Domestic violence is a burden of contemporary society. In the United States, there are more than ten million victims of violent actions every year (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015). Cases of domestic violence can be found in any community. Their prevalence does not depend on age, social status, race, gender, or religion. Physical abuse is one of the aspects of family violence. It is frequently combined with emotional or sexual abuse thus involving not only physical injuries but also psychological traumas (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2015). Domestic violence is a primary concern of sociological services because it has an impact on the stability of the family and the health of the abuse victims. However, the issue of maternity is often left out in debates on domestic abuse. This aspect needs careful consideration because both the psychological and physical health of women can have a significant influence on their approaches to family planning, pregnancy, or care for children.
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Any event which threatens or violates someone and occurs in a family or home environment between adults disregarding gender or sexual orientation is considered domestic abuse. Most of those cases are perpetrated by men against women. The abuse is not limited to physical actions that are more frequent and can also be mental, emotional, or financial. Intimate partner violence against women, which is the most common, influences both mental and physical health (Dillon, Hussain, Loxton, & Rahman, 2013). Moreover, it leads to victim-blaming attitudes among women (Gracia, 2014). Another aspect of domestic violence is abuse in pregnancy. Abuse in the perinatal period can cause negative obstetric outcomes and mental disorders (Howard, Oram, Galley, Trevillion, &Feder, 2013).
On the whole, this research is going to provide evidence that domestic abuse creates a hostile environment that is treated as dangerous to raise a child in by women. Another purpose is to discover potential reasons and conditions for domestic abuse. Moreover, the paper will analyze the influence of abuse on the decision-making process of women with or planning to have children. Thus, domestic abuse has a direct impact on maternity because women living in a hostile environment feel that the conditions are dangerous to personal health and the well-being of a child
There are many investigations dedicated to the issue of domestic violence and its consequences. Since most cases of abuse are against women, it is necessary to review the peculiarities of their reactions to abuse. Intimate partner violence is a frequent abuse and thus became a public health and social concern over the world. According to the World Health Organization (as cited in Dillon, Hussain, Loxton, & Rahman, 2013, p. 1), intimate partner violence is “behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including acts of physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors.” Recently, more attention was dedicated to the possible health consequences of abuse both for acute and chronic health conditions. These conditions do not include evident physical traumas but address potential mental health issues.
The research by Dillon et al. (2013) reveals such mental health outcomes as depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, self-perceived mental health and psychological distress, and sleep disorders. Physical health outcomes, as outlined by Dillon et al. (2013), include problems in functional physical health, self-perceived physical health, and chronic physical health conditions. Depression is considered to be the most frequent mental health disorder resulted from intimate partner violence. Thus, it consists of 34.7% of all health problems developed as a consequence of abuse (Dillon et al., 2013).
According to Zlotnik et al. (as cited in Dillon et al., 2013, p. 4) who discovered the patterns of recovery in mental health status in women who were subject to intimate partner violence after five years, “women reporting IPV at the commencement of their study were still significantly more likely to experience a greater degree of depressive symptoms and functional impairment with lower self-esteem and life satisfaction at the 5-year follow-up, compared to women without IPV.” Another mental health outcome for women who experienced domestic violence is the development of victim-blaming attitudes. A study by Gracia (2014) reveals the complex character of this problem which needs treatment through the social context. There is a necessity in more public attention and education efforts to manage the problem of victim-blaming attitudes and achieve a better understanding of the problem.
Particular attention should be concentrated on the impact that domestic violence has on maternity. Apart from a negative influence on women’s decisions on family planning, childbirth, and child upbringing, domestic violence provokes perinatal mental disorders (Howard et al., 2013). Previous studies revealed a connection between mental disorder and being a victim of domestic violence. The systematic review discovered “prevalence of domestic violence during pregnancy in high-income settings ranges from 4% to 8% in the majority of studies, equating to approximately 152,000 to 324,000 pregnant women experiencing abuse each year in the US” (Howard et al., 2013, p. 3). These rates can be higher in low- and middle-income countries. The consequences of domestic violence in the perinatal period can be different. Thus, it is proved that perinatal abuse increases the risk of low birth weight, can cause pre-term labor, miscarriage, and even fetal death” (Howard et al., 2013, p. 3). Moreover, there is a danger of the following child behavioral problems and maternal death.
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Solutions to the Problem
Currently, domestic violence is a problem that is researched and monitored by various agencies. According to McLaughlin, Banks, Bellamy, Robbins, and Thackray (2014), different social care establishments try to create a system for possible interventions. However, the authors note that these agencies often fail to document their findings as well as some crucial data that can help scholars to research this issue further. For instance, it is hard to collect personal information regarding one’s ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, and possible disability of domestic abuse victims due to multiple reasons. However, many approaches to domestic abuse are being implemented right now. McLaughlin et al. (2014) note that adult social care for victims of violence is underdeveloped in comparison to child care services and child protection. Jahanfar, Janssen, Howard, and Dowswell (2013) state that there is not enough sufficient evidence to evaluate all existing practices and establish their effectiveness. Moreover, it is possible that current solutions are not systematized enough for researchers to monitor their success.
The concept of addressing the cases of domestic violence is complicated by the fact that victims of domestic abuse cannot always adequately assess their situation and ask for help. Moreover, many ways of abuse cannot be detected easily. For example, while physical violence is not very hard to notice, such types as emotional and economic abuse often go unnoticed and thus cannot be evaluated in full. Moreover, pregnant women that suffer from domestic violence are also exposed to their child being affected by the same situation. While physical abuse can be stopped, the effects of it often result in mental issues, including anxiety, depression, and postpartum depression. Jahanfar et al. (2013) argue that interventions during one’s pregnancy do not show significant results in treating women’s mental condition. Therefore, the treatment of abuse victims is a complex problem that should be researched further.
There are several approaches to the mitigation of the effects of domestic violence that can be outlined. First of all, violence is often treated by law enforcement practices that focus on preventing abuse from happening by distancing the abuser from the affected individuals. This type of solution offers physical protection to the victims.
Domestic violence can be of different severity just like all other crimes. For instance, a man can just yell at his wife and children and slap them, or he can kill them while beating. Realizing that domestic violence is observed in different forms, legislators developed the Domestic Violence Bill, in the framework of which the victims of this kind of violence obtained an opportunity to receive the maximum possible protection offered by the current legislative system (Fitzgerald, 2017). In the framework of these regulations, specific police departments were created. Their main task is to respond to cases of domestic violence. Nevertheless, when getting in touch with a victim, police officers cannot make one act as expected. It often happens that he/she is so scared that prefers to keep silent instead of repeating their testimony. Still, professionals should at least provide a person with the information related to the location of a shelter and healthcare establishment, etc. It would be even better if they accompany this individual and ensure that he/she is safe.
However, it does not assess the mental health and overall well-being of a person that encountered abuse. Moreover, while this solution is necessary to stop the actual domestic abuse from happening, it should not be viewed as the only way to prevent or treat the effects of violence. Furthermore, the problem of domestic violence is often ignored by law enforcement due to its highly private nature and complex emotional response from affected individuals. Therefore, this approach is currently underdeveloped and needs to be improved on the governmental level. For example, new ways of training can be devised to make police forces more knowledgeable on the topic of domestic violence.
Another approach to domestic violence prevention and treatment is counseling. When a person manages to leave an abuser, he/she continues experiencing emotional influences of this condition. To improve one’s state and stop feeling guilty, one should search for counseling services that can be easily accessed. Counseling can be advantageous in several ways. It provides an opportunity to consider how to act in the discussed situation to minimalize adverse effects. As a result, a person even receives an opportunity to save a marriage and prevent a family from collapsing. In addition to that, counseling can be needed when a person is no longer living with the abuser but remains depressed for a long time. Visiting both individual and group sessions, one receives a chance to overcome issues faced in relationships or at least avoid its repetition in the nearest future.
This solution also has its drawbacks. First of all, some counselors fail to appropriately address the issue of domestic abuse by approaching it as a family problem. Moreover, the process of counseling can induce conflict and engage in attitudes of victim-blaming. According to Berns (2017), the promotion of counseling as the best practice for treating domestic abuse can be damaging to a victim’s mental health as many counseling techniques focus not on the abuser but the victim. Moreover, these practices can treat women as though they can always change their partner or leave their relationship without any consequences. Thus, this approach needs further improvements.
The problems of the approaches described above are further complicated by the diversity of victims as well as types of abuse. These two solutions often do not address the victim’s data, including one’s age, socioeconomic situation, disability, and ethnicity. These factors can significantly influence the victim’s ability to address the situation. Thus, new and improved solutions should include special techniques for individuals that fall into various categories. For example, pregnant women have multiple complications connected to their ability to communicate their situation. Improved police forces should be instructed to address pregnant women and women with children cautiously and ensure the safety of all people affected by the issue. Simply arresting the perpetrator is not enough.
In addition to that, it can be beneficial if screening for domestic violence is improved. Rather often those people who reveal violence towards others because of being angry or irritated use force when they are not satisfied with something at home. Police officers should be educated regarding the early stages of these situations so that they can pay more attention to particular families and get involved before it is too late. They should know how to identify a person that can harm someone potentially because of one’s character. It would also be beneficial to provide female students and employed women of the community with similar information. If special classes or training are devoted to this topic, they are likely to become able to influence their relationships, ensuring that their partners are not aggressive. If it does not work, they can still be able to consider how to act in this situation and inform the authorities before it is too late.
Information regarding existing programs should be easily accessed by any person. The number of the National Domestic Hotline should be easily found online and be present in various facilities, including medical, educational, and recreational ones. In this way, if a person is controlled by an abuser, she is still likely to have an opportunity to find out whom to ask for assistance.
The employees of the domestic violence shelters should cooperate with police officers for them to find an abuser as soon as possible. Moreover, they should emphasize the necessity of counseling immediately, because many women who were abused come back as they are afraid of consequences.
Counseling services should address women’s mental health regarding their behavior towards the abuser as well as their children. The approach to pregnant women should assess their attitude towards pregnancy and birth and recognize the onset of mental issues as soon as possible. Cattaneo and Goodman (2015) discuss the importance of empowerment for people recovering from domestic violence. This approach does not blame victims and concentrates on active identification and pursuit of goals. Moreover, preventative recognition of violent behaviors is also a viable solution that should be implemented.
Domestic abuse is a complex issue that significantly impacts motherhood. Various treatments of this problem fail to recognize the specific needs of pregnant women and mothers and handle them unsuccessfully. The existing research regarding the issue of abuse during one’s maternity is insufficient. Thus, new solutions to this problem should be devised and implemented. Pregnant women, as well as other victims of domestic violence, can benefit from better counseling practices, educated law enforcement officials, developed child protection services, and advanced treatment of people from different social groups.
Berns, N. S. (2017). Framing the victim: Domestic violence, media, and social problems. New York, NY: Routledge.
Cattaneo, L. B., & Goodman, L. A. (2015). What is empowerment anyway? A model for domestic violence practice, research, and evaluation. Psychology of Violence, 5(1), 84.
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Dillon, G., Hussain, R., Loxton, D., & Rahman, S. (2013). Mental and physical health and intimate partner violence against women: A review of the literature. International Journal of Family Medicine, 2013, 313909. Web.
Fitzgerald, F. (2017). Second stage Domestic Violence Bill 2017. Web.
Gracia, E. (2014). Intimate partner violence against women and victim-blaming attitudes among Europeans. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 92(5), 380-381. Web.
Howard, L.M., Oram, S., Galley, H., Trevillion, K., &Feder, G. (2013). Domestic violence and perinatal mental disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Medicine, 10(5), e1001452. Web.
Jahanfar, S., Janssen, P. A., Howard, L. M., &Dowswell, T. (2013). Interventions for preventing or reducing domestic violence against pregnant women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 11, CD009414.
McLaughlin, H., Banks, C., Bellamy, C., Robbins, R., &Thackray, D. (2014). Domestic violence, adult social care and MARACs: Implications for practice. Web.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2015). Domestic violence. Web.