¶ … Domestic abuse [...] abuse directed toward women, and what can be done to help control this abuse. Domestic abuse is one of the most pervasive problems facing our society today. Often, the abuse is kept secret because of fear or threats from abusive partners. To understand domestic abuse, many studies have been conducted, but one thing remains clear. Domestic abuse is prevalent in all levels of society, and it must be controlled for our society to truly be successful and modern. However, many different forms of abuse exist, and many abuses utilize intricate forms of mental abuse, sometimes combined with physical abuse, and sometimes by itself. Psychological abuse is even more difficult to discover than physical abuse, because there are no wounds on the outside to show, only wounds on the inside. One psychologist defined psychological abuse as "characterized by exploitative or excessive expressions of power and dominance that demean, belittle, undermine, control, define, and criticize an individual in order to create submission" (Chang, 1996, pg. 12). A psychologically abused woman said of her abusive husband, "I think I could be the wife he wants, but when I try to do that I lose so much of me that I become depressed. If I try to get him to understand my side, he says that I am being selfish and then leaves. It doesn't matter what I do, I end up depressed. (40-year-old teacher)" (Chang, 1996, pg. 1). Psychological abuse can also be more difficult to leave, because the abused women often do not recognize, or refuse to recognize the mental abuse, and feel the relationship problems all lie with them. Psychological abuse can last for decades, but more women are able to leave psychological abusers, because they do not threaten violence as violent abusers do, and often women realize they are suffering from abuse, and gather the courage to leave the relationship.
It is estimated that domestic abuse affects at least 2 million married Americans every year. The number rises further when adding in non-married and gay couples (Hamberger and Renzetti, 1996, pg. xi). Clearly, the problem of domestic abuse is widespread, even out of control in America today. While domestic abuse happens in both sexes, it seems to affect women more than it does men. Women are often dominated so effectively by their partners that they will not speak out about the abuse because they are fearful of more violence. Some men even threaten their partners with death if they discuss the violence at home. Some women are held virtual prisoners in their own homes by their abusive mates. What causes domestic abuse, and how can it be controlled in our country?
Just like most violent criminals, domestic abusers have some patterns of behavior in common. Many researchers have found that majorities of abusers have psychological disorders. They write, "The most frequently reported are the borderline, antisocial, and compulsive personality disorders and [ ... ] the violence-prone personality" (Hamberger & Renzetti, 1996, pg. xii-xiii). In addition, it is common for abusers to come from abusive homes; they simply repeat the violent patterns they learned as children. In addition, one self-proclaimed abuser notes, abusers tend to have low self-esteem, volatile tempers, are exceptionally possessive and/or jealous, have a need to have power over others, feelings of isolation and a need to be "fixed" or taken care of, a history of cruelty or violence, and fear of abandonment, which may often stem from childhood abuse (H., Will). However, not all abusers have psychological problems, and other experts argue that abusers are as much a product of society as they are their own personality disorders (Hamberger & Renzetti, 1996, pg. xiii). Thus, male abusers come from a variety of backgrounds, and some choose to continue aggressive behaviors learned in childhood, while others do not. Male abusers do tend to subordinate and exercise excessive control over their partners in an effort to dominate every aspect of their lives. Researchers have also discovered that men and women are intrinsically unlike in aggressive situations, and in developing aggressive tendencies. Men tend to have more aggressive tendencies than women do, and these tendencies can lead to aggressive and violent behavior throughout their lives. Certainly, biological differences are important in these tendencies, as this researcher states,
Since the biological anatomies of the two sexes differ, both the nature and the resolution of the developmental conflicts they undergo are hypothesized to differ. These differences produce more aggression, competition, guilt, and outer-directedness in males; and more passivity, shame, inner-directedness, jealousy, and masochism in females (Brody, 1985, p. 21).
Thus, females tend to be victims of more abusive behavior than men are, and men tend to be more aggressive and dominant. These researchers continue, "The reality of domination at the societal level is the most crucial factor contributing to, and maintaining, wife abuse at the individual level" (Hamberger & Renzetti, 1996, p. 127). In addition, men contain a gene that is hyperaggressive, so this violent aggression is known as a part of every man. Researchers note, "A Dutch team even identified a gene for hyperaggression in men. But even normal men are born killers" (Ghiglieri, 2000, p. 30). Males tend to dominate and subjugate their partners more, and more effectively, and this is one of the main societal factors that leads to the continuation of abuse. Our society indeed encourages these male dominant behaviors in a wide variety of ways, from violent football games seen as "harmless" Sunday afternoon entertainment, to the prevalence of male-dominated violent video games that perpetuate the male domination myth. Men grow up in a male dominated society, and many are taught it is acceptable to exert their power over those weaker than they are, from animals in the forest to women at home cooking dinner.
People tend to believe that domestic abuse occurs only in lower income households by men with less education. This is often the case, however, many researchers note,
While domestic abuse occurs at a higher rate in African-American communities, the problem is not race; the problem, authorities say, is poverty, despair, unemployment, and racism. Most of the reported abuse cases happen in poor and crime-ridden neighborhoods where couples or families in crisis have little or no access to counseling or remedies (Davis, 2003, pg. 150).
However, domestic abuse can occur at any level of society, and as research and studies continue, more "upper-class" cases of abuse are discovered every day. One upscale woman stated, "No, I'm not a battered wife,' she said resolutely. This even though her husband, in addition to the emotional abuse, had at various times in their twelve-year marriage smacked her face, choked her, and backhanded her across a room. 'What happened to me, it doesn't have a name'" (Weitzman, 2000, pg. 18). However, domestic abuse is abuse, no matter where it occurs, and findings indicate that it is occurring more commonly in households of every description. In upscale households (those with more than $100,000 in income), domestic abuse is much more common than previously thought. In fact, while abuse still occurs more in lower income homes, especially where the man has less education that the woman, and unemployment or poverty is a key issue, more and more abuse is being discovered in middle- and upper- income homes. This problem is more widespread than previously thought, and more women are suffering at the hands of partners. While researchers may never know all the reasons men abuse women, and women do not report the abuse, more studies continue to uncover abuse and violence in all areas of American life. Women must learn to recognize abuse, and be encouraged to report it when it happens, before it can become even worse, or turn deadly.
Many women do not report domestic abuse, or ask for help or treatment, so the numbers of abuse cases in America could actually be much higher. Unfortunately, as recently as 1992, only 14.6% of wives who were seriously assaulted actually called the police (Buzawa 113). In addition, only ten years ago in 1994, the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics did not even contain the term "domestic violence" in its' over 700 pages of assessment and data (Davis, 1998, pg. 1). Sadly, this problem is still often seen as a "family" problem and swept under the rug. Even worse, women often do not receive vital treatment for their injuries from abuse. Reports conclude it is, "estimated that no matter how extreme the violence was, 50% of abused women still did not receive the medical and psychological help that they needed" (Roberts 159). Women are often too afraid to contact authorities because of threats from their partners. Men threaten to kill them, or worse, kill their children. In addition, many women simply do not know that there are safe houses and other places where they can go to get away from…
However, many different forms of abuse exist, and many abuses utilize intricate forms of mental abuse, sometimes combined with physical abuse, and sometimes by itself. Psychological abuse is even more difficult to discover than physical abuse, because there are no wounds on the outside to show, only wounds on the inside. One psychologist defined psychological abuse as "characterized by exploitative or excessive expressions of power and dominance that demean, belittle, undermine, control, define, and criticize an individual in order to create submission" (Chang, 1996, pg. 12). A psychologically abused woman said of her abusive husband, "I think I could be the wife he wants, but when I try to do that I lose so much of me that I become depressed. If I try to get him to understand my side, he says that I am being selfish and then leaves. It doesn't matter what I do, I end up depressed. (40-year-old teacher)" (Chang, 1996, pg. 1). Psychological abuse can also be more difficult to leave, because the abused women often do not recognize, or refuse to recognize the mental abuse, and feel the relationship problems all lie with them. Psychological abuse can last for decades, but more women are able to leave psychological abusers, because they do not threaten violence as violent abusers do, and often women realize they are suffering from abuse, and gather the courage to leave the relationship.
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