Essay/Term paper: Domestic violence
Essay, term paper, research paper: Domestic Abuse
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national boundaries as well as socio-economic, cultural, racial and class
distinctions. It is a problem without frontiers. Not only is the problem
widely dispersed geographically, but its incidence is also extensive, making it
a typical and accepted behavior. Only recently, within the past twenty-five
years, has the issue been “brought into the open as a field of concern and
study” (Violence Against Women in the Family, page 38).
Domestic violence is not an isolated, individual event but rather a
pattern of repeated behaviors that the abuser uses to gain power and control
over the victim. Unlike stranger-to-stranger violence, in domestic violence
situations the same perpetrator repeatedly assaults the same victim. These
assaults are often in the form of physical injury, but may also be in the form
of sexual assault. However the abuse is not only physical and sexual, but also
psychological. Psychological abuse means intense and repetitive humiliation,
creating isolation, and controlling the actions of the victim through
intimidation or manipulation. Domestic violence tends to become more frequent
and severe over time. Oftentimes the abuser is physically violent sporadically,
but uses other controlling tactics on a daily basis. All tactics have profound
effects on the victim.
Perpetrators of domestic violence can be found in all age, racial,
ethnic, cultural, socio-economic, linguistic, educational, occupational and
religious groups. Domestic violence is found in all types of intimate
relationships whether the individuals are of the same or opposite sex, are
married or dating, or are in a current or past intimate relationship. There are
two essential elements in every domestic violence situation: the victim and
abuser have been intimately involved at some point in time, and the abuser
consciously chooses to use violence and other abusive tactics to gain control
over the victim. In some instances, the abuser may be female while the victim is
male; domestic violence also occurs in gay and lesbian relationships. However,
95% of reported assaults on spouses or ex-spouses are committed by men against
women (MTCAWA e-mail interview)
“It is a terrible and recognizable fact that for many people, home is
the least safe place” (Battered Dreams, 9). Domestic violence is real violence,
often resulting in permanent injuries or death. Battering is a widespread
societal problem with consequences reaching far beyond individual families. It
is conduct that has devastating effects for individual victims, their children
and their communities. In addition to these immediate effects, there is growing
evidence that violence within the “family becomes the breeding ground for other
social problems such as substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, and violent
crimes of all types” (MTCAWA e-mail interview). Domestic violence against
women is not merely a domestic issue; but, rather a complex socio-economical
crisis that threatens the interconnected equilibrium of the entire social
(Violence Against Women: The Missing Agenda, 29).
Domestic violence against women accounts for approximately 40 to 70% of
all violent crime in North America. However, the figures don’t tell the entire
story; less than 10% of such instances are actually reported to police (The
Living Family, 204).
The causes of domestic violence against women are numerous. Many claim
stress is the substantial cause of domestic conflict resulting in violence.
Though stress in the workplace is a contributing factor, it is by no means the
substantial one. Many people suffer from stress disorders, but most don’t
resort to violence as a means of release. It is apparent that the substantial
causes have more to do with the conditioning of males culturally, and within
the family of orientation than anything else.
Historically, women have been treated more as belongings than human
beings; Old English Common Law permitted a man to abuse his wife and kids, as
long as he didn’t use a stick thicker than the width of his thumb–“Rule of
Thumb” (The Living Family, 201). Culturally, men have been conditioned to
repress their feelings of emotion–always acting like the tough guy, the
linebacker, the cowboy. But, when confronted with an emotionally difficult
conflict, one which is impossible to shove down deep, they irrupt in volcanic
proportions, often taking out years of repressed rage on those closest to them,
in particular their own family.
However, what seems to be the most significant cause of the male tactic
of violent conflict resolution is violence within the family of orientation.
Statistics show that 73% of male abusers had grown up in a family where they
saw their mother beaten, or experienced abuse themselves (MTCAWA e-mail
interview). Using the (relatively accepted) Freudian model, which claims that
all mental illness stems from traumatic childhood trauma, one can see how there
is a direct correlation between violence in the family of orientation and
violence within the family of procreation. And, indeed, abusers are mentally
ill, though the illness tends to be more subtle than others: many abusers
display a Jekyll&Hyde personality, where they are nothing like their domestic
selves outside the home.
In most cases the cycle of violence starts slowly; it usually consists
of a slap in the face or a hard shove. But the frequency and degree of violence
escalates with time. The abuser will justify the abuse by pointing out his
wife’s inadequacies and faults. But, no matter how wrong the wife is, there is
little, if no, justification for spousel abuse within a civil society.
The real issue at hand is the neurosis within the male psyche. Just as
in rape, the key issue is control. Male abusers are laden with fear about
losing power. They inflict physical abuse on their spouse to prove that they
have, still have, and will have control over their spouses (and/or children.)
They won’t stop there either. The pattern of abuse involves severe mental
torture and humiliation–blaming, threatening, ignoring, isolating, forcing sex,
monitoring phone calls, and restricting any form of social life. It is a
vicious cycle of abuse, where the wife is almost literally chained to the
husband. Her self-esteem has been obliterated. She is financially, emotionally,
and functionally helpless. She is incapable of reaching out for help for
herself or for her children. At this point the abuse gets more routine; the
abuser sites his partner’s pathetic state as more reason to beat her. And the
victim sinks deeper, and more beatings ensue. She has been infected with
psychological-AIDS; she has no defense (“immune system”) to combat the disease
For women, escaping an abusive relationship is VERY difficult. And the
abuse usually doesn’t stop at the discretion of the male. An in-depth study of
all one-on-one murder and non-negligent manslaughter cases in Canada from 1980
to 1984 found that 62% of female victims were killed by a male partner (Violence
Against Women Homepage). It is painfully clear that victims have little but two
choices: leave or die. Sadly, the latter is the easier one.
physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or
infirmity” (In the Health of Women: A Global Perspective, 78). Based on this,
domestic violence against women is clearly a health problem. In 1984, the U.S.
Surgeon General declared domestic violence against women as the number ONE
health problem (Violence Against Women Homepage).
Physical violence is the most basic form of domestic violence, leading
to extensive injury, unsuccessful pregnancies and even murder. As mentioned
above, in Canada 62% of women murdered were killed by an intimate male partner.
These are deaths caused by a preventable social problem.
Actual or threatened physical violence, psychological violence and the
denial of physical and economic resources all have an enormous impact on women’s
mental health. “A history of victimization is seen as a strong risk factor for
the development of mental health problems” (MTCAWA e-mail interview). These
problems take many forms, all affecting women’s ability to attain a basic
quality of life for herself and her family. Abuse is strongly associated with
alcoholism and drug use in women (Facts About Domestic Violence). It also can
lead to “fatigue and passivity coupled with an extreme sense of worthlessness”
(Violence Against Women in the Family, 78 ). These symptoms together remove any
initiative and decision making ability from the victim. This lethargy, coupled
with economic barriers, makes escape from the situation very difficult. The lack
of initiative also thwarts women’s abilities to participate in activities
outside of the home. High levels of stress and depression are also extremely
common mental health problems for victims of family violence, often leading to
suicide (Facts About Domestic Violence). In the United States, one quarter of
suicide attempts by white women and one half of attempts by African American
women are preceded by abuse (In the Health of Women: A Global Perspective, 128).
The World Bank’s analysis found domestic violence to be a major cause of
disability and death among women; the burden of family violence is comparable
to that of HIV, tuberculosis, cardiovascular disease or cancer (Domestic
Violence Against Women: A Global Issue, 29). In industrialized nations one in
five healthy days of life are lost to women age 15 to 44 due to domestic
violence (Fact Sheet About Domestic Violence)
Domestic violence “diverts the scarce resources of national health care
systems to the treatment of a preventable social ill” (Violence Against Women
in the Family, 87). Medical costs for the treatment of abused women total at
least 3 to 5 billion dollars annually in the United States. Battered women in
the United States are four to five times more likely than non-battered women to
require psychiatric treatment, and over one million women in the U.S. use
emergency medical services for injuries related to battering each year. Finally,
families in the United States in which domestic violence occurs use doctors
eight times more often, visit the emergency room six times more often and use
six times more prescription drugs than the general population (Facts About
It is an important social issue. Using the Systems Theory as a theoretical
framework helps show the resonating effect of such violence. The family unit
is one of many sub-systems. Together, all these different sub-systems make up
the one big system (i.e., society). The human body serves as a good example:
when one organ (sub-system) is malfunctioning, all other organs are effected
(other sub-systems). This will have an effect on the whole body itself
(society). Although the family unit is only one among the many sub-systems, it
is considered to be the most important of them all–the heart, if you will.
Since the family unit is responsible for the socialization of children who will
later go on to participate in other sub-systems, than it is logical to assume
that a deterioration in the crucial family unit can result in a deterioration
within other sub-systems, and of course, the entire system itself.
As mentioned above, the sub-system of health care is feeling the
pressure. Something as preventable as domestic violence against women is
diverting funds from an already under-funded health care system. There are
people out there who need serious medical treatment, but will never, or at the
very most, will get insufficient treatment. In the U.S., domestic violence
against women ranks as one of the most expensive health problems (Facts About
Domestic Violence). Monies allocated to the medical treatment of abused women (3
to 5 billion dollars annually) diverts much needed funds from such already
under-funded institutions as education, law enforcement, social services etc.
Therefore the possibility exists that adults of the future will be sparsely
educated delinquents; crime will be on the increase; and important social
services won’t be able to look out for the welfare of the people–such as
shelters for abused women. The result is long term decay within the entire
system, which will add further to the decay within the family, which will cause
the entire vicious cycle to continue.
As previously mentioned, 73% of male abusers were abused, or saw abuse
as children. Thus an epidemic of violence within the family of orientation is a
primary cause of psychological disfunction–in specific, violent conflict
resolution–which is responsible for the breakdown of the entire social order.
U.S. Justice Department statistics show that at least 80% of men in prison grew
up in violent homes (Facts About Domestic Violence.) And in at least half of
the wife abusing families, the children were battered as well. And 63% of boys
ages 11 to 20 who commit homicide, murder the man who was abusing their mother.
breeding ground for other social problems such as substance abuse, juvenile
delinquency, and violent crimes of all types.” The all important family unit is
the centre of social universe. All other institutions revolve around it. If
the sun were to blow up the entire galaxy would go with it.
problem rather than a private issue imbedded within family — a domestic issue
which can be easily ignored. It must receive appropriate attention from the
various institutions within our society as an issue affecting the overall
standard of living. It is not only a women’s issue, but also a problem that
threatens the harmony within our communities.
In recent years gun violence has increased significantly in various parts of the world. There are more cases of children and young adults engaging in violence or getting caught in the crossfire. There has been debate over whether gun laws are strict enough and what else can be done to reduce such acts from occurring. With more lives being affected on a regular basis, more concerns arise as to how people can live safe lives when guns are being used in increasing numbers. It is shameful to say that almost every day you hear about some sort of gun violence affecting people either in your hometown or in another part of the world.
Years ago gun violence had its issues but nothing like what is going on it current society. While there are events that have occurred that seem shocking, sad and pointless, similar actions have occurred decades ago; except they didn’t seem to occur as frequently as they do today. Gun violence has grown into an international crisis. Some people feel we should ban guns altogether, while others feel this would be impossible. Getting rid of guns may help remedy the issue but it may not be enough to make the problem go away.
There are certain parts of the world that has already banned guns and similar weapons. The problem here is people can still smuggle them in. Other parts of the world have certain types of guns that are illegal for citizens to have in their possession. Eliminating guns from the equation is just a part of the problem. You have people that are not willing to talk about their problems and jump to conclusions way too soon. Meaning, people get angry over little things or something that you should be able to laugh about. Then, you have situations in which someone is threatened, but things escalate too far quickly.
Gun violence has problems on different levels including within local communities, politically and international. It is hard to say where improvements have been made. Some cities around the world may report a reduction in gun activity. Others unfortunately see an increase that has hurt their part of the world economically and socially. It would be a perfect world if we could settle our problems without getting angry and turning to the use of guns. In the meantime people continue to hope for a better future with fewer guns in it.
Structured Content and Logic Presentation
Each of essay sections should be well defined and written clearly. This means you should know what details to include while minimizing the amount needed. You may need to rewrite each section more than once before settling on your final copy. You should also remember to proofread, edit, and revise as these elements help make your structure more solid. Think about your details in how you want readers to view it from your perspective.
Short Essay on domestic violence
Essay on domestic violence
Domestic violence is present in almost every society of the world. The term can be classified on various bases. Violence against spouse, children or elderly is few of some commonly encountered cases. There are various kinds of tactics that are adopted by the attacker against the victim. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse or deprivation, economical deprivation/ abuse, etc. are the most common kinds of abuses that are faced by the victims.
Domestic violence is not only a problem of the developing or under developed countries. It is very much prevalent in developed countries also. Domestic violence is a reflection of our pseudo-civilized society. There is no place of violence in the civilized world. But the number of cases that are reported every year raise a high alarm. And this is not the complete picture, as; most of the cases go unregistered or unnoticed in everyday life. This is a very dangerous trend creeping in our society and has to be dealt with iron hands.
Women and children are often the soft targets. In Indian society the situation is really gruesome. A significant number of deaths are taking place on daily basis, as a result of domestic violence only. Illiteracy, economical dependency on men folk and the otherwise male dominated society is some of the attributing factors to the problem. Dowry is one of the leading causes that results in violence against the newly-wed brides. Physically assaulting women, making horrendous remarks and depriving them of basic humanly rights are often showcased in many parts of the country. Similarly, children are also made the target of this inhuman behaviour.
Serious in-sighting is required in the matter. The double standards and hypocrisy of the society members is evident in such matters. Many times, the abuser is either psychotic in behaviour or requires psychological counselling for this errant behaviour. But generally domestic violence is a result of cumulative irresponsible behaviour demonstrated by a section of the society. Not only the abuser is the main culprit but those who are allowing it to happen and behave like a mute spectator are the partners of the crime. Recently, in India, to cope with the situation, a campaign, called ‘bell bajao’ was launched. The main motive of the campaign was to motivate the individuals of the society to raise their voice against the domestic violence happening in home and around. The campaign was a big hit and successfully managed to draw the attention of crowds towards this issue.
Government has also made and enforced domestic violence act. The rules and regulations have been introduced in section 498-A of Indian Penal Code. Law gives an effective shelter and deals strictly with the culprits. But making a law is not sufficient. People will have to awake and arise. They have to be told about their rights and duties. Every human being deserves the basic honour and respect. No one is entitled to take law in his hands. Besides, the law enforcement, domestic violence have deeper roots. It is the mentality of the society that covets an overhauling. Society is in-turn nothing but the constitution of individuals. Every individual should make the necessary amendments and the society will change. It is the high time to raise voice against the injustice happening to self and others. Domestic violence has no place in the modern society and should be strongly dealt with.
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Short Essay on Violence
Violence is an expression of aggression. There can be various reasons that cause this kind of behaviour. Various unfavourable social situations or circumstances in life affect an individual.
Short Essay on Violence
Violence is the aggressive behaviour showcased by an individual. The dictionary defines it as, “the intentional use of power or physical force, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development or deprivation.” This is a comprehensive definition of violence and very well describes all the related aspects of violence.
Violence is an expression of aggression. There can be various reasons that cause this kind of behaviour. Various unfavourable social situations or circumstances in life affect an individual. The reaction to those situations is variable. Those who are short tempered or unable to cope with the changing environment find it hard to behave rationally. This frustration comes out in the form of anger and violent behaviour. Though, environmental factors are responsible but only to an extent. Psychologists believe that violent traits are inherent in nature. Hence genetic make-up does play a role.
Violence is of several kinds. One can exhibit violence in physical, Psychological, or sexual form or simply by neglecting someone to the point of deprivation. The extent of violence ranges from self, to family and friends, to community and the largest expression is the entire war situation between and/ or within the nations. Violence has affected civilizations. It is evident from the historical facts that wars that are the epitome of violence have ruined millions of lives. Those who resort to violence justify their action by citing various reasons but in the end it is only the personal perception that leads to such kind of behaviour.
Self violence is best described as self assault or committing suicide. When the person finds it hard to do any significant changes in the external environment and alter the external stimuli, he tends to harm himself. Lack of confidence and a general feeling of inferiority are the contributing factors behind this kind of behaviour. In other cases, individual tries to take command of the situation and directs his anger towards his partner or other family members. Domestic violence is the main example of such behaviours. Maltreatment of children, violence against women and elders are some of the instances. When the violence takes a collective outlook, it is represented in the forms of religious or political violence. Violent attacks against the members of a certain community or religion or sect had occurred in past. Theses showcase the mob mentality. In a crowd, individuals behave far more violently or irrationally than on individual basis. The last but the greatest of all is the war between the nations. Mass destruction, loss of life and property and sometimes loss of whole civilization is the result of such violent actions.
Man is a ‘social animal’. Hence, showing an aggressive behaviour is equivalent to showing an animal behaviour. Psychologists say that though violent behaviour is inherent but can be managed. Providing a healthy and cordial home environment to kids helps them to build strong family values and reduces the tendency to react violently. Similarly, avoiding over consumption of alcohol and other such substances check this behaviour. Rehabilitation homes and support programs are available for those who need professional help. Meditation and practicing yoga also helps to rectify this negative approach towards self and others.
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What is a good introduction to my essay about violence?
(Violence affects 70% of every household.) Violence has affected many lives, many (things) cause violence and many people including myself try to prevent it. I have also been affected by vionence, (How it has affected you.) After being affected by this i would like to find the cause and share what i think would work to solve such a wide spread problem.
What is a good introduction to my essay about violence?
I have to write about how violence has affected my life, some causes of violence, and how I can prevent it.
just a start, hope it helps.
Asking costs 5 points and then choosing a best answer earns you 3 points!
Cause & Effect Essay: School Violence
School violence is a major problem around the world. The effects of school violence can lead to division and severe mental and physical trauma for both perpetrators and victims alike. The main cause of school violence is a combination of weak community relations and a lack of a firm hand within both schools and communities. To effectively deal with the issue, both of these need addressing.
The beginnings of school violence often stem from differences between teenagers. Children are natural herd creatures and will gravitate towards people who are similar in looks, mentality, and those who have the same interests. Other groups are seen as enemies, and this is where conflict begins.
A lack of education is one of the main causes of school violence. If young people aren’t taught from an early age about the consequences and wrongs of violence there’s a high chance they’ll indulge in it later. Education must occur in the home, alongside parents, and in the classroom.
Furthermore, when violence does happen, a lack of will to punish the perpetrators encourages them to participate in it again later. Teachers and law enforcement officers must stamp down on violence. It’s simple mentality. A punishment says mentally and physically violence is wrong. Allowing them to get away with it says to them they haven’t done anything wrong. This is a trend we have seen replicated in UK prisons and the high reoffending rates.
Weak community relations start school violence. Inter-racial schools where students come from different backgrounds sow the seeds of conflict. Many students haven’t come into contact with people from these backgrounds before, and this creates suspicion and wariness. It’s highly unlikely violence will occur if they have been in contact with people from these backgrounds before.
Divisive communities are more likely to suffer from violence than harmonious ones. It’s why schools in East London and international cities like Los Angeles have a reputation for violence in schools and between schools. Too often, schools act on violence within schools, but they fail to work with other schools and community representatives to tackle the problem between academic facilities.
Parental guidance in the home has a large effect on school violence. If a student’s parents are violent or prejudiced, they are likely to develop the same aggressive characteristics. Even if there’s only one person like this in a school, it can still lead to violence in the classroom.
Overall, it’s not so much the risk factors of violence which become the problem. It’s the lack of will to act on it when it does happen. It’s impossible to stamp out all types of violence. Children make mistakes and it will happen. To stop it happening again, schools and community officers must act.
Understanding Violence Against Women (1996)
Chapter: 1 Introduction
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Although men are more likely than women to be victims of violent crimes—61 per 1,000 for men, 42.6 per 1,000 for women (Bastian, 1995)—patterns of victimization differ. Women are far more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner (Kilpatrick et al., 1992; Bachman, 1994; Bachman and Saltzman, 1995). In fact, about three-quarters of all lone-offender violence against women in 1993 was perpetrated by someone known to the woman, compared with one-half of lone-offender violence against men (Bachman and Saltzman, 1995). It is important to note that attacks by intimates are more dangerous to women than attacks by strangers: 52 percent of the women victimized by an intimate sustain injuries, compared with 20 percent of those victimized by a stranger (Bachman and Saltzman, 1995). Women are also significantly more likely to be killed by an intimate than are men. In 1993, 29 percent of female homicide victims were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands, or boyfriends; only 3 percent of male homicide victims were killed by their wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1993). 1
Women are more likely to be victimized by male offenders than by female offenders; about three-quarters of violent crimes against women are committed by males (Bachman, 1994). In one urban emergency room, violence was the most common cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 and the second most common cause of injury for all women (Grisso et al., 1991). Finally, women are far more likely than men to be sexually assaulted. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) found women were 10 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than were men (Bastian, 1995). The annual rate of rape is estimated to be 7.1 per 1,000 adult women, and 13 percent of all women will experience forcible rape sometime during their lives (Kilpatrick et al., 1994).
The exact dimensions of violence against women are frequently disputed, yet even conservative estimates indicate that millions of American women experience violent victimization. The fear of violence, in particular the fear of rape, affects many more, if not most, women (Gordon and Riger, 1989). A few researchers have even suggested that learning to cope with the threat of violent victimization is a normative developmental task for females in the United States (Gilfus, 1995).
In spite of the attention that has been paid to violence against women in recent years, the research endeavor is relatively young, and much remains unknown. There really is no one field focused on violence against women per se. For example, studies on rape and sexual assault are distinct from those on intimate partner violence, which is distinct from the nascent study of stalking. And all this research is separate from that on violence in general. Many of the studies in this newly emerging field of research on violence against women are at an early stage of scientific rigor. The methodological weaknesses in the research on battering and rape have been discussed at length in other documents (Rosenbaum, 1988; Gelles, 1990; Koss, 1992, 1993; Rosenfeld, 1992; Smith, 1994). Definitions differ from study to study, making comparisons
difficult. Much of the research on both victims and perpetrators is based on clinical samples, samples of convenience, or other nonrandomized samples, so one cannot draw general conclusions. Sample sizes are often quite small. Only recently have sophisticated statistical analyses been used. Yet in spite of all the shortcomings, a lot has been learned about the extent of violence against women, about perpetrators of violence, and about the effects on victims.
What Is Violence Against Women?
The term violence against women has been used to describe a wide range of acts, including murder, rape and sexual assault, physical assault, emotional abuse, battering, stalking, prostitution, genital mutilation, sexual harassment, and pornography. There is little consensus in the still evolving field on exactly how to define violence against women. The major contention concerns whether to strictly define the word ”violence” or to think of the phrase “violence against women” more broadly as aggressive behaviors that adversely and disproportionately affect women.
Researchers in such fields as sociology and criminology tend to prefer definitions that narrowly define violence, definitions that can be operationalized. For example, Gelles and Straus (1979) defined violence as “any act carried out with the intention of, or perceived intention of, causing physical pain or injury to another person.” Similarly, the National Research Council (NRC) report Understanding and Preventing Violence (Reiss and Roth, 1993) limited its definition to “behavior by persons against persons that intentionally threatens, attempts, or actually inflicts physical harm.” The 1993 NRC study deliberately excluded behavior that inflicts harm unintentionally, while the Gelles and Straus definition includes behaviors that may be unintentional but are perceived by the victim to be intentional. The 1993 NRC study also specifically excluded from its definition of violence such events as verbal abuse, harassment, or humiliation, in which
psychological trauma is the sole harm to the victim. However, in its consideration of family violence and sexual assault, the report did include the psychological consequences of threatened physical injury.
In contrast to those definitions, researchers in such fields as psychology, mental health, and social work frequently consider “violence” to cover a wider range of behaviors. The Committee on Family Violence of the National Institute of Mental Health (1992) included in its definition of violence “acts that are physically and emotionally harmful or that carry the potential to cause physical harm … [and] may also include sexual coercion or assaults, physical intimidation, threats to kill or to harm, restraint of normal activities or freedom, and denial of access to resources.” The Task Force on Male Violence Against Women of the American Psychological Association defined violence as ”physical, visual, verbal, or sexual acts that are experienced by a woman or a girl as a threat, invasion, or assault and that have the effect of hurting her or degrading her and/or taking away her ability to control contact (intimate or otherwise) with another individual” (Koss et al., 1994). Those who argue for these broader definitions suggest they more accurately represent the experiences of victims, who often say they find verbal and psychological abuse more harmful than actual physical abuse (Walker, 1979; Follingstad et al., 1990; Herman, 1995).
In the field of intimate partner violence or battering, the problem of violence against women is frequently characterized as one of coercive control that is maintained by tactics such as physical violence, psychological abuse, sexual violence, and denial of resources. The concern is with the array of behaviors that are used to dominate women. Physical violence need not be used often to be effective: “In fact, abusers may regret resorting to violence, but may perceive themselves as ‘driven to it’ when their other methods of enforcing subordination are insufficient” (Herman, 1995:2). In the field of rape, fear is a key element; it is an overriding concern for many women (Warr, 1985; Gordon and Riger, 1989; Klod-
awsky and Lundy, 1994). Even though women are less frequently the victims of violent crime than men, women fear crime more (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1991) and this fear appears to be largely based on their fear of rape (Riger et al., 1981). Many feminist theorists contend that this fear of rape serves to intimidate and control all women (e.g., Griffin, 1971; Brownmiller, 1975; Dworkin, 1991).
Although research would benefit from more unified definitions, the panel understands the difficulty of reaching agreement on definitional issues in light of the many complex behaviors that are involved. The panel held lengthy discussions on defining violence against women, focused on the key issue of whether psychological abuse should be included. The panel concluded that it could not resolve a question that is so open among researchers and that a global definition was not necessary for carrying out the task of reviewing what is known and recommending needed research (see below). Thus, the panel agreed that this study would be primarily a review of the literature on intimate partner violence (battering), rape, and sexual assault. The study does not include violence that occurs in conjunction with other crimes, such as robbery, burglary, or car theft. Nor does it include prostitution, sexual harassment, or issues such as genital mutilation, dowry murders, and trafficking in women that are more relevant internationally than in the United States.
Whether one uses a narrow definition confined to physical and sexual violence or one accepts a broader definition of violence against women, definitional debates also surround each of the individual components. For example, how does one define rape or sexual assault? Should all physical aggression or use of force be considered violent? What constitutes psychological abuse? These questions affect both the research that is done and how much it can be generalized.
Rape and Sexual Assault
Although all definitions of rape, sexual assault, and re-
lated terms include the notion of nonconsensual sexual behavior, the definitions used by researchers have varied along several dimensions. These include the behaviors specified, the criteria for nonconsent, the individuals involved, and who decides whether rape or sexual assault has occurred (Muehlenhard et al., 1992; Koss, 1993).
Many data sources and some researchers rely on legal definitions of rape, but those definitions differ from state to state and change over time. In common law, rape was traditionally defined as “carnal knowledge [penile-vaginal penetration only] of a female forcibly and against her will” (Bienen, 1980:174). The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (1993) still uses this narrow definition of rape even though most states have reformed their rape laws during the past 20 years. There have been three common reforms:
- broadening the definition to include sexual penetration of any type, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration, whether by penis, fingers, or objects;
- focusing on the offender’s behavior rather than the victim’s resistance; and
- restricting the use of the victim’s prior sexual conduct as evidence.
Many states have also removed the marital exemption from their rape laws. Some states and the U.S. Code (18 U.S.C. § 2241-2245) have replaced the term “rape” with terms such as “sexual assault,” “sexual battery,” or “sexual abuse” (Epstein and Langenbahn, 1994). Many laws now have a series of graded offenses defined by the presence or absence of aggravating conditions, making sexual assault laws similar to other assault laws. For example, the U.S. Code uses the categories aggravated sexual abuse when someone “knowingly causes another person to engage in a sexual act by using force against that other person, or by threatening or placing that other person in fear that any person will be subjected to death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping” or by knowingly causing
another person to become incapable of giving consent by rendering them unconscious or administering intoxicants. Sexual abuse involves lesser threats or engaging in sexual acts with a person who cannot give consent.
The definition of rape or sexual assault used in a research study has an effect on who is counted as a rape victim. The type of screening questions, the use of the word rape versus the use of behavioral descriptions, and other considerations all affect the research results (Koss et al., 1994). Higher rates of rape and sexual assault are found when behavioral descriptions and multiple questions are used than when surveys ask directly about rape or sexual assault. Women may not label experiences that meet the legal definition of rape or sexual assault as such, particularly if the perpetrator was an intimate partner or an acquaintance. The use of behavioral descriptions in studies assures that what is being measured are experiences rather than an individual’s conceptions of the words rape or sexual assault.
In this report, rape means forced or coerced penetration—vaginal, anal, or oral; “sexual assault” means other forced or coerced sexual acts not involving penetration; and “sexual violence” includes both rape and sexual assault.
Although defining physical violence would seem to be more clear-cut, there are disagreements both over definitions and measurement. As noted above, some researchers include only acts that were intended to cause physical harm or injury (Reiss and Roth, 1993); others argue that intentionality may be difficult to ascertain, and therefore physical violence should also include acts that are perceived as having the intention of producing physical harm or injury (Gelles and Straus, 1979). Akin to intentionality is the consideration of the context of the act. For example, should an action taken in self-defense be considered violent? Should an act be considered violent only if an injury occurs, or is the potential for
injury sufficient? Some definitions of physical violence, following legal models of assault, include threats of physical harm; others consider that threats fall under verbal or psychological abuse (Straus, 1990a). There is disagreement about whether behaviors such as slapping a spouse should be equated with more severe acts such as kicking or using a weapon. How violence is defined and measured influences the rate of violence found in a study: all else being equal, the broader the definition, the higher the level of violence reported (Smith, 1994).
Physical violence is most commonly measured by the Conflict Tactic Scales (Straus, 1979, 1990b) or some modification of it. Such scales ask about the occurrence of various representative behaviors. For example, the Conflict Tactic Scales list nine physical violence items:
- threw something at you;
- pushed, grabbed, or shoved you;
- slapped you;
- kicked, bit, or hit you with a fist;
- hit or tried to hit you with something;
- beat you up;
- choked you;
- threatened you with a knife or gun; and
- used a knife or fired a gun.
The last six behaviors in this list are considered to be “severe” physical violence.
In this report, “physical violence” refers to behaviors that threaten, attempt, or actually inflict physical harm. The behaviors listed in the Conflict Tactic Scales, while not all inclusive, typify the type of behaviors meant by physical violence. In this report, “severe” violence refers to the type of behaviors typified by the severe violence items on the scales.
Psychological abuse (also refered to as psychological maltreatment or emotional abuse) has received less research attention than physical or sexual violence, and hence there have been fewer attempts to define it. At a minimum, psychological abuse refers to psychological acts that cause psychological harm (McGee and Wolfe, 1991). It has been argued that separating physical and psychological conditions “overly simplifies the topic and denies reality” (Hart and Brassard, 1991:63): physically violent acts can have psychological consequences and psychological acts can have physical consequences. The difficulty of separating physical violence and psychological abuse is exemplified by the treatment of threats of physical violence, with researchers split over whether to classify such threats as physical violence or psychological abuse. As with physical violence, there is debate about intentionality, that is, must the offender intend harm for an act to be considered abuse? Deciphering the intention of a psychological act may be even more difficult than for a physical act, and so intention is generally not included in defining psychological abuse.
On the basis of descriptions of psychological abuse as reported by battered women, Follingstad et al. (1990) described the following categories of behavior as psychological abuse:
- verbal attacks such as ridicule, verbal harassment, and name calling, designed to make the woman believe she is not worthwhile in order to keep her under the control of the abuser;
- isolation that separates a woman from her social support networks or denies her access to finances and other resources, thus limiting her independence;
- extreme jealousy or possessiveness, such as excessive monitoring of her behavior, repeated accusations of infidelity, and controlling with whom she has contact;
- verbal threats of abuse, harm, or torture directed at the woman herself or at her family, children, or friends;
- repeated threats of abandonment, divorce, or of initiating an affair if the woman does not comply with the abuser’s wishes; and
- damage or destruction of the woman’s personal property.
Similar to measurements of physical violence, inventories or scales of representative behaviors are used to measure psychological abuse. The Conflict Tactics Scales subscale on verbal aggression (Straus and Gelles, 1990) measures some aspects of psychological abuse: items include “insulted or swore at you,” “did or said something to spite you,” “threatened to hit or throw something at you,” and ”threw or smashed or hit or kicked something.” Other measures that have undergone validity testing are the Psychological Maltreatment of Women Inventory, which consists of 58 behavioral items (Tolman, 1988) and the Abusive Behavior Inventory, which includes items on both physical and psychological acts (Shepard and Campbell, 1992).
Interviews with battered women have detailed clear-cut examples of extreme psychological abuse occurring between and in conjunction with physically violent episodes. Psychological abuse frequently occurs with physical violence (Walker, 1979; Browne, 1987; Follingstad et al., 1990; Hart and Brassard, 1991), and research has repeatedly shown a strong association between psychological abuse and physical and sexual violence (e.g., O’Leary and Curley, 1986; Margolin et al., 1988; Sabourin et al., 1993). Some battered women describe psychological abuse—particularly ridicule—as constituting the most paintful abuse they experienced (Martin, 1976; Walker, 1979, 1984; Follingstad et al., 1990). It has been suggested that ridicule may undermine a woman’s self-worth, making her less able to cope with both physical violence and psychological abuse (Follingstad et al., 1990). Studies of child abuse have similarly shown that psychological maltreatment is present in most cases of physical abuse, and it predicts detrimental outcomes for children while severity of physical
abuse does not (Claussen and Crittenden, 1991; Hart and Brassard, 1991).
In this report, “psychological abuse” refers to the types of behaviors described by Follingstad et al. (1990) and listed above, with the exception of threats of physical violence, which this report considers under physical violence. There is no separate section of the report devoted to psychological abuse because it has received very little study in and of itself. Rather, it is considered to be part of the pattern of behavior of serious physical violence, psychological abuse, and sometimes sexual violence, between intimate partners that has been well described (e.g., Martin, 1976; Dobash and Dobash, 1979; Walker, 1979; Browne, 1987). This pattern of behavior has been referred to in many terms, including domestic violence, spouse abuse, battering, and wife beating. “Wife beating” and “spouse abuse” imply married couples, although all intimate relationships—cohabiting, dating, and lesbian and gay couples—are frequently meant to be included under these terms. “Domestic violence,” although usually referring to violence between intimate partners, is sometimes used to mean all forms of family violence, including child abuse, spouse abuse, sibling abuse, and elder abuse. These conflicting and overlapping terms and their uses are confusing in the study of violence against women.
In this report, “intimate partner violence” and “battering” are used synonymously to refer to the pattern of violent and abusive behaviors by intimate partners, that is, spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, and ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriend. 2 The term batterer is used to mean the perpetrator of intimate partner violence, and battered woman, the victim.
In research studies, dating couples are sometimes considered as intimate partners and sometimes as acquaintances. “Acquaintance” generally refers to someone known to the victim but neither related nor an intimate. Particularly in crime data, it is not always clear what acquaintance means; it may include dating couples. Hence, date rape and dating
violence are sometimes included in crime data as violence by nonintimate acquaintances.
Battered women who have left their batterers have described being stalked by the batterer (e.g., Walker, 1979). This behavior includes following and threatening the woman, repeated harassing phone calls, threatening her family, and breaking into her living quarters. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some batterers go to extraordinary lengths to track down their victims and that women who are stalked by expartners may be at high risk of being killed. Although descriptive information about stalking is available, few data exist.
The acknowledgment of stalking as a crime is a fairly recent phenomenon. California passed the first antistalking law in 1990 (Sohn, 1994); today, 48 states and the District of Columbia have passed antistalking statutes (Boychuk, 1994). Most state statutes define stalking as willful, malicious, and repeated following and harassing of another person. Many statutes include in the definition the intent to place the victim in reasonable fear of sexual battery, bodily injury, or death.
The Panel’s Charge And Scope
In the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (Title IV of P.L. 103-322, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994), Congress directed the National Research Council to develop a research agenda on violence against women (Chapter 9, § 40291):
The Attorney General shall request the National Academy of Sciences, through its National Research Council, to enter into a contract to develop a research agenda to increase the understanding and control of violence against women, including rape and domestic violence. In furtherance of the
contract, the National Academy shall convene a panel of nationally recognized experts on violence against women, in the fields of law, medicine, criminal justice, and direct services to victims and experts on domestic violence in diverse, ethnic, social, and language minority communities and the social sciences. In setting the agenda, the Academy shall focus primarily on preventive, educative, social, and legal strategies, including addressing the needs of underserved populations.
In convening the Panel on Research on Violence Against Women, the National Research Council specifically charged the panel with the following tasks:
- synthesize the relevant research literature and develop a framework for clarifying what is known about the nature and scope of violence against women, including rape and domestic violence;
- supplement the research review with lessons learned by field professionals and service providers, including providers of services to ethnic, social, and language minorities; and
- identify promising areas of research to improve knowledge of the scope of the problem, and implementation and evaluation of preventive, educative, social, and legal interventions for dealing with violence against women.
In carrying out its charge, the panel limited its consideration to violence against women aged 12 and older. Child abuse and neglect and child sexual abuse were outside the purview of this panel and are covered by the report Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect (National Research Council, 1993), with a thorough research agenda.
The age of 12 was selected for several reasons. First, the types of violence to which teenage females are exposed are often more similar to violence directed at adult women than that directed at children. Second, sex offenders who prey on children seem to be quite different from those who target adolescent and adult women (Quinsey, 1984; Prentky, 1990).
Third, surveys on violence, such as The National Crime Victims Survey (NCVS), often include victims beginning at age 12. In addition, the highest rates of rape and sexual assault are found among women aged 12 to 24 years (Bachman and Saltzman, 1995): females in their teens and 20s are those most likely to be dating, and, therefore, subject to dating violence.
The panel’s main task was to lay out a research agenda to improve understanding of violence and controlling that violence in the context of women’s lives. This entailed reviewing the literature on intimate partner violence, rape, sexual assault, and stalking. The panel concentrated on studies published in peer-reviewed journals within the past 10 years, although very well-known or unique studies that were published earlier are also reviewed. The panel relied both on computerized literature searches, the expertise of various panel members, and monitoring a number of journals devoted to issues of violence. More than 300 journal articles and dozens of books were reviewed, many of which are cited in this report. The panel supplemented its literature review by holding a workshop of researchers and practitioners (see Appendix B).
The panel’s review and analysis is divided into three topics: nature and scope, causes and consequences, and preventive and treatment interventions. Chapter 2 describes what the research shows about the nature and scope of violence against women. Chapter 3 discusses possible causes of violence against women and the consequences of violence to women and society. Chapter 4 examines preventive and treatment intervention efforts. Lastly, Chapter 5 discusses issues of research infrastructure and science policy on violence against women. Recommendations for research are discussed at the end of each chapter.
The victim-offender relationship was not known in 39 percent of all homicides.
Although lesbian couples are technically included in this definition, there has been very little research on violence in lesbian (or male gay) relationships, and it is not covered separately in this report.
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Violence against women is one factor in the growing wave of alarm about violence in American society. High-profile cases such as the O.J. Simpson trial call attention to the thousands of lesser-known but no less tragic situations in which women’s lives are shattered by beatings or sexual assault.
The search for solutions has highlighted not only what we know about violence against women but also what we do not know. How can we achieve the best understanding of this problem and its complex ramifications? What research efforts will yield the greatest benefit? What are the questions that must be answered?
Understanding Violence Against Women presents a comprehensive overview of current knowledge and identifies four areas with the greatest potential return from a research investment by increasing the understanding of and responding to domestic violence and rape:
- What interventions are designed to do, whom they are reaching, and how to reach the many victims who do not seek help.
- Factors that put people at risk of violence and that precipitate violence, including characteristics of offenders.
- The scope of domestic violence and sexual assault in America and its conequences to individuals, families, and society, including costs.
- How to structure the study of violence against women to yield more useful knowledge.
Despite the news coverage and talk shows, the real fundamental nature of violence against women remains unexplored and often misunderstood. Understanding Violence Against Women provides direction for increasing knowledge that can help ameliorate this national problem.
- Front Matter i–xii
- Executive Summary 1–6
- 1 Introduction 7–22
- 2 Nature and Scope of Violence Against Women 23–48
- 3 Causes and Consequences of Violence Against Women 49–92
- 4 Prevention and Intervention 93–142
- 5 Research Infrastructure 143–156
- References 157–202
- Appendices 203–204
- Appendix A: Biographical Sketches 205–214
- Appendix B: Workshop Topics and Speakers 215–218
- Index 219–225
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