Domestic violence can be divided into two categories: Domestic violence itself and false accusations or allegations of domestic violence. Both categories are destructive to everyone involved.
Domestic violence affects families in many different ways regardless of their race, color of skin, age, economic status, or country of origin. It not only affects family as an institution, but it also affects the community as a whole by exposing and promoting children to adopt a violent behavior as a result of witnessing the abuse from or between their parents. If the abuse is a constant factor in the household a child will assume that is natural and “OK” to be abusive. A child that witness domestic violence is also victim of abuse.
When a case of domestic violence is presented, most people imagine a battered woman with bruises in her body from a beating where she was hit, pushed and kicked; However, the emotional abuseis as harmful but not as obvious as the physical abuse. Emotional abuse sometimes is hard to identify as it typically escalates throughout the abuser-victim relationship, or after an important event, such as the birth of a child, death of a family member, etc. Abusive behavior, whether is physical or emotional has only one objective “power and control”. Some forms of emotional abuse are: a) Dominance: when the abuser takes no consideration of the victim’s wishes or desires; b) Humiliation: by name calling and public embarrassments; c) Isolation: by restricting contacts with other people outside of the household; d) Threats: about killing the victim or him/her self; e) Intimidation: throwing things against the wall as a sign of warning; f) Financial control: by limiting the available funds or having the victim asking for money when needed; g) Utilizing the children: as a weapon and excuse for the behavior; and another abuse that is both physical and emotional is sexual abuse, by forcing the victim to perform unwanted sexual acts or even to perform regular sex when is unwanted (No means No) degrading the victims self-esteem and dignity.
One of the biggest problems that exist is that victims sometimes don’t recognize the fact that is subject to abuse, either for lack of education or because they are used to the mistreatment and it seems as perfectly normal behavior, thus, not reporting the abuser.
Some statistics show that up to 95% (for example, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence shows 85%) of the victims of domestic violence are women and that men are also victims of domestic violence but, for different reasons, are less likely to report it to authorities or press charges. Law about domestic violence changed with the “Violence Against Women Act 1994” as it was not considered a crime and when police was called to a scene of domestic violence, the officers could only defused the situation by asking the aggressor to “walk off its anger and calm down”, but would not make an arrest. This changed when a man turned around, as the police officers were about to leave, and killed his wife.
Domestic violence presents a tremendous monetary impact in the community as studies have shown that the cost of domestic violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, including medical and mental health services and reduction of productive work.
These abusive behaviors, whether by males or females, and one way of doing it is through early education in both the home, by being a good role model, and the school, by teaching students the difference between what is right and what is wrong, and being loved or being victimized.
In the other hand, there are some any interesting facts that are usually not considered when domestic violence is discussed. Women are seen as victims of domestic violence by large majority (between 85% and 95% of reports showing female victims) over men because men do not call the police; however, if we would consider all the men that do not file a report, for one or another reason, we would not only find out that women are responsible for 70% of domestic violence cases, as Linda Kelly, Professor of Law, Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis. B.A. wrote on her book DISABUSING THE DEFINITION OF DOMESTIC ABUSE: HOW WOMEN BATTER MEN AND THE ROLE OF THE FEMINIST STATE, 1988; but also that a large percentage of the women’s reports are either false allegations or that the woman was the initiator of aggression but also who called the police when the man responded to the aggressions. How many times have we heard or even seen of a woman vandalizing a man’s car by scratching it with keys as a result of jealousy or after discovering adultery? Or threaten with committing suicide if the relationship was ended? Or throwing personal belongings out an apartment window or against a wall? Men do not file reports under these circumstances, but they happen every day and more often than not the perpetrator is a woman.
False accusations of domestic violence are, sadly enough, utilized as a tool to obtain legal advantages over a divorce/custody case. In many instances a divorcing parent, mostly women, will make a false accusation of domestic violence against the man to gain custody rights over their children and ruining the other parent’s life in many ways. The alleged “aggressor” will be put in jail and have public records of domestic violence, potentially loosing custody of a child, losing a job, professional licenses, etc. In many cases Judges are reluctant to dismiss a restraining order risking that the accusation was rightful and thus leaving the accuser exposed to further abuse. Sometimes Judges not even allow the accusers to explain themselves and simply make a ruling by reading the “victim’s” statement. Victims of “false accusations of domestic violence” have changed their life becoming miserably, in many cases, by losing their jobs, thus not being able to not only pay their bills, but also a court order child support, bringing them back to jail and into a cycle that is emotionally devastating to both the victim and his/her children.
In conclusion, domestic violence is a very serious problem that needs to be treated in a case by case situation with an in depth investigation and consequences to both the victim and the abuser, whether is a real case or a false allegation. Everyone involved in the investigation, from the victim to the Judge ruling on a restraining order, should take into consideration the facts and the overall situation of the couple in dispute (divorcing, disputing custody of children, etc). Education and support are essential to understanding, preventing and treating this problem.