According to Lynn B. Burnett and Jonathan Adler, the term domestic violence “refers to the victimization of a person with whom the abuser has or has had an intimate, romantic or spousal relationship” and encompasses violence against men, women, children, the elderly and violence found within gay and/or lesbian relationships. Generally, domestic violence follows a very discernible pattern related to “coercive behaviors used by a competent adult or adolescent to establish and maintain power and control” over the lives of other competent individuals. Domestic violence also can occur sporadically or on a continual basis and may include physical violence (slapping, choking, kicking and binding), psychological abuse (threats of physical harm and intimidation) and non-consensual sexual behavior (2006, Internet).
Although adult and adolescent males, children and teenagers are among those who suffer from domestic violence, the largest group by far is that of women between the ages of twenty-six and forty-five and predominately African-American (38%), Caucasian (23%) and Latino/Hispanic (19%). Thus, domestic violence is “a pervasive and frequently unrecognized cause of acute and chronic illness among women” and based on population studies in the United States, “some form of violence occurs each year in 16% of relationships and in 6% it is severe” and may include punching, kicking, beatings and attacks with a gun or knife” (Berrios & Grady, 1991, 133).
This cycle of violence against women can be explained by focusing on three specific components which make up the typical pattern of abuse. First of all, the build-up of tension phase is characterized by the battered victim frequently attempting to “be particularly compliant” with his/her assailant in order to prevent additional violence. However, these efforts to avoid future battering usually do not work, for “the abuser still becomes angry with increasing frequency and intensity.” Second, there is the explosion/acute battering phase in which the abuser explodes into violence and causes moderate to severe physical injury to the battered person in the form of bruising, cuts and scrapes, swelling and even broken bones. Third, the absence of tension phase, sometimes referred to as the “honeymoon phase,” is characterized by a lowering of violence and perhaps some type of reconciliation between the abuser and the battered person. However, under normal conditions, this phase does not endure very long and soon leads to repetition and an increased in tension (Burnett & Adler, 2006, Internet).
Without a doubt, the most dangerous time for women who are being abused by their husbands, boyfriends and male relatives is when they attempt to leave a relationship or separate themselves from the abuser. As Burnett and Adler point out, women “who are separated from their husbands have a risk of violence three times more than that of divorced women” and about twenty-five times more than that of women who are married. Not surprisingly, more than 75% of domestic assaults “occur after separation… with women most likely to be murdered when reporting abuse” and trying to leave an abusive relationship (2006, Internet).
Currently in the U.S., domestic violence continues to be a very serious problem for law enforcement, state and local governments and for society as a whole. One important problem is the inability of physicians and other medical professionals to quickly recognize the characteristics of domestic violence. Thus, due to its magnitude in society, domestic violence should be included as “a topic of study in medical school curricula” as well as in hospital and outpatient protocols in order to quickly identify and treat those persons who suffer from the physical and psychological trauma of domestic violence (Berrios & Grady, 1991, 135).
Berrios, Daniel C. And Deborah Grady. (August 1991). Domestic Violence: Risk Factors and Outcomes. Western Journal of Medicine. 155. 133-35.
Burnett, Lynn B. And Jonathan Adler. (2006). “Domestic Violence.” eMedicine. Internet. Retrieved at http://www.emedicine.com/emerg/topic153.htm#section~introduction.(in Journal of Domestic Violence, Vol. 2 no. 1 (2001): 145-55).
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