Many women in today's society experience poor body image. Not only does society alone place tremendous pressure on females to look a certain way, but there are also many other factors in a woman's life that affect her self-esteem, which therefore affects her well-being.
A huge number of females in our society are experiencing the ill effects of intimate partner violence. When a woman is experiencing violence from her partner, it affects her self-worth. Many women who are being abused already have a poor body image. Therefore, the situation can have detrimental effects on her health. Physical and mental abuse affects every person differently; some women who experience it may be left with a poor body image for their entire lives. One would hope that in a society filled with images of perfection and youth, we could escape the pressure and feelings of inadequacy in our own homes. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. There are many women who go home and experience partner violence and therefore are never able to escape those feelings.
Intimate partner violence is a topic that is of interest me as I have always admired the courage that is found in many of these abused women. I think it would be extremely hard to find support when a lot of the abuse that is occurring is emotional, and therefore it is not something that can be seen. This worries me, as I wonder how we can stop the violence when the majority of it occurs behind closed doors, and there isn't always physical evidence of it. That is why many researchers have found common characteristics in both the person being abused, and the perpetrator of the abuse. Although this helps, we can't always say that someone who has these characteristics is involved in an abusive relationship. Therefore, we need to continue to help those with low self-esteem and poor body image so that they can hopefully get out of a violent relationship if they are ever in one.
Intimate partner violence is a complex, multidimensional issue. It is something that is extremely hard to study as it is often occurs behind closed doors. Therefore, it is hidden and hard to measure. Intimate partner violence can have an impact on every aspect of a person's life. It needs to be recognized for the profound effects it has on a woman's physical and mental health. The violence can have just as much, if not more, of an impact on an individual's mental health as it does on their physical health. By identifying risk factors for those involved in intimate partner violence, we may be able to recognize more individuals who are being abused, and provide treatment necessary to help the recovery process. Domestic abuse can affect the rest of a person's life, even if it stops.
Intimate partner violence includes "physical and/or sexual assault or threats of assault against a married, cohabiting, or dating current or estranged intimate partner by the other partner, also including emotional abuse and controlling behaviours in a relationship where there has been physical and/or sexual assault" (Walton-Moss, Manganello, Frye, & Campbell, 2005: 378). What is interesting in this definition is that threats of assault and emotional abuse are considered intimate partner violence. Many women may not feel that they can seek help if they are just being threatened as there is no visible evidence, but threats and emotional abuse can cause just as much harm as physical injuries. We also need to recognize that men may also experience violence from their partner, but the majority occurs to women. Male to female violence is often more repeated and more likely to result in death or injury than female to male violence (Tilley & Brackley, 2004: 157). Men are more likely than women to engage in serious violence, whereas women tend to use low levels of violence.
I feel that the feminist perspectives best relate to the topic of intimate partner violence. Many feminists feel that the family is an oppressive institution that enslaves women. They also assume that society is patriarchal and that women are at a disadvantage as a group (MacIonis, & Gerber, 2004: 338). I feel that this especially relates to domestic violence because the majority of people experiencing it are women, and some feel so subordinate to their partner that they feel there is no way out or nothing they can do about it. Feminists also claim that men using violence to control their female partners has been condoned by many social institutions for a long time. Although marriage has changed dramatically, feminists still claim that it continues to condone violence against women. For example, many laws are not treated seriously, and battering is treated by many as an individual problem, instead of as criminal behaviour (Gelles & Loseke, 1993: 91).
Domestic violence is a significant health problem that doesn't receive enough attention by our society. Intimate partner violence occurs in all ethnic groups, all socio-economic groups, and in both homosexual and heterosexual relationships (McHugh, 2005: 719). Therefore, it can happen to anyone. This is another reason why it is so hard to recognize who is being affected by it. I feel that society recognizes how important this issue is, but hasn't given it the consistent attention that it deserves. Not only does society need to recognize how often it occurs and how dangerous it can be, but we also need to continue taking steps to somehow stop it.
In order to try to recognize who is involved with intimate partner violence, researchers have found common characteristics associated with those involved. Identifying women who are being abused is being acknowledged as a potential way to decrease the mortality and morbidity associated with intimate partner violence (Walton- Moss et. al, 2005: 378). Therefore, identifying risk factors is an important health endeavour; it is critical for designing interventions to prevent, screen, and treat intimate partner violence. Women who are being abused are often distinguished from those who are not by their educational achievement discordance (specifically when the woman has a higher education than her partner). Other characteristics include unmarried, cohabiting, African American, young age, low income without health insurance, cigarette use, self perceptions of poor physical and mental health, history of physical abuse, and children in the home (Walton- Moss et. al, 2005: 378). Although these characteristics are found more often among those experiencing abuse, they aren't necessarily the characteristics found in all cases. Research has found that children witnessing partner violence, history of prior victimization by the same partner, partner's alcohol use, and the woman fearing injury or death were associated with physical injury (Walton- Moss et. al, 2005: 378). Younger age and fair or poor mental health were independently associated with abuse. Women who were less than 26 years old were approximately twice as likely to be abused, and women who reported fair or poor mental health were more than twice as likely to be abused (Walton- Moss et. al, 2005: 378).
There are also common characteristics found in those that perpetrate the abuse. They include not being a high school graduate, woman's perception of a partner's drug problem, woman's perception that the partner's mental health was fair or poor, alcohol use, or threat or actual abuse of a pet. Being a college graduate was actually a protective factor (Hensing, & Alexanderson, 2000: 2). This does not necessarily mean that a perpetrator will have one or more of these characteristics, but they are the characteristics most commonly found in individuals who abuse their partner. Factors that were most often associated with injury were suicidality, fair or poor mental health, controlling behaviour, and prior domestic violence arrest (Walton- Moss et. al, 2005: 383). All of these factors show that it is useful to not just focus on the characteristics of the person being abused. Focusing on the partner more accurately identifies women who are being abused, and it shows her that it is her partner who is in control of and responsible for the abuse, not her (Walton- Moss et. al, 2005: 387).
There are at least two types of partner violence: common couple violence characterized by mutual low level physical aggression and patriarchal intimate terrorism in which men batter their partners to maintain control (McHugh, 2005: 718). By sampling from different populations, researchers can get examples of these two types of violence. Intimate terrorism would most likely be found in a sample from a women's shelter, whereas the mutual form of violence is often demonstrated in community samples. Husbands are more likely to be the perpetrators of aggression and wives are more likely to be the recipients in both types of partner violence. The most common pattern is a mild level of mutual violence (McHugh, 2005: 718). It is hard to determine why exactly this violence occurs.
McHugh believes that one of the theoretical models that can explain why some people may use violence in their relationships is adult attachment theory. "Attachment insecurity predicts male and female perpetration of physical and psychological abuse of partners" (McHugh, 2005: 719). She also believes that it explains why severe violence may be perpetrated more often by men than women, including intimate terrorism, acts involving intentions to gain power and control, and acts that cause injury. I agree that individuals who feel insecure are most likely going to have a poor relationship and that this is a good predictor of violence. Many individuals who feel insecure often feel a lack of control, and some may turn to violence to try to regain some control
Another explanatory model is the planned behaviour theory. Components of this model, such as attitude toward violence, perceived behaviour control, and normative beliefs about the acceptability of violence, have been building blocks in prevention and treatment of intimate partner violence (McHugh, 2005: 719). This theory predicted men's expectations to use violence and identified the likelihood of future abusive behaviour. Although this theory predicted men's aggression, it did not predict women's. Therefore, treatment approaches that involve changing beliefs about consequences, self-efficacy and social acceptability may not be appropriate for women (McHugh, 2005: 719). This shows that gender is an important issue in choosing which treatment to use.
So why is it that men are more often perpetrators of violence? This question is extremely difficult to answer because of the wide range of factors that may influence someone to be violent. The individualist approach argues that individual persons are gendered beings and that a propensity to use aggression and violence is an innate or learned characteristic of masculine persons. This approach does not explain why only some men and women perpetrate intimate partner violence, and not others (McHugh, 2005: 721). I definitely agree that aggression is a learned characteristic, but not just of masculine persons. I feel that this theory does explain why some men and women are perpetrators and not others as certain people are socialized more than others to use aggression and violence to solve their problems. I believe that individuals who are around violence are more likely to use it themselves. Although this theory may not be the explanation for every individual, I think it explains a good portion.
Not only do researchers look at why individuals use violence, but also how it affects those that they inflict it upon. The quality of life of victims of intimate partner violence is significantly impaired. There is a strong link between abuse by a partner and poor health outcomes. Abuse and health both function as obstacles to employment stability. "Abuse and poor physical and mental health have each been linked to unemployment, underemployment, chronic dependence on welfare, and lost workplace productivity" (Staggs, & Riger, 2005: 133). Abuse and unemployment can both act as a stressor. Traumatic stressors such as chronic intimate partner violence are associated with increased mental and physical health problems and decreased access to helpful resources. According to Staggs and Riger, "the effects of abuse, combined with extant stressors created by poverty and welfare reform, may increase the physiological stress response, which over time can deteriorate both physical and mental health" (Staggs, & Riger, 2005: 133). However, if abuse stops, women's health will gradually rebound to pre-abuse levels, although if the abuse continues it remains poor. It is hard to say how long it will take for a woman's health to rebound, or if it ever will for every woman.
A woman working outside the home may have increased levels of stress. Finding jobs and reliable childcare can be difficult. The family is an oppressive institution as it is often left to the woman to deal with finding childcare, and taking care of the home. In the mean time, she may also have a job outside the home. Women with low levels of education may have access to only low-wage jobs that don't offer health insurance. These jobs may provide them with little personal control, but also may require a lot of effort (Staggs, & Riger, 2005: 134). This can also increase her level of stress. A man may try to sabotage a woman's attempt to become economically self-sufficient by doing things such as refusing to provide transportation and child care, harassing her in the workplace, or inflicting visible bruises the night before a critical interview (Staggs, & Riger, 2005: 134). This again shows how men can have power and control over women, and they are therefore at a disadvantage. If women do get jobs, it is possible that they would make more money than their partners, which is linked to increased incidences of abuse. Therefore, employment that causes job strain may increase mental and physical stress related illnesses (Staggs, & Riger, 2005: 135).
The negative impact of abuse and poor health on employment stability may be greater among the poor because the prevalence of abuse and poor health may be higher in that population. "Low income was one of the three most important risk factors for intimate partner violence. Women living in poverty are three times as likely as women of greater economic means to report a chronic health problem" (Staggs, & Riger, 2005: 134-135). Therefore, a woman who is living in poverty has a greater risk of being abused, and if she is experiencing intimate partner violence, then she is at a severe disadvantage in terms of health outcomes. Women are already at a disadvantage as a group, so being an abused, poor woman means significant impacts on health.
Women who are being abused are also at risk of depression, substance abuse, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Abused women are also more likely to report physical disabilities and chronic physical health problems (Staggs, & Riger, 2005: 135). All types of intimate partner violence are harmful to a woman's health, but the effects of abuse on health vary depending on the type of abuse they experience. Abuse may also affect health directly by causing physical injuries. Violence that appears to be equivalent in terms of acts, may have different effects for men and women. Women often experience more negative health outcomes than do men (McHugh, 2005: 722). This again shows how women are at a disadvantage as a group. A man and woman can experience the exact same amount and form of physical violence, yet the woman will experience more negative health outcomes. Violence that doesn't inflict injuries may affect health indirectly, primarily by causing stress and depression (Staggs, & Riger, 2005: 135). Therefore, just because you cannot see an injury doesn't mean a woman isn't experiencing abuse. According to Staggs and Riger:
Because abuse works through stress to affect both physical and mental health,
abused women are more likely than other women to report multiple chronic health
problems and more likely to experience mental health and stress-related physical
health problems such as sleep difficulties, gastrointestinal problems,
gynaecological abnormalities, headaches. (Staggs, & Riger, 2005: 135)
Abuse affects women in a number of ways. Although we often just think of the physical injuries that intimate partner violence inflicts, there are many other damages that can also be done to a woman's mental health.
The incidence of intimate partner violence is best related to the feminist perspectives, as it shows that the family is an oppressive institution that enslaves women (MacIonis, & Gerber, 2004: 338). The majority of intimate partner violence occurs to women. It often occurs in a family setting, with the male wanting control and power. Women are already at a disadvantage as a group, and abuse pushes them further into subordination. Poverty also shows the disadvantage that women have in society. Abuse and poverty both occur more often to women than to men. Not only does abuse and poverty occur more to them, but it also has a greater negative effect on a woman's health. The feminist perspectives allow us to have an understanding of intimate partner violence as it shows a clear distribution of power relations among the family and in society. Therefore, I believe that women experience abuse and poverty more often than men because of their inferior position in social institutions.
Intimate partner violence is a hidden health problem as it often occurs in privacy and many women are unwilling to report abuse. Therefore, by identifying risk factors we can hopefully decrease morbidity and mortality associated with domestic abuse. Intimate partner violence is a complex, multidimensional issue; identifying risk factors is one way that we can try to stop it. Abuse often spins out of control, so women are naïve to think it will only happen once. As the violence severity increases, there are proportionate increases in health problems (Staggs, & Riger, 2005: 135). Women living in poverty are often more susceptible to domestic violence, therefore women living in poverty and experiencing abuse are in extreme danger of poor health. Abuse and poverty also both act as stressors that affect a woman's health. Intimate partner violence affects both physical and mental health, and as the abuse continues, so does the negative health outcomes.
List of References
Dickstein, L.J., & Nadelson, C.C. (1989). Family violence: emerging issues of a national crisis.
Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, Inc.
Gelles, R.J., & Cornell, C.P. (1983). International perspectives on family violence. Lexington,
Gelles, R.J., & Loseke, D.R. (1993). Current controversies on family violence. Newbury Park,
California: Sage Publications, Inc.
Hensing, C., & Alexanderson, K. (2000). The relation of adult experience of domestic
harassment,violence, and sexual abuse to health and sickness absence. International
Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 7(1), 1-18.
Leung, T.W., Leung, W.C., & Ho, P.C. (2005). Quality of life of victims of partner violence.
International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 90(3), 258-262.
McHugh, M.C. (2005). Understanding gender and intimate partner abuse. Sex Roles, 52(11/12),
MacIonis, J.J., & Gerber, L.M. (2004). Sociology updated 4th Canadian edition. Toronto, ON:
Staggs, S.L., & Riger, S. (2005). Effects of intimate partner violence on low-income women's
health and employment. American Journal of Community Psychology, 36(1/2),133-144.
Tilley, D. S., & Brackley, M. (2004). Violent lives of women: critical points for intervention-
phase 1 focus groups. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 40(4), 157-166.
Walton-Moss, B.J., Manganello, J., Frye, V., & Campbell, J.C. (2005). 10-11 Risk factors for
intimate partner violence and associated injury among urban women. Journal of Community Health, 30(5), 377-389.
An error occurred: [-2147217843] Login failed for user 'sa2'.