The Scourge of Domestic Abuse

Every nine seconds in the U.S., a woman is assaulted or beaten. Every day, three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partner. Each year, 1.3 million women are the victims of physical assault by an intimate partner and one out of every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Yet only one fifth of victims sought medical treatment, and only one fourth of women reported the incident to police.

There are two types of men who batter their significant other. The first, accounting for about 80% of abusers, involves men who let their anger slowly simmer and build until it erupts like a volcano. The second type lashes out immediately. Strangely, this second type does not seem to be emotional during the violence. Research has shown that their heart rate actually drops before the altercation escalates. This type is 44% likely to have a history of extramarital violence, compared to only 3% of the first type. The first type may be easy to leave at first and then become potentially dangerous down the road. The second type is just the opposite. It can be extremely dangerous to attempt to leave this person at first, but they will soon give up and move on.

Abusers use many tactics to physically and psychologically beat their victim into submission. They use displays of dominance, threats, and intimidation to assert a role of power. They will try and isolate the woman from others and cut off her means of support and escape. They are experts at putting up a front in public. They also deny their actions and blame the abused. It can go so far as the abuser denying the very existence of the incidents. This technique is designed to make the abused question their sanity.

Women are not the only victims of intimate partner abuse. Between 3.3 and 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually, and 30-60% of households where intimate partner violence occurs have children in them. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partner or children when they grow up. Tendencies toward violence are also hereditary, including inheritance of high levels of testosterone and other genetic traits.

The cycle of domestic abuse is extremely hard to escape. Starting with the instant of abuse, it is immediately followed by guilt and excuses on the part of the abuser. Apologies and promises for reform lead to a temporary return to “normalcy”. Then the abuser begins to fantasize and plan the next instance of abuse. As the thoughts build up, the abuser sets up a situation (consciously or otherwise) to justify abuse. For example, he may send the woman to the store, and then become irate when it takes her longer to return then he thinks it should. This leads to another instance of abuse and the cycle begins anew.

Often women stay in an abusive relationship because there simply isn’t anywhere else to go. There are about 1,800 shelters for battered women in the U.S., half the amount of shelters for stray animals. Many do not have the funds to pick up and leave: 50-60% of women receiving public benefits have experience physical abuse by an intimate partner at some point during their adult lives compared to 22% of the general population.

Even if the woman has the resources to leave, stalking can be a serious problem. The woman is often in more danger after she leaves. One study of former and current partners of male abusers ordered by the court to attend batterer programs found that 41% reported the men committed a re-assault during the 30 month follow-up period. Approximately half of the orders obtained by women against intimate partners who physically assaulted them were violated.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse or believe someone you know is, there are resources that can help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is open 24 hours at 1-800-779-7233. Online, there are a variety of federal, state, and non-profit websites that reach out to victims, with some of the links provided below. In Georgia, the 24 hour Statewide Crisis Line is 800-33-HAVEN and is run by the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Local law enforcement can be contacted, and the safety of the abused should be the first priority. If there are any local shelters nearby, they can be the best place to seek refuge.

Additional Resources

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence Facts: http://www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet%28National%29.pdf

Domestic Violence Resource Center, Domestic Violence Statistics: http://www.dvrc-or.org/domestic/violence/resources/C61/

American Bar Association, Domestic Violence Statistics: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/domestic_violence/resources/statistics.html

Help Guide, Domestic Violence and Abuse: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_types_signs_causes_effects.htm

The Seattle Times, Law Would Let Tribes Prosecute non-Indians’ Domestic Violence: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020389179_tribesviolencexml.html?prmid=4939

The Domestic Abuse Project: http://www.domesticabuseproject.com/

The Mayo Clinic, Domestic Violence Against Women: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/domestic-violence/WO00044

Psychology Today, Domestic Violence: http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/domestic-violence

University of Nebraska, Domestic Violence Treatment Response and Recidivism: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1084&context=psychfacpub

Forsyth County, Hands are not for Hitting: http://www.forsythco.com/pdf/files/Domestic%20Violence.pdf

Women’s Law: www.womenslaw.org

 

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