A look at domestic violence: More than a family problem

By Brooke McNaughton

Note: This story was produced for JCOM 2160, Introduction to Online Journalism, which emphasizes hand-coding HTML.

May 6, 2008 | It's a crime that is more common than all other forms of violence combined, outweighing car accidents, muggings, and rapes put together. A crime that affects all members of society and people in all stages of life. A crime that has been around since the first people and cultures and still exists today. So what is this crime? None other than domestic violence.

Defined as "when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person,” domestic violence has many subtle ways, but still affects all.

It seems to be that in modern society, domestic violence and abuse in the home often gets overlooked while technological advances are highly revered. Although technology is vital to the growth of the mind, societal progression and maturation has yet to take place– and civilization has been around for thousands upon thousands of years. It is obvious that many changes in daily life have occurred since then, but there are fundamental similarities between society now and society then that prevent our civilization's growth.

Domestic violence, in short, is one of these crucial similarities. It stunts the growth of civilization and to prevents the world's people from experiencing peace.

Besides gender, there is no typecast for abusers and contrary to popular belief, they aren’t limited to the lower socioeconomic profile or being part of a minority group. The only uniting factor is the way they treat their loved ones, which even then has differences.

There are three distinct categoties of domestic violence: physical, which is any forceful, physical behavior; psychological, which is any verbal or nonverbal form of communication used to control a partner; and sexual, which is any form of sex or sexual degradation.

If domestic violence is so bad, you ask, then why is it that the victims don't just leave the abuser? It's not quite that simple.Just like there isn't one set type of offender, there's also no set type of victim. Many feel the need to stay in order to keep the marriage together, or for the welfare of their children, others feel they are financially dependent on their husbands, or they fear greater physical damage if they attempt to leave the violent situation. Many are simply ashamed to admit they are being beaten or that they made a wrong choice in selecting a partner.

So how can we help? It's difficult to say, the majority of the time domestic abuse will go under the radar. It's hard to identify both abusers and victims, especially considering that the abuser will tend to present himself in an entirely different manner when in public than when he is at home, meaning friends and family members outside the home view him as a normal and productive member of society. When he is not in public, however, is when the abuse occurs. This means that it is almost impossible to suspect abuse unless there are bruises on the victim or the victim confides in another person what has happened to her, which rarely, if ever,happens.

Part of the reason domestic violence has flown under the radar and out of public eye for so long is because of the media coverage it receives. It either goes unreported completely or it is mislabeled as some other unrelated crime. Dr. Cathy Bullock of the Journalism Department at Utah State University conducted a study in 2002 which investigated the coverage of domestic violence in Utah newspapers.

She found that “the coverage tended to represent death as an isolated problem in the relationship rather than as part of a pattern of abuse, the coverage tended to portray the incident as an isolated homicide rather than part of a larger problem characterized by its own patterns, the coverage tended to portray physical harm only and omit verbal/emotional/psychological abuse, and some articles excused the abuser and/or blamed the victim.” When a family member assault another, it “is commonly viewed as a family squabble, something less than a real crime," which makes it awkward and “difficult for even friendly outsiders–much less police officers– to intervene constructively in the affairs of a given family.”

There are some signs to look for, however, that can assist in identifying problem.

These signs include

It's not uncommon for an abuser to exhibit any of these traits, and when it's seen by others it's extremely important to let someone know and lend a helping hand. To learn how you can be of most help, visit this site .

Society cannot and will not progress if there is not peace in the home. Many consider the home to be the fundamental unit of society. It being the central institution of knowledge and growth for children, both scholarly and humanely, the home and family should take the role of a most revered stronghold which families are always aiming to improve. It doesn't, though. Fathers still abuse their wives and children. This creates the cycle of violence, which the children repeat in their own homes when they grow up, The cycle of domestic violence cannot be stopped without societal intervention, and the victim has a hard time finding support on her own. She must still rely on faulty law enforcement, health professionals, abuse counseling services, shelters, and most critically the judicial system if she is to break the cycle of violence by herself. Although there are services available to battered women, there are certainly not enough; according to the California Commission on Domestic Violence,there are three times as many animal shelters as women's shelters in the United States and it is the nation's number one under reported crime.

It's important for the community to get involved. If you'd like to know more and make a difference, visit this site to learn more on the patterns of violence. If you believe you know someone who is a victim of domestic violence or are one yourself, the website for the local women's shelter's CAPSA can help with immediate needs.

As the noted legal scholar Franklin Zimring once wrote, "advanced societies take family violence seriously." It's about time our society took domestic violence seriously.