Domestic Violence Classification

Violence by a person against their intimate partner is often done as a way for controlling their partner, even if this kind of violence is not the most frequent. Many types of intimate partner violence occur, including violence between gay and lesbian couples, and by women against their male partners

Intimate Partner Violence Types

Michael P. Johnson argues for four major types of intimate partner violence, which is supported by subsequent research and evaluation. as well as independent researchers. 

Distinctions are made among the types of violence, motives of perpetrators, and the social and cultural context based upon patterns across numerous incidents and motives of the perpetrator. Types of violence identified by Johnson: 

  • Common couple violence (CCV) is not connected to general control behavior, but arises in a single argument where one or both partners physically lash out at the other.
  • Intimate terrorism (IT) may also involve emotional and psychological abuse. Intimate terrorism is one element in a general pattern of control by one partner over the other. Intimate terrorism is less common than common couple violence, more likely to escalate over time, not as likely to be mutual, and more likely to involve serious injury. IT batterers include two types: “Generally-violent-antisocial” and “dysphoric-borderline”. The first type includes people with general psychopathic and violent tendencies. The second type are people who are emotionally dependent on the relationship Support for this typology has been found in subsequent evaluations.
  • Violent resistance (VR), sometimes thought of as “self-defense”, is violence perpetrated by victims against their abusive partners
  • Mutual violent control (MVC) is rare type of intimate partner violence occurring when both partners act in a violent manner, battling for control.

Types of male batterers identified by Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994) include “family-only”, which primarily fall into the CCV type, who are generally less violent and less likely to perpetrate psychological and sexual abuse. 

Other

Others, such as the US Centers for Disease Control, divide domestic violence into two types: reciprocal, in which both partners are violent, and non-reciprocal violence, in which one partner is violent

Physical 

Physical abuse is abuse involving contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, pain, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm.

Physical abuse includes hitting, slapping, punching, choking, pushing, burning and other types of contact that result in physical injury to the victim. Physical abuse can also include behaviors such as denying the victim of medical care when needed, depriving the victim of sleep or other functions necessary to live, or forcing the victim to engage in drug/alcohol use against his/her will. If a person is suffering from any physical harm then they are experiencing physical abuse. This pain can be experienced on any level It can also include inflicting physical injury onto other targets, such as children or pets, in order to cause psychological harm to the victim

Sexual 

Sexual abuse is any situation in which force or threat is used to obtain participation in unwanted     sexual activity. Coercing a person to engage in sexual activity against their will, even if that person is a spouse or intimate partner with whom consensual sex has occurred, is an act of aggression and violence.

Sexual violence is defined by World Health Organization as:

  • any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.
  • Categories of sexual abuse include:
    1. Use of physical force to compel a person to engage in a sexual act against his or her will, whether or not the act is completed;
    2. Attempted or completed sex act involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, unable to decline participation, or unable to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act, e.g., because of underage immaturity, illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or because of intimidation or pressure. Marital rape

 

Marital rape, also known as spousal rape, is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse. It is a form of partner rape, of domestic violence, and of sexual abuse. Once widely condoned or ignored by law, spousal rape is now repudiated by international conventions and increasingly criminalized. Still, in many countries, spousal rape either remains legal, or is illegal but widely tolerated and accepted as a husband’s prerogative.

The criminalization of rape in marriage is recent, having occurred during the past few decades. The legal and social concept of marital rape, has developed, in most industrialized countries, in the mid to late 20th century; and in many parts of the world it is still not recognized, socially and legally, as a form of abuse. Several countries in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia made spousal rape illegal before 1970, but other countries in Western Europe and the English-speaking Western World outlawed it much later, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s. In many parts of the world the laws against marital rape are very new, having been enacted in the 2000s.

In the US spousal rape is illegal in all 50 states In Canada, spousal rape was outlawed in 1983, when several legal changes were made, including changing the rape statute to sexual assault, and making the laws gender neutral. Criminalization in Australia began with the state of New South Wales in 1981, followed by all other states from 1985 to 1992. New Zealand outlawed spousal rape in 1985, and Ireland in 1990. In England and Wales, spousal rape was made illegal in 1991, when the marital rape exemption was abolished by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, in the case of R v R.

Emotional

Emotional abuse:

Emotional abuse (also called psychological abuse or mental abuse) can include humiliating the victim privately or publicly, controlling what the victim can and cannot do, withholding information from the victim, deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family, implicitly blackmailing the victim by harming others when the victim expresses independence or happiness, or denying the victim access to money or other basic resources and necessities. Degradation in any form can be considered psychological abuse.

Emotional abuse can include verbal abuse and is defined as any behavior that threatens, intimidates, undermines the victim’s self-worth or self-esteem, or controls the victim’s freedom. This can include threatening the victim with injury or harm, telling the victim that they will be killed if they ever leave the relationship, and public humiliation. Constant criticism, name-calling, and making statements that damage the victim’s self-esteem are also common verbal forms of emotional abuse. 

Often perpetrators will attempt and may succeed in alienating (parental alienation), a child from a parent or extended family member, and in doing so also victimize the child when the child is engaged in emotional abuse by encouraging, teaching or forcing them to harshly criticize another victim. Emotional abuse includes conflicting actions or statements which are designed to confuse and create insecurity in the victim. These behaviors also lead the victims to question themselves, causing them to believe that they are making up the abuse or that the abuse is their fault

Emotional abuse includes forceful efforts to isolate the victim, keeping them from contacting friends or family. This is intended to eliminate those who might try to help the victim leave the relationship and to create a lack of resources for them to rely on if they were to leave. Isolation results in damaging the victim’s sense of internal strength, leaving them feeling helpless and unable to escape from the situation. 

People who are being emotionally abused often feel as if they do not own themselves; rather, they may feel that their significant other has nearly total control over them. Women or men undergoing emotional abuse often suffer from depression, which puts them at increased risk for suicide, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Verbal

Verbal abuse is a form of emotionally abusive behavior involving the use of language. Verbal abuse can also be referred to as the act of threatening. Through threatening a person can blatantly say they will harm you in any way and will also be considered as abuse. It may include profanity but can occur with or without the use of expletives.

Verbal abuse may include aggressive actions such as name-calling, blaming, ridicule, disrespect, and criticism, but there are also less obviously aggressive forms of verbal abuse. Statements that may seem benign on the surface can be thinly veiled attempts to humiliate; falsely accuse; or manipulate others to submit to undesirable behavior, make others feel unwanted and unloved, threaten others economically, or isolate victims from support systems.

In Jekyll and Hyde behaviors, the abuser may fluctuate between sudden rages and false joviality toward the victim; or may simply show a very different “face” to the outside world than to the victim. While oral communication is the most common form of verbal abuse, it includes abusive communication in written form.

Economic

Economic abuse is a form of abuse when one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s access to economic resources Economic abuse may involve preventing a spouse from resource acquisition, limiting the amount of resources to use by the victim, or by exploiting economic resources of the victimThe motive behind preventing a spouse from acquiring resources is to diminish victim’s capacity to support his/herself, thus forcing him/her to depend on the perpetrator financially, which includes preventing the victim from obtaining education, finding employment, maintaining or advancing their careers, and acquiring assets. 

In addition, the abuser may also put the victim on an allowance, closely monitor how the victim spends money, spend victim’s money without his/her consent and creating debt, or completely spend victim’s savings to limit available resources

Specific forms in parts of the world

In some parts of the world, specific forms of domestic violence, such as honor killings, acid attacks and dowry violence, are common.

Honor killings:

An honor killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family or community. Although these crimes are most often associated with the Middle East, they occur in other places too.

Human Rights Watch defines “honor killings” as follows:

Honor killings are acts of vengeance, usually death, committed by male family members against female family members, who are held to have brought dishonor upon the family. A woman can be targeted by (individuals within) her family for a variety of reasons, including: refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce—even from an abusive husband—or (allegedly) committing adultery. The mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that “dishonors” her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life.

Acid throwing:

Acid throwing, also called an acid attack. or vitriol age is defined as the act of throwing acid onto the body of a person “with the intention of injuring or disfiguring [them] out of jealousy or revenge”. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones.The long term consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body. Acid attacks are often connected to domestic disputes in places such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. In India, these attacks also happen in connection to dowry murders.

On children

3.3 million children witness domestic violence each year in the US. There has been an increase in acknowledgment that a child who is exposed to domestic abuse during their upbringing will suffer in their developmental and psychological welfare.During the mid 1990s, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study found that children who were exposed to domestic violence and other forms of abuse had a higher risk of developing mental and physical health problems. Because of the awareness of domestic violence that some children have to face, it also generally impacts how the child develops emotionally, socially, behaviorally as well as cognitively.

Some emotional and behavioral problems that can result due to domestic violence include increased aggressiveness, anxiety, and changes in how a child socializes with friends, family, and authorities Depression, emotional insecurity, and mental health disorders can follow due to traumatic experiences. Problems with attitude and cognition in schools can start developing, along with a lack of skills such as problem-solving. Correlation has been found between the experience of abuse and neglect in childhood and perpetrating domestic violence and sexual abuse in adulthood. 

Additionally, in some cases the abuser will purposely abuse the mother or father in front of the child to cause a ripple effect, hurting two victims simultaneously. It has been found that children who witness mother-assault are more likely to exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Consequences to these children are likely to be more severe if their assaulted mother develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and does not seek treatment due to her difficulty in assisting her child with processing his or her own experience of witnessing the domestic violence. 

Family Violence prevention in Australia and other countries has begun to focus on breaking intergenerational cycles, according to the National (Aust) Standards for Working with Children Exposed to Family Violence it is important to acknowledge that exposing children to Family Violence is child abuse. Some of the effects of Family Violence on children are highlighted in the Queensland Government and SunnyKids awareness raising campaign. 

Physical

Bruises, broken bones, head injuries, lacerations, and internal bleeding are some of the acute effects of a domestic violence incident that require medical attention and hospitalization. Some chronic health conditions that have been linked to victims of domestic violence are arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, pelvic pain, ulcers, and migraines. Victims who are pregnant during a domestic violence relationship experience greater risk of miscarriage, pre-term labor, and injury to or death of the fetus.

Psychological

Among victims who are still living with their perpetrators high amounts of stress, fear, and anxiety are commonly reported. Depression is also common, as victims are made to feel guilty for ‘provoking’ the abuse and are frequently subjected to intense criticism. It is reported that 60% of victims meet the diagnostic criteria for depression, either during or after termination of the relationship, and have a greatly increased risk of suicidality. 

In addition to depression, victims of domestic violence also commonly experience long-term anxiety and panic, and are likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder.

The most commonly referenced psychological effect of domestic violence is PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD (as experienced by victims) is characterized byflashbacks, intrusive images, exaggerated startle response, nightmares, and avoidance of triggers that are associated with the abuse. These symptoms are generally experienced for a long span of time after the victim has left the dangerous situation.

Many researchers state that PTSD is possibly the best diagnosis for those suffering from psychological effects of domestic violence, as it accounts for the variety of symptoms commonly experienced by victims of trauma.

Financial

Once victims leave their perpetrator, they can be stunned with the reality of the extent to which the abuse has taken away their autonomy. Due to economic abuse and isolation, the victim usually has very little money of their own and few people on whom they can rely when seeking help.

This has been shown to be one of the greatest obstacles facing victims of DV, and the strongest factor that can discourage them from leaving their perpetrators. 

In addition to lacking financial resources, victims of DV often lack specialized skills, education, and training that are necessary to find gainful employment, and also may have several children to support.

In 2003, thirty-six major US cities cited DV as one of the primary causes of homelessness in their areas It has also been reported that one out of every three homeless women are homeless due to having left a DV relationship. If a victim is able to secure rental housing, it is likely that her apartment complex will have “zero tolerance” policies for crime; these policies can cause them to face eviction even if they are the victim (not the perpetrator) of violence.

While the number of shelters and community resources available to DV victims has grown tremendously, these agencies often have few employees and hundreds of victims seeking assistance which causes many victims to remain without the assistance they need. 

Long-term

Domestic violence can trigger many different responses in victims, all of which are very relevant for any professional working with a victim. Major consequences of domestic violence victimization include psychological/mental health issues and chronic physical health problems.

Some long term effects on a child who comes from an abusive household, or have been abused themselves are guilt, anger, depression/anxiety, shyness, nightmares, disruptiveness, irritability, and problems getting along with others.

Although they may have not been the ones being abused it still affects them because they had to experience and witness their loved ones being abused, which takes a toll on them as well. Domestic violence also teaches poor family structure. A child who grows up being abused thinks of that as a way a family functions, and will grow up and repeat the cycle because that is all they know.

Some other long term affects include but are not limited to poor health, low self-esteem, difficulty sleeping, drug and alcohol abuse risk, isolation, suicidal thoughts, and extreme loneliness and fear. A victim’s overwhelming lack of resources can also lead to homelessness and poverty.

A person who has suffered abuse is at risk for a lot of negative consequences that can put them on a destructive path for their future.  

On responders

Vicarious trauma:

Due to the gravity and intensity of hearing victims’ stories of abuse, professionals (social workers, police, counselors, therapists, advocates, medical professionals) are at risk themselves for secondary or vicarious trauma (VT), which causes the responder to experience trauma symptoms similar to the original victim after hearing about the victim’s experiences with abuse

Research has demonstrated that professionals who experience vicarious trauma show signs of exaggerated startle response, hyper vigilance, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts although they have not experienced a trauma personally and do not qualify for a clinical diagnosis of PTSD

Researchers concluded that although clinicians have professional training and are equipped with the necessary clinical skills to assist victims of domestic violence, they may still be personally affected by the emotional impact of hearing about a victim’s traumatic experiences.

Life et al. found that there are several common initial responses that are found in clinicians who work with victims: loss of confidence in their ability to help the client, taking personal responsibility for ensuring the client’s safety, and remaining supportive of the client’s autonomy if they make the decision to return to their perpetrator. 

It has also been shown that clinicians who work with a large number of victims may alter their former perceptions of the world, and begin to doubt the basic goodness of others. Life et al. found that clinicians who work with victims tend to feel less secure in the world, become “acutely aware” of power and control issues both in society and in their own personal relationships, have difficulty trusting others, and experience an increased awareness of gender-based power differences in society.

The best way for a clinician to avoid developing VT is to engage in good selfcare practices. These can include exercise, relaxation techniques, debriefing with colleagues, and seeking support from supervisors

Additionally, it is recommended that clinicians make the positive and rewarding aspects of working with domestic violence victims the primary focus of thought and energy, such as being part of the healing process or helping society as a whole.

Clinicians should also continually evaluate their empathic responses to victims, in order to avoid feelings of being drawn into the trauma that the victim experienced. It is recommended that clinicians practice good boundaries, and find a balance in expressing empathic responses to the victim while still maintaining personal detachment from their traumatic experiences.

Burnout

Vicarious trauma can lead directly to burnout, which is defined as “emotional exhaustion resulting from excessive demands on energy, strength, and personal resources in the work setting” The physical warning signs of burnout include headaches, fatigue, lowered immune function, and irritability

A clinician experiencing burnout may begin to lose interest in the welfare of clients, be unable to empathize or feel compassion for clients, and may even begin to feel aversion toward the client. 

If the clinician experiencing burnout is working with victims of domestic violence, the clinician risks causing further great harm through revictimization of the client. It should be noted, however, that vicarious trauma does not always directly lead to burnout and that burnout can occur in clinicians who work with any difficult population – not only those who work with domestic violence victims.

Biological

These factors include genetics and brain dysfunction and are studied by neuroscience.

Psychological

Psychological theories focus on personality traits and mental characteristics of the offender. Personality traits include sudden bursts of anger, poor impulse control, and poor self-esteem. Various theories suggest that psychopathology and other personality disorders are factors, and that abuse experienced as a child leads some people to be more violent as adults.

Correlation has been found between juvenile delinquency and domestic violence in adulthood. Studies have found high incidence of psychopathy among abusers.  

For instance, some research suggests that about 80% of both court-referred and self-referred men in these domestic violence studies exhibited diagnosable psychopathology, typically personality disorders. “The estimate of personality disorders in the general population would be more in the 15–20% range

As violence becomes more severe and chronic in the relationship, the likelihood of psychopathology in these men approaches 100%.”[4] Dutton has suggested a psychological profile of men who abuse their wives, arguing that they have borderline personalitiesthat are developed early in life. 

However, these psychological theories are disputed: Gelles suggests that psychological theories are limited, and points out that other researchers have found that only 10% (or less) fit this psychological profile. He argues that social factors are important, while personality traits, mental illness, or psychopathy are lesser factors studies.

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