Domestic violence has grown into a significant public health issue over the past decade. According to Browne (2003), 21-34% women reported being physically abused by an intimate partner during adulthood. Thomas (1993) have also documented evidence that 16% of women were abused by their husbands over the year with an overall prevalence rate of 28%. Peluso (2007) buttresses this point by documenting evidence that the prevalence rates among dating couples is even higher, ranging as it does from 9-66%, with an average of over 30% during the same time. According to the Center for Disease Controls and Prevention [CDC] (2008) approximately 1.5 million women are raped or physically abused by an intimate partner each year.
This becomes more poignant when it’s borne in mind that most of these abuses take place during pregnancy. According to CDC (2008), Pregnancy is a high risk time for domestic violence directed against women by their intimate partners with a lot of empirical evidence documenting that between 15-20% of women seek prenatal care as a result of experiencing physical abuse. Research indicates that a pregnant woman has a 35.6% greater risk of being a victim of violence than a non pregnant woman (Browne, 2003). Such grim reports indicate the extent to which Domestic violence has permeated itself to become a social family problem.
Causes of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a conflict which takes place at home. It is a conflict that is done by one member of the family against other. It may be done by the father towards the mother and children. It may be perpetuated by the mother against the father and children. Sometimes, children become violent towards their parents. Domestic violence may arise as a result of social causes and emotional causes (Anderson, 1997). Domestic violence is a serious problem that might be caused by one or more of the following causes: social causes, emotional causes, poverty and media. To curb this problem, it calls for individuals, the community and the government to rise to the occasion and cooperatively work together and effectively address the causes.
There are many social causes that lead to domestic violence. These social causes are problems in a relationships and personal reasons. There are several causes of domestic violence, the common ones being the social causes. Some of the social causes include relationship problems brought about by lack of communication where members of the family keep to themselves their fears, wishes, hopes and ambitions (Peluso, 2007). In some families, the parents are too busy in their jobs, so it is difficult for them to make time for their family members. For this reason, problems arise as far as the task of creating social bonds is concerned. In most cases, it is parents who fail to give their children the attention they need in order to provide them with guidance. At other times, it is one of the parents who fail to nurture a serious love relationship with her spouse in order for their relationship to be strong. In this situation, one of the parents can easily feel out of contact with the family, causing dissent, conflict and violence. According to Gaultiere, domestic violence may also arise from lack of trust and misunderstanding.
A family is the most basic organizational unit. The husband and wife have to live in harmony. These two people cannot live in harmony without a build-up of trust between them. Each partner should always be sure that the other person is trustworthy and loyal. The husband and wife should trust each other and try as much as possible to make most of the key decisions together and extend this trust to the children as well. But, this sometimes does not happen, leading to conflicts. Sometimes, children also cause conflicts when they feel that their parents no longer trust their abilities and aspirations. If their needs are not taken care of, they may think that their parents do not trust their abilities, although this may not be the case. Some parents direct their trust to some children and they deny it to others because of perceived weaknesses and strengths. In this way, they put these children against each other, it is a situation that leads to a conflict that continues for very long times.
Misunderstandings are another social problem that appears through problems in a relationship. Sometimes, the actions of one family member are misunderstood by the other family members. For example, all family members may not understand why the father has decided to spend all the previous years’ saving to pay for his advanced education while the children have been sent home from school for lack of school fees. Although the father may mean a good thing for the family by taking this action, no one may realize this because there is a misunderstanding of his actions. When misunderstandings occur, it is easy for every person in the family to blame the person next to him, especially if this misunderstanding has caused a blunder or damaged the reputation of the family in front of other people (Peluso, 2007).
Misunderstandings may lead to a lack of trust, something that leads to serious problems in relationships (Peluso, 2007). A family needs clarification all the time in order to avoid misunderstandings from occurring. The most serious cause of domestic violence that may even lead to divorce is infidelity, where a spouse becomes unfaithful to the other (Peluso, 2007). A spouse may decide to cheat on the other who is not around or is looking another way. When this spouse finds the spouse committing adultery, domestic violence often arises. Domestic violence may continue until the behavior of infidelity comes to an end (Peluso, 2007). In the worst cases, it continues after the spouse has stopped engaging in unfaithful behavior. This is because the other spouse may not have completely forgiven the offense that hurts his feelings. In most cases, such a cause of domestic violence is very serious and someone else may need to interrupt. The worst scenario is violence that ends up with divorce or death.
Another cause of domestic violence is personal reasons whereby one member of the family becomes the aggressor of the others. This aggression may result from one member of the family or it may involve a situation of all against all. In such a case, the problem proves to be difficult to solve and members may consequently hurt each other psychologically, emotionally and physically. Personal aggression may be caused by mental or physical illnesses and the only solution to this is therapeutic attention (Peluso, 2007). Physical or mental illness is a common cause of personal aggression in the family. The remedy for this problem is medical attention.
Some of the mental conditions that lead to aggression in the family include schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. Family members may not realize that a mental condition is feeding the violence until it is too late. Carlson (1984) observes that people who use alcohol or drugs are also a cause of domestic violence in their families. This is a personal problem that can be remedied simply by change of behavior. Unfortunately, it is never as simple as that. Alcohol and drugs are not only highly addictive; but they also take away a huge amount of a family’s resources. For example one family member may drain all the family’s resources by buying drugs, which can lead to domestic violence. An individual who has been exposed to domestic violence all his life may expose the same behavior towards his family. This is because that individual has been conditioned to a life of violence since his childhood. For such a person, it is difficult to understand that there may be another form of life than one that is characterized by violence. In this case, violence may reign as long as the family exists.
Klein (2008) notes that domestic violence can also take place when a family member is under emotional stress and transfer intentionally or unintentionally this stress to his family members. Emotional causes may be due to various reasons such as anger, stress, and jealousy. It is very normal thing for one to be angry; however, different people act in different ways when they are angry in that some people fight with family members while others stay away from them (Klein, 2008). Klein (2008) proceed to state that “some recover from this emotional feeling while for others, this feeling continues for days or even months”. Domestic violence may arise from anger. An angry person may throw insults at family members. He may also chase them away from the home. There are incidences that anger drove some people into killing their spouse and children. Stress can also drive people to abandon their marital responsibilities. When a spouse is under stress, he cannot perform his family roles in the right way. When this happens, other family members complain. This complaint may make the stressed person’s condition worse, leading to a situation whereby the condition gets worse with time, finally getting out of hand. Stress may be work-related or it may emanate from overwhelming family responsibilities. Either way, it is upon all family members to express their understanding of an individual suffering. Without this understanding, the stress condition can only get worse. Thomas (1993) says that people who are under stress may direct violence towards their families as a way of attracting attention to their problems. When no family member seems to take notice, the situation gets worse with time, finally ending in the disintegration of the family.
Finally, Thomas (1993) demonstrates that when parents treat their children unequally, those who are discriminated against may feel jealous and complain which may lead to violence when no one heeds them. Fights among children often arise because of unfair distribution of resources. Some children may be given access to all the educational and emotional resources while other children get none. It is difficult for the children who are treated in this manner to sit back and watch this happen. Poverty Poverty in the family may drive everyone into a feeling of helplessness. According to UNICEF (2006), poverty is the leading cause of domestic violence in most poor countries. Unemployment and high costs of living drive family members to violence. For some people, violence is a good way to shift emotional attention from the existing problems. When poverty reigns, there are high chances that conflicts relating to resource distribution will arise.
The media remains a very influential force in all facets of our societies in that the family may be depicted in movies as a flawless institution that is glamorous all the time. This is very far from the truth. Unfortunately, people do not understand this, something that makes them try to act out what they see on TV in their own family settings (UNICEF , 2006). When things do not work out their way, this may lead to emotional turmoil that fuels domestic violence.
As has been demonstrated above, domestic violence is a negative social ill within the community that requires collective efforts. However, to effectively deal with this social menace that threatens the very foundations on which families are built, perhaps it is important to have the best knowledge on how to prevent domestic violence or eradicate it from our communities. This section of the paper seeks to analyze the effective preventive measures of domestic violence.
Prevention of Domestic Violence
Studies have shown that are not any simple solutions that will bring to an end domestic violence. This calls for individual, community and government efforts to lower or bring to an end the increase of domestic violence cases. Individual effort Individuals will play the most basic roles in preventing domestic violence. The roles played by individual will determine the overall success of the community and the nation at large in preventing this problem. Individuals can help prevent domestic violence through the following:
• Speak up against domestic violence. This can involve talking about the seriousness of domestic violence amongst friends, family and other community members. This will form the most basic foundation upon which the community and the nation as a whole will succeed in bringing to an end domestic violence (Richard, 2008). This is because statistics have proven that active participation in social activities within the community is directly correlated to reduction in social ills.
• Individuals should avoid activities that instigate domestic violence. For instance they should take a stand against entertainment, music and jokes that might trivialize domestic violence. Also, they should stand up against comments that blame the victim. This is based on the premise that the society is heavily influenced by actions that are evident. Refraining from actions that are deemed instigating has profound impact on the rates of domestic violence.
• Individuals should report suspicions of domestic violence to the appropriate authorities. This is because domestic violence is still a very secret crime. Sometimes, it takes that one person to make that call and report the suspicion to help a person out of a situation they may not be able to get out of on their own. Stern actions through the right channels and according to the provisions of the law have the capacity to reduce the levels of DV.
• Individuals should also volunteer with domestic violence organizations. Many of these programs, which are aimed to assist domestic abuse victims are poorly funded and can use all the help they can get. In addition, it can be a positive way to give back to the community while reaching out and touching the life of someone in need (Richard, 2008). This call for active involvement in social activities is reinforced by the belief that actions taken by the community members themselves have more impact within the particular community.
• Individuals should organize fundraisers to support the local efforts behind domestic violence prevention and awareness. The better funded the programs are, the more reach they can have. Community effort The best remedy to bring to an end to domestic violence must be developed taking into account the conditions prevailing in the community. This means that identifying and building community assets that involve use of appropriate cultural messages and services will be of great significance in bringing to end domestic violence (Carolina & Calvin 2002). This can be done through the following:
• Raising awareness of domestic violence
The community should work together as team to create awareness for this problem. This requires appropriate organizations be put in place in the community to educate people about domestic violence and its impact in the community. Is has been found out that if people do not know about family violence, its impacts and where to turn for help, they are unlikely to communicate the unacceptability of violence. Creating awareness allows people to think differently about this problem, and to own the issue as the one they can do something about. Creating awareness is indispensable in ending violence as it helps the community to have a better understanding of why and how family violence happens and the detrimental effects it has in the society. This helps to create a foundation for establishing new norms about domestic violence and the possible remedies. This will also help bring out a dialogue about domestic violence in the home into public consciousness thus helping to address the denial and isolation that often surrounds family violence (Albert 2008).
• Connecting community residents to social services
After creating awareness, the next step will be connecting to the families who need it. This can be done through traditional and existing services and also through newly developed programs by residents. Community members who were once victims of domestic violence should take a leading role. For instance, Seattle’s Northwest Network of Bisexual, Transgender, and Lesbian Survivors of Abuse (Northwest Network, 2010) deals with the challenges that arise when the abuser and the victim are of the same sex. This network works to guarantee support and safety for victims. They also try to get secured places for friends and family members to get together as one and converse about violence. Using approaches such as house party potlucks, or picnics, the survivor and her friends/family cooperatively build up strategies to discourage violence, end isolation, and access safe, gay-friendly services. The group puts up social systems within these communities to act as protection and to work on prevention. This approach will help provide services to community members who need them (the victims of abuse). This will also create basis within the community that will enhance members’ ability to get help and link them to appropriate social networks (Albert 2002).
• Transforming social and community goals
Changing social and community goals will be indispensable in curbing domestic violence in areas where poverty is prevalent. Appropriate programs should be put in place to engage the community in transforming conditions such as poverty which greatly contributes to domestic violence and at the same time helping the families to get services that will help them address their individual or specific needs. For instance, Central City Lutheran Mission (Central City, 2010) in San Bernardino, California, serves an urban community where almost half of the population lives below the poverty level. The community is characterize by many problems such as narrow viable family structures, low high school graduation rate, lack of employment, and a high rate of youth and family violence. This community also has one of the highest infant mortality and highest sexually transmitted disease rate for teens in the country, and is informally known as the “methamphetamine capital of the world.” regardless of these factors, the Mission looks out and builds on community strengths, offering an extensive variety of programs that are youth-oriented and youth-operated. Youth have set up a range of projects, including newsletter of writing and photography about young people’s critical analysis of variety of neighborhood problems, including family and community violence; a Hip Hop Mass of poetry, rap, and writing that explores specific themes related to the community each week. The Mission’s programs have helped to build strong and resilient youth, equipping with necessary tools and resources that will mould them to become leaders and decision-makers who labor to transform the social environment that give rise to violence. This approach is significant as it helps create connection between violence and social problems poverty, urban decay, mental and physical health issues that are responsible for a number of domestic abuse in the community and at the same time create the most viable remedy (Albert 2002).
• Setting-up a network of leaders within the community
• Creating institutions and services accountable to community needs Government effort The government play a very critical role ensuring that the roles play by individuals and communities are enhanced and give enough support and resources to address effectively domestic violence. In this case the government act as a facilitator to communal and individual effort by provide the necessary resources and appropriate institutional structures that will set a fertile ground for these activities. The government can do this through the following:
• By promoting and encouraging domestic violence awareness by individuals or communities. This will help control this problem because when people become aware about the statistics and effects domestic violence has on lives and communities, it keeps the issue energetic and important (Franker & Phil ,2009).
• The government should develop the necessary incentives that meant to encourage communities to set up centers for domestic violence. This will be great significance in addressing this problem at community level because those are domestically abused in the community will be motivated go there to get help because of easy accessibility (Franker & Phil 2009).
• The government should also support local laws and legislation aimed at protecting against domestic violence. This is because when stringent laws and legislation are in place, abusers tend to think twice, while those that have been abused feel more sheltered with turn to law enforcement for assistance.
• Insist that local social service workers and law enforcement officers be suitably educated in domestic violence. This is because for many years, women who were domestically abused avoided reporting it or looking for out assistance because they were often re-victimized by those same people that were supposed to help them. This will help form a viable helping hand to the victims of domestic violence.
• The government will also need to Support the development of ‘after care programs’ intended to support the psychological requirements of families and individuals that lived through domestic abuse. This will help the victims recuperate and go back to their normal way of life (Franker & Phil 2009).