Healing from the effects of domestic violence

Introduction

Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors designed to dominate one’s intimate partner to gain and maintain general control over the relationship. Dominance is often manifested in the use of a wide range of tactics, including all forms of violence. There are many forms of domestic violence including emotional, psychological, and physical abuse. Domestic violence is a broad term covering married couples, co-habitating couples, their children, and roommates.

Effects of domestic violence

Some statistics
  • Domestic violence is the single largest cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than muggings, car accidents, and rapes combined.
  • Each year between 2 million and 4 million women are battered, and 2,000 of these battered women will die of their injuries.
  • One-third to one-half of homeless women are on the street because they are fleeing domestic violence.
  • Three million children in the United States are exposed to domestic violence in their homes each year.
  • Approximately 90%-95% of domestic violence victims are women.
Some critics dispute statistics

For each of these statistics, there is a critic who disputes its veracity. The truth is that skilled and articulate advocates can use statistics to prove a point on either side of a controversial issue. However, even those who take issue with the so-called battered women movement because of what is perceived as a feminist bent, cannot deny that intimate partner violence disrupts lives, harms children, and ends all too often in murder or suicide.

Treating the effects of domestic violence

Because domestic violence ravages so many lives and the costs to society are so high, many professionals in both law enforcement and the mental health fields have developed programs to reduce its occurrence and mitigate some of the damage it causes.

Unfortunately, the one thing on which those on all sides of the issue are likely to agree is that, so far, most programs designed to treat perpetrators of intimate terrorism have largely failed. Some programs are able to claim that the spouses and partners of those who graduate from their program report a decrease in violence, but this can mean that the partner is only battered once a week instead of three times. Many programs are able to claim that fewer graduates are criminal recidivists according to follow-up arrest records. The facts are, however, that many convicted of crimes involving intimate partner violence drop out of the programs to which they are assigned. Many batterers continue battering their intimate partners for years and the phenomenon of intimate partner violence continues at alarming levels all across the nation.

Using compassion as the basis for treatment

Some professionals working in the field of intimate-partner violence have developed a potentially successful method of treatment for those who can be convinced to try. This method requires the participant to cooperate in changing the pattern and practice of abusing their intimate partners. The cooperation often results from a court order that gives two options – get treatment, or go to jail. No matter how an abuser is convinced to enter treatment or to engage in the treatment’s processes, the method is the same and is based on the human capacity for compassion towards other living beings.

The most significant part of the treatment method gives an abuser the opportunity to experience physically both anger and compassion. Once given the opportunity, most individuals realize that they prefer the feeling of compassion to the feeling of anger. They then are given the tools to practice compassionate rather than angry responses many times a day until a compassionate response becomes the dominant response to all kinds of stimuli in their lives.

Not yet scientifically confirmed

While the compassion-based treatment has not been scientifically tested, anecdotal evidence suggests that it is highly effective in helping abusers overcome their abusive tendencies.

Conclusion

It is undisputed that domestic violence creates havoc and chaos in individual lives. It is also undisputed that, for the most part, programs designed to treat intimate terrorists have failed to produce positive results. It is time to investigate new possibilities such as compassion-based treatment, which bears the promise of dramatically reducing the effects of terrorism in the home.

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