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Domestic Violence: Overview of the Most Vulnerable Populations
Domestic violence, also referred to as intimate partner violence, is a serious public health problem worldwide. This term refers to a pattern of aggressive and abusive behavior performed by one of the intimate partners (NCADV, 2017). This deliberate and systematic behavior includes not only physical and sexual abuse but also emotional, psychological, and economic forms of oppression (U.S. Department of Justice, 2016). Domestic violence can affect individuals of all sexes, races, and cultures, but it typically targets the most vulnerable populations including women, teenagers, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community, and older adults. This short paper looks closely at these people’s experiences and tries to understand the causes of their victimization.
Women are undoubtedly the main victims of violence. They may be attacked by anyone, from an intimate partner to a colleague, a friend, or an acquaintance. Intimate partner violence, however, is the most widespread as, according to the estimates, one in three women worldwide has experienced this abusive behavior at least once in the lifetime (WHO, 2016). The U.S. Department of Justice (2016) found that women are 90-95% more likely to become victims of domestic violence compared to men. Women from disadvantaged communities or with greater perceived vulnerability have higher risks for becoming victims of domestic violence. World Health Organization emphasized that risk factors for domestic violence may also include poor education, alcohol abuse, and family-instilled attitudes accepting of violence and aggression (WHO, 2016).
Women facing domestic violence have limited opportunities to stop the abuse. Their social background and attitudes are probably the most important barrier to ending the relationships with the perpetrator. However, even those desperately wanting to break up with their abusive partners sometimes cannot do it. Evidence shows that domestic violence continues even when the victim seeks professional help or tries to escape the abuser. In fact, it often intensifies because abusers begin to threaten and stalk their victims even more. Vittes and Sorenson (2008) found that women are in the most danger after the escape, with some of them being killed even after they receive restraining orders.
Representatives of the LGBT community also have increased risks of becoming victims of domestic abuse. Statistics shows that abusive patterns of behavior occur in same-sex couples at equal rates – and sometimes higher – than in straight couples (Berastaín, 2013). However, these victims have even less social support than heterosexual people have, mainly because of the lack of legal recognition and limited social resources (Center for American Progress, 2011). Often, victims of domestic violence are reluctant to report abuse because they are afraid of revealing their sexual orientation and being stigmatized and judged.
Teenagers are older adults are also extremely vulnerable, but their problems are usually ignored by the wider public. Teenagers become victims of abuse from their dating partners, who use physical, emotional and verbal intimidation and pressure to control them (Delaware Coalition, 2017). The problem is that they rarely report the cases of abuse and know little about available social services and legal measures that could help them stop the violence. Finally, older adults are also vulnerable to intimate partner violence, which tends to become more severe and dangerous with time. These individuals continue to suffer in silence because of the inability to break the relationships with their spouses. They get used to being abused and often accept their partners’ contrition, which usually does not last long.
Given this information, one may conclude that domestic violence affects the most vulnerable population groups that cannot protect themselves for a number of reasons. Some of them do not have access to support services, while others do not perceive abuse as a serious offense. Abusers choose victims who can be easily intimidated or blackmailed in order to control them physically and emotionally. Therefore, the needs and challenges of each vulnerable group should be explored further in order to develop effective legal and community measures for tackling domestic violence.