I was playing with children on the playground as I do every Sunday evening. They were happy, some with minor behavioral issues but each radiating happiness no matter how small their current room was, or how hurt they were by the actions of their family members. I remember one Sunday specifically. It was a day where everything seemed fine until someone spoke up. On this Sunday, I watched a girl slide down the slide and stop abruptly. She appeared distraught. I went to investigate what was happening with the girl. She told me she missed her father no matter how mean he was to her and her mother . She followed up the conversation by saying, “He can’t really control it, though. I still love him.” The girl, approximately five years old, gave me a glimpse into a world I never experienced as a child.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, in 2010 more than one-half million crimes of domestic violence were reported (2012). The United States Office on Violence Against Women defines domestic violence 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” (Legal Profession Assistance Conference of the Canadian Bar Association, 2013). Often times the public is unaware of such crimes occurring throughout their own communities. Spousal violence is one type of domestic violence and can be caused by various factors. Based upon studies and various services, there are a variety of ways to decrease marital violence.
Four main theories have been developed to describe spousal violence (Cho, 2007, p. 24). These include the psychopathology theory, the social learning theory, the resource theory, and the feminist theory. The psychopathology theory explains the causes for violence among different types of males (Cho, 2007, p. 25). This theory believes men are violent toward women because these men have a personality disorder or mental illness and a desire to control their partner in order to reduce negative feelings (Cho, 2007, p. 25). The social learning theory supports the concept that those exposed to violence during their childhood end up in violent relationships when they become older (Cho, 2007, p. 26). Family is a power system described by Cho as the “ability of one individual to influence the other” and comes into question during application of the resource theory (2007, p. 27). The resource theory explains how family is a power system and affected by resources (Cho, 2007, p. 27). If one spouse possesses more resources than another does, that person brings more power to the relationship (Cho, 2007, p. 27). The resources mentioned include success, prestige, position, love, gifts, jobs, services, and other resources (Cho, 2007, p. 27). When a lack of resources presents itself, violence is used as an ultimate resource (Cho, 2007, p. 28). The feminist theory focuses on the concept of patriarchy in a family, where abuse stems from patriarchal society (Cho, 2007, p. 28). Social and economic processes support male-dominated social orders and family structures (Cho, 2007, p. 28). Violence occurs when men want more control in their family structure (Cho, 2007, p. 28).
Not one of the theories presented can explain all cases of spousal violence. Many other factors influence spousal violence as well. Socio-economic status is a major factor contributing to spousal violence (Cho, 2007, p. 31). Studies have shown that low-income families are more vulnerable to witnessing abuse as a child and produce economic instability leading to violence (Cho, 2007, p. 31). Children witnessing violence at home begin to believe that violence is the way to solve their problems and display violence too (Cho, 2007, p. 32). Lack of social support increases a women’s risk of abuse (Cho, 2007, p. 33). Some people are abused due to the acceptance of traditional gender roles (Cho, 2007, p. 36). Depression of partners can also lead to violence (Cho, 2007, p. 39). Twenty-five to fifty percent of spousal violence is related to use of alcohol (Cho, 2007, p. 40). Alcohol use and addiction as well as anger lead to psychological aggression resulting in physical abuse (Cho, 2007, p. 40). This only begins to describe some varying factors, which cause the heartache of spousal domestic violence.
Spousal violence and violence in an intimate relationship are quite similar. Very few differences separate the two types of violence. A main factor separating the two types of violence is that children are often times involved in spousal violence. When a child is present, separation between the two partners becomes even more challenging. Another difference is the phases present in spousal violence, not typically displayed in violence within an intimate relationship. These phases, defined by the Legal Profession Assistance Conference of the Canadian Bar Association, include the honeymoon phase, tension building phase, and acting-out phase (2013). The honeymoon phase is characterized by affection, apology, and apparent end of violence. The violent partner has feelings of sadness and remorse. The tension building phase includes poor communication, tension, and fear of causing outbursts. Outbursts of violent and abusive incidents are displayed in the acting-out phase (2013).
Solutions exist to reduce marital domestic violence. The obvious solution is national awareness and education (National Council on Child Abuse & Family Violence, 2013). Many educated students and adults are naïve about the prevalence of domestic violence throughout the United States. Those who are aware of it are unaware of the plethora of services provided for those who need assistance. Awareness can and should occur through public service announcements and social media advertisements. A main issue with implementing this solution is funding. Much of the funding currently available for marital domestic violence is used to support systems of aide and not overall awareness. If we increase our focus on preventing the problem before it occurs, we may be able to decrease the amount of marital domestic violence thus reducing the overall funds expended on the issue over time.
Another solution is to increase the current shelters available for domestic violence victims. According to the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, since 1964 more than 1800 shelters have been established in the United States for victims of domestic violence (2011). Those who use the services of the shelters receive legal assistance, counseling for themselves and their children, support, and protection (2013). The issue with shelters is the inability of people in a violent, abusive situation to leave the unhealthy environment to get to the shelters. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, partners may attempt to make the abused individual feel as if the abuse is his/her fault (2011). The Department also found women remain in abusive relationships because they have little or no money to support their family (2011). Other women grew up and married during a time when domestic violence was tolerated, so they do not understand the meaning of a healthy relationship (2011). Another problem faced by women who receive assistance at shelters is that many victims return to their abuser (Legal Profession Assistance Conference of the Canadian Bar Association, 2013). Shelters typically house women only. Although females are four times more likely to be victims of domestic violence than males, males can also be victims (National Center for Victims of Crime, 2012). Abused males have very few current options.
Research uncovered that lasting independence from an abusive partner usually occurs only after the abused victim is provided with legal assistance (2012). Increased funding for legal assistance may, in fact, be the ultimate key to reducing spousal domestic violence. According to the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, all fifty states have domestic violence laws (2011). Programs have also developed for offenders in the court system to obtain assistance. For example, group therapy encourages men to examine their attitudes about what it means to be a man (2011). The main problem with this solution is the complexity of the court system. Many of the procedural requirements are tedious and convoluted, discouraging women from following through while others are unaware assistance is available to them. Solutions presented, however costly, have proven to be effective in decreasing spousal violence.
The young girl who provided me a glimpse into her world never returned to our Sunday evening activities. I am uncertain if she and her mother returned to her father or went elsewhere in the community. I can only hope she and her mother received the assistance they needed. This girl, like many children I play with each week, opened up to me, introducing me into a world of violence and hurt. All I can do for her and others though, is show them my world. A world where violence is not the answer, communication is key, and healthy relationships are the only types worth investing in. Today, my world and the children’s worlds are different. Someday, I truly hope these worlds become the same positive one I live in today.
Cho, I. J. (2007). The Effects of Individual, Family, Social, and Cultural Factors on Spousal Abuse in Korean American Male Adults. (Doctoral dissertation). ProQuest LLC.
Legal Profession Assistance Conference of the Canadian Bar Association (2013). Intimate Partner Violence. Retrieved from http://www.lpac.ca/main/Courses_01/violence.aspx
National Center for Victims of Crime (2012). Domestic/Partner Intimate Violence. Retrieved from http://www.victimsofcrime.org/library/crime-information-and-statistics/domestic-partner-intimate-violence
National Council on Child Abuse & Family Violence (2013). Spouse/Partner Abuse Information. Retrieved from http://www.nccafv.org/spouse.htm
SC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (2011). Overview of Domestic Violence. Retrieved from http://www.sccadvasa.org/domestic-violence-facts-and-stats/overview-of-domestic-violence.html
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2011). Domestic and intimate partner violence. Retrieved from http://womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/types-of-violence/domestic-intimate-partner-violence.cfm
"Essay submitted for the Charles R. Ullman & Associates Scholarship, 2013. www.divorcelawnc.com"