The question of what domestic violence is and its causes has been a question that for a long time has been begging answers, on its face, it is defined as the use of abusive ways by a partner in a relationship to gain control over the other partner. However, in its strict sense, it is the use of various ways not exactly physical by a partner in a relationship to the detriment of the other partner or family. According to Winkel (24), it is the use of means such as name calling, sexual assault, intimidation, physical abuse, withholding of money among other ways so as to make a partner look inferior in a relationship.
In law, violence is criminal and acts of physical assault which may include hitting, shoving or sexual abuse which may include rape and stalking are punishable in law. Although other forms of abuse such as emotional and/or psychological abuse are criminal in nature, they may be catalysts of criminal offences. Statistics in the US indicate that between 3 & 4 million children ranging from 3- 17 are at a risk of domestic violence each year, 95% of the cases usually involve women who are victims of their male counterparts and this implies that the children to this women are exposed to the violence (Winkel, 99).
In my case I have been constantly exposed to the cases of violence appropriated to both my mother and I, over the years, I have been forced to come to terms with the daily happenings albeit disturbing., every time I see my dad, I develop phobia against him and as a result, I am very fearful and anxious since I do not know what will happen next. Winkel (47) states that children exposed to domestic violence are “always on guard, watching and waiting for the next event to occur”, he is of the opinion that the children never know what may be the next cause of the abuse and this creates a feeling of insecurity in the children, “they are always worried for themselves, their mother, and their siblings”.
Causes of Domestic Violence
There are varied theories used in explaining real cause of domestic violence. For instance the physiological theory keenly focuses on the personality traits and the mental character of the offender. To many author personality disorders are factors and other abusive experiences while as child leads some people to remain violent at adult. The study reveals higher incidence of psychopathy among the abuser. Environments were violence is either thought or accepted, creates the normal will that further imprints upon the child’s psyche (Chalk, 76). The act of violence especially issues touching on domestic matters, more often is linked to poor self-esteem. This is adapted in to children as they grow up in violent homes. Children from this background are more likely to have little self-worth. They do engage much of their time in a pattern that is liked to negative self-talk. This part of the encounters that brings about isolation and frustration in it hidden anger developed due to inflicted filling of helplessness. At this stage anger marks the primary source, which further fuels the will fan, and thus increased flames of domestic violence. Use of drugs, for instance alcohol abuse may be one among many precursor of domestic violence. The drugs tend to have influence that is seen responsible for uncontrolled behaviour among its users. Most of the commonality cases among alcoholic families, accounts for poor emotional health, to certain extend this develops a secondary anger, which responsibly works as ineffective substitute in dealing honestly with emotions (Chalk, 89).
The resource theory explains dependant, in this theory the violent action takes place were women dependence on the spouse for economic support, hence subjected to childcare, in this the fear of increased financial burden arises if they have to leave the marriage. The increased dependency creates narrowed options concerning resources to help them cope with the change witnessed. The spouse behaviour typically accounts for an increase frequency in domestic conflicts. Where individual experiences loss of physical health and wage earning-power, this mostly is brought out when victims faces the pressure of paying off bills, and this is initiated through inability to fully respond effectively to the required responsibilities.
There are reported cases that reflect increased conflicts as a result of inflicted feeling of helplessness, the anger builds up making the offender inadequate coping with the involved mechanism, hence eruption of domestic violence. For spouse that share powers equally incidents of conflicts are reduced, if conflicts arise there are less likely to resort to violence ends. However, if one of the spouses assumes control and power in relationship, this might inflict increased spouse abuse, isolation, increased blames on each spouse, thus violent happenings (Chalk, 93).
Behaviours Exhibited by Children Facing Family Violence
There are two major behaviours that children in abusive relationships will exhibit; these can be physical or emotional. Emotional behaviour may include the fear that their parents may kill themselves, they may feel guilty over a small thing that he/ she does. Many at times their is sleep disturbance since most fighting happen at night, the child is normally distracted by the noise from the fight; sadness is another habit, this is the mode that a child has to adopt due to fights that happen, depression and anger will also be exhibited because the child will not know what will happen next at any given time, failure to prevent violence in the family will multiply to emotional stress and unresolved anger (Johnson, 12)
Apart from emotional behaviour the child can also develop physical responses towards domestic violence, most of the children experience physical abuse as well as sexual abuse, and they can also be injured while trying to intervene on behalf of their mother or father which may lead to injury. Because children are so imitative they tend to practice what they see happen at their home to their fellow children, they will practice withdrawal and anxiousness to please as well as physical violence at the slightest provocation. Many children experiencing domestic violence are very anxious to an extent that they cannot concentrate in class due to low attention span, resulting to poor performance in school. They sometimes use aggression and violence to express themselves which is not healthy for a child.
Long Term Effects of Domestic Violence
The long term effects of domestic violence may be very catastrophic; experts have it that most children who are raised in violent environments will have a tendency to solve problems through violence. They tend to repeat the same actions they witnessed while growing up thereby harming their peers. Krug argues that boys who have witnessed violence against their mothers are likely to abuse their female partners when they become adults as compared to boys who have grown up in peaceful homes. During adolescence, girls will tend to grow up believing that it is the norm in relationships to have threats and violence (Ascione et al, 24).
Drug and Substance abuse
Drug abuse and alcoholism is another likely trend that children from violent homes will exhibit. Most children tend to indulge in alcoholism and substance abuse as a way of forgetting the abuse. According to Johnson (19) witnessing domestic violence is “the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. It is also the number one reason children run away”. Children who have witnessed domestic violence in their homes always have the belief that they are the reason for the abuse and therefore live in fear. In families where domestic violence is rife, there are very high chances of the occurrence of child abuse, according to the report child abuse is15 times more likely to occur. This children use alcohol as an excuse to their wanton behaviours.
Most often family violence takes different forms; it may be emotional, physical or psychological. Where there is physical abuse such as assault and battering, victims may suffer bruises, bodily injury such as broken limbs as well as death if care is not taken. Many victims of physical abuse are women and children since they are not strong enough to defend themselves as was my case.
Prevention of Domestic Violence
Prevention of domestic violence requires understanding the circumstances and factors that influence violence. According to experts from the Centre for Disease Control, there is a four level strategy that should be employed in order to prevent occurrence of violence. This is defined as a social ecological model that facilitates the better understanding of violence to and potential strategies for prevention. They argue that the model considers the complexity of the interplay between individual, community, relationship and societal factors, which further permits us to tackle the issues of risk and protective factors from a number of sources (Johnson, 36).
The four main levels for prevention of domestic violence are Individual-level influences, Relationship-level influences, Societal-level influences and community level.
According to the experts in CDC, personal history factors of an individual normally increase the chances of becoming an Intimate Partner Violence victim or perpetrator. For instance, the attitudes and beliefs about violence, experience of previous cases of violence and/or a family history of violence may contribute tremendously to the possibility of a continuous trend of violence; at this level prevention strategies are designed to enhance attitudes, behaviours and beliefs that support family unity and intimacy based on a symbiotic relationship that involves respect, trust and equality. These can be taught through education and life skills training so as to enhance a wholesome development of a society.
There are also factors that increase risk of perpetration of domestic violence of the kind of relationship that exists between peers, family members and intimate partners. According to Krug et al (22), this is referred to as the relationship-level influences. An individual’s closest social circle – partners, peers and family members will greatly influence their behaviour as well as greatly contribute to their experiences. Parents are encouraged to offer good parenthood to their children by listening to their issues as well as making positive comments that will be a seed to a positive attitude to the children. At this level therefore, prevention strategies may include mentoring and peer programs designed to promote intimate partnerships based on mutual respect, equality, and trust.
The third level of strategy is at the community level which aims at examining the contexts in which social relationships are developed, this include places such as such as schools, neighborhoods and workplaces, at this level, the strategy seeks to identify the specific features in these settings that are characteristic of victims or the perpetrators of violence. At this level prevention strategies are meant to positively influence the processes, climate, and policies in a given situation. More often than not, awareness campaigns are used to foster a communal environment that will enhance intimate partnerships based on equality, trust and mutual respect (Krug et al, 25)
Finally, there is the Societal-level which is a combination of larger, macro-level factors, among them religious factors, gender inequality, culture and beliefs orientation, a communities norms, as well as policies developed to influence the occurrence of violence, such policies may be economic or social. Normally, at this level collaborations by anti violence partners to inform and come up with socially accepted norms, policies, and legislations that support unity both in gender and economy so as to encourage intimate partnerships (Krug et al, 27).
Domestic violence is a serious problem all over the world. In order to prevent domestic abuse there are several things that you can do to make sure that this situation does not occur within your family. Furthermore, actions can also be taken to promote the prevention of domestic abuse on a wider scale in order to help those who are already suffering from this terrible issue. Exposure to good programming on the mass media channels will also go a long way in as far as prevention of domestic violence is concerned, Krug (32) states that if children are exposed to “abusive” media such as action films and programmes like wrestling at a tender age, they are most likely going to be perpetrators of violence since it is what they got used to. Any shows on the radio and television that promote abuse should not be allowed. If already exposed to violence, as was my case then guiding and counseling would provide a safe landing to avoid further occurrences. A good counseling process will help in making an individual understand himself and get over the abuse he/she has been exposed to.
Conclusion and Recommendations
According to Johnson(38) Domestic violence is a major problem facing about 3.3 million children ever year in the United States, its consequences affect children in many ways, children subjected and exposed to domestic violence stand a risk of developing behavioral problems. As a child grows the trauma that they experience as witnesses of family violence play a very important role in their growth and subsequent physical well being. These children stand a very high risk of developing physical, behavioral, and social problems, as well as emotional problems. Children from such families more often than not develop conflicting feelings of distrust and affection towards the abusive parent; they also become overprotective of the victim.
Being a firsthand victim of domestic violence, I strongly recommend that the state should come up with strict legislation that will protect the children and generally families exposed to violence. I further recommend that children exposed to domestic violence should be exposed to a safe nurturing environment so as to encourage a healthy development. Caregivers should reassure the children as well as increase sense of security through taking the children step by step in explaining things that worry the children as well as comforting them. Finally, all family members should be more involved in assisting families facing domestic violence.