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Domestic Violence in the US

COVID-19, Social Isolation and Its Consequences

The COVID-19 pandemic, for all its destructiveness, had a number of secondary consequences associated with the cessation of economic activity and the need to introduce quarantine. The introduction of social exclusion measures has led to an increase in domestic violence of up to 27% in some states, given the evidence of police calls (Boserup et al., 2020). At the same time, the real numbers may be much higher, given that the economic instability of the husband and the social isolation of the wife from support institutions and the community are among the main risk factors for domestic violence.

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Types of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence usually occurs in the home, which should be the mainstay of safety for the people living in it. However, the more physically or psychologically vulnerable groups of the population are often subjected to various forms of violence by the more resistant groups. Men are most commonly abused, and in the United States, IPV is the most common type of domestic violence. Tyrants can also commit violence against children or the elderly. Some forms of abuse, such as emotional abuse, can be latent. At the same time, emotional and psychological abuse, such as threats and humiliation, usually accompany physical or sexual abuse.

General Statistics

According to data from the US Police Department, statistics prove a direct relationship between the introduction of quarantines and a dramatic increase in cases of domestic violence across the country. Specifically, Portland, Oregon, San Antonio, Texas, Jefferson County, Alabama, New York City, and Philadelphia saw an average growth of 20%. The police recorded an increase in the number of arrests related to charges of domestic violence. Also, citizens began to call the police more often with reports of domestic violence, and the number of calls to the police increased. The most alarming trend is the increase in shooting reports in which victims of domestic violence were targeted. The Philadelphia example shows that the imposition of quarantines had to be accompanied by tighter controls on gun ownership at the legislative level.

The COVID-19 pandemic and social exclusion have resulted in a catastrophic slowdown in economic growth. This was reflected in the economic opportunities for a huge number of families associated with rising unemployment. Some employees were laid off, others were faced with a reduction in salaries. Notably, economic instability is an aggravating factor in domestic violence. Financial dependence is another important risk factor. Combined with limited access to social support and socialization opportunities, potential victims of domestic violence found themselves in a much less advantageous situation than in the period before the start of quarantine.

Basic Elements of Society by MacIver

The famous sociologist Robert MacIver believed that people live in society because they need each other in order to survive. He also explained that the mission of a society is to serve all members, not to meet the needs of individual members. Thus, in serving this purpose, society has a number of rules and laws that govern its activities. The sociologist also highlighted the basic elements of society such as similarities, mutual awareness, differences, interdependence, cooperation, and conflict. Other elements, according to MacIver, include customs, procedures, power, mutual assistance, groupings, control, and freedoms. The study of the elements of society that describe its characteristics allows us to interpret society and its phenomena on a wider scale.

What Elements Contribute to the Problem of Domestic Violence

It is most likely that the violation of the element of interdependence is most important when domestic violence occurs. MacIver notes that interdependence is a key element of society, and provides examples of interdependence between men and women, different populations, and different countries. The principle of interdependence consists in the voluntary recognition of the inadequacy of one gender, group, or nation to fulfill the full functions of society. For example, when creating a family, a man and a woman perform complementary functions; By default, the alliance of interdependence is based on mutual respect. In other words, elements of similarity, mutual awareness, and difference are included. Conflict, according to MacIver, is a useful and integral part of society; however, it is likely that violence occurs when groups or individuals are unable to implement an element of conflict in a constructive manner.

The other, external aspect of the constituent elements of society classified by MacIver are customs, procedures, power, mutual assistance, groupings, control, and freedoms. It is obvious that all these elements carry a component of power and control and can be used by society to solve social problems, including alleviating the problem of domestic violence. At the same time, inadequate use of control systems, for example, the country’s legislation, exacerbates the problem of domestic violence. Also, the lack of support from the factions, or the lack of mutual assistance between the parties to the conflict is another important factor. Patriarchal customs and traditions also contribute to the creation of stereotypes of superiority in relation to men and, at the same time, extremely high demands on them. Taken together, these stereotypes can lead to personality disorders and tyrants in family relationships. In some incomparably rarer cases, women are tyrants, and they can fill traditionally male roles.

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How DV Can Be Alleviated

Based on the considerations outlined above, it can be assumed that the main forces of DV alleviation should be directed at the indicated social elements. In particular, there is a need to ensure that victims of domestic violence are supported by groups. Another important step is the implementation of control over the implementation of legal procedures, and the existence of laws that define domestic violence as a crime. However, the most effective approach may be to reduce the influence of traditional stereotypes on roles in the family, since inadequate emotional upbringing of boys and girls can be an important component of the emergence of domestic violence in the future. Adequate command of conflict tools or constructive conflict can be another solution to the problem of domestic violence if families with emerging DV tendencies undergo family psychotherapy.

What has Perpetuated the Problem?

There are risk factors that imply a greater propensity to become a victim of domestic violence. Some of these factors, such as economic impact and physical or mental impact, perpetuate the problem. Considering that the tyrant constantly deprives the victim of the necessary resources – moral and material, that she needs to break out of tyranny, economic influence and mental or physical influence are factors that create a vicious circle of violence. According to the CDC, risk factors for IPV include individual risk factors, community factors, and social factors (“Risk and protective factors,” 2021).

Solutions from Research

The ongoing quarantine and its aggravating impact on domestic violence exacerbate the problem and call for immediate solutions. Scientists note that health workers and others who provide medical care to victims of domestic violence should be aware of the possibility of increasing DV during a pandemic and pay more attention to the issue. For example, doctors can quickly identify victims of domestic violence and provide them with the support they need, based on their appearance or through questionnaires, even if the victims do not report their concerns. The victim of domestic violence can be placed in a separate ward and banned from visits so as not to be exposed to the abuser. After that, the health worker can advise the patient about the possibilities of social assistance for the victim in her particular case. Scientists also recommend using the media to raise social awareness of the problem. Using social media to reach audiences and provide support to victims of domestic violence is also possible.

Firearms in the possession of a domestic tyrant greatly increase the risk of death among DV victims. At the same time, court orders that restrict access to firearms in domestic violence cases lead to a decrease in intimate partner homicide (Frattaroli et al., 2021). Other solutions include creating crisis intervention strategies, providing emotional support, providing legal advice, and other assistance.

Community support is an essential element of support for victims of domestic violence. Since all members of society are interconnected, and the very existence of public institutions is aimed at the common good, such a desire is probably natural for many people. Therefore, the provision of personal support within the community is an important element in solving the social problem of domestic violence.

Historical Solutions

Historically, the United States has gone through a long history of becoming a state that protects human rights. The fight against domestic violence began with the birth of feminism and the first rally of feminists, which took place in 1970 (“Domestic violence prevention,” 2017). In 1977, the International Women’s Year Conference was held where the problems of domestic violence were discussed. In 1979, domestic violence became part of the agenda of the Healthy People Initiative, which can be considered as taking the problem to a new level. In 1983 CDC established a Violence Epidemiology Branch to prevent domestic violence. In 1984, The Burning Bed with Farah Fawcett was released for the first time on wide screens, and in 1985 audiences saw The Color Purple with Whoopi Goldberg based on the novel by Alice Walker. In 1990 Health People made violence and abuse a public health priority. In 1994 the famous OJ Simpson murder trial happened. At the end of the 1990s and early 2000s, child abuse and violence in ethnic minorities first received attention. In 2002 the WHO launched a global campaign for violence prevention. Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2005 consolidated the legal framework for violence prevention; this Act was reaffirmed later in 2013.

Comparing Research to Historical Solutions

Historically, there have been many attempts to stop domestic violence, but in the light of the statistics presented at the beginning of the presentation, it is obvious that these attempts have not had the desired success. On the one hand, scattering and scattering in the directions and methods of struggle can be considered the weak side of historical solutions to the problem. On the other hand, an overview of historical decisions presents a panorama of various community platforms that are fighting domestic violence. Public and medical organizations, the media, and the arts pay attention to the issue to educate society about the problem. Research offers more concrete solutions, such as increasing the number of injunctions against carrying weapons or educating health workers about understanding the situation correctly in the context of quarantine. Understanding decision-making in the context of social theory is also important, as it creates the basis for the universalization of the solutions developed.

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Boserup, B., McKenney, M., & Elkbuli, A. (2020). Alarming trends in US domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 38(12), 2753-2755.

Domestic violence prevention: A history of milestones and achievements. (2017).

Frattaroli, S., Zeoli, A. M., & Webster, D. W. (2021). Armed, prohibited and violent at home: Implementation and enforcement of restrictions on gun possession by domestic violence offenders in four US localities. Journal of Family Violence, 1-14.

Hossain, F. A., & Ali, M. K. (2017). Relation between individual and society. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2(8), 130.

Leslie, E., & Wilson, R. (2020). Sheltering in place and domestic violence: Evidence from calls for service during COVID-19. Journal of Public Economics, 189, 1-12.

Risk and protective factors for perpetration. (2021). CDC.

Wilson, J. M., & Goodman, L. A. (2021). “A community of survivors”: a grounded theory of organizational support for survivor-advocates in domestic violence agencies. Violence Against Women, 1(5), 1-13.

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