Domestic violence and its effects have a broad impact on society. Domestic violence happens everywhere, in all walks of life, to all ethnic groups and to all genders of all ages. One could say domestic violence is a human problem similar to “regular” violence like assault, murder and emotional/physical threats and manipulation. One in five reports of violence falls under the rubric of “domestic violence”.
The assumption that domestic violence only occurs in the ‘lower’ environments is incorrect. The results of research show that domestic violence occurs in all social strata. Higher education is even more represented in the police records than primary and secondary education. The latter says something about the willingness to report this group.
A heart-wrenching issue of domestic violence is that of young children being abused by their primary caregivers. These children, who have often experienced harsh treatment in early life, can grow up showing dysfunctional behavior in early and later adulthood. The approach to juvenile crime and problems in many municipalities is a policy priority and in some cases, the cause of this behavior can be found in home violence. Research shows that children who are sexually abused are at increased risk of becoming violent. Also, research shows that there are millions of children who witness domestic violence annually. They often have significantly more behavioral problems than other children.
To really tackle domestic violence we need to start by treating our children better as a society but especially as individual parents. About half of these children are at increased risk of (behavioral) problems.
Although domestic violence is clearly a human problem, another important group of victims of domestic violence which needs extra attention are immigrants. Experience shows that this group hardly seeks help while they are often more vulnerable by their often lonely and isolated lifestyle. They often do not know where to go for help, which is a problem which needs attention as well. The government has for years strongly advocated for better integration and emancipation of this group but with little results.
An often forgotten group are elderly. The problem is unknown while still over 5% of mistreated elderly people living independently. Perpetrators are often the caregivers or family members of the elderly, but also the partner. The invisibility and ignorance of the elderly problem has two main causes. The first is that such victims often have a relationship of dependency with their perpetrator, those who care for them. This has the result that they will not easily report to the police. The second main reason is that there is no legislation, such as child abuse, in order to facilitate a return from the outside world.
The assumption exists that domestic violence is all about power and control but studies show that there are other factors involved as well. Abusers often have been abused themselves by their caregiver. Domestic violence is according to this definition, more than just power control between people. It is important to know all aspects of domestic violence and to recognize it as such.
- The parent threatened by the addicted child for money and shelter.
- The wife/husband physically or emotionally abused by her/his partner to control her/him.
- The elderly person undressed financially by the grandchild while being in a very emotionally dependent situation (the only contact with the outside world is the family).
- The culprit who kills a pet or abuses it to exert power over the partner.
- The dependent elderly in a nursing home who is neglected, either from insufficient care capacity or other motives.
- The 12-year-old child who mistreats animals at the petting zoo, but may be a victim of domestic violence.
- Destruction of personal, beloved objects of the (ex) partner.
Unfortunately, domestic violence exists in all layers of the population. With highly skilled workers or persons with a certain status to the police less often on the spot. The shame is even greater here, the abuse and humiliation often sophisticated, so that we are less frequently heard. These victims are extremely isolated because even relatives are not usually informed. A positive fact is that the victims often have their own income and possibly more easily be able to continue living independently.
To arrive at an approach to combat domestic violence it is especially important to recognize the real problems. Domestic violence seems invisible because it gives no direct social nuisance. Additionally, it is often difficult to estimate the extent of domestic violence in their own municipality.