Domestic violence is normally seen as a crime that goes unnoticed and at times unpunished. For various reasons, many cases of domestic violence do not hit the courts and arrests do not take place. Due to fear or false thoughts about the actual abuse, many abused women choose not to follow through on charges because they worry about what might happen to them in the future or they convince themselves that the abuse was their own fault. In most cases of domestic violence, it is not classified as a “one-time thing’ that doesn’t take place again.
Usually, the abuse will continue and escalate to the point that escape or death might be the only ways to end the abuse. Domestic violence is not something that only happens in certain states or areas of the world. It is a worldwide epidemic that can’t be solved because there are many underlying causes for why it happens. New safeguards need to be in place across the nation to ensure that domestic violence doesn’t lead to death or scars that could last a lifetime.
Domestic violence can take on many different forms. In the United States, it is expected that almost 20 people a minute will be abused by an intimate partner. This comes out to over 20 million men and women who are abused a year. Nearly 33% of women and 25% of men have been victims of domestic violence at one point in their life. On a normal day, there are over 20,000 phone calls that are made to domestic violence hotlines in the United States.
This equals close to 15% of all violent crimes that are committed daily. But, of the large amount of people that are abused by their partners, only roughly 34% of them seek medical attention. The large remaining amount goes unnoticed.
In most of the situations, the person getting abused will either blame themselves or convince themselves that the situation has to get better. In some cases, the person doing the abuse might seek counseling because the person they are abusing demands it. But, unless the abuser actually sees that they have a problem, the counseling would accomplish nothing. Psychologist Claire Metz conducted a study on why people who are abused choose to stay with their abuser. According to Metz, they “have identified new factors that make it difficult to separate from the partner, all of which are related to early distress. The bond with the partner thus appears to be a quasi-desperate and always unconscious attempt or fantasy to repair one’s own history and to patch up this distress” (Metz, 2018). The victim normally sees a fantasy in their mind of what a perfect relationship would look like with their abuser, and they go out of their way to make that a reality.
The web series “Till Death Do Us Part’ symbolizes an epidemic in one of the 50 states that shows the level that domestic violence can entail. In South Carolina, one person usually dies as a result of domestic violence every 12 minutes while the courts and the police do little to solve the problem. South Carolina is seen as one of the top 10 states in terms of death of women at the hands of men. Even though the domestic violence rates in the state have dropped in the last 20 years, the death rate of women has risen. The true issue is that much of the murders do come from men using a firearm on the women that they either are dating or are living with. Due to the laws in the state, even violent offenders can have their own firearm for protection reasons.
In many other states, any person that has been convicted of a violent crime gives up their rights to ever own a firearm. In addition, the courts and the jails choose not to put abusers in jail for an extended amount of time. In many states, the amount of time that an abuser could spend in jail could go from three months to seven years, depending on the extent of the abuse. In addition, in many states, the abusers would receive a restraining order that would force that person to stay a certain amount of feet away from the abused person at all times. In South Carolina, many cases of abuse lead to questions about how real the abuse actually is and the abuser might only spend a few days in jail. The courts feel that there are better options available to stop the abuse and they also feel that this is something that should be settled “in home”, as opposed to in a courtroom.
In the state of South Carolina, many of the abusers end up getting out of jail to go to an out-patient treatment class that is meant to control their anger. The treatment, which is known as “ART” stands for “anger regression training” is usually a 16-week class that the abuser must attend at least two times a week. The issue is that many abusers follow the concept of “fake it to make it” and tell the counselor what they want to hear to get a completion, but they usually don’t believe what they are actually saying. The treatment’s main goal is to let the abusers learn the reasons why they might be abusing someone that they care for. People abuse others for a variety of reasons. Most of the reasons involve their own self-esteem or insecurities that they have for themselves. Very few abusers choose to hurt their partner because they get pleasure out of instilling fear in them or actually hurting them.
Normally, the abuser gets a pleasure out of knowing that they have control over their partner. They normally feel that their own needs and feelings should come first in their partner’s life and that everything else should get pushed to the side. This usually involved the person being abused neglecting their own family, work or friends. Abuse is a learned behavior. Many times, the abuser witnessed this form of behavior in their own family or from friends. It is very rare for a person that has a “perfect life” to become an abuser because they would have better healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress. The true issue is that abusers normally don’t know that they are actually doing abuse until it gets to the point of physical assaults. But even then, the abuser might get into their head that the person deserved the abuse because of something they might have said and done. If the treatment is successful, the offender would know that they are in the wrong. But, in South Carolina and in other states, the person teaching the course might not be a certified psychologist and the abuser doesn’t get the treatment that they should be getting.
Not all forms of child abuse need to be physical. Some forms of child abuse could be emotional, verbal or with-holding. But, a different form of child abuse could arise from witnessing something harmful happening to a person that they love. It is estimated that close to 3 to 4 million children a year are witness to domestic violence in their households while they are within the ages of 3 to 17. It is estimated that close to 95% of domestic violence involves a female partner being abused by a male partner. In many of these occasions, the children are forced to witness the brutality that happens inside of the home. Witnessing the abuse doesn’t always mean that they physically see the physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse that is happening to their loved one. It could also involve hearing the abuse happening in another room, observing the aftermath of the abuse on their parents or just sensing that something horrific is about to happen in their home. The effects that this has on children could end up being equal to greater than the effects that the abuse has on the actual victim.
Children who witness abuse are just as likely to be nervous around loud noises or scenes that might remind them of the abuse. In a way, they learn to be on guard at all times. Since children don’t fully understand what is happening and what is causing the abuse, they wait for the next incident to happen and wonder if there might have been something that they could have done differently to stop the abuse from happening. At times, the children will start to worry about the other people in the household and question if the abuse might also start happening to them. In the end, they never truly feel safe in the home. In addition, children in these types of homes have to accept that what happens in the home must be kept a secret at all times. Usually, the actual person being abused will tell their children not to tell anyone what happened.
Each child that watches or hears abuse happen in their household will deal with it differently. In the end, that difference can stem from their age, their own self-esteem, the friendships that they have outside of their home and their support system that extends to people in school or religious settings. Jane Callagan, a psychologist on domestic violence and the effects that it has on families stated “Although children will probably never forget what they saw or experienced during the abuse, they can learn healthy ways to deal with their emotions and memories as they mature. The sooner a child gets help, the better his or her chances for becoming a mentally and physically healthy adult”(Callagan, 2017, pp. 330). Even though talking about the abuse is usually seen as taboo, it is something that some children choose to do in order to actually cope with what is happening in the household.
Normally, it is almost impossible to see physically which children are being affected by domestic violence in their households. On the outside, these children will appear as normal children. But inside, they will be hiding some terrible pain. Many of these children find reasons to blame themselves for what is happening inside of their household. They feel that if they would have been better, then the abuse would not be happening to their loved ones. Also, some of the children might start to feel angry at the actual victims in the abuse because they feel that it is their own fault.
These children normally begin to stuff as many negative emotions as possible into themselves, usually waiting for a reason to let all of that anger and hostility out. William Turner, a psychologist who wrote an article about the interventions that need to take place for children who have domestic violence in their households stated “Violence in the home can turn a child’s world upside down. Routines such as going to school and participating in recreational activities are vital for children’s development and well-being and should be maintained” (Turner, 2017, pp. 21). Even though chaos might be happening inside of a household, it is imperative that a routine still happens for the children so that they can keep a stable outside life.
Children in an abusive household also will go out of their way to get attention. Since the household is in chaos, the children are normally some of the last people to get noticed in the home. Due to this, the children might seek outside sources for friendship or for letting out their emotions. But, at times doing these actions might also have negative consequences. At times, these children might misbehave in school or do petty crimes on the street, all in the attempt of getting attention from people. They feel that since they aren’t getting the attention at home, they might need to get it elsewhere. These kids normally start to feel isolated and vulnerable. They begin to feel emotionally, physically and psychologically abandoned.
The thoughts that these children have are not the only triggers that will be witnessed in them. Children who witness domestic violence will have thoughts in their heads that normal children do not have. They will experience feelings of anger at their families for allowing the abuse to happen, feelings of shame for being a part of the abuse, feelings of sadness because part of them will either blame themselves or others for what is happening in the home, and feelings of depression because they don’t want to be home. At times, these kids would rather be anywhere except for the location where the abuse is happening. All of these signs are internal signs that hurt the child. But, even children who witness domestic violence can have physical signs also. Some children end up getting injured also as a result of trying to stop the domestic violence.
In addition, they might end up with frequent headaches, difficulty sleeping, bedwetting, stomach aches or difficulty concentrating. The more serious physical consequences that children might experience is abuse also. Katie Lamb, a psychologist from Harvard University conducted a study on the correlation between children who witness domestic violence and who become victims themselves. In her findings, she stated “One study in North America found that children who were exposed to violence in the home were 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average. This link has been confirmed around the world, with supporting studies from a range of countries including China, South Africa, Colombia, India, Egypt, the Philippines, and Mexico” (Lamb, 2018, pp. 166). It is clear that abuse in a household could manifest from abuse on one person to abuse on others.
Children who experience domestic violence also have long-term effects that they could experience during their entire life. In many occasions, the child still cares for the abuser and still considers them to be a role-model (regardless of their behavior). In addition, as they get older they might feel that their mother was weak, which allowed them to be taken advantage of or abused. In some occasions, children of domestic violence might end up becoming abusers also at a later age. They might start to take on the characteristics of the abuser and end up seeing characteristics of their mother in their significant other. Even though statistics do show that some children do end up as abusers, it is also clear that this is not always the cases.
Many adults who grew up with violence in their household are actively opposed to violence of all kinds. There is a large amount of reason to support that children know that domestic violence is wrong and actively want it to stop. Many children who are present during acts of domestic violence tried to help, and some might actually have succeeded. It is estimated that in 15 percent of the cases when children were present, they tried to prevent the violence in some way, and 6 percent tried to get outside help from either police, school officials or neighbors. Another 10 percent actively tried to protect the victim or make the violence stop, but probably ended up being abused in the process themselves.
Many television specials are known for capturing the brutality that happens from domestic violence accurately. But, in all of these shows, the viewers are only shown a snippet of the victims’ lives. The abuse that happens can go on for their entire lives, as opposed to the 5 minutes that a show center on them. The consequences and ramifications of the abuse are clear in the small amount of time that the show centers on them, but in many cases, the true aftermath might not be visible for years to come. To fully understand what the consequences are for an abused person in a relationship, someone would need to actually talk to an abused person. By hearing their stories and their cries for help, then an individual would be better able to grasp the actual severity of the nature. Statistics don’t lie and the numbers of abused people are constantly being discussed.
In schools across the nation, domestic violence is discussed constantly and it is always reminding the victims that “it isn’t your fault”. Television specials are aired at all times that showcase what domestic violence looks like and many “made for cable” movies are shown in Lifetime channel to also express the need for changes in domestic violence actions. Regardless of the state that we live in, the true action needs to happen from the abused and the advocates for the abused. By showing that there are consequences for the actions that the abusers are taking, it is possible that more people will report the abuse and the numbers will finally start to drop in the nation.