The story of A Thousand Acres written by Jane Smiley is not at all unfamiliar to some American families. While the story tells about the male character representing a negative typical figure of abuse and the female character as the victim of violence and lack of compassion may be fictional in nature, this kind of story also happens in real life (Smiley 12). Love, security, and safety are words commonly used to describe a home. Some people say that home is where the heart is. From the daily grind of life, people seek refuge in the confines of the place they call their own. However, not all homes echo peace and harmony among family members.
Not every home becomes a safe place to return to. Not all homes are filled with laughter. Not all homes make one proud. As a child, I get used to playing alone. Within the four corners of my dark bedroom, I have learned to find ways of how to make myself happy as I tried hard to get numb from feeling the bruises on my body and even just for a while forget about terror I get from seeing blood drop out of my skin. Mom said that Dad loves me that is why when he learned that I was not performing academically well in school, he has to hit me to remind me that I had not been a good boy.
I believe her. I blame myself for not being able to completely understand my lessons because I cannot concentrate on reviewing while I hear Dad cursing mom in between beatings while mom screams her heart out from the pains she endure. If Dad has to lock me up inside my room, I cannot blame him because it was my fault. If he had to switch the lights off while I have to read my books, I cannot blame him because it was my fault. If he will not allow Mom to bring some food inside my room because I had just been punished for my poor grades, I cannot blame him because it was my fault.
Dad punishes me because I deserve it. He does all these things because he loves me. I came to believe that fathers normally act this way because Dad once said that my grandfather does the same things with him when he was my age. Perhaps, children have to go all through this to feel the love their fathers have for them. But I was wrong. Dad has no right to hurt me or Mom. He is a father and a husband, not the enemy. Love is not supposed to be expressed by inflicting harm on the other. Love is not supposed to leave wounds that even time cannot afford to mend.
I never had a happy childhood. Now that I am a grown up, I must admit that I am still struggling with the pains that my father has caused me. I know that it takes time. I am also aware, that while I try to leave all the hurtful memories behind, some of the bitterness in my heart will be here to stay. My father has been long gone. He died of colon cancer. Since his demise, Mom and I tried our best to put ourselves and our lives back to pieces. It was utterly hard, but our love for each other helped each of us to live life anew.
Neighbors, relatives, and friend also extended their help to us. Coping up entails a long process to recovery. Nonetheless, it was all worth it. Life has not been easy as I used to be hunted by my past. However, my experience has allowed me to extend help to those who find themselves on the same path I used to cross. I devote my time in learning more about domestic violence. In this way, I can cause a change to other people’s lives in my own little way. From my own personal experience, I learned so many things I could not have otherwise known.
My life may not be enviable at all but I am so proud to have surfaced from it nonetheless. The things I learned from my own life story are the very same things I want to leave behind when I am gone. I learned that I am entitled to live in a place where I can be safe. I have the right to stay inside a home free from violence of any kind. I am free to commit mistakes. No one has the right to tell me that I am useless. I am supposed to live my life according to my rules following my own decisions. I deserve respect for my intelligence. I am entitled to chase my own dreams.
I am supposed to attend to my personal needs as a person. It is unfair for me to remain in a relationship where my personal welfare is in no way considered. It is important for me to discuss my concerns particularly with people whose behavior impairs wellbeing. I am entitled to decide things on my own. While I have the right to express my opinion, I also have the right to withhold them if ever I decide to do so. Fulfilling the needs of people who has inflicted pain on me is not in any way my obligation. Violence in the family is not something new.
Perhaps, since time immemorial, family violence has already existed. However, it was only during the modern times, that societies started to acknowledge its existence and regarded it as a social problem. The World Health Organization regarded violence in the family as a global health concern in the year 2002 (Barnett, Perrin, and Perrin 2). It is easy to think of the family as being relatively immune from violence, a place of safe harbor, a place of sustenance and care. The idea that a parent or a spouse would intentionally and knowingly inflict injury on a loved one is counterintuitive.
A parent is supposed to protect and care for a child. Spouses are supposed to love and cherish each other. We know, however, that often the family is a source of maltreatment and violence. We read about maltreatment within families in the newspapers, and we see news stories about it on television. Many of us know people who have been abused by family members or we ourselves have been abused, or we have witnessed abuse between our parents. We know family violence exists. Identifying the commonality of violence in the family is a difficult task.
Calculating family violence is naturally problematic, primarily since there is a little conformity among those who collect data as to precisely what makes up domestic violence. Regardless of definitional consensus, the fact remains that most domestic violence takes places inside the confines of a home. It is usually concealed, overlooked, or ignored. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation finds it hard to accurately identify the statistics of family violence because not all cases are reported for reasons beyond their control (Barnett, Perrin, and Perrin 3).
When researchers attempt to deal with the issue of frequency of domestic violence utilizing self-report surveys, the data they collect proves to be unavoidably insufficient. Some victims may find it hard to remember childhood maltreatments and those who are currently suffering from domestic violence may not regard, may choose not to regard, or may be unable to report the abuses they endure at home. In this light, statistics of domestic violence must be treated with caution. Identifying precisely and accurately how much violence exists in the American society seem almost impossible.
Violence in the family may appear to be unpredictable, merely a sudden occurrence associated to the moment as well as to the circumstances under which the people concerned find themselves into. As a matter of fact, violence traces a distinctive pattern regardless of the time when it took place or who is involved. The cycle of violence recurs every time the level of the abuser’s violence rises. At each stage in the cycle, the abuser takes full control of his or her actions and tries to manipulate and further isolate the victim.
To be able to effectively address the concerns of the abused, it is vital to have a good understand the cycle of violence as well as of how the mind of the abuser works. In this way, the abused recognizes that he or she is not the one at fault. The cycle of violence begins with the set up. It is followed by the act of abuse itself. Afterwards, the abuser suffers from feelings of “guilt” and revenge. It is then followed by rationalization. The abuser then shifts to a charming behavior. Thereafter, the abuser contemplates on how to carry out the next act of violence on his or her victim.
The act of violence can be manifested in various forms. The abuser behaves violently in the intention to show his or her victim who is in control. When the assault has been done, the abuser feels guilty not for his or her actions but for fear of facing the consequences of what he or she has done. This is where the abuser begins to rationalize his or her actions. The abuser does so in order to shift the blame on others. When the abuser starts to complete another plot of abuse, he or she creates a situation wherein justification can be made as to why the assault happened in the first place.
Violence in the American society is not at all new. Wars, riots, gangland slayings, political assassinations, or rape cases are different types of violence familiar to Americans. However, surprisingly, the American home is perhaps as or more violent as compared to ay singular American institution. They run the greatest risk of murder, physical injury, or assault inside the confines of their own homes inflicted by their own family members. Across the country this is borne out by official crime statistics. Stories of ill-treated children and maltreated wives are rampant enough to be labeled as “child abuse” and “wife abuse.
” Approximately millions women and children ill-treated and abused by family members each year are only the tip of the iceberg identified as “violence between family members” (Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz 4). Brothers and sisters beat, stab, and shoot each other. There are husbands who are struck and beaten by their wives, and even grandparents are battered by their own children. Violence in one generation affects and encourages violence in another generation. In many families, perhaps a majority of violent families, violence is not even considered taboo or wrong. Rather, it is an accepted and integral part of the way the family functions.
Wife abuse and child abuse have captured public attention because of the terms themselves and because they involve terribly violent acts with damaging consequences for the victim. However, “abuse” is only one extreme end of the continuum of violence in the family, which, for many reasons, never is publicly identified as “abuse. ” Our aim was to study a variety of forms of violence, including some which many people do not consider violent, such as spanking a child. These are some of the frequently asked and most important questions, which unfortunately, we still cannot answer with any certainty.
There is no real way of knowing whether families have become more violent in the last decade of the last century. One could use official police, hospital, and social agency statistics to assess changes in the extent of child abuse and wife abuse, but for several reasons these statistics are not suitable for estimating actual levels of violence in the family. First, official statistics compile only the cases of family violence that come to public attention. These are probably only a fraction of the total cases of family violence.
Second, official statistics are compiled by organizations and individuals who work in those organizations. These individuals and the units they work in are often influenced by publicity campaigns, public pressure, political pressure, and changes in state and federal law. It was not until 1968 that all fifty states had laws mandating reports of child abuse (Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz 4). Thus, official statistics compiled by the states before 1968 reflect differences in official legal attitudes toward child abuse and not the true level of abuse in each of the states (Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz 4).
Even today, official statistics vary because each state and each compiler of the statistics in state and local agencies draw on different definitions of child neglect and child abuse. In terms of spouse abuse on the other hand, spouse abuse, few if any agencies have ever bothered to compile statistics on how many wives or husbands batter one another. Although we cannot say definitely whether violence in the American family is on the increase, historical facts argue that family violence certainly is not new and that, probably, we are more violent and perhaps a little less violent toward our own families than were our ancestors.
Abused women are found in all socioeconomic levels, all educational, and all racial groups (Finkelhor 29). The abused woman has a martyr-like behavior. She is often a long sufferer and overloaded with the demands of others. The abused woman finds it difficult to nurture herself and she feels unappreciated. The abused woman is often employed but is not allowed control of any finances (Finkelhor 29). She does not know how to deal with stress. She can have anxiety attacks. Usually, this type of woman will feel tired and overworked. She does not provide enough space in her life for breaks.
Poor management of time and resources are quite apparent. It is hard for the abused to make life changes. Problem solving is very stressful. The abused accepts responsibility for the batterer’s behavior. The battered woman is isolated and loses contact with her family or friends. She often feels embarrassed about her situation. This type of woman is further isolated because her partner does not want her to give time to friends, neighbors, relatives, or outside activities. He wants all the attention himself. The abused suffers from guilt.
He or she may feel that he or she deserves to be beaten for failing to live up to the expectations of the abuser. An abused woman is a traditionalist about her role in the home. She strongly believes in family unity and has traditional expectations of her husband or as the provider. This type of woman wants to keep the image of a socially or religiously acceptable marriage. The abused has a low self-esteem and does not feel that he or she has much value. The abused is extremely critical of his or herself and usually of others. He or she does not have a high level of self-preservation.
The abused accepts violence in the hope that someday the abused violence the abuser will eventually change. The abused believes that he or she caused the anger and violence. The abused woman usually loves her husband and wants to trust his promises that he will reform, although it rarely happens. The abused could have been emotionally neglected as a child. He or she could have been physically and/or sexually abused as a child or saw violence in his or her family. He or she could have been abused by a sibling, parent, or a relative. It is difficult for the abused to verbalize her needs and desires to others.
He or she has poor communication skills and has difficulty in being able to express his or her anger. The abused woman has poor communication skills and has difficulty in being able to express her anger. Since the abused woman is unassertive, she can be quite manipulative. She is skilled in the art of complaining. However, her complaints are usually not listened to or resolved by her partner. The abused is usually in denial. He or she will not admit to his or herself that he or she has been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused. The abused may think of each incident as an accident.
He or she often gives excuses for the abuser’s violence. The abused usually rationalizes the incident. The abused woman is usually taught from her childhood to defer power to a male. Much of the time she feels helpless and will look for someone to help her put her life together. She does not want to take responsibility for making decisions and would rather have someone else make them. Many abused women feel comfortable in taking a complaint position (Finkelhor 29). She has been brought up to believe that women are weak, inferior, and should submit to men in return for financial support.
The abused is often depressed. He or she can try to make his or herself less depressed by overdoing things. The abused my turn out to be alcoholic, may overeat, may over exhaust his or herself from work, to name a few. He or she may even contemplate on suicide to end his or her difficult life. Although parents’ use of violence on children certainly is not new, the addition of the term child abuse to our vocabulary has come about only recently. Child abuse typically refers to acts committed by parents on their children that other members of the society view as inappropriate and harmful.
Thus, child abuse depends on historically and culturally relative judgments for its meaning. All families have tensions, and all families sometimes resolve these tensions in inappropriate ways. Even the best parents and the most loving couples sometimes lose their tempers, say intentionally hurting things to one another, raise their voices when arguing, and even lash out at loved ones physically. Many structural factors make families particularly prone to violence. One of these is the amount of time family members spend together, which increases the opportunity for violence.
Another factor is that family interactions are often emotional, and so especially volatile. In addition, power differential often exists among family members. Children are subordinate to parents, elderly parents are subordinate to their adult children, and wives may be subordinate to husbands. The result is that the powerless sometimes become targets of aggression. Further complicating matter is the fact that children, and to some degree, women as well cannot fight back. Nor can they always choose with whom they will or will not interact.
Whereas many interpersonal conflicts can be resolve simply through the dissolution of relationships, family relationships are protected by law and are not so easily severed. Wives can easily feel trapped by the cultural, legal, and economic constraints of marriage. Children are dependent on their parents. Even when child maltreatment comes to the attention of authorities, states are reluctant to break up families and parents are often given every opportunity to change. Everyone involved with spousal abuse seems to have feelings of guilt and frustration that manifest themselves as denial or in a pessimistic outlook.
Either they cannot do anything about it so they might as well ignore it, or they cannot do anything about it by they will pretend they can until someone comes up with a better idea. It appears they are embarrassed by their failure or their perception of failure and so use defense mechanisms to protect themselves from it. Perhaps, this explains the general reluctance to talk about the problem at all, to anyone. Some believe that family members can be expected to lose control from time to time, that parents and spouses sometimes need to “blow off steam.
” They may rationalize that a man who hits his wife is not really violent – he just had a bad day at work and lost his temper. Or they many rationalize that a woman is generally a good mother, but her kids were really acting up and she only hit them because she lost control temporarily. Some people believe that such actions are inevitable – even natural – and are hardly worthy of serious societal reaction. The ludicrous nature of the “it just happens” justification becomes clear, however, when one recognizes that stranger violence is not so easily dismissed.
When one stranger assaults another, we do not allow the assailant to dismiss his actions as a momentary loss of control, a need to blow off steam, or a reaction to a bad day at work. Nor do we allow the assailant to blame the victim. We are appropriately intolerant of stranger violence. Violence within the family increasingly is identified as profound societal problems that can exert a multitude of short and long term effects on young people and can take a variety of forms including abuse perpetrated by parents or siblings.
Victims of violence are survivors, and they find various ways to help themselves endure the violence until they are able to leave the relationship. The coping strategies they work out enable them to put their feelings on hold so they can deal with the day-to-day challenges of a violent and dangerous life. The most common coping strategy abused people do is denial. Denial enables them to live with what is happening and to avoid feelings of terror and humiliation.
Denial can be counterproductive, as they may cause the victim to deny the seriousness of the problem. Anger enables the victim to take strong action in an emergency. Nightmares provide a way to experience strong feelings of fear, anger, panic, and shame the abused may not be able to share with anyone else or even allow him or herself to feel. The emotional impact on children who witness domestic violence done to other people can be significant, particularly when their parents or recognized authority are the ones involved.
Moreover, the emotional impact on children is also great when the violence takes places inside the home where children are supposed to be kept away from harm. When children find themselves in a hopeless situation, they can also be harmed regardless of whether or not they are the ones directly abused in the situation (Helfer, Kempe, and Krugman 3). Many times, the effects of domestic violence are intensified when the children think they can no longer expect support coming from their parents or caregivers. They likewise struggle with feelings of fault and guilt.
It is crucial to acknowledge that the impact on the child bearing witness to domestic violence can be controlled by a several factors, such as support from concerned adults as well as effective treatment to address their problems. In the vast majority of families, women are the primary caretakers of children. Therefore, the battering of mothers affects children in myriad of ways. Children who witness violence against their mothers are at considerable risk physically, psychologically, and emotionally. These children face two fold threats. One of which is the threat of physical abuse.
The other is the threat of bearing witness to a traumatic incident happening inside their home. Children living inside a violent home are also at risk of being harmed. They may be traumatized witnessing their mother being attacked while both of them are left without aid. Consequently, these children may lay the blame on themselves for not being able to do something about the problem. Furthermore, these children may be abused or neglected themselves. Women who have been battered repeatedly are sometimes unable to respond psychologically to their children.
They may display the following behaviors: unresponsiveness to the child’s emotional needs, passive rejection of the child, detachment or lack of involvement with the child, interaction with the child only when necessary, no display of pleasure when interacting with the child, lack of positive response to the child’s attempts to elicit interaction, poor ability to comfort the child at times of distress, no sharing in the positive experience of the child, withdrawn affect, no display of emotion, or depression, and an inability to derive pleasure or satisfaction from a relationship with the child (Wilson 32).
Children living inside violent homes may be indirectly harmed themselves. These children may be struck by thrown objects or weapons. Babies may suffer injuries in the event that the mother is holding the baby at a time the assault takes place. In other cases, children may receive injuries while they try to protect their mother from harm. Many fathers unintentionally inflict harm on their children while throwing objects while assaulting their wives. The care, affection, and love they deserve are not given to children living inside violent homes. The trust of an abused child towards a violent parent is impaired in the process.
Moreover, violence toward a child by a parent often serves to disrupt the development of child-parent attachment. The aggressive family tends to live in an environment that fails to provide the children with appropriate opportunities for or models of socialization or bonding. It is not surprising that children who are victims of family violence often have impaired social relations. Children have been subjected to differing types of maltreatment throughout history, and these atrocities are well documented (Utech 37). For centuries, society has condoned infanticide, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and the exploitation of children’s labor.
The prevalence of child maltreatment has endured throughout time and has cultivated tenacious legacies that have shaped societal response to child abuse. Those legacies include the tenet that children are the property of their parents – and expandable as well. These traditions contributed to the slow societal response n defining and responding to child abuse. In addition, society has suffered from a denial of the problem’s existence and prevalence. Child abuse is a complex, disturbing concern that, even though prevalent in underprivileged families, crosses all sectors of society (Helfer, Kempe, and Krugman 3).
The human as well as fiscal costs of abuse in America are huge. It is highly possible that billions of dollars are used in social service and treatment costs and lost in reduced productivity for a generation of abused children. The human costs on the other hand fill a long list of psychological disorders. The emotional damage due to maltreatment may last a lifetime. Works Cited Barnett, Ola W. , Cindy Lou Miller-Perrin, and Robin D. Perrin. Family Violence Across the Lifespan: An Introduction. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE, 2005. Finkelhor, David. The Dark Side of Families: Current Family Violence Research.
Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE, 1983. Helfer, Mary Edna, Ruth S. Kempe, and Richard D. Krugman. The Battered Child. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1999. Smiley, Jane. A Thousand Acres. London: HarperPerennial, 2008. Straus, Murray Arnold, Richard J. Gelles, and Suzanne K. Steinmetz. Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family. Piscataway, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2006. Utech, Myron. Violence, Abuse and Neglect. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman Altamira, 1993. Wilson, K. J. When Violence Begins at Home: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Ending Domestic Abuse. Alameda, California: Hunter