Spouse abuse is one of social challenges that many families face today. Many spouses are involved in conflicts, unending wrangles, and battles that have torn their families apart. Spouse abuse or spousal abuse refers to an abusive and intimidating behavior that involves the mistreatment and cruelty towards a partner in an intimate relationship such as a marriage, cohabitation, and dating. In most cases, spousal abuse entails violent behaviors towards a partner and occurs frequently within families. The United States Department of Justice (2013) defines spouse abuse or domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is deployed by one partner in order to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. The U.S. Department of Justice (2013) further asserts that spousal abuse includes both actual acts of violence against an intimate partner and threats of abusive acts aimed at influencing him/her.
Although men also experience spousal abuse, it is more prevalent among women. For instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) approximates that thirty-eight percent of women murdered in various parts of the world every year result from spousal abuse (Summers & Hoffman, 2012). Spousal abuse is also more common in heterosexual relationships than in same-sex relationships.
Spouse abuse is commonly referred to as domestic violence. It is also considered to be spouse battering, family violence (White, Koss, & Kazdin, 2011), and intimate partner violence (IPV) (Tamas, 2011). Spousal abuse can be divided into five major groups, namely physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, economic abuse, and sexual abuse. The most common forms of spousal abuse include physical abuse such as wife or husband battering, sexual abuse such as rape, verbal abuse such as calling names, and emotional abuse. Spouse abuse ranges from mild violence to grievously violent behaviors that may lead to disfigurement and death of the abused partner. Most of these forms of spouse abuse occur concurrently, for example, a verbally abusive husband would batter or hit and rape his wife, hence, abusing her physically, sexually and emotionally.
The causes of spouse abuse vary from one relationship to another depending on cultures. According to Gerdes (2012), spouse abuse occurs because the violent partner believes that it is socially acceptable. It is more prevalent in cultures that overlook or pay little attention to violence in the society, particularly, among people in relationships. For instance, some cultures believe that women who have brought disgrace to their families can be murdered through honor killing. According to Patel (2011), spouse abuse is more common when one of the partners in a relationship is an alcoholic or suffers from an emotional or mental disorder. Cases of marital infidelity also lead to increased spouse abuse because a partner is likely to revenge through violent behaviors.
Spouse abuse is characterized by a cycle in which tension between the partners arise before the actual act of violence is committed. Therefore, it is important for partners to be vigilant and pay attention to the signs of potential violent behaviors from their partners. Moreover, they should take precautionary measures such as reporting to the police or getting family therapy and marriage counseling to help to solve their differences. Actual violence towards a spouse can be followed by a period of reconciliation or continued violence. In either case, it is important for the partners to seek long-term solutions to their differences and problems in order to prevent the occurrence of similar incidences in the future.
Spouse abuse has numerous physical, economical, and psychological impacts on victims as well as on children within the families. Survivors of spousal abuse may suffer from physical disabilities due to injuries, mental illnesses, inability to create and maintain healthy relationships with other people or new partners, negative attitudes and strong dislikes towards a particular gender as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children of abusive spouses also suffer considerably due to domestic violence. They may also continue “the legacy” of spouse abuse within their intimate relationships when they become adults in the future. Moreover, many victims of spousal abuse, especially women, may remain involved in violent relationship because of such factors as fear, shame, need to raise the children together, insufficient economic and financial resources, excessive power, and control by the other partner.
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Although the relationship between spousal abuse and gender remains to be a controversial topic in the society, it is evident that more women are domestically abused than men. However, it is difficult to determine the exact number of domestically abused women or the rate of spousal abuse in the society because of factors such as lack of adequate research tools and unwillingness of abused partners to report on the cases of spouse abuse to relevant authorities. Moreover, there may be fear, shame, and reluctance of partners to talk about their intimate relationships. Social and religious beliefs, practices, norms, and perceptions also play a major role in spousal abuse. There are some communities where spousal abuse is allowed, for instance, in Afghanistan, where men are allowed to beat their wives if they dress inappropriate clothes. In my view, such primitive traditions should be eradicated. Spousal abuse is an immoral act that should be fought with in the society.