There are numerous factors that contribute to domestic violence and they are rarely simple.
They could include mental and personality disorders, personality traits, situational and societal pressures, or a combination of many.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Peter Weller has noted that there are many types of domestic violence including sexual, physical, financial, and emotional abuse. Some leave minimal harm while some lead to death, but he said the action was always a conscious one.
“There are many factors. This is one of the reasons why it’s not easy to prescribe any one intervention that would stop people from being violent. Violent behaviour is multi-dimensional with multiple motivations, but we know it is intentional... People make a decision to do this. We are not talking accidental. We are talking about somebody who is so emotional that they choose to hurt someone else.”
Weller said it was not necessarily that there are more domestic violence or more fatal cases in recent years but more people have been concerned about domestic violence as more people are aware of it because of social media and traditional media coverage. He listed several factors that what would lead people to be violent and aggressive.
Weller said a person could have a psychological disorder as a result of substance use or abuse, or because of a mental illness. He called those who are mentally ill and out of touch with reality as psychotic. He said they heard voices, were paranoid, and had irrational belief systems and often got aggressive and hostile.
He said there are also those who had psychological disorders but are not psychotic. They had conditions such as depression or impulse control disorders which influence people to be violent or aggressive.
Then there are situational motivations such as the end of a relationship, loss of a job, they feel they were disrespected, had insecurities, or someone was violent towards them. He said they are not able to regulate their emotions and took out their feelings either on the person who caused the problem or anyone who is around.
“Many of us get so angry that we would like to kill somebody but we don’t it because of our principles, beliefs, and values. Others may hurt someone but they don’t kill them, while others go out of their way to ensure the person is dead. The emotion is normal but how you regulate it is where they have a problem.”
For those who are not psychotic and irrational, for those who are reasonable, he said society had to find ways to help them regulate their emotions. Proper parenting, programmes for youths, or having a punishment that would help motivate people to behave themselves to avoid the consequence are a few ways he suggested.
“We all as members of the community have to understand the difference between someone who has a mental disorder and who is irrational, and someone who is just not regulating their emotions.”
Weller said the former is psychotic and needed intervention from the security forces to prevent them from doing something violent, psychiatric intervention, or medication. The latter, who becomes over-emotional, overreacts, and gets into a rage, could be reasoned with, he said, by relatives or members of the community.
“If you then realise there is still a risk then it is important to get professional help – counselling with a psychologist, counsellor, a religious figure with training – someone who is able to diagnose and treat. But a lot is going to depend on early intervention.”
Be a macho man
Weller told Sunday Newsday society reinforces toxic elements masculinity in young men so they believe that to be masculine, powerful, a provider, and a protector they have to be aggressive and violent.
“To be a protector doesn’t mean you have to be toxic. You could protect without being violent. You can provide by being nurturing, by being caring, you don’t only have to provide by giving money. But unfortunately, most of our boys and men have learned otherwise.”
He said the economy and recession are not allowing men to do the things they think they should do as men. This leads men to be very frustrated and they take their frustration out on those around them who are more vulnerable.
Weller added that things are changing and women too are becoming physically aggressive. He said women are also getting frustrated and they felt they no longer had to limit themselves to throwing words or items. However, he said because men are physically stronger, they are more likely to do serious harm.
“I think we have to address these frustrations in terms of how the recession and economy are going to make them worse.”
He said people need to be more aware of their actions and less reactive in their behaviour and learn coping skills.
“We all need to learn how to regulate our emotions. We need to understand what triggers us. We need to understand the core beliefs we have about what we should be like and how people should treat us, and understand that sometimes when we respond automatically, it’s emotional and not reasonable.”
He added that if someone is seen behaving strangely, the community should come up with a way to help rather than ignoring it, even if it means calling the police, calling a relative of those involved, or finding a professional to help.
“More and more we need to appreciate that because of the levels of stress out there these things are likely to accelerate. We can’t turn a blind eye and we can’t wait for someone else to do something about it. We have to come up with a community-based response, even if the options are limited.”