Domestic Violence


Definition Of Domestic Violence

Home Office (2005) - 'any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or are family members, regardless of gender or sexuality'.

Historically a private matter

Cultural expectations

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Mullen (2000) - 'persistent attempts to impose on another person unwanted communications or contact'

8.2% of women, 2.2% of men

62% of women stalked by prior intimate relationship, 23% by strangers

70% of men stalked by strangers

90% of domestic violence homicides involved stalking

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29% of women, 18% of men (aged 16-59)

Domestic violence highest likelihood of death aged 19-44

16% of all violent crime

45% victimised more than once a year

27% victimised 3 or more times per year

50% of all female homicides

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Cross Cultural Differences

Albania - right to beat wife encoded in law

Southern China - no legal protections from domestic violence

Poland - 78% of perpetrators found guilty & given jail sentences, 0% of these served any time in jail

Sweden - shelters opened in 1978 but still only 33% of victims speak with prosecutors

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Male Perpetrator Responses (Hearn, 1998)

Thoughts on their violence

1. Repudiation (total) - either whole or parts of the violence are denied: full denial, removal of self or intention

2. Quasi-repudiation - as above but coupled with diminishing the violence e.g state 'not knowing', minimisation, reduction, relativisation

3. Excuses & justifications

4. Confessions

5. Composite & contradictory accounts - combination of the prev 4 types of accounts

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Risk Factors Of Perpetrators

Not a casual relationship

Childhood experience of violence

Lower socio-economic status


Prior arrest for assault

Substance misuse

Personality characteristics - insecure, low self esteem & impulse control, poor social skills

Psychopathological disorders - mood disorders, depression, ptsd

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Effects - Intergenerational Transmission (Ehrensaf

Longitudinal study of 543 unselected children followed over a period of 20 years

Testing the effects of parenting, exposure to domestic violence, maltreatment, adolescent disruptive disorders & emerging substance abuse disorders on the risk to violence to & from an adult partner

Adolescent conduct disorder most frequent risk for perpetrating domestic violence followed by exposure as a child to parental domestic violence

Enable a target group for interventions?

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Effects - Children's Functioning & Maternal Child

Studies show that young children who witness domestic violence have increased trauma, lower self esteem, lower levels of social functioning, higher depression & anxiety

Also shown to have more behaviour problems, be more aggressive with peers, difficulties in forming relationships with other adults including teachers

Domestic violence found to negatively impact children's behaviour with mothers in interactions but didn't influence maternal reporting of problem behaviours - suggests a lack of recognition that adverse relationship wasn't 'out of the ordinary'

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Trauma Bonding (Dutton, 1993; Gordon, 2004)

Where a strong emotional tie develops between 2 people where 1 intermittently harasses, beats, threatens or otherwise abuses the other

Similarities with stockholm syndrome

Demonstrates an imbalance of power & often characterised as sporadic rather than continual abuse

In between there may be intensely positive behaviour e.g kindness or affection

Victim often engages in denial of abuse for emotional self protection & will often mask or hide abuse

Disassociation may also occur - victim experiences abuse but behaves and to some extent believes abuse isn't happening to them directly

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Women often return once they feel more confident (e.g after experiencing the safety of a refuge for a while)

The cost of non-return (lack of personal income, being alone, losing emotional & social ties, losing their home) may start to outweigh the fear, so victim returns

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Biological Perspective

Focus on genetic, congenital or organic roots of behaviour

E.g high levels of testosterone or low levels of serotonin (lower tolerance to anger/aggression, struggles with sleep/mood etc)

Tendency to treat any abnormalities as unalterable - takes responsibility away from individual

No single set level - based on generalities

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Social Learning Theory

Observation of others behaviour & the consequences of that behaviour

Childhood exposure to violent behaviour on the part of family members of significant others resulting in exhibiting similar behaviour towards others in adulthood

Positive reinforcement of batterers in terms of 'successful resolution' of conflict, successful domination etc - therefore repeat & maintain battering behaviour

Deviant behaviour learnt in the same way as normative behaviour - why don't all witnesses follow this through in their own behaviour? - other factors that lead to becoming victim or perpetrator

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Psychodynamic Perspective

Violence is seen as the manifestation of malfunctioning unconscious psychic problems about which the individual may not be aware

Problems probably stem from early childhood experiences

Takes away responsibility from individual

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Feminist Perspective

The behaviour (of both the perpetrator and victim) reflects & is 'in line' with the ethos & experience of those involved (e.g cultural)

Power in relationship in line with societal norms

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Police perception/action - domestic violence units

Policy shift - 'go order' in Germany (raise alarm, but don't go through with charges): force perpetrator away, victim without them for a period of time that could lead to an allegation

Safe houses/refuges


Spousal assault risk assessment (SARA)

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