Violent crimes have seen both increases and decreases in prevalence throughout statistical history. The rise from “1.36 million offenses in 2004” to almost “1.42 million in 2006” before dropping down to around 1.38 million offenses in 2008 can be seen as a clear example of this trend (FBI, 2008). It could be postulated that one of the most devastating and collaterally damaging violent crimes is that of domestic violence. Domestic violence has been an ongoing issue throughout history. Historically women, and their roles, have been minimized, dictated and subjugated by what has been considered male privilege to dominate, control and/or punish women by right of perceived ownership. Statistics support the claim that men are the dominant perpetrators of domestic violence just as women are portrayed as victims. Yet how accurate are these statistics and what reporting methods do they rely on? In consideration of their validity it seems that attention has been placed singularly on victimization of women and its psychological effects. However, this seems shortsighted and bias as this focus does not take into account male psychology, in particular the psychology of male victimization. As such it seems this ignorance may lead to an inaccurate sample and thus inaccurate representation of the crime. That being said it seems likely that in that event there would be a heavily skewed provision of help, support and resources such as legal, medical etc. One of the main components to violence is a perceived imbalance of power. Consider the imbalance of power created when advocacy, legal and financial support and public perception become gender bias, regardless of which.
So what is domestic violence and its place as a violent crime? First it must be understood that a violent crime is defined as “offenses which involve force or threat of force” (FBI, 2008). Domestic violence is also defined as such with the stipulation that the individuals involved either have or are engaged in a familial, domestic or intimate relationship. For this reason terms such as “family violence, abuse and domestic abuse” have all been used to describe the “causing or attempting” of physical and/or mental harm or fear of such to a current or past “household, family member, intimate partner or share a common child” (DHHS, 2013). The prevalence of this crime seems to follow certain gender and socioeconomic trends based on the available statistical data. The National Violence Against Women Survey reported that in 2000 around “22.1%” of women and “7.4%” of men reported having experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime with “59.1%” of women and “66.4%” of men reporting having experiences physical assault in their childhood (NIJ, 2000).
Of reported ethnic groups American Indian/Alaskan Native men and women had a higher rate of reported domestic violence than any other ethnic group with women of this group being “significantly” more likely to report that they were raped or physically assaulted (NIJ, 2000). It was reported that “52.1%” of African American women and “57.7% of mixed race” women experienced physical assault, with males of the same reporting on at “66.3% and 70.2%” respectively (NIJ, 2000). Of Hispanic groups “53.2% of women and 63.2% of men” also experiences physical assault. Yet even though this data suggests a prevalence for male victimization, roughly 64% of women who reported victimization experienced it at the hands of a domestic partner of some sort (NIJ, 2000). Although education, income and occupation do not specify the occurrence of domestic violence studies have suggested that women who live in a household earning less than “10,000” a year are four times more likely to experience violence than those of higher income (APA, 2014). At its base it seems that this type of criminal behavior is derived from either socially created standards of behavior or is a result of both biological, cognitive and/or environmental influences.
Several theories on violence have been postulated and it is likely that all have merit in some facet or other. Historically the pursuit of “detecting” a criminal was based on physical characteristics such as the shape of the skull, eyes and ears. These theories where never scientifically tested yet created a curiosity by which criminal behavior became an increasingly studies area of human behavior (Conklin, J. A., 2010). Further studies postulated the biological causes of criminal behavior. Cesare Lombroso postulated that criminal behavior was a result of the individual being “born out of time” and thus adopting more “primitive” aspects of human nature that are more akin to “lower animals”. Disregarding social influences Lombroso postulated that “one out of three” offenders might be “a born criminal” (Conklin, J. A., 2010). Although certain biological abnormalities in brain function resulting from birth defect or injury have been shown to be contributing to various aspects of criminal behavior such as impulse control and emotional regulation, studies have also shown that it is not that simple.
Currently this field of study has expanded to consider specific “vulnerabilities and risk factors” that when present create an increased chance that an anti-social behavioral response will occur when the individual responds to a stress inducing environment (Conklin, J. A., 2010). These psychological factors have been shown to have a great impact on the levels of resilience, perseverance and adaptiveness as well as the converse of these. To this end it has been debated which, biological or psychological, is more relevant and consistent.
Another part of criminal psychology theories is that of personality characteristics. Yochelson and Samenow, authors of The Criminal Personality, postulated certain “thought patterns” and resulting behaviors that were common among “criminals”. These were inclusive of “chronic lying”, entitlement to others property, excessive optimism, sensitivity to injury or “insult”, explosive anger, highly manipulative and possessive of an “inflexible self-image” (Conklin J. A., 2010). Yet, as no control group was used it is difficult to determine if this is true. However, further research by Gottfredson and Hirschi suggested that impulse control may be a mitigating factor as well. Those who seek immediate rewards, risk taking behavior and insensitivity to the results of their actions have been shown to have a higher prevalence towards criminal behavior although largely dependent upon the circumstances (Conklin, J. A., 2010). This brought to attention the familial socialization experienced by the child as it was suggested that these characteristics can maintain themselves into adulthood and likely result in anti-social behavior.
One aspect that has undergone considerable research is the relation between intelligence or (IQ) and criminal behavior. One such study was suggestive that boys engaging in delinquent behavior had lower IQ scores than non-delinquents of the same social class (Conklin, J. A., 2010). In addition to this it was discovered that boys of lower-class social groups were more likely to engage in delinquent behavior than those of “higher” social classes.
Particular to the crime of domestic violence is the determination of five factors that mitigate whether an individual will respond aggressively to a given situation. The first is that of “instigation to aggression”, this is inclusive of all “internal” factors that may motivate the individual to respond aggressively. Second is that of “habit strength”, which refers to the individuals learned behavior regarding aggressive response. Third is that of “inhibition against aggression” regarding the individuals “learned preferences “to avoid aggression in certain situations. Fourth; “Stimulus factors” inclusive of all external factors that may contribute or impede an aggressive response. The individual’s competence to choose among various possible responses in a given situation so as to meet the needs of it is the last determinant (Conklin, J. A., 2010).
So what is it that “creates” a perpetrator of domestic violence? In reflection of the previously discussed theories on criminal behavior and aggression it seems that although both may not definitively account for this type of behavior, it seems that both have validity. Yet this would likely be based on a case by case analysis rather than a generalized theory that could be applied to all criminal behavior, or even all domestic violence occurrences. It seems that by these theoretical measures that socialization through familial, educational and environmental influences may be the area by which this type of criminal behavior may be better understood. St5udies have suggested that children growing up in low-income homes, experiencing substance abuse/dependence and/or parental criminal/delinquent behavior have a higher risk of exhibiting these types of behaviors in adulthood (Hart, L. C., Ksir, C. & Ray, O., 2009). As well, any maltreatment present in the individuals childhood likely exacerbates the prevalence towards these behaviors as a result of developmental impediments such as malnutrition, physical and emotional trauma and lack of discipline and attention from parental figures (Butcher, N. J., Hooley, M. J. & Mineka, S., 2010).
Particular to the cases of domestic violence it seems that there is likely both environmental, psychological and perhaps genetic influences. As domestic violence has been found to be prevalent among low-income households it seems safe to postulate that financial struggle may play a pivotal role in increasing the familial stress of the home. It is worth consideration as to the influences not just from familial behavior but from familial financial circumstances as well. If, higher education for parents was unavailable there is a strong chance that it will also be so for their children, due to a lack of financial resources often provided by higher education. In addition to this if the perpetrating individual witnessed violence throughout their childhood they are also more likely to respond to stressful stimuli with aggression later in life, thus perpetuating the cycle.
One major area of concern regarding domestic violence however, is the bias nature of the movement as singularly male perpetrated act. This has become such a social perception that when researching advocacy for men suffering domestic abuse or violence the resources were few and far between. As such the discovery of any federally or state funded organizations to support male sufferers were not found. In fact, the U.S government has created specific offices related to women suffering from domestic abuse such as the Office of Violence against Women, sponsored by the U.S Department of Justice. The classical view of domestic violence perpetrate by men is that it is based on entitlement and a patriarchal society, whereas women’s violence against men is simply them being frustrated and “can’t help themselves”, as such women are generally sentenced to anger management programs and men to batterers intervention programs based on violence from men being a choice not a reaction as it is with women. In addition to this the programs for women are generally no longer than 16 weeks and are usually paid for by insurance. The men however must attend 48 weeks and pay out of pocket for the sessions, in which, they run the risk of being removed and sent to jail if they do not comply to the standards (DAHMW, 2011) One organization titled the Family Violence Project blatantly states that
“limited federal funding keeps many agencies, including Family Violence Project, from providing housing or shelter services for male victims of abuse except in limited emergency situations” (family violence project.org, 2014).
Consider as well the social requirements placed on males. Society has placed the production of goods and acquisition of resources heavily on males. In current society the occupation and financial means of a male determine his social status as well as his viability as a familial provider and mate. In addition to this males seem to experience a constant state of competition for these resources by other males. A women may be praised for finding a “wealthy” husband rather than a “Wealthy” income, yet a male will not likely enjoy this same acceptance, even if the female is able to adequately provide for the family without the male income. It also seems that by default if the female does not; the male must. This in and of itself creates an imbalance of power in the relationship as the male is valued by what he provides materially. As such the female is objectified as well as a means of sexual satisfaction, child rearing and home maintenance. Although social shifts towards equality have been in full swing for over 40 years now there seems to be an underlying, perhaps biological, perception that motivates these perceptions
With this paradigm men control through their financial availability and women through their sexual availability. As a man, have you ever had to sleep on the couch for the night after an argument? Has you experienced infidelity from your female counterpart as a means of “trading up”? Have you lost your home or assets due to a divorce? As a women have you experienced financial restrictions such as having to ask permission to purchase something or spend money? Have you had to ask for spending money or be judged on what you do with it? Have you experience infidelity from your male counterpart as a result of you not behaving how they wish? These are all forms of emotional and financial abuse that have been shown to be precursors that may result in the perpetration of domestic violence.
So what would it look like if the competition for mates and resources that has become part of human biological drives to survive and procreate were eliminated? Would this seven be possible? It would seem that this would not be. As such perhaps examining the social structures in place that perpetuate and/or exacerbate these drives to the point of aggression. Regardless of gender both utilize socially constructed objectifying values imposed upon them to control, acquire and/or maintain their specific “resource” needs. These needs may not be simply financial or sexual, they may encompass, emotional support, companionship, co-dependence or a myriad of them all. Yet at its base, each one of these can be attributed to socially created influences and standards. Yes, familial influence must certainly have a part, yet when considering the experiences of the parental figures and their dysfunctional behavior it seems likely that the result will be the same; increased stress regarding acquiring, maintain and/or controlling resources for the fulfillment of personal needs based on socially created perceptions of viability to those resources. In short; if you are a wealthy male, desired female resources are abundant. If you are an attractive female, desired male resources are abundant.
Considering this, it seems likely that the previously discussed societal influences are a sort of fuel for the exacerbation of stress caused by certain conditions such, as low education/income, communication, skills etc. In particular there may be an increased amount of this stress experienced by males simply because they are expected to provide resources unequal to those provided by the female (consider an engagement ring that men do not receive), while running the risk of losing half or most of their assets if the female decides to leave. It seems much less often the case that men leave a marriage and keep their home and assets while the female is required to move out and pay alimony or child support. Even on social standards a women slapping a man because she is offended or upset is deemed acceptable and a man claiming domestic violence may face criticism and/or ridicule. There is an imbalance of power for both genders that, combined with environmental stressors and lack of intellectual, supportive or basic resources, becomes increasingly aggressive. As a personal note, the author wonders what would happen statistically if other forms of abuse were also include as legally reprehensive such emotional and psychological abuse tactics inclusive of name calling, degradation, humiliation, emotional threats of withdrawal etc.
Given the current struggle for power between females and males, the heightened biological propensity towards aggression, increased competition and stress regarding resources and the imbalance between male and female victimization advocates, it almost seems the problem creates itself by try to eliminate what is perceived as inequality and male privilege, when in actuality it is simply a difference. It is like trying to make an apple equal to an orange, it cannot be done because the only value that can be measured is the one placed on it by the examiner. By this standard violence perpetrated by men or women and its criminality, prevalence, prosecution and punishment will be determined by perception. Perhaps a focus on reshaping societal practice standards and perception by way of its infrastructure may be the most sustainable method by which to not only reduce the prevalence of domestic violence but violence as a whole.
APA (2014). Violence & Socioeconomic Status. Retrieved on Apr. 21st 2014 from http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/factsheet-violence.aspx
Butcher, N. J., Hooley, M. J. & Mineka, S. (2010). Abnormal Psychology. Boston: Pearson Education Inc.
Conklin, A. J. (2010). Criminology. Boston: McGraw Hill Learning Solutions.
DAHMW. (2010). Batterers Intervention Programs for Men vs. Women – Apples and Oranges. Retrieved on Apr. 22nd 2014 from http://domesticviolenceresourcesformen.blogspot.com/2011/06/batterers-intervention-programs-for-men.html
DHHS. (2013). Definitions of Domestic Violence. Retrieved on Apr.20th 2013 from https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/defdomvio.pdf#Page=2&view=Fit
Family Violence Project (2014). We Care About Men Too. Retrieved on Apr. 22nd 2014 from http://www.familyviolenceproject.org/what-we-do/we-care-about-men-too.html
© 2015 Christian L Perry