Over 1,000 women are murdered each year in America due to domestic violence. It is an epidemic that affects men, women, and families regardless of race, socio-economic status, religion, or family structure, creating a traumatic experience for every member of the family, whether they are a victim, witness, or abuser.
If you are charged and convicted, you face jail time, heavy fines, and other penalties that can seriously affect your ability to lead a productive life, be a parent, or positively contribute to society.
So, why do people engage in domestic violence? Understanding the psychology behind these types of behaviors not only provides a potential way to break the cycle of abuse, but also explain the actions of an alleged abuser in court in an attempt to focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
Psychology behind Domestic Violence: Why It Happens
Psychologists have conflicting theories on what exactly causes certain types of domestic violence, but they can agree on one thing: a victim never causes domestic violence.
In order to break the cycle of abuse, abusers need to understand where violent acts and thoughts come from. This process can be traumatic in itself, and may require the help of a mental health professional.
What Triggers Violence?
Violent acts are “triggered” by certain events or feelings. These triggers vary for different people. Examples of triggers include:
- Disagreements and arguments
- A partner threatening to exit the relationship
- Stress due to financial obligations and unemployment
- Jealousy, desperation, inadequacy, and other negative feelings within the relationship
- General feelings of failure within the abuser’s own life
Everyone experiences hardships and stress. So why are some people more affected by these triggers than others? Again, the answers vary.
Some abusers witnessed abuse in their own households and grew to believe that violent behaviors were acceptable. Others act with impaired judgement due to alcohol or drug abuse. Cultural expectations, including the expectation to “be a man” and be in control of their household, may also contribute to overall stress and anxiety. Women may act out based on other cultural expectations and stressors.
These factors can all create an inner dialogue that is overwhelming and destructive.
Abusers may use violence to appear more powerful, but inside, they are seriously struggling. If someone has not learned healthy ways to cope with stress and their inner dialogue, they are more likely to lash out in violent ways.
How This Can Play into Your Defense Strategy
We are not offering these explanations to justify domestic violence, but to put alleged abusers on a path to breaking the cycle. Since many abusers experienced abuse themselves from a young age, they may need outside help and rehabilitation to manage anger, face triggers without engaging in violence, and build a non-violent partnership.
Punishment without rehabilitation is less likely to help break the cycle. The rehabilitation process, however, can only begin with the abuser taking responsibility for their actions and taking steps toward a better future. This is where your defense comes in.
Talk to your lawyer about how you can ask a judge for a sentence focused on rehabilitation. Judges may reduce an offender’s jail time or sentence them to things such as anger management counseling and substance abuse rehabilitation – but only if they believe that the offender is going to take rehabilitation seriously. This proof may come from visits to a mental health professional, following the terms of protection orders, or reaching out for other forms of help.
Don’t let past mistakes and trauma get in the way of a positive and productive future. End the cycle of abuse by taking the right steps toward rehabilitation with your criminal defense lawyer.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.