POLICE Department

Family Violence Unit - The Problem of Family Violence

According to estimates from the National Crime Victimization Srvey (NCVS), there were 691,710 nonfatal violent victimizations committed by current or former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends of the victims during 2001. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, February 2003, NCJ 197838 by Callie Marie Rennison, Ph.D., BJS Statistician)

7% of all Texans indicate that they, a family member and/or a friend or coworker have experienced some form of domestic violence (physical, sexual or verbal) in their lifetime. ("Prevalence, Perceptions and Awareness of Domestic Violence in Texas; Executive Summary," February 11, 2003, Texas Council on Family Violence, A Quantitative Study Conducted by Saurage Research, Inc., Sponsored by the Office of the Texas Attorney General)

Family violence is a crime and is treated as a crime by the Family Violence Unit. The crime of family violence or what is commonly called, domestic abuse, is committed by someone known to the victim intimately, by blood, or any other special relationship. Family violence is a complex issue. Educating ourselves about the dynamics of family violence will clearly make a difference in the lives of victims, someone you know is a victim, or if you yourself are a victim.

Family violence does not distinquish between race, religion, social standing, economic, or educational level; anyone can become a victim. Family violence is a social problem shared by all people within our community. As defined by a Houston victim legal advocacy agency, Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, Domestic Violence Fact Sheet: Domestic abuse is a systematic pattern of intentional intimidation that is reinforced by violence or the threat of violence, for the purpose of gaining or maintaining power and control over one’s partner. Many victims, primarily women, hide behind closed doors out of fear. Their abusive partner thrives in secrecy, but secrecy only compounds the problem of family violence because batterers continue their crime undetected by those outside of the household. Based on a theory introduced by Lenore Walker in her book, The Battered Woman, a pattern of abuse forms and it is termed, the "Cycle of Violence". These specific acts and types of negative behaviors include emotional abuse, physical and sexual assaults. Emotional abuse can curtail a victim's right to freedom. The victim's self worth is severely compromised. The threat of violence by the abuser is intended to keep the victim in check. Physical assaults generally include: slapping, choking, hitting, threats with deadly weapons, attacks with deadly weapons, kidnapping, or unlawful restraint. Victims who are sexually abused generally include forced sex by their partner or forced pregnancy when birth control is denied. All of these acts are intended to lower the abused partner’s self-esteem and independence to the point of domination. The longer one stays in the relationship, the pattern of abuse repeats over and over until the physical or sexual assaults become more severe.

We may ask, "Why doesn't she leave?" Women tolerate the abuse for various reasons. They may feel shame, embarrassment, and helplessness. They are afraid to confide the problem to others or seek help outside of the home for fear of retaliatory acts by the abuser. The good news is, abused women do eventually leave for good. Abused women sometimes leave and return to the abuser an average of 6 times. Once they do leave, many women become victims of harassment and stalking, especially in the workplace. The violence continues even though they have taken the necessary steps to remain safe.

Leaving the abusive relationship does not guarantee safety for battered women and their children. Abusive men often escalate violence to recapture battered women and children. (Stark, E. and Flitcraft, A., 1988). If the battered woman successfully relocates to a safe residence but remains with the same employer, she may be harassed. Abusive partners harass 74% of employed battered women at work, either in person or over the telephone, which results in their being late to work, missing work altogether, and eventually, 20% lose their jobs. (Zorza, J., "Women Battering: A Major Cause of Homelessness," Clearinghouse Review, vol.25, no.4, 1991). Instead of placing the responsibility or blame on the abused woman, it is more appropriate to ask, "Why doesn’t the violence stop?"

Male and female relationships are commonly discussed in the context of family violence, however in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender relationships (LGBT), the dynamics are similar but there are additional factors. For example, if the victim of abuse chose not to reveal their lifestyle to their family, friends, or co-workers, the violent partner may threaten to "out" their partner, or in other words, disclose their lifestyle to others as a means of control, keeping the abuse from being revealed. To gain perspective in the LGBT relationships, simply reporting the abuse is an obstacle in and of itself due to the stigma present in our society. Victims who choose to report the abuse to law enforcement perceive they will be treated with insensitivity. The Lesbian Task Force of the Texas Council on Family Violence nevertheless reported that 25% of Lesbian and Gay relationships are abusive.