- Domestic violence against women is common worldwide with many predictive factors, including childhood neglect or abuse.
- Women may remain an abusive relationships because they are economically dependent and know the limits of their current aggressor.
- Men who commit domestic violence rarely kill their partner, because they want to continue the control and abuse.
The factors that predict which men may engage in domestic violence are well known.
Domestic violence is relatively predictable. There are multiple scientific factors. Many abnormal domestic relationships culminating in violence revolve around power, fear, intimidation, control, and submission. These toxic relationships are verbal and physical, which may include abandonment and neglect. Dependent, under-educated women 18-34 are most susceptible. Other essential predictors are cohabitating, poverty, and mental disorders.
Often the abuser was abused by their family of origin, had poor role models who settled conflict through aggression, has low frustration tolerance, and is influenced by criminal peers.
Other factors include school dropout, low self-esteem, anti-social personality, borderline personality, unemployment, a rigid understanding of gender roles, unplanned pregnancy, constant, unresolved fighting, jealousy, paranoia, hopelessness, high density living in high rises, poor health, negative social learning and normalizing the domestic abuse, history of corporal punishment, fathering children with more than one woman, being in one's early twenties, juvenile delinquency, prior arrests, a criminal history, drug use—especially alcohol, access to guns, previous use of firearms and knives, depression and hostility.
Domestic violence is more normalized than violence against strangers.
Violence is violence, but most cultures allow male against female violence in a marital relationship behind closed doors. If the woman complains, she may become homeless.
Silence after abuse is the norm among the most vulnerable. If there are no legal or social consequences, the act will intensify until the woman leaves or is severely injured, traumatized, or dead.
Why do some women stay in abusive relationships?
Ignoring a prior act leads to deadly consequences. Reasons why women stay in abusive relationships include fear of retribution, lack of resources, and that next man might be worse. If the current man hits her twice, the next might hit her three times or neglect her. The woman has learned his aggressive limits.
Most domestic violence is psychological abuse, which doesn't leave physical evidence, except despair, depression, and rage. The back eyes and broken bones come next.
The locally enforced domestic violence law also varies considerably based on geography, class, culture, race, and the times. Technology has reduced chronic domestic violence. How? Using a cell phone, a woman can document abuse by sending an image to a friend before the same phone is ripped from her hands with the recording proof and a “weapon” against escalation.
What triggers domestic rage?
Domestic violence is often triggered by a jealous rage that the woman is having an affair, a sexual rejection or alienation of affection, or simply proving who the boss is. It is the displacement of kicking your dog.
It is an odd mental health syndrome. After all, one day, you meet a person, are kind, and fall in love, and a year later, you are punching and screaming at them in vitriol. What happened? Many men avoid intimate, committed relationships seeking to push the woman away.
Emotional violence and its root causes are predictable after you’ve worked with people for many decades. People become defensive when threatened, whether real or imagined, leading to verbal insults and domestic violence. When the relationship becomes physical, something fundamental is being frustrated, or an essential need isn’t being met.
The aggressor may have been made to feel unimportant, unessential, or powerless. No one cares until they strike and lash out and only then do institutional norms and laws come to bear, from the police to social services. Some men commit domestic violence because they think it's "fun" or to prove their masculinity.
Treating the consequences of domestic violence
The treatment of domestic violence is complicated. A reduction in hostility goes a long way in opening communication channels, but someone has to make the first move with an open hand and not a fist. This is when leaving for a few days and staying with a friend or at a shelter might help diffuse the tension and help you gather your wits while you simultaneously seek professional advice.
The victim also needs professional advice, and also the perpetrator. Often anger management helps the man if court-ordered, but bad habits and criminality are hard to break, especially if the violence is a product of the norms of a sub-culture. Many domestic abusers abuse again.
Why domestic violence continues
If there is domestic abuse and no consequences, the woman can become a slave to the relationship, a new form of involuntary servitude. The paradox of domestic violence is that the abused remains in the relationship because the end of the argument is a relief and highly rewarding. What is really happening is that both partners feel insecure about saying what’s on their minds, so they communicate physically to avoid intimacy.
This vicious cycle usually ends with the police and a restraining order. Then the law gets involved, and whatever unresolved feelings become even more polarized and acrimonious when one becomes a potential witness. The first line of defense is the law, but the police lack formal training in human relations. They are there to control the situation, not to resolve it.
Law and domestic violence
How the situation is controlled depends on state law. In Connecticut, one spouse (in theory) has to be detained or arrested and held overnight. However, this law is fluid based on socioeconomics. Often the police observe and leave, unless the house is the subject of numerous similar 911 calls.
If you are abused, you can always leave, but often you are economically dependent, and the man knows it. Or you can file a restraining order, but often that does not work. It simply enrages the man. Can you imagine feeling this vulnerable? You may shut down and apologize to the man for his successful power trip, and you remain because you know his limits of aggression.
The next step is more complicated: the setting of limits and the what-if. You plainly state, “If you hit me again, I will do X,” and I mean it, even if it means going to a domestic violence shelter or to a relative or friend.
This is all very hard to do. The law can only go so far in social engineering human behavior.
The man rarely kills the woman. He needs her.
Domestic abuse involves perverted reverse psychology. The abuser needs the victim to remain a victim to control them and thus requires the victim there and intact to later abuse. This sets the aggressive upper limits below death. Without the victim, the man can’t abuse and vent their rage. Abusers also become insanely jealous when they believe their partner will meet someone else and won’t be around for them to harm.
Then we get into, “If I can’t have her, no one will.” An abuser wants to keep the person around to abuse them, and that is why they don’t kill them. They pragmatically settle differences to provide false hope to the woman that things will get better. She usually believes it. The Ike and Tina Turner saga is an example of an abused wife remaining loyal to her batterer, as is the tale of O.J. Simpson.
Most murders are against those we love or seek to control as “crimes of passion” whose outcomes are predictable, inevitable, and preventable in hindsight.
Kessler, R. C., Molnar, B. E., Feurer, I. D., & Appelbaum, M. (2001). Patterns and mental health predictors of domestic violence in the United States: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 24(4-5), 487–508.
Costa B.M, and Miller, P. (2015) Longitudinal predictors of domestic violence perpetration and victimization: A systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior 24, 261-272.