15-26 Segment 1: Domestic Violence: Why it happens and how it affects the family

 

Synopsis: Domestic abuse is something many women and men will experience in their lives. We talk to two psychologists familiar with the subject about what kind of person perpetrates partner and domestic violence, what victims can do to remove themselves from the abuse, and how being a witness to or a victim of abuse affects the intimate relationship, children and the family dynamic.

Host: Gary Price. Guests: Dr. Shannon Karl, Associate Professor in School of Psychology at Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Dr. Jay Richards, forensic psychologist on the faculty of Washington University and Seattle University, author of the novel, Silhouette of Virtue.

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Domestic Violence

Gary Price: Domestic violence is a problem in the U-S. The statistics on the numbers of women and men who are victimized by an intimate partner – be it a spouse, or ex-boyfriend or girlfriend are staggering…

Shannon Karl: The Center for Disease Control cites that one in three and one in four males will be the victim of some type of physical aggression by an intimate partner over their lifetime.

 Price: That’s Dr. Shannon Karl, Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Although we hear mostly about men being the abusers, women also commit acts of physical and psychological violence against close family members. What kind of person perpetrates these acts? What is the effect on family and friends? And what can be done to stop the violence against spouses, children and other family members? As for the first question, Karl says there are a number of factors that contribute to someone becoming an abuser…

Karl: Some of those risk factors previous exposure to violence in the home such as during childhood or adolescence. Other risk factors are a difficulty to manage emotions; problems with anger management specifically; any type of substance abuse, drugs and alcohol, also are increased risk factors, in addition to environmental and psycho-social stressors.

Price: Dr. Jay Richards says that when you profile men who abuse their family members, you often see certain personality types emerge. Richards is a forensic psychologist on the faculty of Washington University and Seattle University. He’s also the author of a the novel, Silhouette of Virtue

Jay Richards: They’re very egocentric, very self-centered. They tend to see everything in terms of how it benefits them. They want to be the most dominant person in the room, so their grandiose in that way. They always have to be the person who’s in charge. They tend to have something that we call aggressive masculinity so their not just macho but it’s hostile and aggressive masculinity. So they see themselves as a super-macho person and they express that through hostility and aggression, and often they express that all the time in their language, and they often express it in the workplace and with other men.

Price:  It’s hard to believe that a woman or man would take up with a partner with those kinds of traits, but often the abuser is on his or her best behavior during the courting phase. There are some telltale signs, though, that a present romantic interest might become a future domestic abuser…

Richards: One of them is the demand. You know when a demand is made that restricts the woman’s ability to do what she would like to do, and she’s basically being given not just a demand, but a command. And it’s said and expressed in a somewhat intimidating tone or just a matter-of-fact tone of entitlement, like “I am entitled to tell you that you will not go to the Super Bowl party because I don’t want to have you associating with the men who will be there.” When that’s expressed in a way that’s just like that is the fact, that’s the way it’s going to be, I’m entitled to say this to you as a demand, that’s a real bad indicator that this person, at some point, if they’re frustrated, they’re going to start enforcing that demand, and that demands are going to get more and more restrictive.

Price:  After an abusive episode if the victim threatens to leave, the aggressor in the relationship may seem to regret his or her actions, beg to come back and promise never to do it again. Richards says it’s a cycle of abuse that can keep the violence going…

Richards: The man starts to realize, he actually may feel lower self-esteem because of what the woman said, and also he realizes what he did was wrong and certainly illegal and that’s possible consequences, so he starts the make-up cycle. And then you have the idea of the make-up sex, the dinner out, the flowers the candy, promises of how it will all be better in the future, and the cycle continues. So, unfortunately, that’s one of the things that happens is that people believe that at the time when they’ve had this terrible onslaught they believe “I’m getting out of this relationship. That’s the end,” but it’s not the end. It’s the cycle that continues.

Price:  It’s not just the direct target of the violence who’s affected by it. Karl says that when children and other family members are involved in even just witnessing what’s going on, they become victims too…

Karl: The children are the most at risk, and one thing I think that’s important for all of us to keep in mind is that witnessing violence is violence in and of itself. So children, they’re in a home where intimate partner violence is going on are witnessing this violence, are also victims. That’s something that’s very important. And these children, and also family members and friends of the victim, can feel fear for the spouse, the victim of the intimate partner violence, and also fear for themselves. They can feel powerless in the relationships. Children that are involved in families where there’s intimate partner violence can often feel emotional abandonment because if there is a parent that is being a victim of abuse and there’s an abuser, there’s not a lot left over of nurturing and emotional caretaking of the children, so that can be a big piece.

Price:  Karl says that witnessing abuse in the family can also lead to the continuation of domestic violence as the children grow up…

Karl: Low self-esteem, behavioral problems, and also very importantly, problems with anger and inability to control one’s anger itself. And if that starts to develop in childhood and adolescence then we can see a pattern – called a vertical family pattern – where there’s the risk factors of the children who have witnessed this in the home becoming possibly perpetrators or victims themselves in adulthood.

Price:  So what should you do if you find yourself in a situation where a partner is violent? Richards says that first, find a safe and secure place for yourself and your children. Then, don’t be afraid to seek outside help…

Richards: One of the first things that will secure your safety is it can’t be a secret. You know, it’s just like sexual abuse, this domestic abuse, part of the reason why it continues is that it’s a secret. Sometimes it’s an open secret because people can see bruises and people can see black eyes, but it’s not talked about. So one of the first things is that it has to be talked about. And that often takes a therapeutic experience, a counseling experience, so a woman may have to go to a pastor, a counselor or to a domestic abuse clinic just to get her bearings on how she can talk about this, and who can she talk about with safetly.

Price:  Karl says that law enforcement and the government are improving the way they handle domestic violence cases, handing down strict sentences and large fines for the perpetrators. Counseling is offered for the perpetrators and victims from many organizations, if they want to move onto a new life or to rebuild their relationship…

Karl: A lot of times there are diversion programs that are offered for individuals that may be first offenders, and there are also adjunctive services if there’s need for family counseling that can be done in the home. And there’s couples counseling services that can be offered for individual couples that have had a past history of violence that have both received individual treatment and are looking to rebuild their home in a non-violent manner.

Price:  Richards says that court-mandated counseling for perpetrators is one answer, but results he’s seen aren’t very good…

Richards: That might be because they were sending people to these programs who really didn’t want to be there. You know men often weren’t invested in being there, just they’re invested in not going to jail, they’re invested in not paying fines, and they’re invested in holding on to their family. So you have reluctant and resistant participants in that situation. And another thing is that they would often, those programs are forced to take people who are currently in substance abuse. You know, they’re using drugs, they currently may have a mental health problem. They may have a problem with impulsive anger that’s not really related to domestic abuse because they also punch out men in the bar, they have an impulse problem. And then you have another factor of these more narcissistic, psychopathic people – their personalities make it very difficult for them to accept that they’re not entitled do what they’re going to do.

Price:  Karl says that there is plenty of help for men, women and children suffering from or witnessing domestic abuse and who want help or want to learn more about the issue. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a website at NCADV.org with educational resources and links to state and private programs for victims and their families. For victims and families that need immediate help, she encourages them to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. That’s 1-800-799-7233. The hotline operates 24/7 and all calls are anonymous and confidential. You can find out more about Dr. Shannon Karl and Nova Southeastern University on their website at cps.nova.edu. You can find Dr. Jay Richards’ new novel, Silhouette of Virtue, at stores and online. He also invites listeners to visit his website at JayRichardsbooks.com. For information about all of our guests, log onto our site at Viewpointsonline.net. You can find archives of past programs there and on i-Tunes and Stitcher. I’m Gary Price.

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