by Robert Enyeart
When I volunteered to write this article, I thought I had a pretty good grasp as to what Domestic Violence (DV) was. Over the years, having done paid and volunteer work with various organizations that work with vulnerable segments of the population, I picked up a thing or two here and there about various types of abuse--Elder Abuse, Financial Abuse, and Child Abuse--but none of it directly dealt with domestic violence (but some of the components of abuse apply to more than one situation). Little did I know how much I didn’t know on the topic.
I recently completed a 40 hour Domestic Violence Victim Advocate training course with Operation Care in Jackson, CA, and on the first day I was surprised by some of the statistics and history of what is now considered DV. The first thing we did after the requisite introductions and a brief overview of the training schedule, was a pre-test to see what the group already knew about DV. Feeling pretty confident, I answered the questions without hesitation. Afterwards we began to dive right in to history and statistics, and I began to realize how little I actually knew.
A Brief History of Domestic Violence
I’m sure many of you are aware of the phrase “Rule of Thumb”. Some may know where it originated; some may not or might have a misconception. It originated in the Roman Empire in 753 B.C. during the reign of Romulus. Beating ones wife was accepted and condoned under the Laws of Chastisement. The law permitted the husband to beat his wife with a rod or switch as long as its circumference was no greater tan the girth of the base of the man’s right thumb. In more recent history, it wasn’t until 1871 in Alabama where the legal right of men to beat their wives was rescinded (Fulgrahm v. State). It’s hard to believe that the accepted and sometimes legally sanctioned practice of beating ones wife was so widely prevalent throughout history.
The United States slowly began recognizing that this practice was unacceptable. In 1874, the “Finger Switch” Rule was struck down when theNorth Carolina Supreme Court ruled that “…the husband has no right to chastise his wife under any circumstances.” The Court goes on to say: “If no permanent injury inflicted, nor malice, cruelty nor dangerous violence shown by the husband, it is better to draw the curtain, shut out the public gaze and leave the parties to forgive and forget.” This seems to contradict the previous statement, basically saying that a husband shouldn’t beat his wife, but if he does it’s no one’s business. Unfortunately, this practice of “It’s none of my business” is still prevalent in society, although not to the extent is has been in decades past.
In 1987 in California AB 1599 allows emergency protective orders to be issued when a court is not in session. This means that a victim of DV does not need to wait for a courthouse to be open in order for an emergency restraining order to be issued. A police officer has the authority to grant an emergency restraining order, but it is only good for five court days. The victim must go to the courthouse during this period to file the paperwork for a normal Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). In 1993, AB 244 extends the duration of the protective order to five days, up from two days. Surprisingly enough it wasn’t until 1990 (and 1992) in California when the crime of stalking was established. California again led the way by being the first state in the country to establish this law. Victims of DV once again gained some legal ground in 1994 when Congress passed the Violence Against Woman Act as part of the federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. This established funding for services to victims of rape and domestic violence, allows women to seek civil rights remedies for gender-related crimes, and provides training to increase police and courts officials’ sensitivity on the issue. Unfortunately it wasn’t until 2002 when legal help became available for teens who may be victims of DV.
What is Domestic Violence?
There still exists in society a misconception as to what Domestic Violence actually is. Many people still think of antiquated images of a man beating his wife or girlfriend. This is not the case. In California domestic violence is defined as:
“PC 13700(a)- ‘Abuse’ as intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to himself, herself or another.
PC 13700(b)- ‘Domestic Violence’ as abuse committed against as an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having a child or has had a dating or engagement relationship.
Domestic Violence is a range of behaviors used to establish power and exert control by one intimate partner over another. It is a pattern of assaulting and coercive behaviors that adults or adolescents use against their current or former intimate partner. DV is a learned behavior that is not caused by genetics, but a choice the abuser makes and is NOT caused by drugs or alcohol (although drugs and/or alcohol can influence incidents of abusive behavior); it is also influenced by institutional and social responses and is found in every culture and socioeconomic class. A child that has been exposed to domestic violence or abuse is more likely to repeat the cycle as an adult versus a child who was not exposed.
Types of Abuse
There are many forms of domestic violence and abuse, they include:
Sexual Abuse includes:
Verbal/Emotional Abuse includes:
Psychological Abuse includes:
Economic, and Spiritual Abuse includes:
Stalking/Cyber-Stalking and Harassment includes:
Facts and Statistics
While some of the previously mentioned information may cause one to pause for a moment, the statistics surrounding domestic violence and abuse may leave one in complete shock.
During the 40 hour course we covered many statistics and facts that were eye-opening, below are some of the more disturbing facts that I have found:
The Batterer and The Victim
The history of DV shows males being the dominate person in a relationship, but as times have changed so have the dynamics of intimate partner relationships. Statistics still show males are outnumbering females as far as being the abuser and causing the most harm, but there are several factors that play into the statistics. We can only base statistics on those who report DV, and men are less likely to report being the receiver of abuse, because of the male stereotype that men cannot and are not abused. In incidents of reciprocal domestic violent, men are injured 25% more often than women, who are injured 22% of the time. Interestingly enough, women are the aggressor in 71% of the cases of non-reciprocal partner violence. This is often due to the fact that a male will not strike a female back on principle or due to the notion that DV laws state that women can hit men but men cannot hit back, even in self defense. This can also be influenced by female batterers saying that they will falsely accuse a male victim of abuse, because the police and other authorities are more likely to believe the female over the male.
In the past, incidents of domestic violence were thought to occur exclusively in opposite-sex relationships. The truth is that domestic violence in homosexual relationships occurs at comparable rates to heterosexual relationships. However, lesbian and gay victims are more reluctant to report abuse to legal authorities.. Victims say they do not contact law enforcement agencies because doing so would force them to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity. Abusers in these relationships will often threaten “outing” their victims to work colleagues, family, and friends. These threats are amplified by the sense of extreme isolation among gay and lesbian victims since some may still be “closeted” from friends and family, and have fewer civil rights and protections, and may lack access to the legal system.
A victim can be anyone from any ethnic group, social status, religion, race, gender or sexual orientation. When there is a household where DV has occurred and children are present, the children are considered victims as well whether or not they received the abuse directly or indirectly. Some common traits that a person in an abusive relationship may include:
Many people not directly involved in an abusive relationship will often ask why the victim doesn’t leave- as if leaving the situation is that simple; there may be several reasons why a victim doesn’t leave. These might include financial reasons (lacking the resources do move out); they may be unaware of services or programs aimed at helping victims. It may also be as simple as cultural or societal views, a fear of other people knowing ones business, or they may be in denial that they are even in an abusive relationship. When the Cycle of Violence takes place, it is very hard to break free from the cycle.
Domestic violence and abuse is 100% preventable. It is not caused by genetic factors and is a learned behavior. While we may not be able to eradicate domestic violence and abuse, we can help prevent it. One effective prevention method is education and awareness. Many victims are not aware of what a violent or abusive relationship is, what services and programs are available, or what their rights are as victims. Victims may benefit from counseling to help overcome the emotional and psychological trauma associated with being a survivor of domestic violence and abuse.
If you know someone who might be a victim, be there as emotional support. Don’t be judgmental, and don’t offer personal opinions when a suspected victim is telling you of their abuse. It is very easy to push a victim further away from reporting their abuse and taking control of the situation. If you have the means, offer them a place to stay to escape their abusive environment. Encourage them to report the abuse to the authorities- many victims will often call the police after an incident, but upon hearing what the legal process includes, they may recant statements, deny anything happened, or not follow through with applying for a restraining order or leaving the environment. Similar to victims of sexual assault, the legal system may force the victim to relive the abuse by having to testify in court about it or by having to comply with police investigators. This can be emotionally draining and many victims think things may just go away if they drop charges or deny anything happened. The process may be lengthy, and the cycle may repeat itself before one is finally free from the situation. Once the survivor is free of the situation, they are almost always glad that they took the first step to break free of the senseless cycle that is domestic violence. But when it boils down to it, it is NOT the victims fault, and it CAN be prevented. No one deserves to be treated this way.
For more information, and for local resources, please check out the following:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)
California Partnership to End Domestic Violence www.cpedv.org
Hotline: 1-800-524-4765 Office: (916) 444-7163
In Sacramento County:
My Sisters House 24hr multi-lingual helpline (916) 428-3271
Women Escaping a Violent Environment (W.E.A.V.E) (916) 920-2952
Sacramento County Sheriffs Department (916) 874-5115
In Amador County:
Operation Care 24hr Crisis Line (209)223-2600, 1-800-675-3392
Amador County Sheriffs Department (209) 223-6500
Victim/Witness Assistance Program (209) 223-6474
In El Dorado County:
El Dorado County Resources Directory
El Dorado County Sheriffs Department (530) 621-5655 (Placerville)
(530) 573-3000 (Tahoe)
In an emergency situation, always dial 911
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