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A family is the basic unit of the society, and it is at the family level that everyone finds a home and a place to belong. The issue of domestic violence refers to violence within the family setup. Although domestic violence is the willful infliction of physical, emotional, economical and mental pain by one intimate partner against another, it is not restricted to the family setup only. Domestic violence is not exclusive to any individual regardless of his or her race, age, socio-economic status, religious affiliation, or educational background. It is a social evil with global significance affecting every person directly and indirectly.
Domestic violence affects everyone involved, whether it is the perpetrator or the victim although women and children are more vulnerable to domestic violence. Similarly, persons with disabilities, people living in poverty and illiterate individuals are most vulnerable. Domestic violence, therefore, refers to the willful intimidation, common assault and assault leading to grievous bodily harm, sexual assault, battery and other acts committed by an intimate partner against another partner (Herman, 1997).
In understanding domestic violence, a number of definitional concepts can draw a clear meaning to this social phenomenon. These include aspects which manifest domestic violence. Firstly, there is the aspect of physical abuse. It includes acts of assault that lead to grievous bodily harm. These are acts like slapping, beating, strangling, burning, stabbing and kicking. Similarly, practices that result in bodily injury, for instance, traditional practices like female genital mutilation also constitute physical abuse. Sexual abuse includes coerced sex through the use of threats and intimidation leading to unwanted sexual acts by another partner. Psychological abuse includes behavior that induces fear which takes the form of treats of abandonment and confinement among other acts that intimidate. Finally, there is the aspect of economic abuse which includes the failure of one partner to support the other financially through the refusal to provide financial support, failure to buy food and even refusal to pay education fees for the children.
Domestic violence has its roots in the historical practices and beliefs of the society. How society perceived the roles of men and women in different communities influenced their treatment and perception. In the early Roman society, any woman was essentially the property of a man or a husband. Therefore, the man had the supremacy to do whatever he pleased with the woman. The Roman laws allowed the man to instill ‘discipline’ in the woman. This included the ability of man to beat his wife, confine her or even murder here if she had committed an offence that lowered the status of the man in the society. These laws were similar to the provisions in the code of Hammurabi which encouraged male superiority over women. Similarly, the common laws in England also gave man power to beat his wife (Frieze, 2004). The justification for this was that the man had the sole responsibility of maintaining the discipline of the family and thus could instill such discipline when appropriate. In France, a man could be subjected to demeaning treatment where he wore outlandish costume and ride donkey backwards whenever it became public knowledge that his wife had beaten him. This story highlights where the problem began and shows that domestic violence is rooted in the issue of male dominance.
Domestic violence as a social disease affects everyone exposed to it whether it is the perpetrator or the victim. Ideally, men are common perpetrators. However, women also perpetrate domestic violence towards men or children either by way of self-defense or revenge. The difference, therefore, is perhaps in the extent of the injury caused where men inflict more severe injury both physically, emotionally, psychologically, and economically. The primary, behavioral characteristic is in the sense of superiority by men over their wives and children. The belief that men are naturally superior to women is key in fueling domestic violence. The man perpetrator is, therefore, dominant and in control in a competitive relationship which is also hierarchical with the man as the head. The sense of superiority and entitlement is usually as a result of the man’s own insecurities which result in want of control. Therefore, where the wife and children are not responsive to the whims of the man, what happens is that the man will feel the need to enforce his superiority. This will result in the use of force and other measures leading to domestic violence (Ross, 2007).
The prevalence of the issue of domestic violence has considerably gone down with the adoption of new laws that criminalize it. However, it is still exceedingly difficult to come up with exact figures that can indicate how prevalent the problem of domestic violence is. This is because historically domestic violence is a private issue, and thus not many people are usually willing to report such cases. Furthermore, men who undergo domestic violence may not be willing to report, and the same is true for people from ethnic minority groups and those in same-sex relationships. However, available figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigations indicate a high rate of domestic violence in intimate relationships. For instance, the reports indicate that 89% of the female murders are committed by men, and 35% of suspects are usually their husbands or boyfriends. Similarly, most women, this is about 25-40%, in the emergency rooms are usually there to be treated for injuries incurred from domestic violence. As stated earlier, women are not the only victims of domestic violence, children also suffer greatly due to domestic violence. Reports indicate that every husband who abuses his wife, also abuses his children.
In trying to explain the phenomenon of domestic violence, numerous theories exist ranging from the cultural aspects to psychological ones. One of the theories is the feminist theory, which asserts that men being dominant and superior have the ability to acquire resources and materials that women may not be able to acquire. Therefore, this makes women inferior to men given that they are reliant on them for supply of possessions and materials. This theory bases its foundation on the historical context that men who beat their wives are fulfilling their cultural obligation as the primary disciplinarians. The characters of such men are that they are naturally aggressive, dominant, controlling while women are timid and submissive.
Today, domestic violence is scourge and a social evil that cannot be encouraged for whatever reasons. There has been an increase in the legislation of laws that criminalize intimate violence. For instance, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 is an act of the legislature intended to reduce instances of household violence in the US. It is a progressive Act that provides for mechanisms of raising funds for the training of police officers, advocates, public prosecutors and other individuals who work in domestic violence related areas (O'Toole, Schiffman, & Kiter Edwards, 2007). The issue of domestic violence is, therefore, a criminal matter, and there is no excuse for anyone caught abusive another. The media play a critical role in the fight against domestic violence. It covers many cases of intimate violence thus developing awareness on the existence of this issue.
However, the method that popular media has used to portray this issue has been restrictive to extent. Media outlets have dominantly portrayed a picture of a victim of domestic violence with solutions of what one ought to do in order to break away from from the violence. This becomes worse where the media outlets that are gender sensitive, like women magazines or women shows focusing on the emancipation of women, blame women for allowing the violence to occur. This incidentally bypasses the real issue as to why there is domestic violence, and the problem remains unsolved.
The effects of domestic violence are wide and so far reaching that is hard to imagine. The damage goes far beyond the victims and extends to the society for a family is the essential component of every social order, and thus where trouble strikes in the family, the society also suffers. The victims of domestic violence suffer psychologically, emotionally and mentally. The torture of not being safe in the confines of one’s own home or with the person that one loves is unimaginable. The victims of this phenomenon usually lose the ability to trust again, and some even shut down and become afraid to love again. Families break down and in some instances the victims may even die from the violence.
The impact that this violence has on children is immeasurable. When a family breaks, children usually lose their home, they may even drop out of school and start abusing drugs (Buzawa, Buzawa, & Stark, 2011). This in the end affects the society at large where such children may end up as thieves.
Individuals who suffer from the effects of domestic violence usually benefit a lot from belonging to a group with other persons who have gone through the same experiences. While this may not always work for every single person, most people gain the ability to face the rest of the society when they know that they are not alone. Sharing experiences encourages victims of domestic violence to face their ghosts and grow past their fears. They learn how to handle their children or even their partners who may be the perpetrators of this violence. This gives them courage to protect themselves and to be able to report the incidences as they may occur.
Considering many initiatives that the society takes to fight domestic violence, it is clear that the latter has no future in this society. The enactment of the law that protects women and children and criminalizes any incidence of domestic violence makes the future too grim for this intimate violence. The methods of response to incidences of domestic violence are rapidly shifting with emphasis more on a proactive rather than a reactive response. This means that it is no longer acceptable to wait for the incidence of domestic violence to occur, and then respond to it. The focus is on the primary intervention of reducing the risk before it occurs while decreasing the prevalence after early incidences have been detected. This will help do away with domestic violence entirely (LaViolette & Barnett, 2000).
Naturally, individuals that affiliate with domestic violence groups are those who have been affected either directly or indirectly by this scourge. This may be the children, women and men who have been victims of domestic violence. In extremely rare instances, perpetrators of domestic violence also affiliate with this group either out of guilt and remorse or for other purposes known to them.
In conclusion, domestic violence has been and still is part of the social fabric of each and every society and culture in the world over. It is a social disease rooted in the practices of our ancestors that no longer has a place in the modern society. The belief of male dominance over women stands on shaky ground. As history and time has shown that women are equally capable of doing what men can do, the former can longer be regarded as property to men but equal to men and autonomous in general. Therefore, domestic violence is a criminal offence, which requires harsher punishment owing to the trust that the victim has in the perpetrator.