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Violence is a learned behavior. This is at the very core of DAP’s belief system and the reason for our optimism – because if violence is a learned behavior then it can be unlearned.
Domestic violence includes physical, psychological, verbal and sexual abuse. Threats of violence are used by individuals to gain power, and to control and punish others. In essence, violence works, at least in the way that it allows a person to have power and control over another.
While many partners who batter dislike their violence, it is reinforced by the momentary relief of stress and the resulting control of their partners or situations. The family seems to be a “safe” place to be violent. It is a place of strong emotions and privacy where society is not supposed to interfere.
DAP philosophy states that partners who batter use their power abusively to control a situation. However, we recognize that there are a number of other factors that contribute to the choice of using violence in a relationship. We present these not as excuses or as justification but as a way to enrich the discussion about what cause violence in our relationships and society.
Learned Response to Stress
- Modeling within the family: Children witness violent behavior in the home and believe that it is acceptable. Children get a direct message from a violent parent, “When someone hurts you, hit them.”
- Socialization: Men’s socialization through the overwhelming influence of the media, educational system, religious institutions and heroes and heroines regarding gender roles and stereotypes contributes to their use of violence.
- Violence as positive reinforcement: Choosing to use violence and getting your way without any negative consequences such as jail time or relationship loss make it that much easier to be to be violence the next time.
- Our laws and society’s message regarding violence: Violence against an intimate partner is not considered as serious as other crimes.
- Oppression of women and other “minorities”: The systems of power in our culture (politics, law, law enforcement, money) generally favor those of the majority culture. Minorities often get an inconsistent or negative response to their concerns.
- The expression of feelings: Research suggests that partners who batter have difficulty expressing themselves, their feelings, and their needs within a relationship.
- The restriction of feelings: Many partners who batter describe only having two types of feelings: glad and mad.
- The association of anger and violence: Partners who are abusive often do not distinguish between anger (the feeling) and violence (the behavior). The two are linked because batterers often think they are unable to be angry without being violent.
- The association between stress and the progression of violence: Many abusive partners use violence as a way to lessen their own stress and seek a trigger event they can use to justify their violence.
- Self-worth: The abuser feels he/she is unlovable and that they must control their partner so that the partner won’t leave.
- Immediate: “If she says/does that, I will be violent.”
- Long-range: “If I ever find out that she’s (fooling around, drinking, talking to her friends about me), I’ll be violent.