The Need for More Shelters

One common way that abuser try to control their partners is to limit their contact with friends and family; effectively isolating them for total control.  This becomes a problem if and when the victims make the decision to leave.  Without friends and family to turn to, victims of domestic violence are often left with no place to go to, thus they turn to shelters.

History of Shelters

The first domestic violence shelter opened in England in the early 1970s.  Since the 1970s, shelters have become commonplace in

The Interior of a Shelter

The Interior of a Shelter

large cities.  In the United States, shelters did not proliferate until the mid-1990s when “the U.S. government took an active role in promoting the shelter movement when it passed the first Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (Barnett, 3rd Ed.).  VAWA “provided funding for shelters and established the National Domestic Violence Hotline” (Barnett, 3rd Ed.).

Expanding Shelters

“Some observers have argued that although implementing VAWA provisions has been expensive, it may have saved U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars in medical costs and social services” (Clark, Biddle, & Martin, 2002).  However, state and government funding of domestic violence shelters has recently been cut.  This leads to many women and children being turned away from shelters in times of emergency and perhaps returning to their batterers, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence for that family.

To get an idea of the need that many states are dealing with, here are some statistics from the state of Missouri:

  • In 2010, 10,708 people received safe shelter while 19,311 were turned away.  For every single person that was able to find a place at a shelter in Missouri, two people were turned away from a shelter because it was too full.
  • There is an immediate need for either the expansion of existing shelters or the creation of new shelters to accommodate the growing need for emergency space.  The following statistics, taken over three years illustrate the growing need for more shelter space:
    • 2008: 9,151 people were turned away from shelters because of lack of space.

      Increasing Demand for Shelters

      Increasing Demand for Shelters

    • 2009: 15,106 people were turned away from shelters because of        lack of space.
    • 2010: 19,311 people were turned away from shelters because of        lack of space.
    • “50% of homelessness among women and children is due to domestic violence”

The shelters across the country do more than provide a bed for people to sleep in when in crisis; shelters offer many different services, such as

  • Assisting individuals with orders of protection against their abusers
  • Provided Crisis Intervention Services
  • Provided Case Management Services
  • Support Groups
  • Individual Therapy
  • Life Skill Groups
  • Batterer Intervention Groups
  • Community Awareness Activities

When asked, 93% of those aided by domestic violence programs said it enhanced their safety and knowledge of community resources.

Cutting funding will decrease the availability of aids and services to abused women and men.

Supportive Shelter Art

Supportive Shelter Art

Cuts will also cost taxpayers millions of dollars in social services and medical costs.  Therefore, increasing funding will not only help decrease the amount of women and children turned away from shelters, it will decrease overall costs to society.


Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.  2010 Services: Domestic Violence Statistics.


Duluth Model for Preventing Further Violence

Domestic violence has long been a “private” or “family” problem; however, it has only recently become identified as a social problem and a public health problem.  Beginning in the 1970s, domestic violence shelters and support systems started springing up across the United States.  These shelters were in response to the vast number of women leaving violent relationships.

Murdered by intimate partners

Murdered by intimate partner

Although domestic violence relationships are not exclusively men abusing women, the vast majority of people who abuse are men.  This is an important for prevention of domestic violence.  By educating men about abuse, many of the instances of domestic violence will disappear.  The Duluth Model does just that.

The Duluth Model started out as DAIP (Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs) in Duluth, Minnesota.  Since 1980, it has been used to reform abusers that enter the criminal justice system.  “The results were strikingly effective in keeping batterers from continuing their abuse.”

Equality Wheel verses Power and Control Wheel

Equality Wheel verses Power and Control Wheel

The program has ten themes that hold the batterer accountable for his actions:

            • Non-Violence
            • Non-Threatening Behavior
            • Respect
            • Trust and Support
            • Honesty and Accountability
            • Sexual Respect
            • Shared Responsibility
            • Economic Partnership
            • Responsible Parenting
            • Negotiation and Fairness

A total of three weeks is spent on each theme.  The aim is to end violence against women through identifying that the power and control wheel is wrong and acceptance of the equality wheel.

Week One: Defining the theme, introspectively looking for examples in each man’s past intimate relationship, and discussing each man’s reaction.

Week Two: Watching and discussing a short vignette that gives a visual example of each anti-theme (how the men are being abusive).

Week Three: Practicing the healthy behaviors (themes).

Each theme is meant to show the men that their behavior is abusive. Moreover, discussions on each theme play into each man’s perception of his own behavior and how he can change it.  The program’s length is purposeful because it is what most men need to go through the stages of change.

Stages of Change

The Stages of Change is an important concept for behavior change.   There are five stages in the Stages of Change model:

Stages of Change Model

Stages of Change Model

  1. Pre-contemplation is where a person has no intention to change their behavior in the foreseeable future.
  2. Contemplation is where a person is aware that there is a problem in their life and they are thinking about ways to overcome this problem, but they have yet to take action to change.
  3. Preparation is the stage where people are intending to solve their problem within the next month.
  4. Action is where a person is actively modifying their behaviors, actions and environments to overcome their problem.
  5. Maintenance is the stage where people actively work to prevent relapse.  There is some dispute as to whether or not maintenance should be included in the stages of change model.

The Duluth Model works to help each participant get to the action stage, where they are making changes in their behaviors (such as breathing exercises to control their anger) and/or their environment (avoiding alcohol).


Domestic Violence in LGBT Relationships

This post will discuss domestic violence within LGBT relationships.

What does LGBT stand for?

LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual.  The initialism can also be arranged to be GLBT, although the initials stand for the same thing.

Note: Much of the information in the blog post is based on research on same-sex couples; however, much of the information applies to transgendered and bisexual incidences of domestic violence. 

Domestic Violence within LGBT Relationships

Most LGBT relationships are healthy and happy; however, one out of four to one out of three same-sex relationships has experienced domestic violence.  In comparison, one in every four heterosexual relationships has experienced an occurrence of domestic violence.  As you can see, there is not a distinguishable difference in incidence of domestic violence between heterosexual and LGBT couples.  There are a few differences, however, in tactics of abuse. (2)

  • Gay or lesbian batterers will threaten “outing” their victims to work colleagues, family, and friends.  This threat is amplified by the sense of extreme isolation among gay and lesbian victims since some are still closeted from friends and family, have fewer civil rights protections, and lack access to the legal system.
  • Lesbian and gay victims are more reluctant to report abuse to legal authorities.  Survivors may not contact law enforcement agencies because doing so would force them to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Gay and lesbian victims are also reluctant to seek help out of fear of showing a lack of solidarity among the gay and lesbian community. Similarly, many gay men and women hide their abuse out of a heightened fear that society will perceive same-sex relationships as inherently dysfunctional.
  • Gay and lesbian victims are more likely to fight back than are heterosexual women.  This can lead law enforcement to conclude that the fighting was mutual, overlooking the larger context of domestic violence and the history of power and control in the relationship.
  • Abusers can threaten to take away the children from the victim. In some states, adoption laws do not allow same-sex parents to adopt each other’s children. This can leave the victim with no legal rights should the couple separate. The abuser can easily use the children as leverage to prevent the victim from leaving or seeking help. Even when the victim is the legally recognized parent an abuser may threaten to out the victim to social workers hostile to gays and lesbians, which may result in a loss of custody. In the worst cases the children can even end up in the custody of the abuser. (2)

The Power and Control Wheel for LGBT Relationships

As stated, the rate of domestic violence within homosexual relationships is similar to the rates of domestic violence within heterosexual relationship.  But the forms of abuse are very different.  Research has shown that “same-sex assaults produce substantially more injuries, and same-sex homicides tend to be more brutal than heterosexual homicides.”

Note: this research only applies to same-sex relationships.

Because LGBT relationships are different than heterosexual relationships, the power and control wheel needed to be reconfigured to reflect these differences.  Below is an image of the Power and Control Wheel which takes into account the differences in LGBT relationships.

LGBT Power and Control Wheel

LGBT Power and Control Wheel

Questioning the Feminism Theory of Domestic Violence

Many researchers rely on the feminism theory of domestic violence which states that patriarchal tendencies are a leading cause of domestic violence.  “Patriarchy allows men to dominate and control families.  Patriarchal formulations attribute family violence to male privilege and power in a society.  Through this lens, men beat women because they can get away with it.  Feminist analysis focuses on gender inequality and the damage done to women because of male-dominance beliefs” (Barnett, et al.)  Because the feminist theory states that male dominance of females causes abuse, the theory doesn’t stand within male-male or female-female relationships.

The image below looks at the gender identity of survivors of domestic violence.  As you can see, males are more likely to be survivors of domestic violence.  This facts fails to disprove the feminism theory because males are still more often identified as the abuser.  However, you can also see that males are not the sole abusers.

Challenges to Stopping LGBT Relationship Violence

  1. Authorities do not know how to handle domestic violence cases that occur between people of the same gender.
  2. Victims who identify with the LGBT community often do not have access to the resources to help them get away from the abuser.
    1. Lesbians are often able to find help at shelters, but male survivors have trouble finding resources.
    2. There is a lack of “mandated cultural competency training for organizations receiving federal dollars to implement domestic violence prevention or treatment programs”.
    3. A lack of federal laws that offer protection to survivors of same-sex domestic violence.
      1. There are some state laws that offer protection; however, no federal law.

Resources used in this blog post:

  3. Barnett, Ola W., et al.  Family Violence across the lifespan.  History and Definitions of Family Violence.  Chapter 1, pp. 20.

Prevention of Domestic Violence

What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is “a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors that adults or adolescents use against their current or former intimate partners to exert power and control.”  It is important to know that there is no single definition that fits all situations of domestic violence.  To the side, you will see the Power and Control Wheel.  This figure demonstrates the many different ways that abuse can occur.  
Power and Control Wheel

Power and Control Wheel

How Can We Prevent Domestic Violence?
As the wheel shows, there are different forms of domestic violence.  Recognizing signs of domestic violence is the first step in intervening in a situation of domestic violence.  However, prevention occurs before an intervention is necessary.  Prevention of domestic violence “refers to social support and education programs designed to stop family violence before it occurs in the first place.” In preventing violence against women,  we can stop serious mental, physical and sexual repercussions.
Stopping the Perpetuation of Violence: Changing the Role of the Media in Domestic Violence
The social learning theory has been used to explain why domestic violence occurs.  The social learning theory explains that people learn through observation.  While this theory might explain some incidences of domestic violence, no single theory explains all domestic violence.  The social learning theory comes into play in the media.  For example, “social scientists almost universally maintain that society’s acceptance, encouragement, and glorification of violence contributes to abuse in the family.  Such tolerance may have a spillover effect, raising the likelihood  of violence in the home.  Depiction of women in advertising and in video games, for example, often characterizes women as sex objects and as victims.”  And example of violence against women in the media is a Japanese-produced video game called Rapelay.  The aim of Rapelay is to stalk and rape a woman and her two daughters.  The image below is a still-shot from Rapelay and the female characters appear highly sexualized.  More disturbing images exist but
The female characters in the video game, Rapelay

The female characters in the video game, Rapelay

This ecological model breaks domestic violence down into multiple levels/influences.
  • The most outer level is called the macro level.  At the macro level, socioeconomic factors play the largest role in influencing domestic violence.  Many factors such as “exposure to violence, poverty and low socioeconomic status are considered risk factors.”  Unemployment is also considered a risk factor of violence against women.
  • The middle level is called the meso or mezzo level.  This level is also known as the community level.  These are neighborhoods that people live in and local institutions that a person participates in.
  • The inner-most level is called the micro level.  The micro level is also known as the relationship level and can include the individual.  At the relationship level, “adherence to rigid traditional gender roles and unhealthy relationships are considered risk factors.  Having peers that engage in violent behavior may normalize the use of violence against a partner.”  The micro level risk factors can also include witnessing abuse as a child or being abused as a child.
Identifying these risk factors is essential to ending violence against women.  These are not reasons for excusing occurrences of domestic violence.
Ecological Model of Domestic Violence

Ecological Model of Domestic Violence

Campaigns Preventing Domestic Violence
There are campaigns that exist that are aimed to prevent violence against women.  These campaigns focus on education in community-based settings, such as schools.  Some examples are:
  • For infants and preschoolers, ages (1-5), “education and social support for at-risk families.”  Look at the above risk factors for domestic violence.
  • For school aged and high school students, ages (6-17), “programs to educate young children about inappropriate touching; programs to educate junior high and high school students about violence-free intimate relationships.”
  • For college-aged adults, ages (17+), “programs on violence-free intimate relationships and rape.”
  • For adults, (all ages), “campaigns to promote awareness about family violence.”

These campaigns are wide-reaching and cost-efficient.  A national example of a prevention campaign is Teach Early, which educates young boys about the detriments of violence against women.

References for this blog post:

1. Teach Early.  Accessed on February 2, 2012 from:

2. Barnett, Perrin and Perrin.  Family Violence across the lifespan.  3rd Edition.

3. Lockhart and Danis.  Domestic Violence: Intersectionality and Culturally Competent Practice.