Domestic Abuse: Information and Evidence-Based Practice
Domestic abuse is an issue that has plagued society since nearly the beginning of mankind. Even ancient societies and civilizations have dealt with and depicted those who engage in this behavior. There are few things that work for every person who gets involved in domestic abuse, even though there are many different treatment options. Some people respond to drug treatment when they are medicated for an underlying issue that might be triggering their anger. Others respond to medical interventions such as therapy or anger management courses. Still other individuals only respond to law enforcement and punishment – and even then there is no guarantee that person will not reoffend. Discussed here is domestic abuse from the standpoint of evidence-based practice. What researchers and therapists have said (and are still saying) about people who are domestic abusers is important to analyze, so that new and better treatments can be offered to these individuals and their families. Understanding the reasons behind the violence and the history of what has been done to help offenders in the past can provide insight toward what should be done in the future so that the incidents of domestic abuse that are commonly seen can be reduced or avoided.
Domestic Abuse: Information and Evidence-Based Practice
Introduction and Background
Domestic abuse has always been a part of society. In the past generations, it was more accepted than it is in current times, because people used to see it as a means of correcting a wife or a child, especially if a man believed that his wife was not showing him the level of respect to which he was entitled (Hardesty, 2002). Times have changed, though, and domestic abuse is a crime now. Law enforcement officers will not allow it to go on and it will not be tolerated by the justice system. Additionally, there are many ways of treating those who are domestic abusers, including therapy and medication. Here, evidence-based practice will be explored through providing information about domestic abuse, how it is handled through the criminal justice system, and what case study information says about those who abuse and those who have been abused in the past. One of the most significant things that information about domestic abuse is bringing to light is that it is not just a problem for women. Men can also be victims of domestic abuse.
All throughout the country – and even in other areas of the world – domestic abuse is a problem that law enforcement officers see all the time. All age brackets and income levels can experience problems with domestic abuse (Hardesty, 2002). Abuse of that kind does not discriminate based on age, gender, income, race, or social status, and people who work in law enforcement are trying aggressively to combat the problem (Hardesty, 2002). Overall, the majority of the public wants to see law enforcement officers put a stop to domestic abuse, and law enforcement officers also want to see that take place. The victims, of course, certainly want to see the abuse stop, so that they do not have to live their lives in fear, hide bruises, and worry about what else might happen to them if they do not obey their abuser or if they do something that the abuser perceives as wrong. In some domestic abuse cases, alcohol or other drugs are the catalyst for abuse and the victim does not even have to do anything for the abuser to go on the offensive.
One of the most unfortunate things about domestic abuse is that some of the very people who are sworn to protect others and who have vowed to put an end to abuse end up as perpetrators of domestic abuse. Police officers have high rates of domestic abuse, and that is devastating to their families and to their communities as well. They are expected to protect the citizens of that community, and it can be difficult for those citizens to learn that the people they have trusted to care for them and keep them safe are abusing their families when they are off duty (Kruger & Valltos, 2002). When officers are also domestic abusers, that reflects badly on the police department. The respect and integrity they have worked to develop in the community is undermined, and the leaders in law enforcement are not able to just look the other way. Because they have sworn to uphold the law, they must protect the abuser’s victim, even if the abuser is one of their own (Kruger & Valltos, 2002). The protection of the victim is more important than the reputation of the police department or the officer who committed the crime of abuse.
There are several factors that have to be considered when one is examining domestic abuse and how it is addressed and treated by both law enforcement and therapists. Addressed in this paper will be evidence-based information on domestic abuse in the context of structural and institutional ideals. In other words, concepts such as how the courts and the laws handle the issue of domestic abuse, what battered woman syndrome really is, and why abusive acts are committed are all important. Also significant is why so many of these victims choose to stay with the very people who abuse them. The individualistic framework will be used, where the person who abuses someone else focuses on himself or herself and the intrapersonal world in which he or she exists. To explain a few of the issues that surround the problem of domestic abuse, the ‘two-sex model’ will also be discussed here. Only by looking at domestic abuse from so many angles can the problem be more easily understood and suggestions for further help and support for victims be provided.
Law enforcement leaders are some of the best-positioned people when it comes to helping stop domestic abuse, both among their officers and out in the rest of the community. To do so, however, the leadership they demonstrate must be good and strong. In order for these law enforcement leaders to be successful in stemming the tide of domestic violence, they have to determine who falls under the definition of victim and the specifics as to what makes up the components of an act of domestic abuse (Kruger & Valltos, 2002). In the definition of domestic abuse, the nature of the relationship between the offender and the victim is important. In order to be classified as “domestic” abuse, the abuser must inflict his or her abuse on a spouse, parent, child, or anyone in a similar relationship (Dalton, 1999). The abuse is generally physical, but it does not need to be physical in nature to be considered abuse. It can also be financial, emotional, or sexual (Kruger & Valltos, 2002). Most often, domestic abuse is seen between spouses or between men and women who have some type of sexual relationship. However, it is only part of a larger problem of abuse.
The Occurrence of Domestic Abuse
In order to determine whether an act falls into the category of domestic abuse, there are specific characteristics it needs to meet. The abuse must occur in a relationship that would be considered to be intimate. There is a perceived level of “safety” that is seen in that kind of relationship that does not belong to relationships with others in the community (Buel, 1999). Often, domestic abuse occurs behind closed doors, and no one but the abuser and the victim see or hear what is taking place. The abuser will certainly not report the crime, so it is left up to the victim to speak up and say that he or she is being abused and mistreated by someone close to him or her. Most often, though, the victim of the domestic abuse does nothing, and so the abuse just continues (Kruger & Valltos, 2002). Domestic abuse is a “learned behavior,” in that it is not genetic and is not actually caused by alcohol, stress, or any of the other standard excuses that are used. While these issues can increase the chances for domestic abuse, they are mitigating factors and not the true cause (Buel, 1999).
Domestic abuse has to be learned from someone or somewhere else, and the victim must accept it and allow it to continue to happen in order for it to become an ongoing pattern. Victims who stand up for themselves quickly and efficiently generally do not have problems with repeated domestic abuse, because they rapidly move away from the situation and anyone who is causing it. They are rarities, because most victims stay with their abusers and allow the abuse to continue. Sometimes, the abuse escalates to the point that the victim is killed, but this is not terribly common. When victims do not put a stop to domestic abuse, it becomes a way of life and “just how things are” in that family. The behavior recurs, and it often involves more than one type of abuse (Kruger & Valltos, 2002). Abusers rarely stop on their own. They need help to stop abusing their victims, and the victims also need help because they have work to do when it comes to understanding how they got to that point in their lives and what they can do in order to get back to a healthy way of living and healthy relationships where they are treated properly and not abused.
During the 1990s, the way that people perceived domestic abuse changed drastically. Before that time, the problem was mostly ignored, or it was considered to be a family matter that was private and that was not the business of the state or of law enforcement. Now everything has changed, and most states are very active when it comes to stopping the spread of domestic abuse. These states have worked to pass laws about what abusive behavior really is and what the consequences will be for those who engage in this kind of behavior (Buel, 1999). Unfortunately, not every U.S. state responded strongly to the public concerns that were being voiced over domestic abuse. Some states pretended that they were concerned, but they really did nothing to help domestic abuse victims. The Women’s Movement was instrumental in helping states get serious about domestic abuse. It is certainly true that men can be victims of domestic abuse and violence, but the victims of that crime were, and still are, predominately female (Hawkins & Humes, 2002).
That prompted the Women’s Movement to get involved, and national legislation was created in many countries in an effort to stop some of the domestic abuse that was so commonly seen. Even though domestic abuse was once a private, quiet problem that was kept within the family, it was transformed into a problem for the city, then the state, and then the nation. Domestic abuse continues, despite attempts to stop it from taking place. However, now that it is fully recognized as a crime and more people are speaking out against it, victims who might have hidden it before are coming forward to talk about the problem and to seek help for themselves and for their abusers. Some abusers agree to counseling, and they stop the cycle of domestic abuse. Others continue to offend, and they often end up in trouble with the law. Their victims go back to them in many cases, because they do not know anything different. With help and counseling, though, these victims can learn ways to stop the abuse, find good relationships, and move on with their lives.
Law Enforcement and Domestic Abuse
Because there are concerns about police officers committing acts of domestic abuse, law enforcement agencies carefully screen their officers. They are looking for psychological traits that are generally associated with people who would abuse others. Unfortunately, many of those traits are also the same traits that make people good police officers. That could be why there are so many police officers that abuse their families, or it is possible that there are other reasons for the abuse. One of the things that law enforcement officers want to do is to maintain control over the circumstances in which they find themselves, especially in situations where there is a lot of tension (Ptacek, 1999). They are also desirous of a position of power and authority, and they have the opportunity (and the means) to use various forms of control – including weapons – when they feel it is necessary and warranted. Abusers also have these same desires and do these same kinds of things, so it is possible to drawn correlations between domestic abusers and police officers in some ways. The difference between the two often lies in the ability to maintain control over their aggressive tendencies in a manner that is safe and effective for them and the people around them.
Officer candidates who are not able to do this are removed from law enforcement academies (Kruger & Valltos, 2002). Unfortunately, simply removing that person from the academy only stops him or her from becoming a police officer. It does not stop that person from being (or becoming) a domestic abuser or harming family members. Making people aware that domestic abuse can happen to anyone, even officers and their families, is one of the ways in which law enforcement is working to lower the number of domestic abuse cases that are seen each year in the United States and in other countries. There are many ways that this message is presented, including small posters and stickers that are placed on mirrors inside the women’s restrooms in public buildings (Ptacek, 1999). This is one of the ways in which social workers and law enforcement try to help these women come to terms with the fact that they are being abused and that they can get help even if they are frightened or if they are unsure where they should turn for help (Hawkins & Humes, 2002).
The problem with victims and their reasoning when they stay with their abusers is that they learn to see the behavior of their abuser as being something that they have done. They assume it is their fault, and they start looking for ways that they can change in order to please their abuser more easily. Of course, the problem is not with them. The problem is with the abuser and is not something that the victim can actually fix. Counseling can generally help the victim understand this, and can also help the abuser realize that he or she has a serious problem for which help and treatment is necessary. Some abusers reject counseling or any kind of therapeutic help, but those who really want to break the cycle are willing to get any kind of social services help offered to them in order to change the ways they look at the world and at their partner. Often, deeper issues with which the abuser is wrestling are behind the aggression and bad feelings that get directed into domestic abuse. Finding out what these issues are and addressing them head-on can sometimes be sufficient to stop the abuse. Other times, more work is needed in order for an abuser to be successful at treating his or her partner or other family members with love and respect.
The policies behind stopping domestic abuse apply to the community, and also to the officers who protect that community. Most law enforcement agencies have a “zero tolerance” policy for any kind of domestic abuse or other law-breaking issues within their agency, and officers who engage in domestic abuse can expect to be let go from their position. They can also be punished and there will be repercussions for their act of domestic abuse. In order to ensure that law enforcement officers are held accountable for their actions, domestic abuse policies should be clear, straightforward, and easy to understand, as that will avoid mistakes and “gray areas.” If there is too much complex language used, it can be become confusing and lead to loopholes that are best avoided. Spelling out the law in simple terms and stating what is and is not acceptable – and what will happen to those who engage in unacceptable behavior – is the best way to handle the issue (Kruger & Valltos, 2002). From both an individualistic and an institutional perspective, domestic abuse must be tackled by getting to the heart of the problem and conflict present within the abuser. Generally, that conflict stems from gender roles and the beliefs surrounding them.
Abuse and the Two-Sex Model
The two-sex model addresses the problem of conflict about gender roles and beliefs very well. This model states that the two genders are highly different from one another, and the lines that divide them are strong. Men, for example, used the simple fact that they were part of the male gender in order to show that they were stronger than, better than, and superior to females (Laqueur, 1999). Men often internalize this belief, and they start using that as one of the excuses they create to justify domination of their partner. After all, if they are better and stronger, and if they are superior, then they really should be in charge – and the female, who is weaker, less than, and inferior, should simply do what she is being told by someone who is better than her on account of gender. Of course, this is not really how the world works, and being male does not make a person superior. Before this model however, the differences in gender were more fluid. People who were male but had many female traits, behaviors, and characteristics were accepted as-is without any problem (Laqueur, 1999). The reverse was also true, as women with many male traits were accepted. Once the two-sex model was created, women were seen as inferior in basically every way (Laqueur, 1999).
Since the model was created, the opinion of many men has been that they are superior to women, despite the great strides that have been made in areas such as women’s liberation. There is a much higher degree of gender equality than what was seen in the past, but the superiority complex of many men remains strong. Some men (but certainly not all of them) show this perceived superiority through the control of abuse. This is done in an effort not only to control her but to complete dominate her and turn her into what the man wants and “expects” her to be (Laqueur, 1999). Because women are often given inferiority messages through the media, there are quite a number of them who believe that they really are inferior, and that men are simply better than them in just about every way. There may be some things they can do well, but they still look for male approval whether it be from husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers, or other role models (Wolfe, 2006). When women are told that they are inferior for long enough, they internalize that message and begin to believe that the man is right in showing them that they are not as good as he is.
That internalization of the wrong message about their value to men, society, and themselves can lead them to give up on being all that they are capable of being (Thompson, 1995; Vostanis, et al., 2001). They often lack the desire and the willpower to leave the man and do something more with their life, because they believe that the way they are being treated is what they can and should expect, all that they deserve, and what they should have in their life. It is not easy to break that pattern, especially for women who do not known any different and/or who do not realize that they do not deserve that kind of treatment and that there are men available to them who will not treat them in a way that is abusive (Wilke & Vinton, 2003). If these women do not realize that the pattern they are in is not the right one for their life, they may remain in it virtually forever. Often, this is why they stay with abusers – they do not realize that they deserve more, and they do not believe that a better life could apply to them if they were willing to leave their abuser.
Domestic Abuse and the Court System
Many people suffer when domestic abuse occurs. Obviously, the victim is in pain – either emotional, physical, or both – but he or she is not the only one. The abuser often feels bad about what he or she has done (Nussbaum, 2005). Usually, the abuser will insist that he or she will never abuse the victim again. There are many apologies, and things often improve for a while. Ultimately, though, the abuser will generally be abusive again. Very few people who engage in a domestic abuse incident “learn their lesson” and never do anything like that to anyone ever again. Each time they harm the victim, they swear they will never do it again. They may show remorseful behavior, and there may be an attempt to “make it right,” but the abuse will continue – and often escalate – in the vast majority of cases. The victim will stay, however, for the reasons that have already been mentioned. Some victims do decide to leave, either after the first incident or after a period of time, and it is important that they know where they should go, who to contact, and what they should do.
There are places where victims of domestic abuse can go, and they will be protected by the law. One of the most important laws for these abuse victims are the Evidence Codes. These are valuable because they explain to the courts what will and will not be allowed to be addressed and discussed at trial. Of very special significance to any domestic abuse victim is evidence code 1109. This states, in short, that evidence of other domestic abuse activities is not inadmissible, so that evidence can be used in court (FindLaw, 2002). In order to really understand how valuable that is, and why it is so important in cases of domestic abuse, it is important to clarify how it works in conjunction with other areas of the evidence code, because the tie-in between that section and others is significant.
Sections 1100-1109 relate to a person’s character traits. In section 1101, it is made clear that it is not acceptable to provide evidence of the character of a person, but that there are categories in which exceptions can be made. Section 1109 is among the available exceptions, and the rest of 1101 explains that evidence pertaining to a similar crime in the past is admissible. It shows character traits, and it also shows motive. In rape cases, it can help determine whether the woman consented and whether the rape actually occurred, or whether the woman actually agreed to the act at the time and tried to get the man into trouble at a later date. The evidence that is offered as to the credibility of a witness is not affected by that particular section of the evidence code. The information offered in section 1101 would not make it possible to get any prior convictions brought up at trial in a case of domestic abuse if it were not for an exception in 1109. Because of that, a large number of repeat offenders would simply slip right through the cracks in the justice system.
It is clear by the wording that is seen in the evidence code that domestic abuse is an exception to the rule regarding the inadmissibility of prior convictions that relate to the same or a similar crime. That shows the value of this evidence and the importance of it for establishing a behavior pattern that is seen when a person has a history of committing domestic abuse. Section 1101 was originally designed as a way to keep prior convictions out of being presented as evidence during a trial. That was most likely done because prior convictions could make a jury feel prejudice toward the person who was accused of the crime. If there was prejudice toward the defendant, he or she would not get a fair trial. Having the exception, though, indicates that domestic abuse is seen as being so significant that past convictions are being allowed as evidence. If a person has character traits that commonly equate to violence against a domestic partner or other family member, and this can be shown through repeated convictions for a similar crime (or the same crime), that is important enough for the jury to know that it will be allowed to be presented as evidence at trial.
Some people will certainly argue that this is prejudice, but domestic abuse victims may not agree with that sentiment. The jury needs to know whether a domestic abuser is a “repeat offender” in order to make a clear determination of whether that person made a mistake brought on by anger and other factors, or whether the person has a character trait that would necessitate remaining behind bars for some time. Not all domestic abusers reoffend, so it is important to be aware of those who do. The best way to keep a victim safe is to keep the abuser in jail for as long as possible. Victims can get restraining orders, but they are ultimately just pieces of paper – and most domestic abusers do not care about a restraining order if they really want to hurt their victim (Nussbaum, 2005). The police are not able to be everywhere at all times, which could lead to a lack of protection for the victim if the abuser does not remain in jail. Exceptions in the evidence code give a good indication of just how far the U.S. has come when looking at the problem of domestic abuse and making an attempt to do something about the damage these abusers cause.
It was not long ago that the “family problem” of domestic abuse was largely ignored, but it is now seen as being much more serious and courts now try to protect victims of domestic abuse instead of seeing the problem as something that belonged behind closed doors and was not a matter for law enforcement. Helping victims and bringing their problems to light (and their abusers to justice) is the only way that this kind of abuse can be stopped. In order to understand why this is so important, one has to look at the domestic abuse laws. In 1965, the first shelter for battered women opened its doors, but there were still few laws on the books to help women in that situation (Fighting, 2001). The shelter allowed victims of abuse to go somewhere that was guarded and safe, instead of just going to stay with relatives. In 1985, a mandatory jail time of 48 hours was created for anyone who violated a restraining order (Fighting, 2001). Up until that time, a violator could be back out of jail in just a couple of hours – and he (or she) was usually just more angry because of the arrest. The 48-hour stay gave a cooling-off period for the abuser and a chance to run, change locks, change a phone number, or take other safety precautions for the victim.
The nineties brought about more changes, and stopped anyone with a restraining order from buying a gun (Fighting, 2001). This was the beginning of a real concern about people who abused their partner or their family. From that point forward, the laws and regulations that helped those who were abused domestically grew quickly. There were more shelters, more laws, and more social workers who were trained in what to look for and how to help (Fighting, 2001). Since domestic abuse was taking place so frequently, people were realizing the magnitude of the problem, and that it was not just about a little slap here and there for doing something wrong. It had moved well beyond the realm of “correction” or an errant wife or child, and had moved fully into the category of serious abuse that could have life-altering consequences for everyone involved in the situation.
The idea of domestic abuse is not a new one. Paleontologists have found higher rates of fractures in women than they found in men and hypothesized that those fractures were caused by domestic abuse (Ellis, 1999). For hundreds of years, that kind of violence had just been a part of society. Every year, 25,000 people die from domestic abuse and over 2 million are injured seriously be someone who “loves” them. In the United States, between 20 and 50% of women who come to the ER needing emergency treatment need that treatment because they have been the victim of domestic abuse. That means that a domestic abuse incident is occurring every seven to 15 seconds, which is a statistic that is completely overwhelming. Most of the incidents go unreported, because the women either think that they do not deserve any better or they are embarrassed to admit that they are being abused. They hide their injuries as well as they can and just keep existing and trying to pretend like everything is all right, even when people question them.
Emergency room workers may suspect abuse in some cases, but they generally do not ask women if they are being abused. They also usually do not offer to get these women any kind of help unless the woman clearly states that she is being abused and asks for help from the emergency room staff. There are other barriers to these women getting help for domestic abuse, as well. For example, they may feel as though their problems are overlooked, or that they are not really being taken seriously by any medical professionals that they see for their injuries. That can further enforce the mentality that they “deserve it,” and keep them from getting the assistance that they need. In some cases, they even feel as though the ER staff were so unconcerned about their abuse that they humiliated them. Naturally, that can make a woman even more determined to keep silent about the abuse. She may believe that it is clearly her fault and that she really does deserve it, because she appears to be the only one upset about it and the only one who is taking it seriously. Abused men can have this same problem, because many people do not believe that a man could be the victim of domestic abuse – but yet it happens more often than most people realize.
When people are being abused, they may also have non-specific symptoms that can be hard to diagnose. For example, many victims of domestic abuse present with headaches, depression, anxiety, and other kinds of problems that can be symptoms of many different types of problems. Doctors are not always willing to ask the types of questions that they should be asking, and they may also not think to ask about domestic abuse when they see a new patient who has non-specific symptoms. Despite this lack of care, however, domestic abuse is a serious threat to the health and safety of the victims. More people should be screened for it when they come into the ER, but when nurses are asked about the issue they cite both a lack of privacy and a lack of time as reasons for not talking about the issue. Nearly 60% of the nurses in Ellis’ (1999) study, for example, had some experience with domestic abuse, so studying whether that created an additional barrier to questioning would be valuable. It would also be important to educate both men and women as to the true causes of domestic abuse, so that more people take it seriously, speak up when it happens to them, and get the help that they need to either get free of an abuser or stop the cycle of abuse so that they can have a good, healthy relationship with their family and/or their partner. The future of the issue really depends on the education provided to victims and abusers today.
Buel, S.M. (1999). Family violence — Fifty obstacles to leaving. The Colorado Lawyer, 28(10).
Dalton, C. (1999). When paradigms collide: Protecting battered parents and their children in the family court system. 37 Family and Conciliation Courts Rev. 273.
Ellis, J.M. (1999). Barriers to Effective Screening for Domestic Violence by Registered Nurses in the Emergency Department. Critical Care Nursing Quarterly, 22(1): 27.
Fighting Domestic Violence. (2001). Office of the Attorney General. State of California. Department of Justice.
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Hardesty, J.L. (2002). Separation assault in the context of postdivorce parenting: An integrative review of the literature. Violence Against Women, 8(5): 597-625.
Hawkins, D., & Humes, M. Human Rights and Domestic Violence. Political Science Quarterly, 117(2): 231-258.
Kruger, K., & Valltos, N. (2002). Dealing with Domestic Violence in Law Enforcement Relationships. The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 17(7): 1-7.
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Vostanis, P., Tischler, V., Cumella, S., & Bellerby, T. (2001). Mental health problems and social supports among homeless mothers and children victims of domestic and community violence. The International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 47(4), 30-40.
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That’s why we have developed 5 beneficial guarantees that will make your experience with our service enjoyable, easy, and safe.
You have to be 100% sure of the quality of your product to give a money-back guarantee. This describes us perfectly. Make sure that this guarantee is totally transparent.Read more
Each paper is composed from scratch, according to your instructions. It is then checked by our plagiarism-detection software. There is no gap where plagiarism could squeeze in.Read more
Thanks to our free revisions, there is no way for you to be unsatisfied. We will work on your paper until you are completely happy with the result.Read more
Your email is safe, as we store it according to international data protection rules. Your bank details are secure, as we use only reliable payment systems.Read more
By sending us your money, you buy the service we provide. Check out our terms and conditions if you prefer business talks to be laid out in official language.Read more