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Treating with domestic violence

Thursday, February 16 2017

The issue of domestic violence has been prominent in the news for some time now, fuelled by a number of females who lost their lives. In fact, both men and women are vulnerable to violence in domestic situations. However, it might be said that it remains a greater risk for women.

The reasons why people are violated and yet stay in abusive situations can be complex. In some cases there might be financial dependence or considerations for children, though this is not always the case. Many professional, well-remunerated women continue to secretly live in fear of abusive partners, while men may continue to hide the abuse for fear of seeming less masculine.

Domestic violence is a multi-faceted social problem, and may be considered symptomatic of the wider problem of crime currently affecting this country. Horrific acts are committed behind closed doors, only because of the perpetrators’ own fears, inadequacies and frustrations.

Sadly, domestic violence can be a self-perpetuating cycle with far-reaching societal consequences.

Research has shown that children in abusive situations, or those who have witnessed it, all too often grow up to become abusers themselves, or seek partners who are abusive. Abusers may follow their partners into workplaces, causing embarrassment and disruption. Men who are abused may be mocked or humiliated by friends, colleagues and family. The abused in turn very frequently find it difficult to concentrate on school, work and other productive endeavours, often leading to loss of earnings or of career-advancing opportunities.

Communities can play a valuable role if neighbours and family were to look out for one another. The use of social media as an intervention strategy has been interesting in this context, because while it has served to highlight a number of cases that might otherwise have remained hidden, it has also created scenarios with the potential to expose the victim to further trauma, should the matter become the subject of national gossip. With this in mind, the exposure needs to be approached with sensitivity.

Abusers may be anyone - our colleague at work or a friend with whom we socialise. They may be people who are hardworking, personable, thoughtful, religious … until they retreat behind closed doors and give vent to rage.

Do they want to be abusers? Quite often they do not; and just like the victim, they may suffer from shame, regret and helplessness. Could some intervention at an early stage be directed towards the abuser as well the abused, and be geared towards reform, while ensuring that the victim is protected? Campaigns targeting the abuser who consciously wishes to seek help might be worth exploring.

There is no easy solution to the problem of domestic violence, and it is unlikely that it can be eliminated completely from society. However, it is not impossible to build a healthier society and provide care and support for the abused, the abuser, and others who may have been affected by their actions. Evidently, a tremendous amount of time and money must be invested to get it right. Can we afford it at this time? Perhaps the question really is: can we afford to allow anger and violence continue to become the norm in our society?

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