Sunday, October 21, 2012

Domestic violence, a social and health problem

Domestic violence also known as family violence, battering and spousal abuse is defined as inflicting physical injury by one family member on another. However, this form of violence is not restricted to physical harm alone and could indeed include harming the psychology of the victim too.

Dr. Kamanie Dassanayake, a doctor in psychology and natural medicine said ''domestic violence is a pattern of physically, sexually and /or emotionally abusive behaviour used by one individual to maintain power over or control a partner in the context of an intimate or family relationship. Abuse in relationships is very common and affects at least one quarter of all relationships.

If anyone feels they have a problem in controlling their anger and tend to be abusive towards their partner or children, they should check out the resources provided. As there is help available for them.

Otherwise, the damage they do for their loved ones cannot be recovered in the long run.

Victims of domestic violence are often displaced from their home and may have small children in need of services. Social workers, helpers or law enforcement officials help victims to file police reports, receive services, find work and locate to a safe place to stay. Anyone who helps them assists victims with the day to day decisions to remain safe and avoid future domestic violence.

"Sometimes in these cases, women have little or no self esteem. Most came from poverty situations. Most women have children and always seem unsure of their ability to support themselves and their children.

Alcohol reappears repeatedly. Aggression problems surface in both the women and their children. Mostly, they seem lost and are searching for a source of comfort and security. The environment they seek help should give the woman and the child a sense of self worth, teaching them how to beat the cycle of abuse."

When asked about domestic violence in Sri Lanka, Dr. Dassanayake elaborated, "Domestic abuse in Sri Lanka is a large scale and complex social and health problem. Sadly enough - the majority who are murdered or crippled are not likely killed by a stranger during a holdup or similar crime, but are killed by someone they know.

In one out of every six marriages the wife is physically abused. Every fifteen seconds a woman is battered. Daily four women lose their lives to their husbands or boyfriends."

According to Dr. Dassanayake, research on family abuse has consistently found the phenomenon to be associated with low socioeconomic status, social stress, social isolation and personality problems or psychopathology.

Traditional theories on the causes of domestic abuse focuses on factors such as social alienation, unemployment, substance abuse, past child abuse, psychopathology and depression. It is important also to examine this issue from medical and public health perspectives.

So now the obvious question arises why a woman would stay in an abusive relationship. For many women, Dr. Dassanayake revealed that there are no other sources of financial support or housing. The responsibility of child care further complicates the problem. The most serious reason for concern is the fear of retribution by the abuser.


"The criminal justice system needs to start a victim relocation program for domestic abuse victims. This would ensure their safety and allow them enough courage to leave a horrible situation. There are more animal shelters in some countries than women shelters. Our nation detests racism and protest animal cruelty. Why are women and children still subjected to torture and violence in their own homes at the hands of their husbands and fathers?"

Dr. Kamanie added, "In a politically correct world too many of us still view women and children as inferior property. It is time to declare war on domestic violence. It will always be a part of our culture. The media portrays women as sex symbols and often with a very noticeable lack of intelligence.

"Often doctors turn their backs on damage left as a result of abuse because of fear of embarrassing their patients. Women are still not considered equal and historically it was acceptable to beat your wife if she was out of line. With today's broken marriages and extensive abuse of alcohol and drugs, the matter will only get worse.

"If strong initiatives are not instilled now, there will be many unnecessary deaths due to the rise in abuse."

The warning signs and symptoms for an individual to know it's time to consult a professional psychologist are when the abuse is psychological rather than physical.

Noticing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive relationship is the first step. Or when someone you know have any warning signs and description of abuse - Reach out.


It can be domestic abuse, drug abuse, elder abuse. Warning signs of suicide are not difficult to spot. It is helpful to encourage the person to seek professional mental health help from a therapist.

"It is important as a community to stand up and voice our protest against domestic violence. The victims have to stand up and speak out.

It will take millions of very loud voices to end the cycle of abuse. Every woman gets married to live happily. Nobody deserves to be surprised by pain and torture, be it physical or emotional.

Domestic violence should not happen to anyone ever. But it does and the results may bring so much damage physically or psychologically.

There is help and the victims should always voice it and let know the hurt. Maybe you have lived with abuse. Maybe it happened once. Maybe you work or live next to someone who is being abused right now.

Whoever you are - your safety as well as the ones attached to you is a priority.

No one deserves unhappiness from another human being."

by Ranil WIJAYAPALA - Sunday Obeserver