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Domestic Violence And The Criminal Justice System Social Work Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 4051 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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After year of abuse Rachel Susan Miller was tired of being in an abusive relationship, so she waited for the father of her children to come home. She looked him in the face and told him she was leaving, and with escorts, she did so with her children and ran for three years in fear. She probably felt pretty good that day and felt that the criminal justice system would be on her side the day she decided to walk away for her own safety and for the safety of her children. Her ex-husband stalked and brutally assaulted Rachel on April 13, 2000; she died 13 days on April 26, 2000 after the brutal assault. Bruce Daniels, Rachel’s ex-husband, brutally assaulted and raped Rachel several times that day as she plead for her life and the life of her child. Bruce Daniels pled guilty to murder before his trial began and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Rachel’s murder. Although the baby Rachel was carrying died as a result of the brutal attack, Bruce Daniels received no punishment for killing Baby Christopher because of a technicality. Not only did he get away with one murder his 12 year old son Tyler Edmond Daniels Miller, killed himself on June 11, 2001, because of the depression caused by his mother’s violent death at the hands of his biological father. (Rachel’s Story, n.d.)

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The Criminal Justice System fails to recognize and address the effects a domestic violence environment has on the children who witness the abuse. In a household where domestic violence occurs, child abuse and neglect is 1500 percent higher than the national average. (PowerPoint) Nationally 75 percent of battered women say that their children are physically and sexually abused. (PowerPoint) The statistics show that these occurrences continue to be on the rise in the United States. Approximately 3.3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes each year. Children in exposed to this violence are 2 to 4 times higher rates of temper tantrums, bad school performances, and falling into the wrong crowd. (Power Point)

These days it is easy to find a piece of news which informs us about a death of a woman who has been killed by her husband or her boyfriend. Hundred of women are mistreated and then assassinated each year and these deaths are increasing. However, although this is the main problem in our society, there are other kinds of domestic violence that not many people knowbut they have the same importance. In this essay I intent to give a definition of domestic violence and explain the main kinds of abuses. I will also suggest some possible solutions to diminish or to eliminate this problem and I will show some domestic indicators. I intent to argue some unhelpful behaviors and to finish I will discuss the effects of domestic violence in children.

The term family violence includes all forms of violence within families. It is commonly used to describe the abuse women suffer at the hands of their male partners, but it is also used to mean family violence. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, psychological, social or economic. Domestic violence is a hidden problem. It occurs in the privacy of a home, and those involved are usually reluctant to talk about it. The overwhelming majority are women and children who are more vulnerable.

There are a lot of kinds of domestic violence such as physical abuse, verbal/emotional abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse, social abuse or spiritual abuse. The first kind is physical and verbal/emotional abuse. This is produced when any action intended to degrade, humiliate and demean, both in public or private, including threats to injure or otherwise harm, the partner or the children; putting one’s partner down and making them feel bad about themselves and their abilities; treating one’s partner like a servant; abuser making decisions regarding partner’s financial status, free time, friendships, work and leisure activities. This constant humiliation will destroy a woman’s belief in herself and she may start to believe that the abuser is right.

Violence has, unfortunately, become a common occurrence of today’s society. Everywhere we turn, all we see are visions of violence that are wrongly showcased as solutions to problems. This makes it even more difficult for parents to teach their children proper morals and behaviors when the media projects violent acts in ways that children view as normal. However, some parents aren’t even trying to halt this wave of aggression. These parents choose to put this epidemic of violence in the express lane. One or both parents are involved in more than half of the astounding 3 million reported cases of child abuse each year (Kim). This number doesn’t include the hundreds of cases that are left unreported. How are children to learn how to effectively solve everyday dilemmas, sans violence, when role models are using brutality to solve problems in the home? Abused children are more likely to lead a life that involves violence than children who have a stable, normal upbringing.

While there isn’t a nailed down definition of child abuse and neglect, and different states and localities have their own definitions, it can be simplified to a general explanation. “Child abuse, or neglect, is the failure of a parent or caretaker to act, which results in physical, emotional or sexual maltreatment or death (Salus). Abuse can take many different forms. One type is physical abuse, which obviously involves an infliction of physical harm on the child. Another is sexual abuse, which not only entails physical sexual activity, but also includes non-physical, sexual exploitation (Salus). Emotional abuse is another form, which results when someone is verbally threatened and or humiliated. There are also several different levels of neglect. A child can be subject to physical neglect, which means the caretaker fails to provide for the child physically. Educational and emotional neglects can also be inflicted on a child. Educational neglect occurs when a parent fails to provide a child with the opportunity to gain an education. Emotional abuse is when a child doesn’t receive the proper amount of affection or nurturing (Salus). No specific type of abuse can be labeled as the most severe or damaging. However, we know that all types of abuse and neglect can influence a child in a negative manner.

As said above, when a parent abuses a child, they start a circle of violence in that child’s life. A parent could be driven into abusive behavior by many different factors. Depression is one of the main factors leading up to abuse. Twelve percent of mothers with young children are depressed (Kim). Depressed mothers are also more inclined to notice and correct the child’s poor behaviors, while ignoring the pleasant behaviors (Embry). Mothers can then children in emotional and physical distress by ignoring their needs. Taking care of a child, or multiple children, can be a very stressful task. People who are paid as caretakers for children are shown to have higher depression rate than those in high-risk professions such as police officers and firemen (Embry). When a child is cared for in a depressed environment, the chances of the child experiencing with substance abuse and falling into delinquency are three times more likely (Embry). Depression is more or less a communicable disease. While it may not be directly visible, depression will hurt and affect everyone that comes into contact with it. Another factor is substance abuse by the parent. Parental drug addiction can lead to child neglect or abuse if the parent becomes angry as a result of the drug (Kim). Also, over half of the assaults and homicides of domestic abuse cases involve alcohol (Elliott).

Other acts of domestic violence in a household also contribute to child abuse. In a household where domestic violence occurs, child abuse is fifteen times more likely to happen (Kim). Horribly, domestic violence has practically become an ordinary and familiar part of our lives. The statistics show that it continues to be on the rise in the United States. Spousal abuse occurs every fifteen seconds, solely in the U.S. Half of the nation’s couples have encountered at least one violent event between them. Also, of all assault cases, a shocking 70% involve spousal abuse (Bledsoe).

As sad as it seems, battered mothers often turn into abusers. These mothers often take the stress caused by the abuse out on their children. In 50% of all households that contain spousal abuse, child abuse is also present (Bledsoe). Therefore, the conclusion can be made that the more domestic abuse there is in the world, the more child abuse there will be. An excuse often used for this mother-to-child abuse is that the children need to learn to behave better in order to avoid agitation of the abusive father (Kim).

However, even if the abused mother does not inflict abuse on the child, he or she can still be in danger in an environment that contains domestic abuse. The child may get injured in an attempt to break up the altercation (Kim). Psychological damage is also common in this situation. The child will begin to think that abuse is a normal part of a relationship, and they will feel unsafe in the relationships of their future (Minerbrook). Furthermore, it is dangerous for a child to be exposed to any of these factors in the home as they may lead to abuse, neglect, psychological issues or even death.

Many child abuse cases turn into child fatalities. This is true in the child abuse case of Kelsey Briggs. Kelsey, a two and a half year old girl, died in 2005 as a result of brutal child abuse. The abuse had begun months earlier, consisting of many broken bones and full-body bruising. Attempts were made to have Kelsey relocated to another family member, but each time she eventually returned back to the house of her mother, where her stepfather continued to abuse her. After ten months of enduring maltreatment, Kelsey died of her wounds. Her father, who was serving in Iraq at the time, came home shortly after this, only finding he had to bury his little girl. The stepfather and mother were both found at fault for Kelsey’s premature death (Ballard). 1,400 child fatalities were reported in the United States in 2002 (Child Abuse in the United States).

However, an estimated 60% of child fatalities go unreported, according to a study conducted in Colorado and North Carolina. This leaves us to wonder exactly why these terrible crimes are so rarely reported. Each state has its own official definition of child abuse and neglect. How can it be possible to determine the presence of a crime if there are many opinions on what the crime is? The review process of child fatalities also varies from place to place, and the process is often extensive and conducted by people who aren’t specialized in recognizing child fatalities. Research concludes that children younger than five years of age are the most at risk. Children under a year old add up to 40% of fatalities. 76% of fatalities are made up of children younger than four years old. Both parents were involved in an astounding 79% of child fatalities (Child Abuse in the United States). Yes, these children obviously cannot become violent, as their abuse ended in death. However, this shows that more and more children are growing into violent adults, whose brutal acts are escalating. While so many innocent children die from abuse and neglect each year, even more victims of abuse survive, equipped with a subconscious pull towards violent behavior.

While not all child abuse cases result in a circle of violence, the statistics show that the chances of that happening are very high. Studies also show that the risk of violent behavior is raised by 40% in children who are exposed to violence early in life. Children learn how to react to situations through social learning. They imitate the actions that they see others do. Children then, regrettably, conclude that violence helps them gain power and that it is the best way to achieve respect (Elliott). They also see their parents who are unable to control anger and often have the same inability to control their own emotions in adulthood. Their aggressiveness builds as the years pass and they begin to only think of solutions that involve violent behavior (Minerbrook). While one would think that now, as adults, these individuals would realize that abusive behavior is cruel, the conclusion is quite the opposite. Parents who were subject abuse as children are six times more likely to abuse their own children than parents who had a “normal” childhood (Kim). They may know that the behavior is wrong, but they subconsciously act with violence to solve issues that arise with their children. The children then pick up the behaviors and begin to become belligerent. These behaviors typically launch in the first few years of the child’s schooling.

The preschool years are a period of time where the early signs of aggressive behavior can be seen. While kindergarteners rarely commit felonies, they do often interrupt. The interruptions can take place at home or in the classroom. These interruptions can be disrupting the class lesson or just acting out in an attempt to get attention. Yes, it is normal for a younger child to interrupt activities. However, if the interruptions are excessive, this information can be used to predict more violent behavior many years later (Embry). A person who grew up in an abusive environment has a greater chance of continuing the violence in adulthood.

It has become a common fact that many serial killers and violent offenders had childhoods that were scarred with child abuse. Children often become depressed as a result of abuse. Boys in particular, show aggressive and sometimes unstable behavior while depressed (Embry). This erratic behavior leads them to act impulsively and begin a life of violence that could quickly turn into a life of crime. A common occurrence in our society is the rising number of violent teenagers. In a study of fourteen juveniles on death row, in several different states, twelve had experienced ruthless physical and sexual abuse (Minerbrook). The chance is 40% greater that abused children, versus non-abused children, will be arrested as juveniles and or in adulthood (Stephens). Violence seems inevitable for an abused child to develop.

The statistics are clearly up against those of us who have endured abuse as children. Some say that everyone has free will and that it is their decision to continue the circle of abuse. I cannot argue this fact. However, even as adults, those who have been abused are now subconsciously and maybe even genetically built to produce violence. Without therapy or something of the like, these individuals will be inclined to act violently to situations in their life. In my opinion, those with a history of abuse endure an everyday struggle to overcome their thoughts of brutality. While the majority of these individuals will continue the cycle of violence, there are a few success stories. Some of us overcome the struggles and lead normal and even successful lives. However, the number of people who prolong the sphere of abuse will remain and continue on.

Although police are typically the first professionals on the scene after a domestic violence incident, they have limited services to offer families. Law enforcement departments in several areas throughout the country have begun specific programs to improve interventions, including joint arrangements with mental health professionals who, when notified by police, appear at the scene of the domestic violence incident to assist the child and adult victims. Other strategies include police report documentation of a child’s presence in the home, which automatically qualifies the child for state victims of crime funding for support services, and specialized training in child development for law enforcement personnel (“Open Arms Home”).

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In an effort to address the potential harm to children exposed to domestic violence some policymakers are considering whether such exposure should considered psychological abuse. Opponents argue that such policies would create a clear command for CPS intervention in cases in which children may be psychologically harmed, and would hold batterers more accountable for the effects of their violence by making them child abusers. Opponents argue that such policies may discourage battered women from seeking help because they would be afraid of losing their children, and may further trouble an already overloaded child welfare system. Before child abuse laws are passed, a thorough investigation of their potential impact is needed. Child abuse laws do not give courts and agencies the flexibility needed to review the particular circumstances of each domestic violence case and determine suitable interventions based on that case-by-case analysis. In order to effectively address the wide range of circumstances existing within families with domestic violence, multiple, community-based response systems are needed that do not require court or CPS intervention (Katz 163).

Studies that examined age as a factor point out that exposure to domestic violence produced different developmental problems in children at different ages. Infants and toddlers who witness violence in their homes show extreme irritability, immature behavior, sleeping disorders, emotional suffering, fears of being alone, and decline in toileting and language skills. Exposure to trauma, especially violence in the family, interferes with a child’s normal growth of trust and later investigative behaviors, which leads to the development of independence. The presence of symptoms in these young children is similar to posttraumatic stress disorder in adults, including continual experiencing of the traumatic event, avoidance, and lack of response (“Health Plus”).

Once women and children affected by domestic violence are identified, health care professionals must be able to either provide them with or refer them to appropriate services. Some health care institutions have routine screening for domestic violence and offer specialized domestic violence services in-house, such as safety planning and support groups for battered women or therapeutic interventions for the children. Mental health system approaches to children exposed to domestic violence vary from crisis interventions to individual, group, and family therapy programs.

An estimated 3.3 million children aged 3 to 17 years may witness domestic abuse of a parent every year in the United States (“Health Plus”). Domestic violence has a weighty effect on children who are exposed to it. Even if the children are not abused themselves, being helpless witnesses to the abuse of a parent is just as traumatizing to them as direct abuse. The effects of living in a violent home may create problems for a child throughout his or her life. Approximately 75% of all abusive men watched their fathers battering their mothers (“Open Arms Home”).

Children depend on their parents to provide a safe, stable and predictable environment. When their parents are involved in a battering relationship, attention is taken away from the children’s needs and focused on the violence. The entire family becomes isolated. The mother and her children are busy with pacifying the batterer and trying to keep him from getting angry (Katz 157). Children in such a situation learn that they don’t really matter. They learn that anger means losing control, and that men control women through violence.

As Jeanie entered the house, she heard her mom screaming in her bedroom and her dad yelling loud. She also heard noises that sounded as though her father was beating up her mother, and she was sure her dad was beating up her mom. Although this situation happened often at their house, on this day it sounded worse to Jeanie. Jeanie ran to get help from her brother, but he turned her down, saying he didn’t care since this happened very often. She didn’t know what to do; she was really scared and her mind stopped working. Her sister was sitting quietly in her room; she was so scared that she couldn’t even move. Then she heard a loud scream, which seemed like her mom’s final scream. She ran toward her mom’s room and knocked hard to get inside, but nobody would let her in. Then she realized that she should call the police; so she did. Police came and arrested her father for domestic violence. She watched her brother come out of his room and leave angrily, because he felt ashamed for what happened. Her sister didn’t move from her spot because she was so frightened. Her mom thanked her for calling the police and they began working on a new life from then on. After that day Jeanie never talked to her dad or looked at him again

Seeing violence all the time at home can make some teenagers violent. A high percentage of juvenile delinquents are battered children. Eight percent of men in prison grew up in violent homes (Kurland 63). Of child murderers specifically boys ages 11-20, 63% killed the men who were abusing their mothers (Bruhn 49). They go around and pick on young children in the neighborhood. Also they get into fights with teachers and friends in school (Stark 69). They show no emotions or any respect to anyone (Bruhn 65). Parents do not care and never pay attention to their children, so children get involved in gang fights. They do not care whether any one does not like them, because they are brought up from a home where there is no concern for the society (Kurland 63). Studies reported that there are fifty-three percent children that are in prison becoming violent because of seeing violence at home (Edleson 1).

Growing up in a violent home is a terrifying and traumatic experience that can affect every aspect of a child’s growth and development. Children who do not know how to deal with these problems and who are often seeing violence can become depressed, because they feel helpless and powerless (Berger 11). Due to feeling they tend to not do much around the house or in school, because of domestic violence some also take all the blame and fell embarrassed to leave the house. That makes some children refuse to go to school, which makes some children not wanting to go to school (Stark 49). These problems that children experience are often both immediate and long-term, but the impact of these effects depends on may factors, such as the age of the child and the frequency of type of violence that occurred or is occurring.


Rachel’s Story. (n.d.). The WTV Zone – A WebTV friendly homepage and website provider where webtv users can build websites and homepages with little restriction – web tv users welcome!. Retrieved April 4, 2010, from http://www.wtv-zone.com/LadyMaggie/php/rachel.html

ACADV: Children And the Effects of Domestic Violence. (n.d.). Home – The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved March 27, 2010, from http://www.acadv.org/children.html

Behind Closed Doors. (n.d.). unicef.org. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from www.unicef.org/media/files/BehindClosedDoors.pdf

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children and Adolescents: An Overview. (n.d.). American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from http://www.aaets.org/article8.htm

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children and Teenagers ~ FindCounseling.com. (n.d.). Find a Therapist at FindCounseling.com, The Original Therapist Finder Search Engine, Formerly TherapistFinder.net. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from http://www.findcounseling.com/journal/domestic-violence/domestic-violence-children.html

Kelsey Briggs (2002 – 2005). (n.d.). Kelsey Briggs (2002 – 2005). Retrieved April 4, 2010, from http://kelsey-briggs.memory-of.com/About.aspx


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