Domestic violence statistics show that one in three females and one in four males will be the victim of physical or emotional abuse by an intimate partner over the course of their lifetime in the US. The immediate questions from these staggering statistics are why does this happen and what can be done to stop it? Dr. Shannon Karl, Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and Dr. Jay Richards, forensic psychologist on the faculty of Washington University and Seattle University and author of the novel Silhouette of Virtue, discuss the answers to these essential questions about domestic violence.
The risk factors for becoming an abuser were found to be previous exposure to violence in the home, difficulty managing emotions like anger, substance abuse, and other environmental and social stresses. While women can also be abusive, a study that profiled abusive men found that, stereotypically, they are egocentric, super ‘macho,’ and dominant, often projecting an aggressive masculinity. These traits are, in many cases, concealed during courtship, but Richards points out several signs that can give them away. Making an entitled demand on a woman’s time or activities is one such sign that this demand will later be enforced with violence. Karl says that children are especially at risk after having witnessed violence, as that can continue the cycle of domestic abuse later on in their own lives.
Domestic violence often functions in a cycle. Richards says that after the abuse the violent partner may feel regret and low self-esteem for what they have done.The aggressor then starts a make up cycle, causing their partner to stay in the unhealthy relationship. He suggests that for those seeking to get out of this situation, they must first find a safe and secure place to get away from the abuser and then seek outside help. A counseling center may be especially helpful, because secrecy helps domestic violence to continue.
Some progress is being made in how law enforcement and government are handling domestic violence, with strict fines and many different programs for counseling. Karl suggests for those seeking help to visit the National Coalition for Domestic Violence website or call the domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
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- Dr. Shannon Karl, Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at Nova Southeastern University at Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- Dr. Jay Richards, forensic psychologist on the faculty of Washington University and Seattle University and author of the novel Silhouette of Virtue