Domestic Violence, Essays

Cross Cultural Perspectives on Family Violence: A Reflection

My summer course has not yielded quite as much writing material as I had hoped it might. I have entered the final week of class and have submitted all coursework as of this morning. All I have left to do now is take the final exam, and I can put one more course behind me! Today I would like to share my weekly reflection paper to give you an idea of some of the more important issues discussed in this course.

Why doesn’t she “just leave?”

My understanding from all of the readings and other materials from this course is that it is very rare for batterers to ever change their behaviors, let alone as a response to court-ordered interventions. A batterer has to honestly admit to his wrongdoing, be held accountable for the damage he has caused, and make a personal commitment to change in order to stop his abusive behaviors.

Most court-ordered treatment programs are frequented by batterers who are only doing what they have to do to meet the court’s minimum requirements. It is highly unlikely that the batterer will stop abusing his victim under such circumstances. In most cases, the best possible outcome for the victim is to successfully leave the relationship for good. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as “just leaving.”

Leaving a domestic violence (DV) relationship is a process, not an act. It’s not a matter of just walking away and being done with it. If it were that easy, it would not be such a pervasive problem in our society.

In order to facilitate the victim’s exit from the relationship, it is important for her (or him) to have access to adequate resources and services, as well as the backing of the legal system. It is essential for law enforcement, from the first police officers to arrive on the scene through the courts and beyond, to have an adequate understanding of domestic violence and adequate training on how to deal with both batterers and victims when a DV incident is reported.

But she should “just leave.”

There are many factors that make it difficult, if not impossible, for victims to stop the abuse on their own. For example, minimizing the problem is a common coping mechanism for many victims of DV. Additionally, victims typically must think in terms of what keeps them safe “right now” as opposed to keeping themselves safe long-term.

The batterer often has more power to harm the victim in the days immediately following a DV assault than the community has to keep the victim safe. Thus, DV victims commonly appear to side with their batterers in an effort to minimize their danger from the batterer. This does not mean that victims do not want help. It only means that they fear the repercussions of asking for it.

Judges cannot act as customer service providers to victims and do what the victims ask for. They have to instead consider what is in the victim’s best interests in the long run and make decisions that will keep the victim safe. The fact that victims sometimes ask not to be protected by the courts makes it difficult to take the necessary actions to protect them.

I understand that there has to be due process in these cases to protect offenders from having their rights violated. However, in a case where the offender has proven himself to be violent and a danger to his victim, why is it so hard to take him off the streets and keep him away from his victim?

I also wonder if admitting the offender to a mental health facility might help detain him for a longer period of time than simply arresting and releasing him in the same manner that you would arrest, then release a non-violent offender. When a batterer has so obviously proven himself to be a danger to himself and/or others, then why can’t we use involuntary commitment to a mental health facility to separate him from his victim long enough for her to feel safe making the decisions she needs to make?

I read several articles in an attempt to find an answer to this question, and it seems like the one factor that most hinders such an approach is the cost and lack of available resources to make it happen. Mental health facilities are already overburdened as it is. Imagine how full they would be if every DV offender was to take up bed space after every reported DV incident.

I think it would be interesting to see a group of researchers obtain a grant to address this issue and see if it could be made into a viable option. A large amount of grant money would be necessary to secure physical space to detain the offenders and then create a program for addressing their individual needs in response to their crimes. The program should include elements of increased access to resources for the victim and decreased access to the victim by the batterer.

It is obvious that we are a long way from solving the problem of domestic violence in our society. However, it is imperative that we continue to research the issue and try new strategies on an ongoing basis in order to find a way to minimize the impact on victims and society as a whole.

Why doesn’t the batterer just leave?

Yesterday I watched a documentary called, “The Perfect Victim” on public television. One of the experts in the movie asked the question, “Why doesn’t HE just leave?” We always ask why the victim doesn’t leave her batterer. We should be asking him why he doesn’t just leave her. If she is as terrible and worthless as he says, then why does he keep her around? If she is so awful that he feels justified in beating her, why would he want to be in a relationship with her? Why doesn’t he just leave? Why do we hold the victim accountable for being victimized rather than holding the batterer accountable for committing the crime in the first place? What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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