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The following is a summary of Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links of Multiple Forms of Violence (Center for Disease Control, 2014). The aim of the report is, firstly, to highlight the often overlooked connections between various forms of violence including child abuse, intimate partner violence, bullying, and community violence. The report goes on to urge service providers to break down the walls that currently exist between specialized fields in order to more adequately address the harms created by violent behavior and to prevent continued perpetuation.
“Professionally we have silos, and we operate in these silos we’ve got to break down. Across the country, people working to prevent child abuse are right across the hall from people working on violence against women, and they don’t work together. As we go into communities to bring everybody to the table, don’t let people say, ‘I work on child abuse, but this is about gang violence.’ Don’t let people say, ‘I work on violence against women, and this is about child abuse.’ This thing, all this violence, is connected.” -Deborah Prothrow-Stith, MD, Adjunct Professor, Harvard School of Public Health
Risk Factors and Protective Factors
Violent behavior is incredibly complex and is influenced by a myriad of risk factors–the things that put an individual at greater risk for experiencing and perpetrating violence–and protective factors–things that increase resiliency and decrease the likelihood that someone will engage in or be victim to violence. The CDC has identified the following risk and protective factors with regards to violent behavior:
Examples of risk factors are: rigid social beliefs about what is “masculine” and “feminine,” lack of job opportunities, and family conflict
Examples of protective factors are: connection to a caring adult or access to mental health services
The Impact of Violence on Development
-Children who grow up in safe and nurturing environments “learn empathy, impulse control, anger management and problem-solving—all skills that protect against violence”
-Children who grow up in persistently violent, unstable, and/or unsafe environments often interpret situations to be threatening and are more likely to respond violently (fight) or to avoid the situation together (flee)
-These responses, termed fight-or-flight, “are survival skills that people are born with and often override other skills that enable non-violent conflict resolution, such as impulse control, empathy, anger management, and problem-solving skills”
Community Context and the Co-Occurrence of Multiple Forms of Violence
-Low social cohesion within communities and lack of economic opportunities are associated with higher rates of intimate partner violence, child abuse and maltreatment, and youth violence
-Individuals who lack adequate support from friends, family members, or neighbors, have been found to perpetrate partner abuse, child maltreatment, and/or elder abuse at rates higher than their more socially integrated counterparts
-Witnessing community violence is a risk factor for being bullied and for perpetrating sexual violence
-Access to mental health and substance abuse services in addition to coordination of resources and services across community agencies increases communities’ resiliency to violence
This short film explores the intergenerational transmission of domestic abuse and what a group of young men are doing to break the cycle of violence that has impacted their own lives.
Shame is a highly complex and potentially dangerous human emotion often associated with intolerable feelings of humiliation, disgrace, and embarrassment (Mills, 2008). In contrast to guilt which focuses on behavior, shame refers to a particular state of emotionality where an individual’s entire sense of self is targeted for critique (Tangney, 1996 cited in Kivisto et al. 2011).
Understanding this difference is hugely important to the study of violent and aggressive behavior–and thus to the field of domestic violence–primarily because of the differential impact guilt and shame are thought to have on the promotion of violent behavior. Whereas guilt has been found to deter aggression, both towards ourselves and against others, shame tends to promote anger and violence (Tangney, 1996, cited in Kivisto et al. 2011). Shame is experienced as such an intensely painful emotion that it is suppressed at all costs. It eventually and inevitably erupts though, displaying itself in harmful behaviors that can include self-mutilation, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation (Mills, 2008). Shame can also result in the externalization of this pain, manifesting in violence directed at other people (Mills, 2008; Gilligan, 1999).
This fact holds particular relevance for the domestic violence field. Specifically, research on the link between shame and aggression provides often overlooked insight into the etiology of partner violence in addition to shedding light on why traditional models of intervention and treatment–exemplified by Duluth-style programs–have failed to break the cycle of violence and keep victims safe.
Shame and Partner Violence
It is well established that one of the single greatest predictors for the perpetuation of partner violence is having witnessed physical aggression between parents in one’s family of origin. Dutton, van Ginkel, and Starzomski (1995, cited in Kivisto et al. 2011) found however, that when parental physical violence was controlled for, shaming experiences were more strongly correlated with adult perpetuation of partner violence. To be sure, direct shaming of children can co-occur with parental physical violence, and further, physical violence against children is shame-inducing in that such experiences communicate to children that they are unloveable (Gilligan, 1999). The importance of Dutton and colleagues findings however underscore the powerful and potentially dangerous role of shame in the promotion of violent acting out.
Taken together, findings such as these highlight the powerful effect that shame has on the developing child’s personality and on the likelihood of adult perpetration of aggressive and physical forms of partner violence: “Early shaming experiences contribute to the formation of the ‘abusive personality’, characterized by high levels of chronic anger and an attributional style of externalizing blame, and parental physical abusiveness provides the modeling of behaviors to express anger characteristic of this type of personality”.
Unfortunately, advocates and professionals working in the domestic violence field have strongly resisted the inclusion of psychological factors in theories of causation (Corvo & Johnson, 2003). The traditional paradigm favors instead, an ideologically based explanation that conceptualizes partner violence as culturally sanctioned behavior, deployed consciously and strategically by men against their female partners, in order to exert their (men’s) perceived right to power and control (Corvo & Johnson, 2003). Attempts to expand the etiological parameters established by feminist discourse in the field are dismissed as making excuses for a perpetrator’s violent behavior or worse, as victim-blaming. Critics of this rigid framework contend however, that seeking to understand why someone behaves the way they do hardly justifies the bad behavior. In the end, disrupting the cycle of violence is only possible to the extent that we accurately identify the root causes of such behavior.
To date, the ideological stranglehold that posits a singular theory of causation for domestic violence has prevented the development of more accurate and precise etiological theories; stunted scientific inquiry into more effective interventions and treatment models; and given birth to federal and state policies which rely almost exclusively on punitive, criminal justice-based responses to domestic violence. In spite of a growing body of research which challenges the efficacy and safety of Duluth-style programs, it remains the treatment of choice for domestically violent individuals (Corvo & Johnson, 2003).
Implications for Treatment
If early experiences of direct shaming put children at risk for adult perpetration of partner violence, then it is no wonder that current interventions have have failed to meaningfully address abusive behavior. Besides failing to target the root cause(s) of violent behavior, interventions that rely on punitive, anti-therapeutic responses can be seen as shame inducing themselves and thus might contribute to continued incidents of partner abuse. Corvo and Johnson (2003) contend for example that much of our legal, clinical, and social responses are rooted in the ‘vilification of the batterer’: “The popular, policy, and ‘scientific’ designation of perpetrators of partner violence as being appropriate targets for dismissive, degrading, and stereotypical characterizations”. Such a response is likely to activate the perpetrators trauma history and could reinforce, rather than uproot, maladaptive behaviors.
Advocates who ascribe to the Duluth Model assert that if domestic violence perpetrators could just unlearn their patriarchal socialization, they could stop being abusive. The above cited research indicates that partner violence is far more complicated than that though, often–although not always–having roots in a abusers own long and painful history of victimization.
This is not to say that we should adopt a universal policy of addressing partner violence solely through a psychological lens. We should however, investigate and develop theories of causation that identify all of the social, psychological, and biological factors that potentially contribute to partner violence. Interventions should be tailored to the unique needs of each victim and perpetrator rather than the one size fits all approach of Duluth-style programs. Finally, professionals in the field must resist conceptualizations of perpetrators as treatment resistant villains who are undeserving of help and should utilize intervention models that are responsive, holistic, and that affirm the humanity of all those involved in the treatment process.
We are very excited to share the following information on upcoming events taking place in New York and in California! Both events focus on beginning a dialogue around the creation of more sensitive and victim-centered responses to partner violence and sexual assault. Please see below for more information.
Addressing Victims’ Needs: Creating Holistic Models of Support for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence
Hosted by NYU Center on Violence and Recovery
Kimmel Center, New York University, 60 Washington Square South, Room 905, New York, New York, 10003
Thursday, April 16 at 3:00pm – 5:00pm EST
Community experts, Dr. Faye Zakheim, Billye Jones, Priya Chandra, and the Reverend Dr. Donna Schaper, will discuss the creation of holistic models of support for victims of intimate partner violence. Participants will gain insight into the commonly overlooked needs of unique populations and the challenges of building comprehensive services for victims. They will also learn how spiritual life, community integration, and support groups can play a role in the healing process. Light refreshments will be served.
To RSVP, visit CVR’s Facebook page.
Justice That Heals: Confronting Gender Violence on Campus & in Communities
Hosted by Restorative Justice Center at University of California, Berkeley
Hearst Field Annex D-37, University of California, Berkeley
Saturday, April 11 at 9:30am – 4:30pm PST
With campus and criminal justice policies under fire for ignoring the needs of survivors of gender-based violence, people are looking for alternatives. This conference brings together academics and activists to explore the possibilities and limitations of Restorative / Transformative Justice in response to sexual violence and misconduct on campus and in communities that experience structural oppression.
Keynote speaker Dr. Mary Koss is the co-founder and principal investigator of the RESTORE program in Arizona, which has designed Restorative processes that emphasize the needs of survivors and responsible parties. She is now applying her expertise to the question of sexual misconduct on college campuses. Workshops and panels will explain RJ / TJ processes and present critical analysis of their capacity to repair flawed or broken systems.
For questions or concerns email: email@example.com
To RSVP, visit the Restorative Justice Center’s Facebook page
DrugScope have been working with London services, commissioners, and academics to examine how the needs of individuals who have experienced intimate partner violence can be better addressed within substance misuse services. Lauren Garland writes about the new briefing published by DrugScope on behalf of the Recovery partnership.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an issue which disproportionately affects people accessing drug and alcohol services. Research suggests that women who have experienced gender based violence are 5.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a substance misuse problem over the course of their lifetime, while another study suggests that 21% of people who had experienced IPV believed that the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol and 8% thought the perpetrator had used illicit drugs.
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Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris discusses the detrimental impact of traumatic childhood experiences on physical and mental health outcomes across the lifespan. Harris ardently calls on healthcare professionals to take seriously the treatment of prevention of trauma:
“The science is clear: Early adversity dramatically affects health across a lifetime. Today, we are beginning to understand how to interrupt the progression from early adversity to disease and early death, and 30 years from now, the child who has a high ACE score and whose behavioral symptoms go unrecognized, whose asthma management is not connected, and who goes on to develop high blood pressure and early heart disease or cancer will be just as anomalous as a six-month mortality from HIV/AIDS”
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SALT LAKE CITY — Statistics show domestic violence is on the rise nationally, and in Utah the resources aimed to help people escape threatening situations are stretched to capacity.
According to the Utah Department of Health, at least one woman is murdered by her intimate partner each month. Just last week in Eagle Mountain, a woman shot her husband dead in their living room as their children slept upstairs. The problem is increasing nationwide, but the issue of intimate partner violence in Utah is greater than the national average.
Among those who have died in Utah at the hands of their partners or parents are 19-year-old Mackenzie Madden and 26-year-old Amanda Lee Hoyt as well as Kelly, Jaden and Haley Boren.
“In Utah, when we look at a 10-year trend, we’re looking at almost 43 percent of our homicides are domestic violence related,” said Jennifer Oxborrow, who…
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Below is a summary of a January 2013 report entitled, What works to reduce recidivism by domestic violence offenders? This report was published by Washington State Institute for Public Policy. All statistics, research findings, and information related to Washington state’s domestic violence laws presented below, were drawn from the Institute’s report which can be accessed here..
Following a 2012 legislative mandate, Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) set out to update it’s review of the literature on the efficacy of domestic violence (DV) treatment programs. In particular, WSIPP focused on treatment outcomes for offenders mandated to Duluth-style programs. According to the institute, Washington State law requires that DV treatment programs adhere to Duluth Model guidelines which conceptualize domestic violence as the following: “…a gender-specific behavior which is socially and historically constructed. Men are socialized to take control and to use physical force when necessary to maintain dominance”. Substance abuse, mental illness, dysfunctional relationship dynamics, and other potentially relevant etiological issues are not seen as related within this model. In Washington State–as well as in states with similar laws–the use of non-Duluth treatment programs such as cognitive behavioral therapy, substance abuse treatment, or anger management is prohibited.
In January 2013, WSIPP released a report outlining the results of their systematic review of group-based treatment for domestic violence offenders. Below are some of the most pertinent findings.
Summary conclusions: “Based on six rigorous outcome evaluations of group-based DV treatment for male offenders, we conclude that the Duluth model, the most common treatment approach, appears to have no effect on recidivism. This updated finding is consistent with our (and others’) previous work on this topic. There may be other reasons for courts to order offenders to participate in these Duluth-like programs, but the evidence suggests that DV recidivism will not decrease as a result” (pg. 12)
Impact on recidivism for “Duluth-like” programs: “We also considered programs to be similar to Duluth if the study authors said the curriculum included “power and control” dynamics, “sex role stereotyping,” or gender-based values. Six of the 11 effect sizes assessed Duluth-like programs. We analyzed separately the results of these six effect sizes and found that, on average, programs using Duluth-like models had no effect on recidivism (see the upper panel in Exhibit 3); therefore, this approach cannot be considered “evidence-based” (or research-based or promising)” (pg. 6)
Impact on recidivism for non-Duluth Model programs: “…when these other non-Duluth models are analyzed as a whole, the combined effects indicate a statistically significant reduction in DV recidivism (the lower “average effect size” in Exhibit 3). The average effect was a 33% reduction in domestic violence recidivism” (pg. 6)
The models that indicate efficacy with regards to reducing repeat incidents of DV offending in Exhibit 3 include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (Palmer, 1992, and Dunford, 2000b)
Relationship enhancement (Waldo, 1988)
Substance abuse treatment (Easton, 2007)
Group couples counseling (Dunford, 2000a)
Based on their research, WSIPP also suggest that addressing offender psychopathology through therapy aimed at treating Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could be efficacious. This is particularly promising they note, given that both BPD and PTSD are highly prevalent among DV offenders and both disorders are associated with impulsive and aggressive behavior (pg. 7)
Rethinking our Dependence on the Duluth Model Paradigm
Research such as this is hugely important for the domestic violence field. Data on rates of DV incidents and on rates of DV incidents which end in homicide continues to show that domestic violence remains a major social problem. The development and utilization of evidence-based treatment models which can be shown to reduce recidivism has never been more pressing. In their January 2013 report, WSIPP highlights that 44 of 50 states in the U.S have legal guidelines that stipulate the kind of treatment professionals can legally administer. Furthermore, “In 28 states, standards for DV treatment specify the Duluth model by name, or require that power and control dynamics—central to the Duluth model—must be included in the treatment curriculum”.
This mandate is highly troubling. When put to the test via rigorous research standards the Duluth Model fails time and again to reduce rates of re-offending and yet it remains the treatment of choice for professionals engaged in this difficult work. In light of this failure, a paradigm shift regarding our conceptualization of domestic violence, including how we view and work with both victim and offender, is needed. A suggestion such as this which challenges the core assumptions of the feminist-rooted Duluth Model is viewed by many as an anti-woman, victim-blaming stance. We cannot however continue to allow criticisms and challenges such as this to prevent us from developing innovative work in the area of violence intervention and treatment.
A powerful new ad campaign highlights the role that gender socialization plays in the perpetuation of domestic violence. What are your thoughts on the video’s message?