Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, entails an imbalance of power whereby an abuser uses intimidation and hurtful actions to control a victim. Anyone in a relationship, whether with a romantic partner or a sibling or a child, is at risk of domestic violence. The problem of domestic violence is rampant in diverse parts of the world, affecting both men and women. However, an overwhelming number of victims are women. In the United States, one in three women is reported to have endured some form of domestic violence from an intimate partner. Domestic violence can range from verbal abuse to serious injuries, which in some instances can turn out fatal. Whereas healthcare professionals can detect domestic violence and provide safety referrals, the problem is still a significant public health concern affecting more women than men, and most cases go unreported hence creating an opportunity for recurrence.
Domestic violence occurs within the domestic circle of the affected person. For instance, it can be orchestrated by a romantic partner, an ex-partner, or a family member. The four most common forms of domestic violence include sexual abuse, physical abuse, economic abuse and psychological abuse (John, 2022). Physical abuse is the use of force to intentionally cause physical harm to a victim, which can sometimes result in manslaughter. On the other hand, sexual abuse is the use of force while performing a sexual act without consent, which is unlawful. Economic abuse refers to behaviours such as the destruction of property or restricting access to joint finances hence restricting a victim of their economic freedom. Psychological abuse can take the form of harassment, coercion and defamation. The diverse forms of violence can occur independently or all together depending on the nature and character of the abuser. For most cultures and, in a few cases, in mainstream society, domestic violence is normalized as a societal norm, especially when the victims are women.
The act of normalizing domestic violence is so bad that even when a victim reports the matter to the authorities, little or no effort is taken to address the vice and bring the culprits to justice. Domestic violence is caused by diverse factors, including social and economic status, religion and the level of education of the parties involved. Furthermore, situations that affect emotions and individual sensitivity are also likely to impact the domestic atmosphere negatively, hence resulting in altercations between partners. For instance, the COVID-19 period heightened sensitivities in the domestic circle, which led to increased cases of domestic violence.
According to research, COVID-19 placed families, individuals and communities under immense stress in terms of the economic burden and health of individuals. Due to practices such as social distancing, some of the women experienced domestic violence in the form of neglect and exploitation (Malik & Naeem, 2020). Domestic violence can be seen as a secondary effect of the pandemic, which means that little to no attention is allocated to evaluating and addressing the problem from a community or a national standpoint. More often than not, secondary matters are not considered a priority for policy reforms. However, given the magnitude of the problem, it is essential to create awareness regarding domestic violence, its nature, implications and ways to avoid or prevent it.
The gravity of domestic violence is sometimes trivialized by outsiders who do not understand the cycle of violence and how it works. For instance, it is easy for onlookers to claim that once violence has been experienced, walking out is the best option. Leaving is difficult, primarily due to the nature of the cycle of abuse. The abuse cycle is categorized into three phases, namely, the tension-building phase, the crisis phase and the honeymoon phase. The tension phase is when the victim is afraid of a looming crisis. The crisis phase is categorized by threats, destruction, and a blowup that is accompanied by abuse of alcohol or drugs (Shelter for Help in Emergency, 2023). The honeymoon phase is when the abuser promises to change, professes love and assures the victim that the violence cannot recur. However, the reality is that victims of domestic violence leave and return to their abuses at least seven times. Furthermore, failure to act on domestic violence cases intensifies their recurrence and severity.
Domestic violence affects the victims in numerous ways, including physical and psychological. Additionally, the self-esteem and productivity of a victim are negatively affected. Apart from the individual perspective, domestic violence affects national healthcare. In the United States alone, approximately 10 million people are affected by domestic violence on an annual basis (Huecker et al., 2022). Diverse studies on domestic violence all focus on different aspects, such as the impact of domestic violence on children and factors that influence its occurrence, among other issues. The essential point of focus, however, can be seen as the creation of awareness regarding the severity of the issue and the establishment of ways through which the victims can receive support. Identifying the abusers and linking them to counselling systems can also help address the root cause of the problem.
Among the numerous indicators of domestic violence include mental disorders, witnessing abuse as a child, a mental attitude that violence is okay and being abused in early childhood. Abusers can be made aware of their actions and advised to identify and work on their triggers to commit violent acts. A team-based or community-based approach can be an effective approach to addressing the issue of domestic violence. It is essential that the stakeholders in society identify and assume their respective roles in providing a safety net to domestic violence victims. For instance, religious leaders can offer compassion and knowledge to the victims, hence helping them manage their situation through sound decisions. According to research, team-based inter-professional care helps victims to evaluate, report and manage their experiences with their abusers (Huecker et al., 2022).
Addressing domestic violence requires the public to first recognize the signs that they are indeed facing abuse. In some situations, victims of abuse are unaware that they are facing the first steps of abuse, which eventually escalate in nature and magnitude, hence the difficulty in leaving an abuser. Among the diverse signs to look out for include an increase in loss of temper, receiving threats about physical harm, hearing of plans to commit violence, increased frequency of physical fights and increase in alcohol or drug intake. Maintaining awareness of the signs of domestic violence can help potential victims distance themselves on the earliest occasion such that they avoid normalizing domestic violence experiences.
While society continues to normalize domestic violence as a lesser crime requiring little to no attention, it is evident from the statistics on domestic violence that the issue is a growing health concern. Victims and witnesses of domestic violence cases shy away from reporting such crimes, which allows the vice to spread and affect large populations. The realization of the gravity of the situation now warrants the public to maintain awareness of the types, causes, signs and impact of domestic violence experiences in society. Furthermore, research findings advocate for a team-based approach (health care professionals and religious leaders) in providing knowledge, safety and compassion to domestic violence victims.
Huecker, M. R., King, K. C., Jordan, G. A., & Smock, W. (2022). Domestic violence – statpearls – NCBI bookshelf. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499891/
John, V. (2022). Hope When It Hurts: Recognizing the Signs of Domestic Violence (Doctoral dissertation, Amridge University).
Malik, S., & Naeem, K. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Women: Health, livelihoods & domestic violence.
Shelter for Help in Emergency. (2023). Cycle of Violence. Shelter for Help in Emergency. Retrieved February 17, 2023, from https://www.shelterforhelpinemergency.org/get-help/cycle-violence#:~:text=There%20are%20three%20phases%20in,tends%20to%20increase%20over%20time.