Domestic violence – facts and solutions

Domestic violence means physical or verbal violence, perpetrated by a family member against another family member
causing physical, psychological, sexual or psychological harm. The legislation regarding the protection of human rights around the world addresses the increasing number of cases of domestic violence and the physical and psychological consequences of this phenomenon. However, domestic violence has increased alarmingly in the context of an unstable society that often foments violent behaviour in the family.
Domestic violence against women is a permanent threat, whether or not they are married, just in a relationship with a partner or they merely share a domicile. Domestic violence almost always prevents women from exercising their fundamental rights and freedoms.
Physical or sexual assault is often preceded and accompanied by intimidation and verbal abuse; isolation from friends, family or other potential sources of support such as authorities; threats made against significant others, including children; deprivation of money, possessions, property, or other personal belongings, control over travelling means, telephone and other means of access to outside support. All of the above are forms of domestic violence that victims should report.
Experts researching the issue agree that violence is much more widespread than surveys show. Some abusive acts, especially the ones that are not physical, are not reported to the police or hospitals. This is because the abuser often relies on and brings about the social isolation of the abused. This way, the victims find themselves unable to engage in social relationships where they may share their suffering and eventually be able to receive support.
The good news is that most countries do provide centres for victims of domestic violence or other social assistance units that provide protection, accommodation, care and counselling to victims of domestic violence who have been forced to flee their homes. Public or private shelters provide victims and children under their care: protection against the aggressor, medical care, food, accommodation, psychological assistance and legal counselling, and professional qualification courses until the unstable situation is resolved. However, at the same time as sheltering, the prosecution and trial may start, at the victim’s request or on the victim’s own initiative, if there s evidence or strong indications that a family member has committed a crime, perpetrated an act of violence causing physical or mental suffering to another person.
It’s important that people receive education regarding their rights so that they can turn with confidence to the institutions and people who can help them, in case they become victims of domestic violence or any other crimes.
Most women that are involved in a violent relationship are aware of the extent of the danger of domestic violence they are subjected to, only when their children’s manifestations awaken their feelings of parental responsibility. Then, the main function of the family – to protect the children – is most often neglected in violent families. However, one of the most common excuses of women who remain in a relationship with violent partners is: ‘in good times, he knows how to be a good father, and the children need both of us’.
The aggression of any kind in the family leads to the establishment of a balance of power within the couple. When the power of decision and determination belongs equally to both partners, the risk of domestic violence is very low.
However, in dominance-subordination relationships, abuse takes a punitive form. In most cases, the power-defined relationship has the man as the dominant part while the woman is submissive.
The rules of morality impose the limits of human social behaviour. The family, as a private social group is governed by the values, norms and behaviour patterns of the adults. This body of moral judgements will be then, in the process of direct and indirect education, inculcated in children. The ethical rules that the individual acquires in the family are part of the process called “psychological birth” of the child. Family is a space where all members shall feel free to meet their existential needs, especially the need for a morality based on love. Moral thinking, clear principles, and respect for human needs can guarantee the quality of family life.
Regardless of the form of violence, the occurrence of violence in relationships between family members is a gap that will gradually lead to more and more forms and manifestations, more varied and more frequent. An innocent remark such as “I don’t like your hairstyle” or “I don’t like the way you dress” will, over time, have increasingly dramatic consequences. These remarks can be appreciated by a benevolent receiver as an expression of interest or, in other words, love. A more cautious receiver would glance at the soon-to-be abuser’s intention to impose the limits of existence and manifestations, at their discretion. The abused find that they have gradually lost their right to their own existence, and the fulfilment of their own needs. Existence and its needs will be formed according to the principles and the ingratiations imposed, often arbitrarily, by the abuser. Over a few years, the incidents of abuse may become more serious, and the remorse phase, the phase of insistence on forgiveness and reconciliation becomes shorter and shorter, until total absence.
In any democratic state, human rights are laws to be respected. There is a well-articulated and fully empowered apparatus at the service of protecting citizens from all walks of life. Ignorance or rejection of legal provisions does not allow for exceptions to the obligation of every citizen to respect them to the letter. Domestic violence, compared to other types of violence, has its aspects, criminalized by law. These are:
1. Permanent access of the aggressor to the victim. In the private space of the home, there are no safe places of ‘shelter’ and it is precise because of this, that the aggressor has total control over the victim or victims.

2. The predictable unfolding of violent events, in cyclical form, with multiple, unavoidable and increasingly frequent and severe episodes over time.
3. The involvement of the whole family system. All the family members become victims – direct and indirect – of the aggressor.

Perhaps the most deviant emotional manifestation in the abuser-victim relationship is Stockholm syndrome whereby the victims become emotionally attached to the perpetrator. They may even side with the perpetrator when faced with outside interventions.
Considering the abnormality of these traumas, the explanations often heard among the ‘absent guards’: “she stays because she likes it” or “I don’t interfere, because if I do, she will blame me for intervening and defend the aggressor” are unacceptable.
Secrecy, and privacy, which make the victim have less access to sources of support invariably occur in domestic violence.
Victims, once caught by the perpetrator seeking help, sharing details with people close to them, soon find that they no longer feel they can do so because they are subject to a more or less explicit order from the aggressor, to put some distance between them and the family, friends or authorities.

Domestic violence has a wide range of manifestations: psychological, physical, sexual and social. They can combine in a hellish amalgam with certain forms of violence leaving devastating consequences, both superficial and profound on the victims.
Women who lose their confidence and joy in life, and children who grow up learning violence as a method of exchange in relationships with others are just a few examples of profound changes that occur in victims of domestic violence.
The main function in the family, that of raising an honest, loving and confident younger generation, making them capable of independent living is profoundly altered by domestic violence. Brazelton and Greenspan (2001), identify the needs of a developing child as:
1. The need for warm, close, stable emotional relationships;
2. The need for physical protection, security and a regular life;
3. The need to have experiences adapted to the child’s level of development;
4. Need for boundaries, structured daily life and responsibilities developmentally appropriate;
5. The need for experiences appropriate to the child’s individual
particular interests;
6. The need to live in a stable community, to benefit from the support and culture;
7. The need for a protected future.
All the above needs maybe not be fully met by both parents in an abusive family.
Domestic violence is the most challenging social problem in today’s communities. However, access to education regarding human rights and obligations and access to support for victims may be essential factors for redressing the situation and for better communities.