Based on the fact that domestic violence (DV) is an extremely acute concern nowadays, the paper aimed at in-depth and holistic analysis of the issue in order to address a too fragmentary coverage of the problem within the narrowed research areas. By means of literature review, a necessity of developing a holistic framework and its relevance to multidimensional, and thus, successful in the long run anti-DV strategy was explicated and justified. The results of the conducted review allowed one to verify the hypothesized objective. In this respect, the paper evidenced that holistic public health education model can be a win-win solution to a problem in case the initiators will support the strategy with multifaceted DVFRTs’ data, and motivate the target audience to follow the guides introduced by collaborative efforts of experts, individuals who successfully overcome DV, and religious leaders.
Domestic violence (DV) is a phenomenon that can be boldly regarded as a concerns-all issue that becomes an even more diversified and detrimental societal vice with each new anti-DV framework put into practice. Although scholars widely discuss the problem from the standpoint of differing research domains, the articulation of this concern remains rather fragmented and mainly focused on a single exploration area. In particular, such disciplines include social work, healthcare, or law enforcement agencies’ perspectives, to name a few. Each of the scientific and practical spheres related to the problem in this way or another attempt to eliminate it within the context of their narrowed competencies, but the issue is still acute.
Such a situation allows asserting that one-sided approaches to resolving the consequences of DV and preventing its reoccurrence have serious drawbacks, especially due to the lack of holistic vision of the problem. Regardless of that the war against DV is not won yet, the findings of combined previous research and best practices in the multifaceted field entice for development of thorough and well-thought out tactics aimed at eradication of DV cases to the fullest. In this respect, Chopra (2005) has aptly noted that, “Today is a good day for war to come to an end. . . . If you and I demonstrate that peace is more satisfying than war, the collective consciousness will shift” (pp. 5-6). Hence, the purpose of this paper is to discuss a necessity of holistic analysis of DV concept particularly with regard to elimination of this societal harm in light of public health.
Drawing upon the National Coalition of Domestic Violence’s (NCADV) (2015) statistics, DV is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon the nature of which expands far beyond law enforcement or healthcare field. For instance, at least 1 in 4 men and 1 in 3 women have been victims of any form of such an abuse by their intimate partner during their lifespan, with females aged 18 through 24 as the most frequent victims (NCADV, 2015; Chanmugam, 2014). In addition, among the general number of murder-suicides, 72% are committed by an intimate partner, with 94% of women as the victims of these crimes (NCADV, 2015). Moreover, approximately 1 in 15 children experience domestic violence and 90% of them are eyewitnesses of the offence (NCADV, 2015). These are just a few numerical facts related to the discussed problem. Nevertheless, these data aptly and sharply emphasize the overwhelming acuteness and topicality of the issue in question whereas “very many children and adults in the same families are victims of abuse directed against them” (Szilassy, Carpenter, Patsios, & Hackett, 2013, p. 1370).
Although theorists and practitioners still debate over a definition of root causes of the DV, mostly these are women who are blamed for making a fateful choice. To illustrate, Lieberman and Cool (1997) have identified a few core reasons why females tend to choose bad guys for mating and further more serious relationships. The study based on empirical evidence has discovered that women commonly engaged in such risky connections because of the flawed relationships with their fathers. Specifically, the women felt unlovable and incapable to attract a prince. Hence, engaging with bad guys allowed them an opportunity to resolve this childhood-related dilemma. Other important determinants of such potentially flawed relationships were great sex, a challenge of enticing females to transform ill-behaving partners into loving and caring, as well as the thrill of acting against social norms of proper behavior, to list a few (Lieberman & Cool, 1997). It follows that even this narrowed research perspective implies a broad and deep background that assumes the relevance of a holistic analysis.
Furthermore, in the 1970s, the scholars have conceptualized practical DV into diagnosing of a battered woman syndrome (BWS), with a set of specific symptoms distinguishing the phenomenon. In particular, Walker (2009) has summarized the BSW characteristics as
- disturbing recollections of trauma-related events;
- increased psychological and physiological tension along with high-level anxiety;
- behavior of avoidance that is commonly manifested through depression, denial, or minimization among others;
- disruption of interpersonal relationships based on the power and control of the batterer;
- issues of sexual intimacy;
- inability of a victim to see oneself in a mirror adequately but in a distorted way, with possible physical or somatic complaints (p. 42).
Regardless of that such a model seems a suitable tool for psychological and social work domains, it is unlikely that proper diagnosing of a victim will be an ample approach to long-term effects of anti-DV initiatives. Undoubtedly, the identified framework requires clarifications in terms of applicability to diagnosing opposite gender or individuals involved in DV, though distinguished per other unique characteristics.
However, considering of DV issues from solely female viewpoint as a most common victim is rather prejudiced. Therefore, from a man-centered position, DV between partners or family members appears on the grounds of “discrepancies in economic status, decision-making power, communication patterns, and communication skills” (Babkock, Waltz, Jacobson, & Gottman, 1993, p. 40). As soon as men experience their own vulnerability in light of the above characteristics, DV may become compensatory behavior for their own weaknesses. In addition, particular population groups, especially among females, are at higher DV risks than general population. To illustrate, Gerber, Iverson, Dichter, Klap, and Latta (2014) have reported about vulnerability of women military veterans to experiencing long-term detrimental effects of DV. Such susceptibility of this group is determined by their possible preliminary trauma, such as military sexual traumas and posttraumatic stress disorder (Gerber et al., 2014).
Moreover, a certain degree of inconsistency and fragmentary coverage of the issue exists within the practical sphere. While police officers are the first professionals to encounter DV incidents, they oftentimes report about “feeling unprepared, ill equipped, and a lack of confidence to work with clients in crisis” (Winters, Magalhaes, & Kinsella, 2015, p. 2212). Indeed, the issue implies the way more than committing a crime that violates human rights. On the one hand, a DV case involves a physical health disruption linked to bruises, at least, and serious bone fractures and even fatalities at most. On the other hand, it is a strong psycho-emotional expose of the fact a close person is dangerous to a victim’s well-being and safety. Thus, an immediate holistic coverage of such an incident through interprofessional collaboration is a must.
Historical Perspectives of Domestic Violence: Summary
The issue of DV has long-term history. Through the centuries, human evolution has put a specific emphasis on gender inequity in this respect, where female gender has been marginalized as a vulnerable link for a direct victimization. An adjective ‘female’ concerned not only women but also girls. For instance, Fields (2013) has summarized a huge number of cases in retrospect that were related to female abuse, violence-mediated treatment and discrimination across the globe. The context of violent behavior ranged from the tribal rule implications, slavery in ancient and medieval times, to a proclamation of an international Declaration against Violence against Women, which did not resolve the problem at all, though recognized the phenomenon as beyond-the-law act. Hence, the scholar has reported the situation not only from family but also community-wide perspective which presumes the fact that DV is a problem of wide-scope significance.
Apart from that, the faith-focused research direction has stated that religion, especially Christianity, was misused for long as a justification of the abuse of children and wives by fathers and husbands (“The Role of Churches,” 2006). To be more precise, an overwhelming claim to bear one’s cross for the sake of children and securing family unity, regardless of partner’s constant abuse, has been a primary misinterpretation that enticed women to accept such a fate. Regardless of that a religion-based belief that “female devotion and sacrifice is ingrained” in women (Nogales, 2013) has misguided the human mindset for ages, contemporary theologians and priests thoroughly condemn such misbehavior (“The Role of Churches,” 2006; Medina, 2010).
Finally, understanding of DV as a problem transited to a broader research paradigm through the years. Namely, nowadays, studies clearly indicate that any person of any age or gender can be a DV victim. Apart from women’s battering and child’s maltreatment, this phenomenon may be directed at men and elderly (NCADV, 2015; Szilassy, Carpenter, Patsios, & Hackett, 2013). While men are less likely to be physically abused as compared to females, this gender representatives are prone to financial and emotional abuse and frightening threats (NCADV, 2015; Szilassy et al., 2013). By the same token, the majority of men, who have reported being a DV victim, admitted that they previously were perpetrators (NCADV, 2015).
Drawing upon the above overview, complexity and multidimensional nature of restoring well-being of DV victims as well as preventing such cases from occurrence should not be doubted. Today’s academic and consultancy research offers differing approaches to dealing with the analyzed issue. For example, guidelines from individuals who encountered DV and other life difficulties but strived to successfully overcome them are among the primary advisers for victims in light of possible self-education. In particular, McGarry (2008) has expressed her hard-times’ survival strategy in such words: “We all need a support system, and you can be a part of someone’s support system. . . . It will be difficult, even devastating, but God will help you too, if you let him” (pp. 100; 102). At the same time, Nogales (2013) has proposed a seven-power strategy developed from the female’s perspective that was also strongly faith-focused. These strengths involved creative spirit, passionate determination, networking ability, discretion, courage, balance, confidence and strength (Nogales, 2013). Therefore, religion is among primary restorative forces for DV victims.
In addition, Jacobson and Gottman (2007), who researched DV and its implications for 8 years, have aptly noted a sufficient gap in preventive public health education whereas the majority of battered women “were not even aware that battering is against the law” (p. 267). Moreover, the researchers have distinguished a great role of developing an emotionally intelligent marriage, namely, a relationship that is emotions-based, with partners’ capability to recognize, communicate and manage each others’ emotions in a balanced manner (Gottman & Jacobson, 1999). This approach implies individuals’ self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills as key factors in maintaining emotional intelligence within the partners’ mutual emotional domain (Gottman & Jacobson, 1999; 2007). The scholars have emphasized overly fixation of each of the partners on one’s own needs and demands “talking (or shouting) past each other or not even bothering to communicate at all” (Gottman & Silver, 2012, p. xiv). Moreover, Bancroft and Patrissi (2011) have indicated a necessity to clarify and address root causes of DV manifestations from a batterer’s perspective. For instance, only in-depth understanding of the background of such a violent behavior will allow detecting proper means to resolving the issue with long-term effects. Therefore, an emotion-centered perspective can be a sufficient means to reestablishing and maintenance of a balanced psychological well-being of both partners.
In contrast, “a psycho-educational, group-based, conjoint treatment” as a similarly developed research perspective implemented on the basis of mutual treatment of couples showed rather controversial results (Bradley, Drummey, Gottman, & Gottman, 2014, p. 549). Whereas there was decline in male’s abusive behavior as potentially violent in perspective, for females, the program did not show notable significance. Thus, more in-depth and holistic perspectives should be regarded than just mutual treatment.
Moreover, domestic violence fatality review teams (DVFRTs) are recent inventions in terms of DV addressing and prevention. These interprofessional expert groups are community-based initiatives. Their primary task is to “improve community services and coordination for victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and violence-related fatalities based on in-depth reviews of recent local cases of IPV-related homicide and suicide” (Chanmugam, 2014, p. 73). Such an approach is a good way to aggregate multidimensional data regarding specificities of DV cases from both nationwide and local perspectives in order to develop a well-thought-out prevention strategy. In particular, this framework combines efforts of such specialists as “medical and mental healthcare, DV service providers, homeless services, child and elder protection agencies, family courts, and criminal justice (including law enforcement, parole, and prosecution)” (Chanmugam, 2014, p. 73).
On a similar note, a necessity of developing ethical and diverse interprofessional scientific team that is focused on a shared-knowledge approach to collaboration is another valuable paradigm to consider in the scope of the paper. Specifically, Morton et al. (2014) have provided a well-reasoned insight of such vision of addressing DV at the community and scholarly evidence-based level in their recent study.
Another important finding is the fact that one of the most valuable functions of church is inspiration and support that may be crucial for restoration of psychological and emotional balance in both victims and perpetrators (“The Role of Churches,” 2006). Hence, churches practice ceremonies aimed at creating “a sacred and safe working space” within which participants are free to “share their feelings, thoughts, and experiences” (Medina, 2010). All things considered, a holistic analysis of different approaches to addressing DV as a public health concern seems a well-justified perspective for reasoned, multi-level and thorough strategies aimed at elimination of this concern.
In accordance with the findings of the paper, incorporation of the reviewed varying methods to dealing with the identified problem into a single multi-phase anti-DV model may result in better anticipated outcomes of the phenomenon’s eradication.
First, interprofessional collaboration centered on DVFRTs is a valid and well-organized strategy in terms of relevant and multifaceted data collection on the issue and developing an informed and well-reasoned public education procedure. This holistic educational paradigm is data-driven and evidence-based (Morton et al., 2014; Chanmugam, 2014). Thus, using the value-added opportunities created by DVFRTs for educational purposes will be consistent with modern-day concerns of both victims and perpetrators whose backgrounds will be smoothly embedded within the framework. Second, physical health domain should be accompanied by care about mental health dimension that are the part linked to social work and religion-centric implications offering both support and inspiration to both sides of DV conflict (“The Role of Churches,” 2006; Medina, 2010; Bradley et al., 2014). Third, real-life examples of successful stories, especially popular best-sellers, will be another evidence of applicability of the promoted principles and activities and their relevance to real-life situations.
Undoubtedly, consideration of DV issue from a broadened perspective seems a valuable incentive in in-depth and thorough understanding of the problem as well as detecting proper means to address it effectively. Of course, none of the above approaches can be referred to as one-size-fits-all. However, such a multisided discussion allowed comprehending complexity of DV in a structured and simplified manner. Taking into account a multi-level character of the explored phenomenon, the findings suggest a number of benefits that can be derived from a holistic analysis of DV and its implications.
In particular, DVFRTs seem to be a great discovery for a preparation phase of the educational process. A specified value offered by these teams is related to their engagement with key stakeholders in the problem and, thus, accessibility and validity of different-level information on the topic regarded from a variety of professional spheres. Hence, apart from credibility, the target audience will have an opportunity to be well-informed on the issue and its key factors. In this light, DVFRTs’ performance outcomes will allow trustworthy relationship-building as core to potentially successful educational outcomes. This aspect will be vital for educational goal-setting and decision-making in the process.
At the same time, support and motivation from religious leaders as well as inspiration coming from professional experts and DV survivors’ stories will be an additional driving force for encouraging a holistic and well-thought-out change in such people’s life. This approach will be a great way to restore both victim’s and perpetrator’s life and well-being. In this respect, these parties will be well-aware of each other’s perspectives that will entice clarity and mutual understanding of deeper causes and determinants of DV and their elimination, as a result.
Summarizing the discussion, it is clear that DV is a significant vice in smooth functioning of society in general. While scholars tend to analyze the issue from rather narrowed perspectives, the problem requires a more holistic analysis based on its complexity and multiple stakeholders involved. In retrospect, considering DV as a female-centered concern in both family and society-wide context was a dominant research paradigm. Nonetheless, contemporary level of problem’s exploration allows making an evident conclusion: an issue may concern any person, regardless of one’s age, gender or any other individual characteristic. Therefore, the paper overviewed the findings of the precursors in the area and concluded that a reference to DVFRTs, along with religious and best-practice initiatives can be a good approach towards maintain a holistic analysis and development of thorough public health education program.