Domestic abuse as earlier discussed is a form of abuse which is leveled against members of a family or people who have an intimate relationship. There are different forms of domestic violence and these include emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic deprivation or intimidation. Very few cases of domestic abuse are reported due to fear of reprisal from the perpetrator. This makes it difficult to ascertain the exact number of victims of domestic abuse. However, in the US, 10% or 32 million people are affected by domestic abuse.
Phases of domestic violence
There are three major faces of domestic violence and these are the honeymoon, tension building and acting-out phases. The honeymoon phase is the first phase and the perpetrator of violence apologizes and gives affection after committing a violent act. She or he feels sad and remorseful after committing violence. The next stage is the tension building stage and in this stage, the victims begin building fear and have tension whenever the batterer becomes angry. There is poor communication and victims try to calm perpetrators down in order to avoid confrontations which may turn violent. The third stage is the acting out phase and in this stage, the perpetrator hardly feels remorse for violent acts. The batterer becomes abusive and violent, in attempts to dominate over the victim.
Violence against the elderly
There has been an increase in cases of violence against the elderly. The abuse of the elderly has grown into a criminal justice and public health concern due to increase in cases. The elderly are seen as vulnerable and weak, and this makes them easy targets for perpetrators of elderly violence. Various forms of elderly violence will be discussed and these include physical abuse, economic abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse. It is important to note that a few cases of elderly abuse take place unintentionally, and are usually as a result of attempts to protect the elderly people. In such cases, the elderly may be forced to join homes or relieve themselves of responsibilities which other members of society view as too difficult to them. They may be forced to delegate leadership in companies or political systems due to the perception that they are too old to effectively perform their duties. This may leave them feeling depressed, isolated and demoralized (Cohn et. al., 2002). However, most of the cases of elderly abuse are done intentionally in order to have dominance over the perceived weaker age group.
Causes of domestic and elderly abuse
There are different theories which explain reasons which drive people to commit these types of violence. Some of them will be discussed below;
Psychological disorders account for the largest proportion of domestic violence cases. In fact, more than 81% of cases of domestic violence are linked to psychological disorders especially the psychopathology disorders (Dutton, 2006). Psychopathology disorders affect the mental and personality behaviors of victims. People with this disorder exhibit poor impulse control, bursts of anger and low self esteem. People with psychopathology disorders are likely to project their anger at people around them, and these are family members, spouses and the elderly. This leads to domestic and elderly abuse in the long run if people with these disorders do not seek treatment.
There are different social theories which explain domestic violence. These theories explain that socialization and the environment may influence a person to commit domestic abuse. For instance, social learning is seen to be one of the factors which lead to abuse. Social learning involves imitation of actions of people around us. If a family experiences domestic abuse, children who are raised in such a family may commit abuse in future since they view it as normal in family settings (Shipway, 2004). Stress is also another factor which may lead to commission of domestic violence. When a person has stress, she or he may project their anger at those around them. Spouses, children, the elderly and other family members may suffer from domestic violence if stressed people project their anger on them.
Resource and dependency theories
These theories explain reasons which make women susceptible to domestic abuse stay in abusive marriages. They explain that in cases where the wife or husband is dependent on the other spouse for economic well-being, it is difficult for them to leave abusive marriages. Victims are unable to leave since they believe that they cannot survive without the assistance of the other spouse. This is especially seen in relationships where one spouse has greater power than the other. This makes it possible for him or her to manipulate the other partner into living with domestic abuse.
Power and control
Many abusive relationships occur after one partner or family member attempts to dominate over the other. Spouses, especially men, use violence as a means of dominating over the other partner. Such dominance may arise out of low self esteem, childhood experiences, insecurity, and stress, resentment towards women or men amongst other causes. Spouses who are bullied accept themselves as victims and the cycle of violence continues, until it is broken by separation, divorce or rehabilitation. This is also seen amongst the elderly, and some people abuse them as a means of control and dominance over them.
Forms of domestic and elderly abuse
This is a form of abuse where the perpetrator physically assaults or intimidates her or his victim. It may involve actions such as punching, striking, pulling, slapping, pushing, exposure to heat or cold, head-butting, strangling, kicking, whipping and others. These acts are performed to cause pain, intimidation or injury to the victim. Both domestic abuse and elderly abuse feature physical abuse since in both cases, the victims are perceived to be powerless by the perpetrators, and this allows them to physically dominate over them.
According to Johnson (2005), this abuse is meant to calculatingly injure the emotions of the victim. It includes humiliating victims publicly or privately, withholding information, controlling the victim, blackmail, isolation from family and friends or verbal abuse. This form of abuse may be difficult to detect and victims may realize that their partners dominate over them or control them only through the intervention of third parties. Victims who undergo emotional abuse may suffer from eating disorders, drug abuse or may attempt suicide. Emotional abuse is common in both domestic and in cases of elderly abuse.
In this form of abuse, the perpetrator withholds resources or money from the victim in attempts to control their actions. Usually, the perpetrator has control over the resources and money, and withholding it is meant to force the victim to perform what the perpetrator wants in order to have access to the resources. This form of abuse is common in families where one spouse is economically dependent on the other. It is also common in cases where the elderly are dependent on their children or other people economically. The person who holds the resources deliberately manipulates victims into performing what she or he wants in order for them to have access to these resources. This creates dominance over them.
This is a form of abuse in which a person is forced to engage in sexual acts against their consent. This includes rape, degrading sexual activities and unsafe or unwanted sexual activities. Sexual abuse is more common in domestic violence than in cases of elderly violence although the latter has become common over the years. This form of abuse, just like physical abuse, is meant to dominate over the victim.
How to prevent domestic and elderly abuse
There are various steps which should be taken to reduce cases of domestic abuse and abuse against the elderly. These will be briefly discussed below;
Legislation is a very effective deterrent to crime. Harsh sentences deter potential perpetrators of crime and reduce crime levels. Since domestic violence and violence against the elderly is a crime, harsh legislation should act as a deterrent to crime. Lawmakers should pass laws which give long prison sentences to people convicted of all forms of violence (Neil & John, 2000). This will reduce the overall violence crime levels.
Rehabilitation can effectively treat people who have mental disorders which make them commit violence. Rehabilitation can also make a person who commits violent acts against others realize the harmful impacts to victims, and stop the vice (Hamel & Nicholls, 2007). People who practice any form of abuse should be advised to seek counseling or rehabilitation aimed at encouraging them to change their attitude towards violence. This will enable them to be accepted back into society and to live with other members of society in harmony.
Governments should offer social services free of charge to victims of domestic and elderly abuse. According to Wilcox (2006), these services should include legal, medical, psychological and financial services which will ensure that they recover from the abuse and that the perpetrator is arrested and charged with the offence. The government should ensure that these victims reside in a safe place free from any form of violence.
Public awareness campaigns
This is among the most effective tools of fighting violence in society. The government and civil society should organize campaigns which are aimed at increasing awareness on domestic violence and violence against the elderly. These campaigns should encourage people to report such cases to law enforcement agencies. The campaigns should also provide potential victims with information about where they can access help in case they experience these forms of violence.