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Domestic violence

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Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior which involves violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic context, such as in marriage or cohabitation. Intimate partner violence is domestic violence against a spouse or other intimate partner. Domestic violence can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Domestic violence can take a number of forms including physical, emotional, verbal, economic and sexual abuse, which can range from subtle, coercive forms to marital rape and to violent physical abuse that results in disfigurement or death. Globally, a wife or female partner is more commonly the victim of domestic violence, though the victim can also be the male partner, or both partners may engage in abusive or violent behavior, or the victim may act in self-defense or retaliation. Domestic violence often occurs because the perpetrator believes that abuse is justified and acceptable, and may produce intergenerational cycles of abuse that condone violence. Awareness, perception, definition and documentation of domestic violence differs widely from country to country.

There may be a cycle of abuse during which tensions rise and an act of violence is committed, followed by a period of reconciliation and calm. Victims of domestic violence may be trapped in domestic violent situations through isolation, power and control, insufficient financial resources, fear, shame or to protect children. As a result of abuse, victims may experience physical disabilities, chronic health problems, mental illness, limited finances, and poor ability to create healthy relationships. Victims may experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Children who live in a household with violence show deregulated aggression from an early age that may later contribute to continuing the legacy of abuse when they reach adulthood. Domestic violence often happens in the context of forced and child marriage. Alcohol consumption and mental illness can be co-morbid with abuse, and present additional challenges in eliminating domestic violence. Management of domestic violence may take place through medical services, law enforcement, counseling, and other forms of prevention and intervention. Traditionally, domestic violence was mostly associated with physical violence.

For instance, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition, domestic violence is: “the inflicting of physical injury by one family or household member on another; also: a repeated / habitual pattern of such behavior.” Domestic violence is now more broadly defined, often but not always including “all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence “In 1993, The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women identified domestic violence as one of three contexts in which violence against women occurs, describing it as: Family violence. Family violence is a broader term, often used to include child abuse, elder abuse, and other violent acts between family members. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault, or threats thereof; sexual abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse; and economic deprivation. It can also mean endangerment, criminal coercion, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, trespassing, and harassment.

In recent years, strangulation in the context of DV has received significant attention. It is now recognized as one of the most lethal forms of DV; yet, because of the lack of external injuries, and the lack of social awareness and medical training in regard to it, strangulation has often been a rather hidden problem. As a result, in recent years, many US states have enacted specific laws against strangulation. Both women and men have been killed as the result of domestic violence. IPV homicide, however, makes up a greater proportion of all female homicides than it does male homicides. For instance, in the United Kingdom, 37 percent of murdered women were killed by an intimate partner and for men, 6 percent were killed by an intimate partner. From 40 to 70 percent of the women murdered in Canada, Australia, South Africa, Israel and the United States were killed by an intimate partner.

The World Health Organization states that globally, about 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner. In the Middle East and other parts of the world, planned domestic homicides, or honor killings, are carried out due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family or community. According to Human Rights Watch, honor killings are generally performed against women for “refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or committing adultery,” or exhibiting behavior perceived to have dishonored the family. In some parts of the world, where there is a strong social expectation for a woman to be a virgin prior to marriage, a bride may be subjected to extreme violence, including an honor killing, if she is deemed not to be a virgin on her wedding night due to the absence of blood.

Bride burning or dowry killing is a form of domestic violence in which a newly married woman is killed at home by her husband or husband’s family due to their dissatisfaction over the dowry provided by her family. The act is often a result of demands for more or prolonged dowry after the marriage. Dowry violence is most common in South Asia, especially in India. In 2011, the National Crime Records Bureau reported 8,618 dowry deaths in India, but unofficial figures estimate that there are at least three times more dowry deaths. Ritual scarification of children is practiced among various societies. Some view this practice as child abuse: for instance UNICEF considers ritual scarification of children as a “harmful traditional practice”. The dynamics of physical abuse in a relationship are often complex. Physical violence often occurs after a period of months or even years of other forms of abuse, such as threats, intimidation and controlling behaviors such as restrictions of the other person’s self-determination, through isolation, manipulation and placing of limits on personal choices and freedoms.

Sexual violence, or sexual abuse, is defined by World Health Organization as any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim. It also includes obligatory inspections for virginity and female genital mutilation. Aside from initiation of the sexual act through physical force, sexual abuse occurs if a person is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, unable to decline participation, or unable to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act. This could be because of underage immaturity, illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or due to intimidation or pressure. In many cultures, victims of rape are considered to have brought ‘dishonor’ or ‘disgrace’ to their families and face severe violence, including honor killings, from their families and relatives.

This is especially the case if the victim becomes pregnant. Female genital mutilation is defined by the WHO as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” This procedure has been performed on more than 125 million females alive today, and it is concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and Middle East. Sexual abuse in the family can take the form of incest between an adult and a child, which is a form of child sexual abuse. In some cultures, there are ritualized forms of child sexual abuse that often take place with the knowledge and consent of the family of the child, where the child is induced to engage in sexual acts with adults, whether or not in exchange for money or goods: for instance in Malawi, some parents arrange for an older man, often called “hyena”, to have sex with their daughters. The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse is the first international treaty that addresses child sexual abuse that occurs within the home or family.

Reproductive coercion are threats or acts of violence against a partner’s reproductive rights, health and decision-making; and includes a collection of behaviors intended to pressure or coerce a partner into becoming a parent or ending a pregnancy. Reproductive coercion is associated with forced sex, fear or inability of negotiating condom and contraceptive use, fear of violence after refusing sex, and abusive partner interference with access to healthcare. In some cultures, marriage imposes a social obligation on women to bear children. In northern Ghana, for example, payment of bride price signifies a woman’s requirement to bear children, and women using birth control face substantial threats of violence and reprisals. Sexual violence also occurs between spouses or partners. Marital rape is non-consensual sexual intercourse or penetration perpetrated by a person against his or her spouse. Marital rape may be experienced through patterns of physical abuse, force, or demeaning sexual behavior by the perpetrator. It is under-reported, under-prosecuted, and is still legal in many countries, partly because of a myth that sex between married partners, whether consensual or not, cannot be rape.

For centuries non-consensual sex in marriage was not considered a crime because it has been held historically that by marriage a woman gave irrevocable consent for her husband to have sex with her any time he demanded it. Feminists worked systematically since the 1960s to criminalize marital rape. In 2006, a study by the United Nations found that marital rape is a prosecutable offense in at least 104 countries once widely condoned or ignored by law and society, marital rape is now repudiated by international conventions and increasingly criminalized. The countries which choose to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the first legally binding instrument in Europe in the field of violence against women, are bound by its provisions to ensure that non-consensual sexual acts committed against a spouse or partner are illegal. The convention came into force in August 2014.

Where marital rape is legal, or otherwise not prosecuted in practice, women are instructed before marriage that sex with the husband is their absolute duty, that they do not have the right to ever refuse it, and that it is considered the right of the husband to take it by force, if “necessary”. In Lebanon, for instance, while discussing a proposed law that would criminalize marital rape, Sheik Ahmad Al-Kurd, a judge in the Sunni religious court, said that the law “could lead to the imprisonment of the man where in reality he is exercising the least of his marital rights.” Child abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional maltreatment or neglect of a child or children. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department for Children and Families define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. Child abuse can occur in a child’s home, or in the organizations, schools or communities the child interacts with.

There are four major categories of child abuse: neglect, physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Abuse of parents by their children is a common but under reported and under researched subject. Parents are quite often subject to levels of childhood aggression in excess of normal childhood aggressive outbursts, typically in the form of verbal or physical abuse. Parents feel a sense of shame and humiliation to have that problem, so they rarely seek help and there is usually little or no help available anyway. Elder abuse is “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.” This definition has been adopted by the World Health Organization from a definition put forward by Action on Elder Abuse in the UK. Laws protecting the elderly from abuse are similar to, and related to, laws protecting dependent adults from abuse.

The relationship between gender and domestic violence is a controversial topic. There continues to be debate about the rates at which each gender is subjected to domestic violence. Reasons for mixed findings include the limitations of existing survey tools to measure all relevant aspects of domestic violence and the use of disparate samples in studies. A problem in conducting studies that seek to describe violence in terms of gender is the amount of silence, fear and shame that results from abuse within families and relationships. Because there are different viewpoints about what constitutes domestic abuse, it is difficult to compile study results. In addition, people who have experienced subtle forms of abuse or have lived through patterns of abuse over many years begin to see it as normal. Some authors have criticized the gender-based approach of domestic violence.

A 2013 review, which acknowledges that its definition of domestic violence is not the mainstream view, defining partner abuse broadly to include emotional abuse, any kind of hitting, and who hits first, examined studies from five continents and the correlation between a country’s level of gender inequality and rates of domestic violence; the authors stated that if one looks at who is physically harmed and how seriously, who expresses more fear, who has psychological problems following abuse, domestic violence is significantly gendered and women suffer the most; however, going by their broader paradigm, “partner abuse can no longer be conceived as merely a gender problem, but also as a human and relational problem, and should be framed as such by everyone concerned.” In an effort to shift consciousness about the connections between gender and abuse, many organizations have made an effort to use gender-neutral terms when referring to perpetrator ship and victimhood. For instance, broader terms like family violence are used rather than violence against women. Wife beating was made illegal in all states of the United States by 1920.

Although the exact rates are widely disputed, especially within the United States, there is a large body of cross-cultural evidence that women are subjected to domestic violence significantly more often than men. In addition, there is broad consensus that women are more often subjected to severe forms of abuse and are more likely to be injured by an abusive partner. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women classifies violence against women into three categories: that occurring in the family, that occurring within the general community, and that perpetrated or condoned by the State. The Maputo Protocol has a broader definition, it defines VAW as: “all acts perpetrated against women which cause or could cause them physical, sexual, psychological, and economic harm, including the threat to take such acts; or to undertake the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on or deprivation of fundamental freedoms in private or public life in peace time and during situations of armed conflicts or of war”. Violence against women is increasingly considered not only a human rights violation, but also a form of discrimination against women.

The Istanbul Convention states: ““violence against women” is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women “. Feticide is usually defined as the gender-based killing of women by men, although the exact definitions vary. Feticides often occur in the context of DV, such as honor killings or dowry killings. For statistical purposes, feticide is often defined as any killing of a woman. The top countries by rate of feticide are El Salvador, Jamaica, Guatemala, South Africa and Russia. However, in El Salvador and Colombia, which have a very high rate of feticide, only three percent of all feticides are committed by a current or former intimate partner, while in Cyprus, France, and Portugal former and current partners are responsible for more than 80% of all cases of feticide. Pregnancy can also lead to a hiatus of domestic violence when the abuser does not want to harm the unborn child. The risk of domestic violence for women who have been pregnant is greatest immediately after childbirth. In Russia, pregnancy of the victim is an aggravation, while pregnancy of the offender is a mitigation.

Domestic violence against men refers to abuse against men or boys in an intimate heterosexual or homosexual relationship. It can include physical, emotional and sexual forms of abuse. Signs of abuse may be difficult to anticipate initially in a relationship and may begin as the relationship grows increasingly controlling. An abusive relationship may involve mutual violence or require a man to leave with his children if his wife or partner is abusive to their children. Determining how many instances of domestic violence actually involve male victims is difficult. Male domestic violence victims may be reluctant to get help for various reasons. Some studies have shown that women who assaulted their male partners were more likely to avoid arrest even when the male victim contacts police. Another study examined the differences in how male and female batterers were treated by the criminal justice system. The study concluded that female intimate violence perpetrators are frequently viewed by law enforcement and the criminal justice system as victims rather than the actual offenders of violence against men.

Historically, domestic violence has been seen as a heterosexual family issue and little interest has been directed at violence in same-sex relationships, but domestic violence can occur in same-sex relationships as well. The Encyclopedia of Victim ology and Crime Prevention states, “For several methodological reasons – nonrandom sampling procedures and self-selection factors, among others – it is not possible to assess the extent of same-sex domestic violence. Studies on abuse between gay male or lesbian partners usually rely on small convenience samples such as lesbian or gay male members of an association. “Some sources state that gay and lesbian couples experience domestic violence at the same frequency as heterosexual couples, while other sources state domestic violence among gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals might be higher than among heterosexual individuals, that gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals are less likely to report domestic violence that has occurred in their intimate relationships than heterosexual couples are, or that lesbian couples experience domestic violence less than heterosexual couples do.

By contrast, some researchers commonly assume that lesbian couples experience domestic violence at the same rate as heterosexual couples, and have been more cautious when reporting domestic violence among gay male couples. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the 2010 results of their National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey and report that 44% of lesbian women, 61% of bisexual women, and 35% of heterosexual women experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. A 2013 study showed that 40.4% of self-identified lesbians and 56.9% of bisexual women have reported being victims of partner violence. In 2014, national surveys indicated that anywhere from 25-50% of gay and bisexual males have experienced physical violence from a partner. Gay and lesbian relationships have been identified as a risk factor for abuse in certain populations. And these legal prohibitions prevent LGBT victims of DV from reporting the abuse to authorities.

In the face of the 2003 Supreme Court decision, 13 US states have refused to remove sodomy laws from legislation as of 2013. Studies conducted by Emory University in 2014 identified 24 trigger for partner violence through web-based surveys, ranging from drugs and alcohol to safe-sex discussions. The social views on domestic violence vary from person to person, and from region to region, but in many places outside the West, the concept in very poorly understood. This is because in most of these countries, the relation between the husband and wife is not considered one of equals, but instead one in which the wife must submit herself to the husband. This is codified in the laws of some countries – for example, in Yemen, marriage regulations state that a wife must obey her husband and must not leave home without his permission. “Disobeying” a husband can often result in violence.

These violent acts are not considered a form of abuse by society but are considered as being provoked by the behavior of the wife who is seen as being at fault herself. While beatings of wives are often a response to “inappropriate” behaviors, in many places extreme acts such as honor killings are approved by a high section of the society. In one survey, 33.4% of teenagers in Jordan’s capital city, Amman, approved of honor killings. This survey was carried in the capital of Jordan, which is much more liberal the other parts of the country; the researchers said that “We would expect that in the more rural and traditional parts of Jordan, support for honor killings would be even higher”. In a 2012 news story, The Washington Post reported, “The Reuters Trust Law group named India one of the worst countries in the world for women this year, in part because domestic violence there is often seen as deserved. A 2012 report by UNICEF found that 57 percent of Indian boys and 53 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 think wife-beating is justified.

“In conservative cultures, a wife dressing in attire deemed to be not sufficiently modest can result in serious violence by her husband or relatives, with such violent responses being seen as appropriate by most of the society: in a survey, 62.8% of women in Afghanistan said that a husband is justified to beat his wife if she wears inappropriate clothes. The Catholic Church has been criticized for opposing divorce, and therefore trapping victims of violence in abusive marriages. At the same time, religious leaders can play an important role in preventing and treating domestic violence, when they provide abusers with guidance and treatment option information, and offer their support to those who have been subject to abuse. Views on the influence of religion on domestic violence differ. While some authors, such as Phyllis Chester, argue that Islam is connected to violence against women, especially in the form of honor killings, others, such as Tahir Said Khan, a professor specializing in women’s issues at the Aga Khan University in Pakistan, argue that it is the domination of men and inferior status of women in society that lead to these acts, not the religion itself.

Public and political discourse debating the relation between Islam, immigration, and violence against women is highly controversial in many Western countries. Local customs and traditions are often responsible for maintaining certain forms of DV. Such customs and traditions include son preference, which can lead to abuse and neglect of girl children by disappointed family members; child and forced marriages; dowry; the hierarchic caste system which stigmatizes “lower castes” and “untouchables”, leading to discrimination and restricted opportunities of the females and thus making them more vulnerable to abuse; strict dress codes for women that may be enforced through violence by family members; strong requirement of female virginity before the wedding and violence related to non-conforming women and girls; taboos about menstruation leading to females being isolated and shunned during the time of menstruation; female genital mutilation ; ideologies of marital ‘conjugal rights’ to sex which justify marital rape; the importance given to ‘family honor’.

In recent years, there has been progress in these areas, with laws being enacted in several countries: for example the 2004 Criminal Code of Ethiopia has a chapter on harmful traditional practices – Chapter III – Crimes Committed against life, person and health through harmful traditional practices. In addition, the Council of Europe adopted a convention which addresses domestic violence and violence against women, and calls for the states which ratify it to create and fully adjudicate laws against acts of violence previously condoned by traditional, culture, custom, in the name of honor, or to correct was is deemed unacceptable behavior. The United Nations created the Handbook on effective police responses to violence against women to provide guidelines to address and manage violence through the creation of effective laws, law enforcement policies and practices and community activities to break down societal norms that condone violence, criminalize it and create effect support systems for survivors of violence.

In cultures where the police and legal authoritorities have a reputation of corruption and abusive practices, victims of DV are often reluctant to turn to formal help. The ability of victims of DV to leave the violent relation is crucial for preventing further abuse. In traditional communities, divorced women often feel rejected and ostracized. In order to avoid this stigma, many women prefer to remain in the marriage and endure the abuse. Discriminatory marriage and divorce laws can also play a role in the proliferation of DV. According to Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women: “in many countries a woman’s access to property hinges on her relationship to a man. When she separates from her husband or when he dies, she risks losing her home, land, household goods and other property. Failure to ensure equal property rights upon separation or divorce discourages women from leaving violent marriages, as women may be forced to choose between violence at home and destitution in the street.” The legal inability to obtain a divorce is also a factor in the proliferation of DV. In some cultures where marriages are arranged between families, a woman who attempts a separation or divorce without the consent of her husband and extended family/relatives may risk being subjected to ‘honor’ based violence.

The custom of bride price also makes leaving a marriage more difficult: if the wife wants to leave, the husband may demand back the bride price from her family .The way the individual rights of a family member versus the rights of the family as a unit are balanced vary significantly in different societies. This may influence the degree to which a government may be willing to investigate family incidents. In some cultures, individual members of the family are expected to sacrifice almost completely their own interests in favor of the interests of the family as a whole. What is viewed as an undue expression of personal autonomy is condemned as unacceptable. In these cultures the family predominates over the individual, and where this interacts with cultures of honor, individualistic choice that may damage the family reputation in the community may result in extreme punishment, such as honor killings.

Often the women come from cultures where they will suffer disgrace from their families if they abandon their marriage and return home, and so they prefer to stay married, therefore reaming locked in a cycle of abuse. The causes of domestic violence are not made clear through research, but there are several factors that can result in violence. One of the most important is a belief that abuse, whether physical or verbal, is acceptable. Related to that, growing up in a violent home or living within a culture that accepts domestic violence are factors. Other factors are substance abuse, unemployment, psychological problems, poor coping skills, isolation, and excessive dependence on the abuser. Understanding and breaking the intergenerational abuse patterns may do more to reduce domestic violence than other remedy for managing the abuse. Responses that focus on children suggest that experiences throughout life influence an individuals’ propensity to engage in family violence. Researchers supporting this theory suggest it is useful to think of three sources of domestic violence: childhood socialization, previous experiences in couple relationships during adolescence, and levels of strain in a person’s current life. People who observe their parents abusing each other, or who were themselves abused may incorporate abuse into their behavior within relationships that they establish as adults. These factors include genetics and brain dysfunction and are studied by neuroscience.

Psychological theories focus on personality traits and mental characteristics of the offender. Personality traits include sudden bursts of anger, poor impulse control, and poor self-esteem. Various theories suggest that psychopathology and other personality disorders are factors, and that abuse experienced as a child leads some people to be more violent as adults. Correlation has been found between juvenile delinquency and domestic violence in adulthood. Studies have found high incidence of psychopathy among abusers. For instance, some research suggests that about 80% of both court-referred and self-referred men in these domestic violence studies exhibited diagnosable psychopathology, typically personality disorders. “The estimate of personality disorders in the general population would be more in the 15–20% range as violence becomes more severe and chronic in the relationship, the likelihood of psychopathology in these men approaches 100%.”However, these psychological theories are disputed: Gilles suggests that psychological theories are limited, and points out that other researchers have found that only 10% fit this psychological profile.

He argues that social factors are important, while personality traits, mental illness, or psychopathy are lesser factors. Psychiatric disorders are sometimes associated with domestic violence, such as borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, drug abuse, and alcoholism. Many cases of domestic violence arise from the jealousy felt by one partner that they suspect their partner of being unfaithful or is planning to leave the relationship. Besides jealousy, the other partner may feel insulted by the rejection, which impacts on their self-esteem. An evolutionary psychological explanation of such cases of domestic violence against a woman is that they represent male attempts to control female reproduction and ensure sexual exclusivity through violence or the threat of violence. Though often jealousy is used as an excuse for the abusers behavior, most often it is just an excuse in order to exert more control over their partner and a blaming technique in order to isolate the victim further from friends and family. Violence related to extramarital relations is seen as justified in certain parts of the world.

For instance, a survey in Diyarbakir, Turkey, found that, when asked the appropriate punishment for a woman who has committed adultery, 37% of respondents said she should be killed, while 21% said her nose or ears should be cut off. Similar feelings may at times be generated in a situation where one partner is doing better than the other, for example, when the woman is more successful than the husband. This program leads to behavior therapy. Often by identifying the antecedents and consequences of violent action, the abusers can be taught self-control. Recently more focus has been placed on prevention and a behavioral prevention theory. Social learning theory suggests that people learn from observing and modeling after others’ behavior. With positive reinforcement, the behavior continues. If one observes violent behavior, one is more likely to imitate it. If there are no negative consequences, then the behavior will likely continue. Resource theory was suggested by William Goode. Women who are most dependent on the spouse for economic wellbeing, and are the primary caregiver to their children, fear the increased financial burden if they leave their marriage. Dependency means that they have fewer options and few resources to help them cope with or change their spouse’s behavior.

Couples that share power equally experience lower incidence of conflict, and when conflict does arise, are less likely to resort to violence. If one spouse desires control and power in the relationship, the spouse may resort to abuse. This may include coercion and threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, economic abuse, isolation, making light of the situation and blaming the spouse, using children, and behaving as “master of the castle”. A causality view of domestic violence is that it is a strategy to gain or maintain power and control over the victim. This view is in alignment with Bancroft’s “cost-benefit” theory that abuse rewards the perpetrator in ways other than, or in addition to, simply exercising power over his or her target. He cites evidence in support of his argument that, in most cases, abusers are quite capable of exercising control over themselves, but choose not to do so for various reasons. Sometimes, one person seeks complete power and control over their partner and uses different ways to achieve this, including resorting to physical violence.

The perpetrator attempts to control all aspects of the victim’s life, such as their social, personal, professional and financial decisions. Critics of this model argue that it ignores research linking domestic violence to substance abuse and psychological problems. Some modern research into the patterns in DV has found that women are more likely to be physically abusive towards their partner in relationships in which only one partner is violent, which draws the effectiveness of using concepts like male privilege to treat domestic violence into question. Some modern research into predictors of injury from domestic violence suggests that the strongest predictor of injury by domestic violence is participation in reciprocal domestic violence. 3.3 million Children witness domestic violence each year in the US. There has been an increase in acknowledgment that a child who is exposed to domestic abuse during their upbringing will suffer developmental and psychological damage. During the mid-1990s, the Adverse Childhood Experiences study found that children who were exposed to domestic  violence and other forms of abuse had a higher risk of developing mental and physical health problems.

Because of the awareness of domestic violence that some children have to face, it also generally impacts how the child develops emotionally, socially, behaviorally as well as cognitively. Some emotional and behavioral problems that can result due to domestic violence include increased aggressiveness, anxiety, and changes in how a child socializes with friends, family, and authorities. Problems with attitude and cognition in schools can start developing, along with a lack of skills such as problem-solving. Additionally, in some cases the abuser will purposely abuse the mother or father in front of the child to cause a ripple effect, hurting two victims simultaneously. Consequences to these children are likely to be more severe if their assaulted mother develops post-traumatic stress disorder and does not seek treatment due to her difficulty in assisting her child with processing his or her own experience of witnessing the domestic violence.

Family Violence prevention in Australia and other countries has begun to focus on breaking intergenerational cycles, according to the National Standards for Working with Children Exposed to Family Violence it is important to acknowledge that exposing children to Family Violence is child abuse. Some of the effects of Family Violence on children are highlighted in the Queensland Government and Sunny Kids awareness raising campaign. Bruises, broken bones, head injuries, lacerations, and internal bleeding are some of the acute effects of a domestic violence incident that require medical attention and hospitalization. Some chronic health conditions that have been linked to victims of domestic violence are arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, pelvic pain, ulcers, and migraines. Victims who are pregnant during a domestic violence relationship experience greater risk of miscarriage, pre-term labor, and injury to or death of the fetus. In addition to depression, victims of domestic violence also commonly experience long-term anxiety and panic, and are likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder.

The most commonly referenced psychological effect of domestic violence is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is characterized by flashbacks, intrusive images, exaggerated startle response, nightmares, and avoidance of triggers that are associated with the abuse. These symptoms are generally experienced for a long span of time after the victim has left the dangerous situation. Many researchers state that PTSD is possibly the best diagnosis for those suffering from psychological effects of domestic violence, as it accounts for the variety of symptoms commonly experienced by victims of trauma. Once victims leave their perpetrator, they can be stunned with the reality of the extent to which the abuse has taken away their autonomy. Due to economic abuse and isolation, the victim usually has very little money of their own and few people on whom they can rely when seeking help. This has been shown to be one of the greatest obstacles facing victims of DV, and the strongest factor that can discourage them from leaving their perpetrators.

In addition to lacking financial resources, victims of DV often lack specialized skills, education, and training that are necessary to find gainful employment, and also may have several children to support. In 2003, thirty-six major US cities cited DV as one of the primary causes of homelessness in their areas. It has also been reported that one out of every three homeless women are homeless due to having left a DV relationship. If a victim is able to secure rental housing, it is likely that her apartment complex will have “zero tolerance” policies for crime; these policies can cause them to face eviction even if they are the victim of violence. Some long term effects on a child who comes from an abusive household, or have been abused themselves are guilt, anger, depression/anxiety, shyness, nightmares, disruptiveness, irritability, and problems getting along with others. Although they may have not been the ones being abused it still affects them because they had to experience and witness their loved ones being abused, which takes a toll on them as well. Domestic violence also teaches poor family structure.

A child who grows up being abused thinks of that as a way a family functions, and will grow up and repeat the cycle because that is all they know. Some other long term affects include but are not limited to poor health, low self-esteem, difficulty sleeping, drug and alcohol abuse risk, isolation, suicidal thoughts, and extreme loneliness and fear. A victim’s overwhelming lack of resources can also lead to homelessness and poverty. A person who has suffered abuse is at risk for a lot of negative consequences that can put them on a destructive path for their future. An analysis in the US showed that 106 of the 771 officer killings between 1996 and 2009 occurred during domestic violence interventions. Of these, 51% were defined as unprovoked or as ambushes, taking place before officers had made contact with suspects. Another 40% occurred after contact and the remainder took place during tactical situations. Research has demonstrated that professionals who experience vicarious trauma show signs of exaggerated startle response, hyper vigilance, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts although they have not experienced a trauma personally and do not qualify for a clinical diagnosis of PTSD. The physical warning signs of burnout include headaches, fatigue, lowered immune function, and irritability.

A clinician experiencing burnout may begin to lose interest in the welfare of clients, be unable to empathize or feel compassion for clients, and may even begin to feel aversion toward the client. Or emergency room physicians. Law enforcement may be called in response to intimate partner violence. Counseling is another means of managing domestic violence. For the victim of abuse, counseling may include an assessment of the presence, extent and types of abuse. In a study of victims of attempted domestic violence-related homicide, only about one-half of the participants recognized that their perpetrator was capable of killing them, as many domestic violence victims minimize the true seriousness of their situation. Another important component is safety planning, which allows the victim to plan for dangerous situations they may encounter, and is effective regardless of their decision on whether remain with their perpetrator. Prevention and intervention includes ways to prevent domestic violence by offering safe shelter, crisis intervention, advocacy, and education and prevention programs. Community screening for domestic violence can be more systematic in cases of animal abuse, healthcare settings, emergency departments, behavioral health settings and court systems.

Tools are being developed to facilitate domestic violence screening such as mobile apps. The Duluth Model or Domestic Abuse Intervention Project is a program developed to reduce domestic violence against women, which is the first multi-disciplinary program designed to address the issue of domestic violence by coordinating the actions of a variety of agencies dealing with domestic conflict. New research illustrates that there are strong associations between exposure to domestic violence and abuse in all their forms and higher rates of many chronic conditions. The strongest evidence comes from the Adverse Childhood Experiences study which shows correlations between exposure to abuse or neglect and higher rates in adulthood of chronic conditions, high risk health behaviors and shortened life span. Evidence of the association between physical health and violence against women has been accumulating since the early 1990s.Studies have indicated that it is important to consider the effect of domestic violence and its psychophysiological squeal on women who are mothers of infants and young children. Several studies have shown that maternal interpersonal violence-related posttraumatic stress disorder can, despite traumatized mother’s best efforts, interfere with their child’s response to the domestic violence and other traumatic events.

Thus, practitioners and service agencies addressing the needs of domestic violence victims should assess the victim-as-parent and evaluate the safety and well-being of children in the home. More recently work by such researchers as Coors have begun to quantify the economic impact of exposure to violence and abuse. A recent publication, Hidden Costs in Health Care: The Economic Impact of Violence and Abuse,
makes the case that such exposure represents a serious and costly public health issue that should be addressed by the health care system. Domestic violence occurs across the world, in various cultures, and affects people of all economic statuses. Laws on domestic violence vary by country. While it is generally outlawed in the Western World, this is not the case in many developing countries. For instance, in 2010, the United Arab Emirates’ Supreme Court ruled that a man has the right to physically discipline his wife and children as long as he does not leave physical marks. The social acceptability of domestic violence also differs by country.

While in most developed countries domestic violence is considered unacceptable by most people, in many regions of the world the views are different: according to a UNICEF survey, the percentage of women aged 15–49 who think that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances is, for example: 90% in Afghanistan and Jordan, 87% in Mali, 86% in Guinea and Timor-Leste, 81% in Laos, 80% in Central African Republic. Refusing to submit to a husband’s wishes is a common reason given for justification of violence in developing countries: for instance 62.4% of women in Tajikistan justify wife beating if the wife goes out without telling the husband; 68% if she argues with him; 47.9% if she refuses to have sex with him. Traditionally, in most cultures, men had a legal right to use violence to “discipline” their wives. Although in the US and many European countries this right was removed from them in the late 19th/early 20th century, before the 1970s criminal arrests were very rare, and it was only in the 1990s that rigorous enforcement of laws against domestic violence became standard policy in Western countries.

Prior to the mid-1800s, most legal systems viewed wife beating as a valid exercise of a husband’s authority over his wife. One exception, however, was the 1641 Body of Liberties of the Massachusetts Bay colonists, which declared that a married woman should be “free from bodily correction or stripes by her husband. “Political agitation during the 19th century led to changes in both popular opinion and legislation regarding domestic violence within the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries. In 1850, Tennessee became the first state in the United States to explicitly outlaw wife beating. Other states soon followed. In 1878, the UK Matrimonial Causes Act made it possible for women in the UK to seek legal separation from an abusive husband. By the end of the 1870s, most courts in the United States had rejected a claimed right of husbands to physically discipline their wives. By the early 20th century, it was common for police to intervene in cases of domestic violence in the United States, but arrests remained rare. Attention to domestic violence began to be drawn in the 1970s by the women’s movement, particularly within the contexts of feminism and women’s rights.

The first known use of the expression “domestic violence” in a modern context, meaning “spouse abuse, violence in the home” was in an address to the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1973. A few months later the world’s first domestic violence services federation was set up to provide practical and emotional support as part of a range of services to women and children experiencing violence in England. Studies in the 1990s showed that men may also be victims of domestic violence. In recent decades there has been a call for the end of legal impunity for domestic violence, an impunity often based on the idea that such acts are ‘private’. The convention seeks to put an end to the toleration, in law or in practice, of VAW and DV. It acknowledges the long tradition of European countries of ignoring, de jure or de facto, these forms of violence. At para 219, it states: “There are many examples from past practice in Council of Europe member states that show that exceptions to the prosecution of such cases were made, either in law or in practice, if victim and perpetrator were, for example, married to each other or had been in a relationship.

The most prominent example is rape within marriage, which for a long time had not been recognized as rape because of the relationship between victim and perpetrator. “There has been increased attention given to specific forms of domestic violence, such as honor killings, dowry deaths, and forced marriages. India has, in recent decades, made efforts to curtail dowry violence: the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was enacted in 2005, following years of advocacy and activism by the women’s organizations. Crimes of passion in Latin America, a region which has a history of treating such killings in an extremely lenient way, have also come to international attention. In 2002, Winey Brown, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, argued that there are similarities between the dynamics of crimes of passion and honor killings, stating that: “crimes of passion have a similar dynamic in that the women are killed by male family members and the crimes are perceived as excusable or understandable”.

Until quite recently, children had very few rights in regard to protection from violence by their parents, and still continue to do so in many parts of the world. Historically, fathers had virtually unlimited rights in regard to their children and how they chose to discipline them. In many cultures, such as in Ancient Rome, a father could legally kill his children; many cultures have also allowed fathers to sell their children into slavery. Child sacrifice was also a common practice. Today, corporal punishment of children by their parents remains legal in most countries, but in Western countries that still allow the practice there are strict limits on what is permitted. The first country to outlaw parental corporal punishment was Sweden.


In A. L. Evangelista & D. Perlman, Cambridge handbook of personal relationships. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-82617-9 Morgan, R.E. and J.L. Truman. . Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. External links

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