at such an early stage in life hinders the learning abilities of the children and deteriorates their health. (Sternberg at al, 1993)
Conflict Theory and Domestic Violence:
In my opinion, conflict theory is one of the most apt sociological constructs that can be used for understanding not only domestic violence, but other conflicting situations like war and poverty. According to the conflict theory, the society that we live in is in a constant state of conflict, because of resources that are limited in nature and people who have resources and people who do not have resources.
If we view a marriage as a social situation, the conflicts in this situation instantly become understandable. There are different resources like talent, money, a good job or a reputation that a person in a marriage might or might not have. Not having a certain resources often generates a sense of inferiority complex and a subsequent sense of conflict. When the conflict becomes intensified, it then leads to abusive behavior on the part of one of the partners or domestic violence. Very often, conflict arises in a relationship simply because one of the partners has more money than the other, or has a better job than the other. In order to make up for one’s hurt ego, the partner often resorts to violence.
Sometimes, domestic violence also arises because of the need of the one of the partners to feel more in control. The conflict is generated by one of the partners who need to feel more in control. In order to show that sense of authority to the other person, one of the partners usually physically or sexually abuses the other person.
To avoid such instances of domestic violence it is important that the conflicts are kept to a minimum level and are resolved at the lowest possible level. If the conflicts start intensifying, violence starts erupting in relationships, not only affecting the people who are in an abusive relationship, but those around them as well.
Battered Wife Syndrome:
A battered wife syndrome or a battered woman syndrome is one of the many after effects of physical abuse on a woman, who has been suffering from it for a very long time. When the abuse crosses the bearable threshold and the woman finds it very difficult to cope, she sometimes decides to fight back. However this only happens when the woman has been tortured so much that she chooses to forego all that she had wanting to keep, by bearing the violence. Usually women bear with minor attempts at violence for their children or to save their marriages. There have been instances of women bearing whole life times of abuse just in order to cling to the sense of security that marriage presents them. However, as a result of battered wife syndrome, women usually fight back and choose to defend themselves. In other words, battered wife syndrome is an activity at self defense.
The most common symptoms of the battered wife syndrome include a loss of self esteem and feeling responsible for the breaking up of marriage and for violence. The person also becomes ashamed of being in a violent situation. Battered wife syndrome is not a condition that is limited to the women. Children often feel the same plight when they are subjected to physical abuse for a very long period of time by a parent or a guardian. (Walker, 1995)
Battered woman syndrome is one of the conditions that are often used by attorneys and lawyers in favor of the women in the court of law, against charge of murder or extreme violence. A defense on the basis of the battered woman syndrome helps the jury objectively analyze the situation that the defendant was in. Battered woman syndrome is also used by the lawyers to project a need on the part of the woman to protect herself from the abuse that she has been facing repeatedly. Experts believe that battered woman syndrome can be used as a plea for self defense and also gives the victim a chance at therapy and treatment. However it is important that the evidence regarding the battered wife syndrome is reinforced a psychiatric expert or a psychologists and every instance of violence on the part of a woman should not be treated as a case of battered woman syndrome.
Domestic Violence Resource Centre. (2011). DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STATISTICS. Retrieved 2012, from Domestic Violence Resource Centre: http://www.dvrc-or.org/domestic/violence/resources/C61/#dom
Mary Kay Inc. (2011). Retrieved 2012, from Business Wire - A Berkshire Hathaway Company: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20110426006469/en/Domestic-Violence-Rises-Nationwide-Year-Economy-Struggles
Mullender, A. and Humphreys, C. 1998 Domestic Violence and Child Abuse: policy and practice issues for local authorities and other agencies, London, Local Government Association.
Pence, E. and Paymar, M. 1996 Education Groups for Men Who Batter: the Duluth model, (2nd edition), New York, Springer.
Sternberg, K., Lamb, M., Greenbaum, C., Dawud. S., Cortes, R., Krispin, O., and Lorey. F. 1993 Effects of domestic violence on children’s behavior problems and depression, Developmental Psychology, 29, 44-52.
Walker, L. E. A. 1995, Understanding battered woman syndrome, Trial, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 30-37.
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Life is filled with many difficulties, which affect us all in one way or another. However, we do not all face the same ones. If we are to survive we need to first understand what these difficulties or problems are, in order to learn how to deal with them. One such problem is, is domestic violence. It is necessary to determine whether the problem is personal one or due to society (social problems), so that the individuals involved can learn how to deal with their situation.
The general definition of a personal problem, is one in which it’s causes and solutions lie within the individual. That is, they are caused by an individual’s own feeling about a given situation. For example, someone commits a murder because they are sad or angry. That act was caused by an emotion, and their anger can only be controlled if they learn how to deal with it. A social problem, on the other hand, is one whose causes and solutions lie outside the individual. Which means, there has to be some external factor that has caused an act to take place. For example, someone commits a murder in self-defense. Here the person was forced into committing the act. They had no control over their actions; it was either kill or be killed. This is where the difference between the two lie, one is due to an individuals feelings where as the other is due to another individual or some external factor.
This is the foundation of the Sociological Imagination Concept. According to C. Wright Mills, sociological imagination is developed when we can place personal problems in a social situation or environment such that they are no longer viewed solely as individual or personal problems, but instead as social problems. That is problems that are shared by enough people in society such that their causes and solutions lie outside of the individual who is experiencing them. In other words, this theory is based on how the external factors of society affect individuals and their behavior.
One area in which this concept can be seen is with domestic violence. Domestic violence and Emotional abuse can be defined as behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control another. This is both a national and world wide problem. According to a 2000 UNICEF study, up to half the female population of the world becomes the victims of domestic violence. It claims four lives every day in the United States alone.
Anyone can be a victim, any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment, marital status or sexual orientation. Women however, are more likely to become victims than men. As for the perpetrator of abuse, they have no typical manifestation. In public the abuser may appear loving and friendly towards their partner and or family. They commonly have low self-esteem, and don’t like to take responsibility for their actions. So they may try to hide the abuse by inflicting injuries that will not require medical attention. Abuse may be physical, emotional, sexual, and psychological. Abusive persons are usually people who like to be in control of other people. Here this form of control is usually a behavior, which is learnt as a means to getting what they want.
Children in homes where there is abuse usually end up either, being abused themselves or being neglected. This is where they generally learn to become abusers themselves. Which makes the home or family, one of the factors that contributes to the perpetuation on domestic violence. Let’s take the case of Joe as an example. He grew up seeing his mother slapped around by his father on a daily basis. He grew up believing that this is normal and acceptable behavior, as this was what he was accustomed to seeing, and was all he knew. In order to avoid this situation, it is necessary for the child to be taken out of that environment and have instilled in them, the fact that abuse is wrong. It is by no means normal or acceptable. Therapy is one way of rectifying this problem. This would help the child to come to terms with what they have experienced, be able to understand what had taken place, and learn how to deal with similar situations.
This however is not the only factor that contributes to domestic violence. Culture also plays a role in causing someone to be abusive. If for example, you originate from a country, where it is customary for men to punish their wives by hitting them, as it is in some eastern countries, You will adapt this way of life no matter where you are in the world. One solution here, and one of the most vital in a situation like this, is knowledge. If people are educated, as to what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable behavior in certain parts of the world and what is not, then this factor could be drastically reduced if not eliminated.
Peer groups can also be very influential. Commonly, people find themselves in situations where they’re made to feel inferior to those around them, if they do not conform to these people’s beliefs. Here very strong pressure is put down and if the individual is not strong-minded they will succumb to the pressure. If for example, a man (Jim) is amongst other men who have very strong traditional ideas about what a man should be and what a woman should be. They believe a woman should stay at home, take care of her husband, and follow his wishes and orders. Jim may become influenced by these men’s points of view, and in so doing he develops an abusive nature. If Jim were taught stress management at some time in his life, he may have been able to withstand the pressure instead of conforming. Educational institutions and work places can be involved here. If sessions of stress management were made mandatory, people would be better able to uphold their beliefs.
Peer groups can also influence people to use drugs and alcohol, which affects people’s mental state. There is a strong link between violence and drug and alcohol use. When under the influence of either substance, people’s self-control is lost and so they act on impulse. The least little thing can cause them to lose their temper, and as they are not in their right frame of mind, they do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. Become abusive. Steps need to be put in place, to get rid of this substance abuse problem in order to deal with and get rid of the violent behavior. One such step would be going into a rehabilitation program. Here you would learn how to get over your addictions and how to deal with the other spiraled effects of it.
This all shows how different things in and around us can influence or cause us to behave in a certain manner. Whether it be, domestic violence or another criminal act. The sociological concept allows for blame to be taken away from some individuals, victims and or perpetrators and have it placed on society. This is a good thing as it allows us to look into ourselves, and see where we can be responsible for some of the evils of the world. It forces us to take some of the blame instead of always pointing fingers on the other person. Though not all criminal behavior follow along with this concept, many do, and it is therefore important for everyone to be familiar with it and be able to put it to use.
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