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Knowledge Universe

Definition of Abuse:

Battering is a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviors that an individual uses to gain power within an intimate or familial relationship.  Battering is a choice.

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Categories of Abuse

Acts of battering/abusive behavior usually
fall into one or more of the following categories:

Physical Abuse:

Physical abuse can include, but is not limited to: hitting, slapping, pulling hair, pinching, grabbing, pushing, shoving, strangulation, kicking, and may escalate to the use of weapons or physical attacks that can result in serious injury or death.

The abuse tends to escalate over time; initial physical abuse may begin with a push or a shove, and may intensify in the severity and frequency over the course of the relationship.

Sexual Abuse:

Sexual abuse can include unconsented sexualized touching, threats or coercion to engage in sexual relations or acts (including videotaping, photographs, and pornography) and rape.   The victim is forced or coerced into participating in unwanted sexual activity.

Emotional Abuse:

The abuser may engage in emotional or psychological abuse in an effort to control the relationship.   Emotional and psychological abuse can include persistent verbal abuse, putting the victim down, name calling, making degrading comments, isolating the victim from friends and family, harassment, possessive or jealousy behaviors, controlling who partner sees, what partner wears, deprives the victim of physical or financial resources, threatens to harm the victim, family, friends and pets.   Threatens to take the children through legal or illegal means, destruction of personal property, threatens to kill themselves, and threatens to kill the victim.

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Why do people abuse the people that they love?

Abuse is a choice; the batterer chooses to be violent.   Abusers attempt to maintain control within the relationship by using battering behavior.   Many abusers have reported that they used verbal, emotional, financial or physical violence in attempt to control their partner´s actions.   Abusers state that someone must be in control of the relationship, so"it might as well be them".   Abusers intend to control their partner and their partner´s actions and the use of power and control through abusive behavior accomplishes this goal.

Some batterers may have a low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness, but this does not cause the abuse.   A batterer chooses who he/she will abuse.   Many abusers do not abuse others within the community; the violence is aimed at personal or intimate partnerships.

A batterer may externalize the root causes of his/her behavior.   A batterer will blame the violence on stress; his/her partners behaviors or actions, alcohol or other substances.   Stress, alcohol and substance abuse do not cause abuse.   Alcohol and substances may reduce the batterer´s inhibitions, but it is not a causal factor.   If it was, the abuser would abuse every time he/she used either drugs and/or alcohol and the violence would be generalized, everyone would be at risk, not just his/her partner.   The victim never provokes or causes the abuser to be violent, abuse is a choice.

A batterer is often described by victims as being the nicest person you would ever want to meet.   Batterers often are well respected in the community and by family and friends.   Abuse is often hidden behind closed doors, frequently making it harder for the victim to be believed.

A potential abuser may show signs of jealousy, possessiveness, may have a bad temper, may be cruel to animals and verbally abuse his/her partner.   The abuser may move too quickly in the relationship, appear too good to be true, and attempt to change partner´s behaviors or interfere with friendships or family relationships.

Battering is not an act of anger.   Abuse does not always occur when the batterer is angry.   Battering is a choice.

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  • Did the abuser grow up in a violent family/household?

  • Does the abuser solve his/her problems through violence?

  • Does the abuser have an alcohol or substance abuse problem?

    • While the substances do not cause the abuse, it can reduce inhibitions.

    • The abuser while under the influence may not care about the consequences of his/her violence and will frequently use drugs or alcohol use as an excuse for the violence.

  • Does the abuser believe that someone should be in control in a relationship?

  • Is the abuser jealous of other relationships?

    • Not just past relationships or male friends,
      but with female friends and your family?

  • Does the abuser accuse you of flirting with strangers or acquaintances that you may have contact with?

  • Does the abuser demand that you respect him/her, but does not respect you?

  • Does the abuser control:

    • who you are friends with?

    • Who you talk to?

    • What you wear?

  • Have you changed your likes, dislikes, needs, who you are, to accommodate your partner?

  • Does your partner have access to guns, knives or other lethal instruments?

  • Do you have to tell your partner where you have been, who you spoke to, account for your time, but your partner does not have to tell you anything?

  • Does the abuser expect you to listen and follow his/her orders and advice?

  • Does the abuser go through extreme highs and lows?   Are your moods dependent on the abusers moods?

  • Do you feel bad in your relationship?

  • Have you wanted to act violently towards the abuser?

  • Are you afraid of your partner?

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  • Domestic violence can happen to anyone.

    • Domestic violence crosses all socio-economic status,
      race, ethnicity and social status.

  • 97% of domestic violence victims in heterosexual relationships are female.   Domestic violence occurs as frequently and as severely in same sex relationships.   (American Bar Association, "American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence", American Bar Association, http://www.abanet.org/domviol/statistics.html).

  • Annually, compared to males, females experienced over 10 times as many incidents of violence by an intimate.   On average each year, women experienced 572,032 violent victimizations at the hands of an intimate, compared to 48,983 incidents committed against men.   (Ronet Bachman Ph.D., U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Violence Against Women: A National Crime Victimization Survey Report",
    January 1994, p.6).

  • According to FBI statistics, an incident of domestic violence occurs every nine seconds in this country.

  • In a national survey of more than 6,000 American families, 50 percent of the men who frequently assaulted their wives also frequently abused their children.   (Strauss, Murray A, Gelles, Richard J., and Smith, Christine. 1990. Physical Violence in American Families; Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers).

  • Slightly more than half of female victims of intimate violence live in households with children under age 12. (U.S. Department of Justice, Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends, March 1998).

  • Studies suggest that between 3.3 - 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.   (Carlson, Bonnie E. (1984). Children´s observations of interpersonal violence.   Pp. 147-167 in A.R. Roberts (Ed.) Battered women and their families (pp. 147-167). NY: Springer.Straus, M.A. (1992).   Children as witnesses to marital violence: A risk factor for lifelong problems among a nationally representative sample of American men and women.   Report of the Twenty-Third Ross Roundtable.    Columbus, OH: Ross Laboratories).

  • On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day.   In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner.   The same year, 440 men wee killed by an intimate partner.    (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003).

  • Thirty-Seven percent of women who sought treatment in emergency rooms for violence-related injuries in 1994 were injured by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend.   (U.S. Department of Justice, Violence Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments, August, 1997).

  • According to a National Institute for Justice Statistic, domestic violence is the leading cause of death for African American women ages 15-45 and the seventh leading cause of death for Caucasian women in the same age group.

  • Estimates indicate that up to three million women are physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year.   (The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman´s Lifespan: 1988 Survey of Women´s Health, May 1999).

  • According to a 1999 Family planning study, 10% of pregnant teenagers age 13-17, experienced domestic violence.

  • According to the March of Dimes, domestic violence is one of the leading causes of birth defects.

  • Pregnant and recently pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause, and evidence exists that a significant proportion of all female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners.(Horon, I.,& Cheng, D., (2001).   Enhanced Surveillance for Pregnancy-Associated Mortality-Maryland, 1993-1998.   The Journal of the American Medical Association, 285, No. 11, March 21, 2001.   Frye, V. (2001).   Examining Homicide´s Contribution to Pregnancy-Associated Deaths.   The Journal of the American Medical Association, 285, No. 11, March 21, 2001).

  • The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide committed by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year.   Of that amount, nearly $4.1 billion are for direct medical and mental health care services, and nearly $1.8 billion are for the indirect costs of lost productivity or wages.   (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, April, 2003).

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Why do Victims Remain in an Abusive Relationship?

  • This question is frequently asked, why does the victim stay?   Another question may be why does the abuser batter?   Beyond the questions are the realities that leaving an abusive relationship is not easy, in fact victims of domestic violence are most at risk of injury or death when they are in the process of leaving or have left the relationship.

  • The abuser perceives this as a loss of control and may increase the severity or intensity of the violence to regain control.   If the abuser perceives that the relationship is over and there is no chance of reconciliation, the abuser may attempt to kill or kill the victim.

  • The most dangerous time to be around your abusive partner is right before you attempt to leave.   Leaving is the most dangerous time because the batterer perceives this as a loss of control over the relationship.

  • Friends and family may not be aware of the abuse.   Or if the victim grew up with violence, family members may blame the victim or make excuses for the abusers behavior.

  • The abuser may have told the victim that he/she will gain custody of the minor children and that the victim will never see the children again.

  • The victim may not have the financial resources to support the household independently.   The abuser may have controlled all of the finances or has left the victim in enormous debt.

  • Finding adequate childcare or a well paying job is often an obstacle for many victims of domestic violence.

  • The abuser may promise to change and to never act violently again.   The victim wants to believe the batterer and for a while the abuser may not act violently.

  • The relationship is not always all bad, the victim may remember the good times and wish for them to return.

  • The children are asking that the victim reunite with the batterer.

  • The victim may not know about or have access to safety and support services.

  • The victim may not have anyone to turn to because of the isolation that occurred within the relationship.

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Barriers to Leaving:

Lack of Resources

  • Many victims of domestic violence have at least one dependent child.

  • Many victims are not employed outside of the home.

  • Finding employment that pays a sustainable income and childcare that is affordable is frequently difficult.

  • Some victims may not earn enough to be self sufficient but earn too much to qualify for public assistance.   (TANF, Childcare Vouchers, housing).

  • Some victims may not be able to find affordable housing, due to the freeze on section 8´s and other housing voucher programs.

  • Some victims may not own property or have access to cash or bank accounts.

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Institutional Responses:

  • Clergy and secular counselors are often trained to see the goal of saving the marriage
    at all costs, rather than the goal of stopping the violence.

  • The victim is often blamed for the violence.   Victim blaming is a common institutional response, frequently a victim will be asked what he/she did to provoke the violence.
    The victim´s lifestyle or choices may also be judged.

  • Holding the abuser accountable has not always been the consistent response made
    by varying institutions.

  • The victim will be asked why she/he stayed and is often encouraged to leave.
    This may not be the most viable or safe option for the victim.

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Traditional Ideology

The traditional ideology has been that abusers frequently will assume the male dominant role
within the household.

While this may be true of some relationships, many abusive relationships are not characterized by the traditional male/female role.   In both heterosexual and same sex relationships, the power and control dynamic may not result from societal perceptions of the traditional roles for men in women.   The abuser will frequently attempt to gain control because he/she believes that
someone in the relationship must be in control and he/she would rather it be them.

This belief system establishes the foundation for the power and control to exist.   The abuser
will justify his/her behavior, arguing that someone must be in charge and the use of violence or abuse is one method to gain this control.    Abusers frequently believe in double standards.
The abuser may demand respect, but does not give it.

The abuser may also feel justified in controlling his/her partners actions, friendships, familial relationships and other outside activities, but does not feel that his/her partner has the right
to do the same.   The abuser will frequently maintain that he/she does not have to answer to his/her partner, but that the partner must do as the abuser tells her/him to do.

The inequality of the relationship is established by the use of power and control.   This power
and control can include physical violence, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse and sexual abuse.

The victim is never to blame for the abuse.
Battering is a choice that is made by the abuser.

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