Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. It can involve a number of different behaviors including:
* Emotional abuse can involve such things as trying to lower the other person’s self esteem by constantly criticizing them.
* Physical abuse not only involves physical violence but also denying people medical care or getting them to take drugs against their will.
* Psychological abuse could include any type of threatening behavior that is used to instill fear in the other individual.
* Sexual abuse involves coercing the other person into performing sexual acts or engaging in sexual behaviors.
* Financial abuse occurs by making the other person financially dependent and then controlling their economic resources.
Domestic violence can also include things like:
* Using passive aggressive behavior to punish the other person. This refers to a situation where the perpetrator masks their expressions of anger and it can include things like; deliberately forgetting to do things, unwillingness to be intimate, obstructive behavior, and deliberate lateness.
* Calling the other person insulting names.
* Stalking the other person.
* Intruding into the other individual’s personal life. An example of this would be reading their private diary.
* Make threats of violence.
* Neglecting the other person.
Different terms can be used to describe domestic violence including:
* Family violence
* Domestic abuse
* Domestic battering
* Intimate partner violence
* Spousal abuse
The underlying cause for all types of domestic violence is that one person wants to control another. There are also a number of other contributing factors to this behavior such as:
* Substance abuse is closely related to domestic abuse. When people are inebriated they lose their inhibitions and this increases the likelihood of engaging in appalling behavior.
* It is common for people who grown up in abusive homes to become abuse themselves in adulthood. The individual may even believe that such behavior is normal.
* Some people suffer from personality disorders that make them more prone to this type of behavior. The most well known example of this would be the classic psychopath – it is believed that 2% of the population in the United States could be classified as fitting the psychopath profile.
* Those individuals who have low self esteem often feel vulnerable and are unable to trust their partners. They can attempt to regain some control by turning to abusive behaviors.
* Some people find it difficult to control their emotions and they can be overcome with anger. They may do things that they later regret, but this is no excuse for such behavior.
* There are some people who have a strong sense of entitlement and they become abusive when life or other people don’t live up to their expectations. They may decide to vent their frustrations by becoming abusive.
* Some of those who engage in this type of behavior may be suffering from mental health problems.
* If the individual feels inferior to their partner they may use domestic abuse as a means to gain some type of control. This can occur if the partner has a better job than them or a superior academic history.
* Those who suffer from jealousy and insecurity are more prone to this type of abuse.
Domestic violence has been described as a hidden face of addiction. This is due to the comorbidity of these two conditions. Addiction and domestic abuse also share a number of characteristics including:
* They both involve loss of control.
* The individual continues with the behavior even though it is leading to negative consequences in their life.
* The individual becomes preoccupied with the behavior – it becomes their obsession.
* In both instances there can be an increasing tolerance for the behavior. Both addiction and domestic abuse will tend to get worse over time.
* Addiction and domestic violence have a negative impact on the family.
* Both of these conditions have a negative impact on intimacy and sexual relationships.
* There is usually some type of ritual associated with each behavior – both tend to involve a cycle.
* The partner will usually find it difficult to abandon the person who is an addict or abusive.
* Both conditions tend to involve a great deal of denial.
* Both the substance abuser and domestic violence perpetrator abuse their own powers for personal gain. They seem willing to do almost anything to satisfy their needs.
* Addiction and domestic abuse lead to shame and reduced self esteem for those involved.
* In the beginning the individual may be able to restrict their bad behavior to the home but over time it becomes more noticeable in other areas of their life.
There are a number of reasons for why addiction and domestic violence tend to coexist including:
* Alcohol and drugs lower the individual’s inhibitions. This means that they are more likely to engage in bad behaviors.
* Inebriation makes people more impulsive. They will do things with no thought of the future consequences of their behavior.
* When people are inebriated their decision making capacity is reduced. They are far more likely to make poor decisions as a result.
* Certain drugs, such as stimulants, can cause people to become paranoid. This paranoia may motivate extreme behaviors.
It is common for those who engage in domestic violence to blame it on alcohol or drugs. When they sober up they may be full of remorse and claim that they did not know what they were doing. While addiction does influence an individual’s behavior there is no justification for domestic violence. If this individual decides to seek help for their addiction problem it will be good for everyone, but it may not be enough to end the violence. This is because this individual may continue to have a need to control the other person. It is therefore vital that the causes of the domestic violence are dealt with alongside the treatment for addiction. Some people may enter sobriety and never engage in domestic violence again, but there is no guarantee of this unless the individual gets to the root of their problems.
As well as becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs it is also possible for people to become addicted to compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Such behaviors can involve:
* Exploitative sex is where the individual gets a thrill out of turning their partner into a victim and forcing them to engage in the sex act.
* Engaging in fantasy sex occasionally is relatively normal but for some people this becomes their obsession.
* Intrusive sex is where one individual touches another in a sexual way without their permission – an example of this would be a boss who tries to grope his employees.
* Voyeuristic sex can involve secretly watching people undress or becoming obsessed with pornography.
* Engaging in sexual acts that involve pain – for example sadomasochism.
* The individual may become addicted to obsessive masturbation.
* Addiction to anonymous sex. An example of this would be entering public toilets in the hope of engaging in sex with a complete stranger.
* Some individuals develop an obsession with paid sex. They feel the need to regularly go with prostitutes even when it involves a good deal of risk.
* Exhibitionist sex is where the individual feels the need to expose their sexual parts in public.
Ignoring domestic violence in the hope that things will improve is a dangerous strategy. The person who is being abused must ensure their own safety and the safety of their children. In order to deal effectively with this abuse it is advised that people:
* Seek help from an outside source. The individual may be in most danger while they are trying to hide the problem from the outside world.
* Those who live in the United States should contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline on (800) 799-SAFE for good advice and support. There are a number of different organizations that can help victims of abuse.
* Victims of domestic abuse need to escape the situation – personal safety must take priority over any love the individual has for the perpetrator.
* Those individuals who are engaging in this behavior need to stop making excuses and instead get help. So long as the individual refuses to seek such help their excuses and apologies are worthless.
* If the perpetrator has given up substance abuse it is important that they also deal with the root causes of their violent behavior. Giving up the addiction is a great start, but it may not be enough to end the domestic abuse.
* Those abusers who are willing to attend anger management classes may be able to benefit from this.
* If people find that they lose control, and do things they later regret, they should not ignore the problem – even if it is the first time that it has happened. Unless the individual seeks help this type of behavior is likely to escalate.