Domestic Violence1

For my psychology paper I chose to do Service Learning. I volunteered 20 hours at the Benton County Women’s Shelter. I enjoyed the time that I served there. They really made me feel needed and welcome. I decided, however, that I would not be capable of a career in this field. Just in the small amount of time that I volunteered there my heart wrenched for the girls there. I felt helpless to do more for them. And yes, I even felt sorry for them. That is not to say that I am not going to continuing volunteering. I have arranged with the organization to volunteer two Saturday’s a month. Perhaps it is me that is weak. I suppose to some degree we are all weak. But the women I encountered there had the confidence of a child just beginning to walk: determined, but shaky. I couldn’t watch the inner conflict and pain these women endure on a daily basis. I have gained a respect and admiration for those who can. However, my chosen field of study is Public Relations and it is my hope to someday gain a position at a charitable organization and become a spokeswoman for a greater cause.
The Benton County Women’s Shelter is a non-profit organization, a corporation with an overall purpose to work towards alleviating the problems of family violence. They provide shelter, counseling and financial assistances to women in an effort to instill a sense of self-purpose and self-esteem. I learned within my first hours of service what a benefit this service is to the women there. Without it, several would have no where to go. However, through my volunteer work, I seemed to see the same pattern repeat itself over and over. The women had little or no self-esteem. Most came from poverty situations. All of the women I encountered had children. All seemed unsure of their ability to support themselves and their children. Alcohol reappeared over and over again. Aggression problems surfaced in both the women and their children. Mostly, all just seemed lost and were searching for a source of comfort and security. That is what we do at the Benton County Women’s Shelter. We give the women a sense of self-worth. We teach them how to beat the cycle of abuse.
Domestic abuse in the United States is a large-scale and complex social and health problem. The family is perhaps the most violent group, with the home being the most violent American institution or setting today. Sadly enough, the majority of people who are murdered are not likely killed by a stranger during a hold-up or similar crime but are killed by someone they know. In one out of every six marriages, the wife is physically
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abused. Every fifteen seconds a women is battered in the United States. Daily, four American women lose their lives to their husbands or boyfriends, equaling more than one-third of all female homicide victims. These numbers report that too much violence is directed toward women.
Violent families are easy to describe but difficult to explain. Research on family abuse has, on a consistent basis, found that the phenomenon is associated with intergenerational transmission, low socioeconomic status, social and structural stress, social isolation, and personality problems or psychopathology. Traditional theories on the causes of domestic abuse focus on such factors as people’s individual characteristics and life experiences, including the presence of problems such as social and structural stress, social alienation, unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, past child abuse, personality disorders, psychopathology, and depression. While domestic abuse can be studied through “mental lenses” that are psychological or sociological in nature, it is important also to examine this issue from a medical/public health perspective. While many theories have been proposed to explain the causes of family abuse, one of the most useful has been the social learning theory (Wade and Tavris, 285-289). It has been proposed that learning be composed of both a modeling component and “reciprocal influence”. The latter suggests that we can shape our futures by influencing our environments. In explaining how social learning theory explains family abuse, psychologist O’Leary (Wekesser and Swisher, 1994, 232) analyzed the effects of modeling on behavior, the role of stress, the use of alcohol, the presence of relationship dissatisfaction, and aggression