Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a sad reality of life for many women both in the United States and worldwide. Naturally, both medical professionals and criminologists have been studying ways to predict and then reduce instances of this type of violence. Despite a hefty amount of research, many theories and many answers abound, making a definitive choice of therapy difficult. Most therapies include a heavy emphasis on procedures initiation through the criminal justice system while others focus on counseling and therapy.
However, current research leads to speculation that a combined approach of both justice avenues and counseling avenues, particularly substance abuse therapy, will lead to a greater success rate in reducing IPV. Formerly called domestic abuse, IPV is defined as an act from one partner to another that is intended to result in physical harm or injury or as a threat that results in a reasonable fear of harm or injury (Danis, 2003). This can include behaviors such as emotional, sexual or physical assault or the threats thereof (Jasinski).
While abuse can occur in either direction, research indicates that 94% of medically serious abuse situations occurred by men on women (Bennet, 1995). Therefore, treatment for men should be the initial focus of this problem. Evidence cited by Bennett, 1995, suggests that from 25% to 50% of IPV involves men with substance abuse problems. Jasiniski reports that up to 85% of IPV involves alcohol. Alcohol is the most prevalent of these substances, involved in about half o fall incidents of IPV. Alcohol and other substance create many situations in which IPV may become more prevalent.
Most obviously, these substances clearly alter thinking and behavior patterns such that the substances disinhibit “normal sanctions against violence” (Bennett, 1995). Also, feelings of abandonment or engulgment also are increased when under the influence which can lead to increased incidences of IPV. With many men being raised in homes and environments that are socially accepting of alcohol use or in homes in which one or both parents were alcoholics, the sensitization of individuals to alcohol more than likely occurs.
Jasinski argues that one of the biggest ideological threats of alcohol abuse in IPV is that it tends to take the blame off the abuser and onto the alcohol itself. Thus, the combination of alcohol and other substance abuse and acts of violence against women by their male intimate partners creates at type of contradiction when analyzing treatment methods. Proposed treatments for IPV spring from theories of why IPV occurs in the first place. Several theories expostulate reasons for male battery upon women.
The social learning theory argues that men learn abuse through experience and exposure to it. Research is inconclusive about this theory, placing it at about the 30% rated. Psychological explanations like personality disorders and other mental illnesses are also offered. However, Jasinksi, cites O’Leary, 1993, when she notes the “lack of any real evidence for this” and that only 10% of cases can be explained by psychological diagnoses. Biological and physiological explanations have also surfaced indicating a biochemical component to this type of violence.
Indeed, some studies indicate that head trauma may lead to damage to the parts of the brain that managed impulse control. In fact, “males with head injuries were six times more likely to be battereres than men without head injuries” (Jasinski). Treatments, naturally, seem to fall within the realm of the above explanations. Clearly, IPV is a crime, and the criminal justice system will become involved in theses cases so long as they are reported. Theories as to the best programs are varied “Because there is no single recognized causal theory for domestic violence…” (Bennett, 2003).
Correlating with the social learning theory are programs that increase societal sanctions, or punishments for IPV. The idea is that if the costs are severe enough, the behavior will abate. This typically means that the punishment will come from the criminal justice system which includes several steps which all have proven flaws. Danis, 1995, notes that arrests do not stop assaults and may even result in additional harms to the victims. Protective orders are violated in close to 60% of the time and convincing the victim to follow through with prosecution is very difficult.
Therapy has also been introduced as a means to reduce IPV. Dropout and no-show rates range from 50% and 35% respectively (Danis, 1995). However, therapy, if long enough in duration, has been shown to be effective. Therefore, combining therapy with the influence of the justice system is a way to reap the benefits of both while also reducing the two main influencing factors according to the research: substance abuse and perceived power. First, the processes of the criminal justice system need to work on the perception of the male abuser as all-powerful.
Bennett, 2003, notes that even “small quantities of alcohol increase a social drinker’s sense of altruistic power…and a large quantity of alcohol, however, or any quantity of alcohol for problem drinkers, increases their sense of personal power over others. ” Thus, the link between power and alcohol is clear. The criminal justice system exerts its influence by sentencing the abuser to a lengthy, mandatory counseling center. Here, the combined effects of substance abuse therapy, anger management, and other psychotherapy can combine to quell the abusive tendencies.
Home, family, and societal issues can all be addressed while treatment for substance abuse can be managed. The drop out and no-show rates will be non-existent because participation is not voluntary. Even if the problem is physiological, such as from a head injury, the substance abuse therapy may be affective. Jasinski notes that “Head injury may also be related to an increased sensitivity to alcohol, so that an individual who has had a head injury becomes intoxicated at a faster rate than someone without the injury. ” Court-ordered, mandatory residential therapy treatment combines the benefits inherent in most of the social theories of IPV.
Power ideas and substance abuse necessitate the cooperation of these two different poles of justice and treatment. With hope, IPV will begin to decline as a social problem in the United States and worldwide.
Bennett, L. W. (1995). Substance Abuse and the Domestic Assault of Women. Social Work 40: 760-771 Danis, F. S. (2003). The Criminalization of Domestic Violence: What Social Workers Need to Know. Social Work 48. 2: 237-246. Jasinski, J. L. (2000), Theoretical Explanations for Violence Against Women. Sourcebook on Violence Against Women. Ranzetti, Edleson & Bergen, Eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.