How domestic violence impacts the family

The RCIPS’s Family Support Unit has issued the following information as part of its efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence and the support available for those in need.

It is becoming increasingly accepted that violence within the family is no longer a purely ‘domestic’ issue. It is a problem which belongs to society as a whole, and which should be the subject of debate and co-operation between all in the fight against violence.

What is it?

It is actually quite difficult to draw neat lines around a definition of domestic violence.

The term ‘domestic violence’ covers a wide range of unacceptable behaviour and may take many forms such as emotional or psychological abuse as well as physical assault.

Indirect violence (threats, verbal abuse and denigration) can in some cases be as detrimental as actual violence.

Prevalence

We know that family violence is all too common. The reported figures reflect but a fraction of the real picture. Many victims do not go to the police and do not disclose the violence to anybody.

Their reluctance to do so may be due to fear of repercussions, or stigmatism, or feelings of shame.

It is also true that a significant number of abused persons, having made a complaint to the police, then withdraw their complaint, often on the day of the court hearing. The withdrawal of the proceedings is not a fair indication of the seriousness of the assaults but may be the result of other factors, including pressure from the other partner, or recognition of the difficulties for the complainant and her children flowing from the outcome of the hearing.

However, people are now becoming more educated as to the dangers of domestic violence and are now reporting this crime more often to the police. Although this is good news, there are still a lot of persons being abused that are still not coming forward for assistance.

Effects of violence

The Family. Violence within the family may have varying consequences. There can be many victims within the family who are subjected to violence and continue to live with the violent partner for a significant period of time, sometimes with tragic consequences.

They may do so for any number of very complex reasons, including lack of economic freedom or fear of physical retribution.

The Victim. The devastating effects of family violence on adult victims are well recognized. Those effects include physical damage, psychological damage, an impaired ability to function normally (which can include an inability to work), and damage to parenting abilities.

These adverse effects can in some cases be short-lived; in many other cases they cause long-term serious harm to a person’s ability to function; and in the most serious of cases, they can be life-threatening.

The Children. The effect of family violence on children has not traditionally been as widely recognized.

The usual assumption is that unless directly involved in it (for instance, by being injured), children were not seriously affected by violence, or threats of violence, between parents.

Even where it occurs in non-violent circumstances, the breakdown of the relationship between parents and the resultant tension within the family is well-known to effect children adversely.

To witness or to be aware of abuse, threats and actual violence toward the other parent is obviously highly detrimental to children of any age, including the very young.

The Aftermath. In most cases, the breakdown of a family does not mean the severing of all relationships between family members. There is usually an ongoing relationship between parents and their children, and there will always be difficult questions as to the best way to facilitate the maintenance and development of those continuing relationships after separation.

Causes. Whilst the reality and effects of family violence are relatively easy to identify, the same cannot be said of its causes.

Psychiatric research will tell us that often, if not usually, some form of psychiatric dysfunction in the violent partner is a factor. Depression and delusional disorders may play a role; more serious personality disorders may also be a factor.

Professionals from other disciplines may wish to point to other social causative factors, of which there may be many. Difficult as they may be to identify, it is of course vital that we reach a proper understanding of the causes of family violence if we are to have any hope of preventing it.

Solutions. The first battle is to increase public awareness.

The fact that these crimes occur in the home do not make them any less serious; if anything, it makes them more serious by virtue of the abuse of trust they involve.

We must be absolutely clear in the message the public hears: Violence is violence and violence is unacceptable.

If a person is suffering as a result of abuse, report this crime to the police and get the necessary help that is available. There is a vast amount of resources available to victims, friends and families; all you have to do is just reach out for the help.

FYI

For more information on the fight against Domestic Violence please contact the Family Support Unit on 946-9185 or any of the police stations in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman or in an emergency call 911.

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