Domestic Violence Is Domestic Violence a Learned Essay

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Domestic Violence

Is Domestic Violence a Learned Behavior?

Unfortunately, domestic violence is a learned behavior. There are many forms of domestic violence and/or abuse: Physical, Sexual, Ritualistic, Verbal, Emotional, Religious, Silent, Elder, Economic, Using Children, Threats, Intimidation, Sibling, Cultural, Isolation, Personal, Institutional, and Witness Abuse, etc.… However, they all have the same common denominator: the perpetrator's desire to gain and maintain POWER and CONTROL in the relationship (Laws 2011). Domestic violence or abuse is a pattern of controlling behaviors that are purposeful, and directed at achieving compliance from and over a victim without regard for his or her rights. These behaviors can be perpetrated by adults or adolescents against their intimate partner or significant other in current or former dating, married or cohabiting relationships. Domestic violence is a combination of physical force or terror designed to cause physical, psychological, social, religious, economic, mental, and emotional harm to victims. Characteristics of domestic violence may include selective behavior, permissible behavior, cyclic behavior, and learned behavior (Laws, 2011). Hence, society attributes domestic violence with learned behavior, which warrants further evaluation.

Rationale for Abuse

Many women are abused by intimate partners, millions of children witness such acts, and many of these children are physically abused. Children who are exposed to violence often evidence difficulties, including violent behavior, as adults. One hypothesized mode of intergenerational transmission is modeling. There is evidence that witnessing and/or experiencing violence are related to different patterns of abusive behavior and, perhaps, psychopathology, but the extent of the relationship is unclear. Generality, frequency, and severity of violence and psychopathology all increased as level of childhood exposure to violence increased. Modeling theory was supported by the findings that men who witnessed domestic violence as children committed the most frequent domestic violence, and men who were abused as children were more likely to abuse children. Men who were abused also committed more general violence.

Because of its hidden nature, domestic violence almost always takes place behind closed doors and reliable numbers are elusive, but it is estimated that well over four million women are subjected to some form of battering every year. The number is probably much higher because fear prevents many from reporting incidents of abuse to the authorities. There are other disincentives as well. For example, a woman may be reluctant to flee from her batterer because it could mean separation from her children. Economic disincentives also exist. Particularly among those with little education or work-related skills, the fear of being unable to support herself may prevent a woman from seeking help. The more that silence is broken, whether by church or secular groups, the greater the chance of altering this deadly form of learned behavior in future generations.

Public Perceptions

Domestic violence has long been considered a private matter that should not become a public concern. Klein et al. (1997) purports that "one of the great achievements of feminism was to define wife beating as a social problem, not merely a phenomenon of particular violent individuals or relationships" (p. 1). Because of this change in perspective, domestic violence became a public political and ideological issue rather than a private form of "family violence" and an example of a family systems process. The basic tenet of the advertising campaign was that domestic violence is a learned behavior and therefore can be unlearned, and that domestic violence can be decreased by using the public health model of public awareness and education (Klein et al. 1997).

Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2011) states domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that includes the use or threat of violence and intimidation for gaining power and control over another person. Violence is characterized by: Physical Abuse, Economic Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Isolation, and Control. The battering of women by men continues to be a significant social problem -- men commit 86 to 97% of all criminal assaults and women are killed 3.5 times more often than men in domestic homicides (AzCADV 2011). It is a REAL problem that affects REAL people!

According to Census 2000, approximately 281.4 million people were counted in the United States -- 143.4 million were female (50.9%) and 138.1 million (49.1%) were male. Females represented 50.9% of the total U.S. population. In comparison to Census 2010 population, approximately 308 million people were counted in the United States - 157.0 million were female (50.8%) and 151.8 million were male (49.2%). In comparison to the Census 2000, women still account for over 50% of the U.S. population and account for about 85% of reported cases of domestic violence. Alarmingly, approximately half (51.2%) of the women are raped by an intimate partner and two-thirds (65.5%) of the women physically assaulted by an intimate partner said they were victimized multiple times by the same partner (NACDV 2012). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that up to 25% of U.S. women have been or will be victims of domestic violence, which can result in immediate injury and/or chronic health problems. Since 157 million women exist in the U.S., then this would represent approximately 39.3 million women who may be victims of domestic violence! Women of all socio-economic groups experience abuse. However, women in poverty face particular hardships and challenges when they try to leave abusive relationships because they lack the resources they need to support themselves and their children (NACDV 2011). Breaking the cycle of domestic violence requires intervention efforts, which includes access to employment assistance, social services assistance support, legal & court resources, emotional/mental/physical healing. Oftentimes, victims live in a perpetual state of abuse, thus becoming victims of circumstances. Goal is to empower the victims to make informed decisions, to become employed, and to learn new skills, which will help build self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-confidence needed to break the perpetual destructive cycle.


There are many community organizations, which work to prevent domestic violence by offering safe shelter, crisis intervention, advocacy, and education and prevention programs. Community screening for domestic violence can be more systematic in cases of animal abuse, healthcare settings, emergency departments, behavioral health settings, and court systems.

In 1981, the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project became the first multi-disciplinary program designed to address the issue of domestic violence. This experiment, conducted in Duluth, Minnesota, frequently referred to as the "Duluth Project" because it is constantly evolving through the help of an entire community (DAIP 2011). It coordinated agencies dealing with domestic situations, drawing together diverse elements of the system, from police officers on the street, to shelters for battered women and probation officers supervising offenders. This program has become a model for other jurisdictions seeking to deal more effectively with domestic violence. Corrections/probation agencies in many areas are supervising domestic violence offenders more closely, and are paying closer attention to the victim's needs and safety issues. There has been controversy as the Duluth framework depends on a strict "patriarchal violence" model and presumes that all violence in the home and elsewhere has a male perpetrator and female victim. Additionally, evidence of success of the model is limited, with scholarly analysis and critique.

The main goal for treatment for offenders of domestic violence is to minimize the offender's risk of future domestic violence, whether within the same relationship or a new one. Treatment for offenders should emphasize minimizing risk to the victim, and should be modified depending on the offender's history, risk of reoffending, etc. The majority of offender treatment programs are 24 -- 36 weeks in length, which are conducted in a group setting with groups not exceeding 12 participants. Groups are also standardized to be gender specific (male offenders only or female offenders only). It has been demonstrated that domestic violence offenders maintain a socially acceptable facade to hide abusive behavior, and therefore accountability is the recommended focus of offender treatment programs. Successful completion of treatment…[continue]

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