Domestic Family Violence and Battering: Up or Down?

Uploaded 11/10/2010, approx. 5 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Contrary to common opinion, there has been a marked decline in domestic violence in the last decade. Moreover, rates of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse in various societies and cultures vary widely. It therefore safe to conclude that abusive conduct is not inevitable and it is only loosely connected to the prevalence of mental illness which is stable across ethnic, social, cultural, national and economic barriers.

There is no denying that the mental problems of some offenders do play a part in battering domestic violence, but this part is smaller than it is into it.

Cultural, social and even historical factors are the decisive determinants of spousal abuse and domestic violence.

Let us take the United States. The National Crime Victimization Survey, the NCVS, reported 691,710 non-fatal violent victimizations committed by current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends of the victims during for instance the year 2001. About 85% of intimate partner violence incidents involved women, usually as victims. The offender in one-fifth of the totality of crimes committed against women was an intimate partner, compared to only 3% of the crimes committed against men.

Still, this type of offenses against women declined by half, a staggering half between 1993 when there were 1.1 million non-fatal cases and 2001 when there were less than 600,000 non-fatal cases, from 9.8 to 5 per thousand women.

Intimate partner violence against men also declined from 163,000 cases in 1993 to about 103,000 cases in 2001 or from 1.6 to 0.9 per 1,000 males. Overall, the incidents of such crimes dropped from 5.8 to 3 per thousand.

Even so, the price in lost lives was and remains high.

In the year 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were murdered by an intimate partner in the United States, compared to 1,357 men and 1,600 women in the year 1976 and around 1,300 women in 1993.

This reveals an interesting and worrying trend. The number of overall intimate partner offenses against women declined sharply, but the number of fatal incidents did not.

Women get murdered as often as before. These remain more or less the same fatalities since 1993.

The cumulative figures are even more chilling. One in four to one in three women have been assaulted or raped at a given point in their lifetime.

This is based on the Commonwealth Fund survey of 1998.

The Mental Health Journal says the precise incidence of domestic violence in America is difficult to determine for several reasons. It often goes unreported, even on surveys. There is no nationwide organization that gathers information from local police departments about the number of unsubstantiated reports and calls, and there is disagreement about what should be included in the definition of domestic violence.

Using a different methodology, counting separately multiple incidents perpetrated on the same woman, a report was published titled, Extend Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. The report was compiled by Patricia Chaden and Nancy Thurence for the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control. It was published in 1998, and it came up with a figure of 5.9 million physical assaults against 1.5 million targets in the United States annually.

According to the Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project and Neil Webster in his report titled, Understanding Domestic Homicide, published by Northeastern University Press in 1999, according to these two sources, women in the process of separation or divorce were the targets of half of all intimate partner violence crimes.

In Florida, the figure is even higher, close to 60%.

The problem is that hospital staff are ill-equipped and ill-trained to deal with this pandemic. Only 4% of hospital emergency room admissions of women in the United States were put down to domestic violence. The true figure, according to the FBI, is closer to 50%.

Michael Rand, in a report titled, Violence-Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Department, departments published by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics in August 1997. This report pegs the RID number at 37%. So 37% of all women admitted into emergency rooms in hospitals across the country are actually victims of domestic violence, while only 4% are reported as such.

Spouses and ex-husbands were responsible for one in three women murdered in the United States. Two million spouses, mostly women, are threatened with a deadly weapon annually, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Only half of all American homes are affected by domestic violence at least once a year, but this is an extremely high figure.

And the violence spills over. One half of wife batteries also regularly assault and abuse their own children, according to a report titled, Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors, and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families, 1999.

Similar results were revealed in a U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect reporttitled, A Nation's Shame: Fatal Child Abuse and Neglect in the United States, which was published in 1995.

So most wife batteries, most offenders who commit domestic violence, attack and assault not only the spouse, but also the children.

The report says black females experience domestic violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. Black males experience domestic violence at a rate about 62% higher than that of white males, and about 22 times the rate of men of other races.

This is based on a reporttitled, Intimate Partner Violence: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, was published in May 2000.

So, to summarize, the young, the poor, minorities, divorced, separated, single, especially women, were most likely to experience domestic violence and abuse.

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The text discusses the complexities of domestic violence, including the reasons victims may stay with their abusers, the psychological dynamics of abuse, the legal and cultural aspects of domestic violence, and the distinction between victims and survivors. It also addresses the rare instances when victims may resort to violence against their abusers and the potential consequences.

The Shock of Abuse

Abusers are skilled at hiding their abusive behavior from the rest of the world, often with the help of their victims. A study of 30 women who survived attempted homicide by their intimate partners found that half of them were completely surprised by the attack, despite having been victims of previous episodes of abuse. Victims often rationalize the abuser's behavior and feel guilty, believing they are to blame for the misconduct. Classic risk factors for attempted homicide by an intimate partner include escalating episodes of violence, threats with or use of weapons, alcohol or drug use, and violence to children.

Effects of Abuse on Victims and Survivors

Repeated abuse has long-lasting and traumatic effects on victims, including panic attacks, hypervigilance, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, intrusive memories, suicidal ideation, and psychosomatic symptoms. Victims experience shame, depression, anxiety, embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, abandonment, and an enhanced sense of vulnerability. The severity of the stress may influence how the victim experiences and responds to it. Victims stalked by ex-lovers may experience additional guilt and lower self-esteem for perceived poor judgment in their relationship choices.

Gaslighting and Ambient Abuse

Ambient abuse, also known as gaslighting, is a subtle and insidious form of abuse that is difficult to identify. It is the fostering of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability, and irritation. There are five categories of ambient abuse: inducing disorientation, incapacitating, shared psychosis, abuse or misuse of information, and control by proxy. The abuser uses these tactics to manipulate and control their victim, often leaving them with low self-esteem and a sense of isolation.

Physical Abuse, Rape, Battering: Victim, Perpetrator, Society Collude

Physical abuse, battering, and assault have long-lasting and often irreversible effects on both the victim and the abuser. The victim's relationship with their body is severely damaged, as they may feel betrayed by their own body and develop a dependency on their abuser. This can lead to psychological regression, dissociation, and a loss of self-worth. Society's denial and lack of understanding of abuse, as well as the manipulative nature of abusers, often leads to further re-traumatization of the victim.

Body Language of Narcissistic and Psychopathic Abuser

Abusers emit subtle signals in their body language that can be observed and discerned. They adopt a posture of superiority and entitlement, and they idealize or devalue their interlocutors. Abusers are shallow and prefer show-off to substance, and they are serious about themselves. They lack empathy, are sadistic, and have inappropriate affect. They are adept at casting a veil of secrecy over their dysfunction and misbehavior, and they succeed in deceiving the entire world.

Abuse Victim's Body: Effects of Abuse and Its Aftermath

Abuse and torture have long-lasting and frequently irreversible effects on the victim's body, including panic attacks, hypervigilance, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, intrusive memories, and suicidal ideation. Victims experience psychosomatic or real bodily symptoms, some of them induced by the secretion of stress hormones, such as cortisol. Victims are affected by abuse in a variety of ways, including PTSD, which can develop in the wake of verbal and emotional abuse, in the aftermath of drawn-out traumatic situations such as domestic divorce.

Intimacy and Abuse

Abuse often occurs in intimate relationships, despite it being easier to abuse a stranger. Abusers often believe that their abusive behavior fosters intimacy and equate violence with enhanced intimacy. Many abusers were raised in environments where abuse was condoned, and they perceive intimacy as a license to abuse. Abusers are often scared of real intimacy and use abuse as a way to fend it off.

Spot a Narcissist or a Psychopath on Your First Date

There are warning signs to identify abusers and narcissists early on in a relationship. One of the first signs is the abuser's tendency to blame others for their mistakes and failures. Other signs include hypersensitivity, eagerness to commit, controlling behavior, patronizing and condescending manner, and devaluing the partner. Abusers may also idealize their partner, have sadistic sexual fantasies, and switch between abusive and loving behavior. Paying attention to body language can also reveal warning signs.

Good People Ignore Abuse and Torture: Why?

Good people often overlook abuse and neglect because it is difficult to tell the abuser and victim apart. The word abuse is ill-defined and open to interpretation, leading to a lack of clear definition. People also tend to avoid unpleasant situations and institutions that deal with anomalies, pain, death, and illness. Abuse is a coping strategy employed by the abuser to reassert control over their life and regain self-confidence. Abuse is a catharsis, and even good people channel their negative emotions onto the victim.

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