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How to Intervene in Domestic Violence

Domestic violence and abuse are not learned behaviors.  The reason why I say this is that most offenders that abuse and violate their families do not abuse other's who are not related to them.  For example:  Are they fired from jobs for abusing their co-workers, boss, people on the street, the store clerk, etc.?  Chances are that they don't choose to do this.  Most domestic violent offenders have what we call "transferable skills."  They do know how to treat others in their lives respectfully so they already have the skill set.  So, why do they abuse their wife, partner, or girlfriend?  Because of differing beliefs about what is acceptable for their families.  Another example of this is when the person was dating, did the person assault on the fist date or second?  Probably not!  Otherwise, she  would have run.  This element makes it very confusing for the offender's family.  They are asking themselves, "why do they treat (Joe) kindly when talking to him on the phone and then turn around and treat me like crap?"  Because of their beliefs about their family, not because they don't know how.

Now, you may hear your partner, husband or boyfriend complain about others, but when they are interacting with them, they treat them well.  So, again you may ask yourself "why doesn't he intervene when addressing me?  What am I doing wrong?"  Well, the answer is hard to believe!  It's because he can and will likely get away with it.  And, he has a belief system that says it is okay to treat family members differently.  You are not doing anything wrong when he abuses you!  It's not about what you do or say or don't say.  It's because he excuses his behavior with things like "drinking, anger or other feelings, low self esteem, lack of confidence, lack of ability to communicate, etc."  These are common excuses that an abuser will use to justify and deny responsibility for his abuse.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you are not to blame.  Only the perpetrator of abuse is to blame.  So, what if you are a man reading this or a same sex partner?  If you feel yourself cringe while you are reading this and start making excuses and saying this could never apply to  me.  Well, I challenge you to examine the beliefs that you have about your partner.  You may find that you have underlying thoughts and beliefs that say it is okay to treat my family less respectfully than others.  Take the challenge and begin your process of being a better human being, family member and/or parent.  

Defining Violence

Violence is defined as: An act or instance of violent behavior or action or unjust use of power. Abuse or injury to meaning, content, or intent.

Violent is defined as: Characterized or caused by great physical force or rough action. Showing or having great emotional force.

Violate is defined as: An act of violating or the state of being violated. An instance of violating.

Abuse is defined as: To use wrongly or improperly. To trick or deceive. To injure by maltreatment. To assail with abusive words. A corrupt practice or custom. Physical maltreatment. Coarse or insulting language.

Abusive is defined as: Relating to or marked by abuse. Wrongly or incorrectly used or treated.

Fear is defined as: Alarm and agitation caused by the expectation or realization of danger. A ground for dread or apprehension.

Terror is defined as: Intense, overwhelming fear. Something, as a terrifying object or event, that instills intense fear. Ability to instill intense fear. Violence promoted by a group to achieve or maintain supremacy.
(Definitions were adapted from Webster's II Dictionary)

Defining violence is important when considering interrupting any pattern and/or cycle of violence. Many people hear the word violent or violence and assume that we are referring to physical violence only. This is not an accurate definition. Any act that is an attempt to gain the advantage over another can be considered violence or the violation of another. For domestic violence perpetrators, this act to gain the advantage is in the form of power to gain control. This not only instill fear in the victim(s), it creates terror.

This definition of violence includes all forms of abuse and violence. The most common forms of violence are: emotional, psychological, financial, physical, social, and sexual. The myth that only a physical act is actual violence is perpetuated throughout society primarily due to the fact that most people come under significant scrutiny of the criminal justice system when the act of violence is physical.

Abuse
Some people prefer to call their violent acts abuse or abusive. This could be a way to minimize the behavior.

Fear
Not only do victims of domestic violence, which are primarily women and children, fear the abuser, their life becomes and experience of terror.


Facts About Domestic Violence

By: Vivien L. Bliss - director of the Solutions Domestic Violence Intervention Program in Salem, Oregon.

Domestic violence continues to be a leading public health issue. Women continue to be battered at least every 15 seconds. Ninety-five percent of domestic violence victims continue to be women. At least ninety percent of abusers are men. Three to four million women seek medical assistance in emergency rooms each year due to domestic violence. And one-third of all emergency room visits is a woman injured through domestic violence. Over 4,000 women are murdered each year by their abusers and it is reported that forty-three percent of victims never tell anyone about their abuse. That's the facts. One third of these attacks involve a weapon and thirty percent of all female homicide victims are murdered by the significant males in their lives. 

Yet, I read just yesterday that domestic violence is under identified. And, in fact only 3% of cases are presently being identified in day-today practice by primary care givers, which includes physicians, physician assistants, RNs, LPNs, medical assistants and receptionists. Another revealing fact is that in those instances that are reported, practitioners are unsure of what to do. 

So, why does this continue to be such a huge problem? The simple truth is that there are multi-layered social and cultural supports for domestic violence. Our social systems, government, institutions, media, police, courts, education system, religions, language, fads, heroes, art, dances, traditions, etc. all support the continuation of domestic abuse in some way. 
Commonly supported myths include the very idea that domestic violence is not common. The above statistics clearly show you that domestic violence is common. Many people continue to believe that domestic violence only occurs in low-income families. This is absolutely false. Domestic violence occurs in all kinds of families, rich and poor, urban and rural. It occurs in every part of the country, and in every racial and age group. Another regularly supported myth is that anger causes domestic violence. Domestic violence, including physical assault, is not caused by anger. In fact, many men who choose domestic abuse to gain power and control over a family member, intimate partner, and/or the entire family report no thoughts of anger prior to their abusive and violent actions. 

Domestic violence is a tactic intended to gain power and/or control. A common belief is that anger causes violence. Most experts define anger as a feeling, and these experts will agree that feelings do not cause behavior. However, many people who choose violence toward their intimate partners or children will use the excuse of anger. These excuses are many times supported by family and friends, making comments like, "he can't help it, he's got a temper problem" or "when he's not mad, he's such a nice guy". Statements made by violent men, and his family, are excuses that support his continued use of violence. This does not mean that others are responsible for his abuse. He alone is responsible for making the choice to abuse his family. The truth is that he has developed an excuse-making system that is seemingly believable. 

Communication is another common excuse for domestic violence…."If I could communicate better" or "if she would just communicate with me". The truth is that many abusers communicate very well both in actions and words. They send very clear and definite messages to their families. 

Substance use or abuse also does not cause domestic violence. Substance abuse can be a part of a larger pattern of those who choose abuse, but it does not cause it. Another myth is that domestic violence is a relationship problem. The truth is that domestic violence is an act chosen by one individual. This myth is a common form of victim blaming by implying that the victim is in any way responsible for the violence. And, domestic violence is not inevitable if you were raised in a family where there was domestic abuse. The fact is that sixty to seventy percent of boys from violent homes do not become abusers. 

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior used by one person to control and subordinate another in an intimate relationship. It is not about anger, it is not about the relationship, it is not about communication problems, substance abuse, it is not necessarily generational, and the truth is that no one deserves to be beaten or abused. 

It is against the law for anyone to beat up or hurt another person. Domestic violence is a crime. If a person is assaulted on the street, it is a crime. It is also a crime for the same action committed in the home? It is important for all of us to stop supporting these myths and excuses. Domestic violence can be stopped if we all join together in seeing these excuses and myths for what they are. As long as we continue to support them, we are supporting domestic violence.


The Importance of Language

Challenging language is a very important process of changing patterns of abuse and violence. Language is an obvious reflection of a person's belief system, and is considered to be a window to those beliefs. A batterer's choice for violence is supported by their belief system, therefore, to tap into core beliefs is necessary.

Language such as she, girl, we, "old lady", bitch, argument, situation, it, right wrong, good, bad, punishment, discipline, and fight are examples of language that a person may choose to support a pattern of abuse and violence. Even the terms "my wife", "my kids", "the wife" or "the kids" may be used as a way to objectify family members and view them more as possessions or objects, as opposed to independent human beings.

During a batterer's time in an intervention program, they will be given feedback about language and asked to identify the underlying thoughts and beliefs. Some clients are defensive at first. However, if they really want to get their money's worth, as well as create a safer environment for family and friends, the importance of this process of challenging language is extremely valuable. .


Introduction to Domestic Violence Programs

The Solutions program offers groups to those who have committed acts of violence towards a household or family member, or intimate partner. We define violence as any act that is, either directly or indirectly, aimed towards violating (hurting) another person. This act has the purpose of gaining the advantage, instilling fear and having, or maintaining, power and control in the relationship. These violent and/or abusive acts will include a combination (or all) of the following: emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, using male privilege, using the children, using intimidation, using coercion and threats.

State and nation statistics confirm that, in the vast majority of cases, the victims/survivors of domestic violence are overwhelmingly women and that the perpetrators/batterers are men. National statistics also reflect that males commit 90 percent of all violent acts towards males and over 90 percent of the violence directed towards females.

hile some batterer's acts of violence are not necessarily confined to household members or intimate partners (such as in the workplace, friendships outside the family, while driving, etc.), we ask the client to focus on the more exclusive or intimate relationships while in group. With hope, a client will choose to become involved in this process, and will begin to develop an awareness of violence in the community, on television, and elsewhere. However, more importantly, we hope that clients will develop awareness to the kinds of violence they choose, and have chosen in the past, and the devastating effects this has on their family, children, and intimate partner. Through this process, it is made possible to discover how words and actions support and contribute to the continuation of violence in homes and in the community.


Anger is a Feeling. Violence is a Choice

By Vivien L. Bliss

Domestic violence, including physical assault, is not caused by anger. In fact, many men who choose domestic violence to gain power and control over a family member or an intim at e partner report no thoughts of anger prior to their abusive and violent actions.

Domestic violence is a tactic intended to gain power and/or control. A common belief is th at anger causes violence.

Anger is defined as a feeling by most experts, and these experts will agree th at feelings do not cause behavior. However, many people who choose violence toward their partners or children will use the excuse of anger.

This is supported by family and friends who make such comments as, "He can't help it, he's got a temper problem" or "When he's not 'mad,' he's such a nice guy." St at ements made by the violent man, and many times his family, are excuses th at support his continued use of violence.

This does not mean th at others are responsible for his actions. He alone is responsible for making the choice to abuse his family. The truth is th at he has developed an excuse-making system th at is seemingly believable.

It is important for all of us to stop supporting these excuses. Many men have a support system for the continued excuse-making. This generally includes family members, caseworkers, therapists, judges, school personnel, clergy and medical professionals. Basically, all of us continue to both align with and support the excuse of anger.

Domestic violence can be stopped if we all join together in seeing these excuses for wh at they are. As long as we continue to support the myth th at anger causes violence, we are supporting domestic violence.

Phrases like: "angry," "mad," or "I couldn't help it" justify the continu at ion of the abuse. Domestic violence offenders do not see themselves as criminals or offenders, and neither do we. They are our f at hers, brothers, uncles, husbands and sons who are committing these acts.

No feeling can cause anyone to do anything. However, if you use a feeling as an excuse to abuse, you give yourself permission and think you are justified for your actions.

Subpages (1): Resources for Victims
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