About Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, abusive, and threatening behaviors aimed at gaining power and control over an intimate partner. These behaviors include cutting the victim off from family and friends, manipulation, sexual assaults, and using children as pawns. While physical assault may occur infrequently, other forms of abuse may occur daily. Domestic violence forces victim/survivors to make choices based on how their partner may harm them.
Domestic violence crosses all class, race, lifestyle and religious lines. The only clear distinction is gender. Though same sex battering occurs about as often as in other couples, 95% of the victims of domestic violence in heterosexual couples are women battered by male partners.
We all get angry, but very few of us batter. Some battering episodes occur when the perpetrator is not angry, and some occur when the perpetrator is very emotionally aroused. Often the tactics of control are used calmly, while displays of anger may be deliberately used to intimidate the victim. Anger-management programs have failed as a treatment for batterers. Rather than saying someone batters because they are angry, the reality is that batterers are often angry because they have unrealistic expectations of their partners. They get angry when their partner (or police or the courts) is unable or unwilling to comply with what they want. The underlying problem is an unrealistic sense of entitlement.
Domestic violence is purposeful behavior. The perpetrator's pattern of abusive acts is directed at achieving compliance from or control over the victim. It is directed at limiting the independent thought and actions of the victims so that they will be devoted to fulfilling the needs and requirements of the perpetrator.
Domestic violence is learned through observation and reinforcement. Violent behaviors, as well as the rules of when, where, against whom, and by whom they are to be used, are learned through observation (e.g. a child witnessing abuse of his mother by his father or seeing images of violence against women in the media) or through experiences (e.g. perpetrators not held responsible, arrested, prosecuted, or sentenced appropriately for abusiveness due to a culturally sanctioned belief that men are supposed to control their partners).
Domestic violence is reinforced by our society's major institutions: familial, social, legal, religious, educational, mental health, medical, media. There are customs that legitimize abuse as a means of controlling family members (e.g. religious institutions stating that a woman should submit to the will of her husband, laws that do not consider violence against intimates a crime, health systems that blame victims for "provoking" the violence). These practices reinforce the use of violence to control intimates by failing to hold the perpetrator responsible and by failing to protect the victim(s).
Some batterers hit only in private while others will strike the victim in public; some will break only the victim's possessions and not their own; and others will not engage in any property destruction. Most cease the violence the second they risk being observed by law enforcement. The patterns vary from abuser to abuser. Perpetrators are making choices about what they will or will not do to the victim, where they do it, and how they do it, even when they are claiming that they "lost it" or were "out of control." Such decision-making indicates they are actually in control of their abusive behaviors.
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(Adapted from: Domestic Violence: A National Curriculum for Family Preservation Practitioners by Susan Schechter and Anne Ganley produced by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, 1995).