Domestic Violence Prevention

Domestic violence prevention constitutes the various means by which societies, governments and individuals attempt to forestall violence in the home. Domestic violence is a global problem that affects every sector of society, regardless of financial health, social status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or religion. Domestic violence may consist of psychological, emotional, sexual or physical aspects.

Each year in the United States, more than 1.3 million women and 800,000 men are victims of domestic violence. However, these numbers fail to reflect individuals too frightened to report their attackers. It is believed that the actual number of victims is far higher.

Preventing domestic violence is tricky, since by the time anyone has an inkling that things are not right, an incident has already occurred. In fact, victims often wait until long after the event to report an incident of domestic violence. Research has also shown that victims are likely to encounter emergency room personnel, social workers or health care professionals who have little knowledge of domestic violence. These professionals may even express negative attitudes toward the victims, deeming them weak or at fault.

Any effort toward preventing domestic violence must begin with educating professionals who represent the likely first point of contact for many victims of domestic violence. Better yet, professionals should be trained to spot signs of abuse or potential abuse in their patients who may be afraid or reluctant to discuss domestic abuse. These steps may not prevent abuse before it happens but can prevent it from happening in the future.

Domestic violence has been called many things: spousal abuse, interpersonal violence, intimate partner violence and family violence, among others. However, the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) in 2008 crafted a definition of domestic violence that lends legitimacy to this term: "Domestic violence constitutes the willful intimidation, assault, battery, sexual assault or other abusive behavior perpetrated by one family member, household member, or intimate partner against another." When defined in this manner, the term includes all others.

In 1979, Lenore Walker in The Battered Woman identified a Cycle of Violence (COV). This cycle shows how domestic violence tends to repeat within one relationship. In the COV, there is the phase in which tension builds, followed by an acute battering incident that is resolved by what Walker calls the "honeymoon phase." During the first part of the cycle, tension builds between the partners, and some form of abuse may be present at this point, either emotional, physical or verbal. A crescendo will be reached, followed by an acute battering incident. After the incident, the couple come to the realization that things have gone past acceptable limits. They apologize to each other and promise that there will be no recurrence of the battering incident.

The victim forgives the attacker, drawn in by the apparent sincerity of the apology, and all is well for a time. The honeymoon phase always fades, and the cycle begins anew. The COV should illustrate to professionals why victims return to their abusive partners, despite the history and the dangers inherent in the relationship.

In addition to health care professionals and social workers, sometimes policemen are called in to settle violent altercations -- the aforementioned acute incidents of battering. Policemen may fear answering these calls since they pose a personal danger. This fear is understandable; however, sensitivity training for law enforcement officials may make a difference in the outcome of such incidents.

On the other hand, victims often prefer not to call for help. For one thing, a victim may fear filing charges against a family member. Also, victims have reported unpleasant experiences with law enforcement. Policemen may upbraid victims for not pressing charges or ask why victims stay with their abusers. Victims express that law enforcement officers often treat them as though they are to blame or as though they deserved their abuse.

According to recent statistics, half of all women murdered in America are killed by their [male] partners. Three-quarters of all assaults take place within the family. A full 30 percent of women admitted to hospital emergency rooms are there because of family violence. The total number of injuries linked to violence against women in their own homes is higher than those from car accidents, muggings and rape combined.

Now that the issue of domestic violence is receiving greater recognition, cities and municipalities have begun to offer various training courses, workshops and other services to teach law enforcement personnel about domestic violence. These courses, however brief, are a welcome effort in the battle against domestic violence. Preparedness by those who serve as the first point of contact for victims of domestic violence may end up saving lives.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Dangerous Relationships: How to Stop Domestic Violence before It Stops You
Noelle Nelson.
Insight Books, 1997
Violence within the Family: Social Psychological Perspectives
Sharon D. Herzberger.
Westview Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "The Prevention and Treatment of Family Violence"
Violence and the Prevention of Violence
Leonore Loeb Adler; Florence L. Denmark.
Praeger, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Domestic Violence and Its Prevention" and Chap. 13 "Prevention of Family Violence for the Female Alcoholic"
Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family
Murray A. Straus; Richard J. Gelles; Suzanne K. Steinmetz.
Anchor Books, 1981
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Toward Reducing Family Violence: Band-Aids, Ambulances, and Solutions"
Domestic Violence: The Changing Criminal Justice
Carl G. Buzawa; Eve S. Buzawa.
Auburn House, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Arrest and the Reduction of Repeat Wife Assault" and Chap. 10 "The Preventive Impacts of Policies for Prosecuting Wife Batterers"
Intervening with Assaulted Women: Current Theory, Research, and Practice
Barbara Pressman; Gary Cameron; Michael Rothery.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "What We Know about Preventing Wife Assault"
Treating the Abusive Partner: An Individualized Cognitive-Behavioral Approach
Christopher M. Murphy; Christopher I. Eckhardt.
Guilford Press, 2005
Is Anyone Listening? Accountability and Women Survivors of Domestic Violence
Gill Hague; Rosemary Aris; Audrey Mullender.
Routledge, 2003
Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence
Philip W. Cook.
Praeger, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Exploring New Approaches to Reducing Domestic Violence"
Working Together to Stop Domestic Violence: State-Community Partnerships and the Changing Meaning of Public and Private
Kelly, Kristin A.
Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, Vol. 31, No. 1, March 2004
Domestic Violence: Facts and Fallacies
Richard L. Davis.
Praeger, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "A Domestic Violence Prototype: Teaching, Enforcement, and Mediation"
Handbook of Domestic Violence Intervention Strategies: Policies, Programs, and Legal Remedies
Albert R. Roberts.
Oxford University Press, 2002
The Paradox of Hope: The Crime and Punishment of Domestic Violence
Hanna, Cheryl.
William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 5, May 1998
Procedural Justice: Tempering the State's Response to Domestic Violence
Epstein, Deborah.
William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 43, No. 5, April 2002
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