Intimate partner violence: hellish situations

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is domestic violence by a current or former spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner. IPV can take a number of forms, including physical, verbal, emotional, economic and sexual abuse. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines IPV as “… any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in the relationship, including acts of physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours.”

The most extreme form of such violence may be termed battering, intimate terrorism, coercive controlling violence, or simply coercive control, in which one person is violent and controlling; this is generally perpetrated by men against women, and is the most likely of the types to require medical services and the use of a women’s shelter. Subsequently, resistance to intimate terrorism, which is a form of self-defense and may be termed violent resistance, is usually conducted by women. Studies on domestic violence against men suggest that men are less likely to report domestic violence perpetrated by their female intimate partners.

The most common but less injurious form of intimate partner violence is situational couple violence (also known as situational violence), which is conducted by individuals of both genders nearly equally, and is more likely to occur among younger couples, including adolescents (see teen dating violence) and those of college age. A last form of violence, in which both partners in the relationship engage in controlling and violent behavior, is called mutual violent control.

Physical violence against a woman in Benin.

Intimate partner violence occurs between two people in an intimate relationship. It may occur between heterosexual or homosexual couples and victims can be male or female. Couples may be dating, cohabiting or married and violence can occur in or outside of the home.

Studies in the 1990s showed that both men and women could be abusers or victims of domestic violence. Women are more likely to act violently in retaliation or self-defense and tend to engage in less severe forms of violence than men whereas men are more likely to commit long-term cycles of abuse than women.

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines intimate partner violence as “any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in the relationship”. The WHO also adds controlling behaviours as a form of abuse.According to a study conducted in 2010, 30% of women globally aged 15 and older have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence.The WHO reported in 2013 that the incidence of women who had experienced physical or sexual abuse from an intimate partner in their lifetime was:

Region  Percent

Global   30%

Africa    36.6%

Eastern Mediterranean 37%

European            25.4%

South-East Asia 37.7%

The Americas     29.8%

Western Pacific 24.6%

Assessment

Types

Michael P. Johnson argues for four major types of intimate partner violence (also known as “Johnson’s typology”) which is supported by subsequent research and evaluation, as well as independent researchers. Distinctions are made among the types of violence, motives of perpetrators, and the social and cultural context based upon patterns across numerous incidents and motives of the perpetrator. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also divides domestic violence into types. Elaine Storkey in her comprehensive analysis, Scars Across Humanity IVP Academic 2018, argues that intimate partner violence is one aspect of a global manifestation of violence against women. Other examples she cites are selective abortion, female genital mutilation, early, enforced marriage, honour killings, rape, trafficking, prostitution and sexual violence in war.

Intimate terrorism

Intimate terrorism, or coercive controlling violence (CCV), occurs when one partner in a relationship, typically a man, uses coercive control and power over the other partner, using threats, intimidation, and isolation. CCV relies on severe psychological abuse for controlling purposes; when physical abuse occurs it too is severe.] In such cases, “[o]ne partner, usually a man, controls virtually every aspect of the victim’s, usually a woman’s, life.” Johnson reported in 2001 that 97% of the perpetrators of intimate terrorism were men Intimate partner violence may involve sexual, sadistic control economic, physical, emotional and psychological abuse. Intimate terrorism is more likely to escalate over time, not as likely to be mutual, and more likely to involve serious injury. The victims of one type of abuse are often the victims of other types of abuse. Severity tends to increase with multiple incidents, especially if the abuse comes in many forms. If the abuse is more severe, it is more likely to have chronic effects on victims because the long-term effects of abuse tend to be cumulative. Because this type of violence is most likely to be extreme, survivors of intimate terrorism are most likely to require medical services and the safety of shelters. Consequences of physical or sexual intimate terrorism include chronic pain, gastrointestinal and gynecological problems, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and death. Other mental health consequences are anxiety, substance abuse, and low-self esteem.

 

Abusers are more likely to have witnessed abuse as children than those who engage in situational couple violence.

 

Intimate terrorism batterers include two types: “Generally-violent-antisocial” and “dysphoric-borderline”. The first type includes people with general psychopathic and violent tendencies. The second type includes people who are emotionally dependent on the relationship. Violence by an individual against their intimate partner is often done as a way for controlling the partner, even if this kind of violence is not the most frequent.

Violent resistance

Violent resistance (VR), a form of self-defense, is violence perpetrated by victims against their partners who have exerted intimate terrorism against them. Within relationships of intimate terrorism and violent resistance, 96% of the violent resisters are women.VR can occur as an instinctive reaction in response to an initial attack or a defense mechanism after prolonged instances of violence. This form of resistance can sometimes become fatal if the victim feels as though their only way out is to kill their partner.

 

Situational couple violence

Situational couple violence, also called common couple violence, is not connected to general control behavior, but arises in a single argument where one or both partners physically lash out at the other.] This is the most common form of intimate partner violence, particularly in the western world and among young couples, and involves members of both sexes nearly equally. Among college students, Johnson found it to be perpetrated about 44% of the time by women and 56% of the time by men.

 

Johnson states that situational couple violence involves a relationship dynamic “in which conflict occasionally gets ‘out of hand,’ leading usually to ‘minor’ forms of violence, and rarely escalating into serious or life-threatening forms of violence.”

 

In situational couple violence, acts of violence by men and women occur at fairly equal rates, with rare occurrences of injury, and are not committed in an attempt to control a partner. It is estimated that approximately 50% of couples experience situational couple violence in their relationships.

Situational couple violence involves:

Mode: Mildly aggressive behavior such as throwing objects, ranging to more aggressive behaviors such as pushing, slapping, biting, hitting, scratching, or hair pulling.

Frequency: Less frequent than partner terrorism, occurring once in a while during an argument or disagreement.

Severity: Milder than intimate terrorism, very rarely escalates to more severe abuse, generally does not include injuries that were serious or that caused one partner to be admitted to a hospital.

Mutuality: Violence may be equally expressed by either partner in the relationship.

Intent: Occurs out of anger or frustration rather than as a means of gaining control and power over the other partner.

Mutual violent control

Mutual violent control (MVC) is rare type of intimate partner violence occurring when both partners act in a violent manner, battling for control.

Reciprocal and non-reciprocal

The CDC divides domestic violence into two types: reciprocal, in which both partners are violent, and non-reciprocal violence, in which one partner is violent. Of the four types, situational couple violence and mutual violent control are reciprocal, while intimate terrorism is non-reciprocal. Violent resistance on its own is non-reciprocal, but is reciprocal when in response to intimate terrorism.

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