The newspapers are frequently replete with news about a high-profile domestic violence case where a man or woman is suspected of murdering their wife or husband, with or without a previous history of domestic abuse. How can a person turn from loving and living with a person to beating them up or murdering them? What kind of a person resorts to domestic violence against their spouse or domestic intimate partner? These are some of the questions that come in our mind when we read about such cases.
A common pattern of domestic abuse is that the perpetrator alternates between violent, abusive behavior and apologetic behavior with apparently heartfelt promises to change. Domestic abuse often includes child abuse, abuse of a spouse, abuse of a domestic or intimate partner and elder abuse.
Domestic abuse between intimate partners: Domestic abuse between spouses or intimate partners is when one person in a marital or intimate relationship tries to control the other person. The perpetrator uses fear and intimidation and may threaten to use or may actually use physical violence. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called Domestic Voilence.
The victim of domestic abuse or domestic violence may be a man or a woman. Domestic abuse occurs in traditional heterosexual marriages as well as in same-sex partnerships. The abuse may occur during a relationship while the couple is breaking up or after the relationship has ended. The key elements of domestic abuse include intimidation, humiliating the other person and physical injury.
Domestic abuse is not a result of losing control, it is intentionally trying to control another person. The abuser is purposefully using verbal, nonverbal or physical means to gain control over the other person.
Physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner: Physical abuse is the use of physical force against another person in a way that ends up injuring the person or puts the person at risk of being injured. Physical abuse ranges from physical restraint to murder. When someone talks of domestic violence, they are often referring to physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner.
Physical abuse includes pushing, throwing, kicking, slapping, grabbing, hitting, punching, beating, tripping, battering, bruising, choking, shaking, pinching, biting, holding, restraining, confinement, breaking bones, assault with a weapon such as a knife or gun, burning and even murder.
Emotional abuse or verbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner: Mental, psychological or emotional abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner consists of more subtle actions or behaviors than physical abuse. While physical abuse might seem worse, the scars of verbal and emotional abuse are deep. Studies show that verbal or nonverbal abuse can be much more emotionally damaging than physical abuse.
Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner may include the following:
• threatening or intimidating to gain compliance
• destruction of the victim’s personal property and possessions or threats to do so
• violence to an object (such as a wall or piece of furniture) or pet, in the presence of the intended
victim as a way of instilling fear of further violence
• yelling or screaming
• constant harassment
• embarrassing, making fun of or mocking the victim, either alone within the household, in public or in
front of the family or friends
• criticizing or diminishing the victim’s accomplishments or goals
• not trusting the victim’s decision-making
• telling the victim that they are worthless on their own, without the abuser
• excessive possessiveness, isolation from friends and family
• excessive checking-up on the victim to make sure they are at home or where they said they would be
• saying hurtful things while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and using the substance as an
excuse to say the hurtful things
• blaming the victim for how the abuser acts or feels
• making the victim remain on the premises after a fight, or leaving them somewhere else after a fight,
just to “teach them a lesson”
• making the victim feel that there is no way out of the relationship
Sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a spouse or intimate partner: Sexual abuse includes the following:
• sexual assault: forcing someone to participate in unwanted, unsafe or degrading sexual activity
• sexual harassment: ridiculing another person to try to limit their sexuality or reproductive choices
• sexual exploitation (such as forcing someone to look at pornography or forcing someone to participate in pornographic film-making)
Sexual abuse often is linked to physical abuse; they may occur together or the sexual abuse may occur after a bout of physical abuse.
Stalking: Stalking is harassment of or threatening another person; especially in a way that haunts the person physically or emotionally in a repetitive and devious manner. Stalking of an intimate partner can take place during the relationship, with intense monitoring of the partner’s activities. Stalking can also take place after a partner or spouse has left the relationship. The stalker may be trying to get their partner back or they may wish to harm their partner as punishment for their departure.
Cyberstalking: Cyberstalking is the use of telecommunication technologies such as the Internet or email to stalk another person. Cyberstalking may be an additional form of stalking or it may be the only method the abuser employs. Cyberstalking is deliberate, persistent and personal.
Cyberstalking falls in a grey area of law enforcement. Enforcement of most state and federal stalking laws requires that the victim be directly threatened with an act of violence. Very few law enforcement agencies can act if the threat is only implied.
Economic or financial abuse of a spouse or domestic partner: Economic or financial abuse includes withholding economic resources such as money or credit cards, stealing from or defrauding a partner of money or assets, exploiting the intimate partner’s resources for personal gain, withholding physical resources such as food, clothes, necessary medications or shelter from a partner, preventing the spouse or intimate partner from working or choosing an occupation etc.
Spiritual abuse of a spouse or intimate partner
Spiritual abuse includes the following:
• using the spouse’s or intimate partner’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate them
• preventing the partner from practicing their religious or spiritual beliefs
• ridiculing the other person’s religious or spiritual beliefs
• forcing the children to be reared in a faith that the partner has not agreed to
Domestic Violence in workplace
Domestic violence often plays out in the workplace. For instance, a husband, wife, girlfriend, or boyfriend might make threatening phone calls to their intimate partner or ex-partner. Or the worker may show injuries from physical abuse at home.
The following are the warning signs of domestic abuse in the workplace:
• Bruises and other signs of impact on the skin, with the excuse of “accidents”
• Depression, crying
• Frequent and sudden absences
• Frequent lateness
• Frequent, harassing phone calls to the person while they are at work
• Fear of the partner, references to the partner’s anger
• Decreased productivity and attentiveness
• Isolation from friends and family
• Insufficient resources to live (money, credit cards, car)
Causes of domestic abuse or domestic violence
Individuals living with domestic violence in their households learn that violence and mistreatment are the way to vent anger. For instance, a child’s exposure to his father’s abuse of their mother is one of the factors for transmitting domestic violence from one generation to the next. This cycle of domestic violence is difficult to break because parents have presented violence as the norm.
A person resorts to physical violence because of the following reasons:
• He has solved his problems in the past with violence,
• He has effectively exerted control and power over others through violence, and
• No one has stopped him from being violent in the past.
Some of the immediate causes that can set off a bout of domestic abuse are stress, provocation by the intimate partner, economic hardship such as prolonged unemployment, depression, desperation, jealousy, anger.
Results of domestic violence or abuse: The results of domestic violence or abuse can be very long-lasting. People who are abused by a spouse or intimate partner may develop sleeping problems, depression, anxiety attacks, low self-esteem, lack of trust in others, feelings of abandonment, anger, sensitivity to rejection, diminished mental and physical health, inability to work, poor relationships with their children and other loved ones, substance abuse as a way of coping etc.
Effect of domestic violence on children: Children who witness domestic violence may develop serious emotional, behavioral, developmental or academic problems. As children, they may become violent themselves or withdraw. Some act out at home or school; others try to be the perfect child. Children from violent homes may become depressed and have low self-esteem.
As they develop, children and teens who grow up with domestic violence in the household are more likely to do the following:
• use violence at school or in the community in response to perceived threats
• attempt suicide
• use drugs
• commit crimes, especially sexual assault
• use violence to enhance their reputation and self-esteem
• become abusers in their own relationships later in life.
It is necessary to work out solutions to domestic violence which would include strengthening legal protection for victims of abuse and accountability for abusers. The protective measures for combating domestic violence should be aimed at developing treatment and legal protections to effectively manage the unique issues faced by individuals in abusive relationships.