Domestic Violence is a Crime Against Society

Domestic Violence is a Crime Against Society

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Domestic violence is not a private matter between two partners; it is a crime against society.

In this domestic violence awareness month, these and many other powerful ideas are presented across the nation by San Diego attorney Casey Gwinn, nationally recognized for his aggressive prosecution of abusers and protection of victims.

The term "domestic violence" is problematic because the word "domestic" reduces the seriousness and the lethality of violence in the eyes of certain people. It should simply be called "violence," period! It is a violent act by one citizen against another.

It's not the peace of one home that is disturbed by violence, the whole society is damaged with each act of violence. Since domestic violence was seen as a couple's domestic problem and it was "none of our business," perpetrators got away with murder, literally.

Just a few years ago, prosecutors based their decision to prosecute on the number of stitches a victim received. Many courts followed the unspoken rule, "no broken bones, no prosecution."

What we allow, we encourage. When violence is not stopped it escalates. Just as today's undeterred acts of petty larceny could escalate into tomorrow's felonious crimes, so a blackened eye or a bruise from abuse of today could become tomorrow's broken bones.

The cycle of violence is passed onto the next generation. In a worst case scenario, all children raised in a violent home can become tomorrow's abusers or victims. Male children raised in a violent home, on average, begin to identify with the abuser by age 13 or 14. A female child raised in a similar environment is more likely to be a victim of abuse. Chances are that she may not identify abuse for what it is.

Casey Gwinn says, "Witnessing is victimization." A child who witnesses violence between parents is a victim. Research shows that such children are six times more likely to commit suicide, and twenty-four times more likely to be sexually assaulted. They are more likely to be both sexually and physically abused during their childhood by the violent parent. Therefore, domestic violence is not a matter between just two partners, but a potential victimization of this and future generations.

No, child in the next room or upstairs sleeps through it when a parent or parents are screaming and fighting. Three out of four children of divorced parents witness family violence prior to or after the divorce. A child totally depends on these two out-of-control people. These tiny silent witnesses may carry invisible scars for their life.

According to conservative estimates, violence occurs at least once in one half of all marriages. But, in one fourth of the marriages, violence occurs more than once. Thus, millions of children in America repeatedly witness violence at home. If violence prevention campaigns do not prevail, rage outbursts such as "domestic rage" "road rage" or "air rage" and other forms of violence will.

Since family violence is a crime against society, society must take steps to prevent it. Children should be taught by schools to call 911 when violence is occurring at home. Such a call may protect them from becoming a direct or indirect victim of abuse and violence.

Programs such as conflict resolution training and abuse prevention education in schools, anger management and negotiation skills training at work places and churches, and gender sensitivity training in public relations agencies are examples of positive steps towards prevention.

Everybody should be educated regarding violence. Everyone, including law enforcement officers, those in the judicial system, attorneys, health professionals, employers and social service agencies should be on board and on the same page to identify the victims and perpetrators. We should keep the focus on actions of an abuser rather than the failures of a victim.

We should be watchful of our tendency to normalize family violence. "Everybody once in a while does something they later regret" or attempt to explain away by saying, "these things sometime happen in every marriage" in an attempt to make violence acceptable. Let's not rationalize or trivialize violence. Remember, when we allow it, we are in fact encouraging violence.

To hope that a chronic abuser will change without a highly concerted action by the legal, correctional and professional therapists is no different from hoping that a crow will turn into a swan.

Hoping that a hard-core abuser will change with more love is like wishing that a frog would turn into a prince charming by your kiss.

Yes, the children would be better off with a single non-abusive parent than they would in a two-parent violent home.

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 2002, Mind Publications 
Posted October 2002


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