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Domestic violence is a serious challenge that has become prevalent around the world. The victims can be people of all genders, ages, and sexual orientations. However, usually, women are common victims. The prevalence of domestic violence depends on the cultural, religious, legal, and societal characteristics of a state. Specifically, in the UAE, this problem has a great prevalence due to the role that women are expected to follow by society. The females experience serious psychological and physical effects provoked by domestic violence. Moreover, they often are not ready to leave their abusers due to the lack of societal support, assistance resources, and available organizations. It is critical to apply effective approaches to prevent and manage domestic violence problem. Specifically, there is a need to use a public campaign to raise general awareness of the problem and promote community support to assist domestic violence victims. Therefore, domestic violence is a serious challenge both from the global and the UAE perspectives that provokes physical and psychological consequences for victims’ well-being and can be managed and prevented through such approaches as public awareness campaigns and community support.
Keywords: domestic violence, women, abuse, the UAE, intimate violence
Domestic violence is a global problem that has become prevalent in many societies and cultures. Such a challenge is not only widespread from the geographical perspective but also its prevalence shows that this behavior is considered acceptable. Domestic violence has become a great problem in the UAE. Due to the religious, cultural, and societal characteristics, the females in the UAE have a submissive role in society and they, are expected to follow the males’ lead. Such factors have provoked the increased prevalence of domestic violence in the UAE. Domestic violence victims experience a strong effect on psychological and physical well-being. The long-term outcomes for victims provoke challenges with adapting to a new life without an abusive relationship. Therefore, domestic violence is a serious challenge both from the global and the UAE perspectives, and it provokes serious physical and psychological consequences for a victim’s well-being and can be managed and prevented through such approaches as public awareness campaigns and community support.
Domestic Violence Definition
Domestic violence can be explained as the abuse expressed by one person towards the other person who is in an intimate relationship. Moreover, this is an establishment of fear and control in a relationship through violence and other similar acts. Domestic violence can be chronic or occasional. Intimated abuse can be perpetrated both by males and females (Chhikara, 2013). However, females are the most common victims of domestic violence. The process involves different types, and one of them is physical abuse. It is expressed through the contact that leads to injuries, pain, intimidation, or other bodily harm or physical suffering. Physical violence involves “hitting, slapping, punching, choking, pushing, burning and other types of contact that result in physical injury to the victim” (Chhikara, 2013). Moreover, physical abuse can be expressed through such behavior as engaging in substance abuse against own will, depriving a victim of sleep or other functions critical to life, and denying medical care. The next type is sexual violence. It involves any situation in which the force or threat is applied to gain participation in undesired sexual activity. According to Chhikara (2013), “coercing a person to engage in sexual activity against their will, even if that person is a spouse or intimate partner with whom consensual sex has occurred, is an act of aggression and violence.” The violence type is highly common in domestic abuse cases.
Emotional abuse is the next type of violence. It characterizes by refusing a victim access to necessities and resources, blackmailing a person, performing something that makes the victim feel embarrassed or diminished, hiding away the information, and provoking humiliation publicly or privately (Chhikara, 2013). Moreover, degradation in any form is also part of psychological violence. Emotional violence includes verbal abuse which can be explained as any behavior that undermines, intimidates, or threatens the self-esteem or self-worth of victims’ freedom. Verbal abuse is also related to emotional violence. Additionally, emotional violence is expressed through conflicting statements or actions that are aimed to create insecurity to confuse the domestic violence victim (Chhikara, 2013; Kaur & Garg, 2008). The other type is economic abuse which means that one partner has control over the economic resources of another partner. Economic violence can include preventing a partner from having access to resources, exploiting economic resources, or limiting the resources. The main goal is to prevent the partner from reaching independence from an abuser and forcing a victim to depend on the violator financially (Chhikara, 2013). Often, it means that victims are denied in getting an education, which affects their employment, acquiring assets, as well as advancing their careers.
Domestic Violence Prevalence Globally and in the UAE
Domestic violence has become a global challenge. It can affect people of all ages, sexual orientations, races, and genders. According to Alejo (2014), 30 to 60% of females were domestic violence victims. Moreover, 15% to 71% of females experienced sexual and physical violence (Alejo, 2014). Domestic violence against females is a common phenomenon worldwide. It was researched that domestic abuse has been frequent and severe. Females were always perceived as vulnerable, weak, and in a position to be exploited. According to Kaur and Garg (2008), political and economic conditions, religious practices, as well as a cultural norms can provide precedence for domestic violence, but committing the act of violence is the choice a person makes out of different options. Moreover, females are socialized in their gender roles in different societies around the world (Kaur & Garg, 2008; Kassen, Ali, & Al-Malek, 2014). In societies with a patriarchal power structure and strict gender roles, females are poorly prepared to protect themselves from domestic violence.
Specifically, domestic violence is an evident challenge in the UAE. Due to the social and religious characteristics of that society, women often become domestic violence victims. Moreover, society does not provide appropriate protection to the victims. Only one of the three husbands is convicted and prosecuted. In the UAE, marital rape is not a crime. The UAE Personal Status Law states that a female can lose the right to maintenance if she refuses to have sexual relations with her husband without a lawful excuse (Human Rights Watch, 2015). It was reported that there was a rise in domestic violence reports in Abu Dhabi. In 2013, 507 cases of domestic violence involved threats, defamation, verbal insults, and attacks (Human Rights Watch, 2015). Moreover, 42% of the UAE residents are confronted with domestic violence victims. According to the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children (DFWAC) survey, the most affected victims are wives 22%, daughters 15%, sons 12%, and mothers 7% (Arn News Center, 2018). The main abusers were found to be husbands 27%, fathers 16%, and wives 10%. Additionally, 23% of people mentioned that they would interfere to protect domestic violence victims, while 19% mentioned that they would opt to promote victims to reach assistance from specific organizations (Arn News Center, 2018). Around 81% stated that a specialized family care organization should have greater authority in addressing domestic violence cases. Additionally, 84% believe that new legislation has to be represented to manage domestic violence more efficiently, while 30% think that current legislation can protect domestic violence victims (Arn News Center, 2018). Therefore, despite the situation with domestic violence being challenging in the UAE, societal patterns changed toward victims’ support.
Nonetheless, the UAE statistics do not represent the real scale of the problem. Usually, women are afraid to speak about this problem due to different reasons. Specifically, the causes can be societal, such as victim blaming attitudes, family privacy, imbalanced power relations for males and females in the society, and personal, such as economic dependency, realization fear, and embarrassment. The silence and inhibition of people who know about domestic violence happening and victim-blaming attitudes promote the shaping of a tolerance climate against violence that makes it more challenging for females to come forward and promotes social passivity. Another aspect is the role of healthcare professionals (Kaur & Garg, 2008; Kassen et al., 2014). Healthcare providers can make a great difference in detecting domestic violence; nonetheless, the rates of such detection in emergency rooms and hospitals are still the law. Medical practitioners rarely check for signs of violence by asking females about the abuse experience even though many females complete routine questioning by their practitioners about intimate violence. Therefore, domestic violence is a serious challenge, but the real situation is not clear due to the tendency of victims not to report the abuse.
Ending an abusive relationship is a long as well as challenging process. It is complicated by different causes. Usually, domestic violence victims hope and believe that the situation can be better, have a feeling for their partner, are very exhausted to take major decisions, do not have information related to service availability, and are worried about financial security in the case ending such relationships. Moreover, victims can be isolated from friends and family, feel alone, have low self-esteem and confidence, feel ashamed to speak about their problems, be afraid for themselves and their children, as well as lack certainty about the future (Chhikara, 2013; Kaur & Garg, 2008). Society has the responsibility to support victims who make such decisions. Nonetheless, in patriarchal communities, this process becomes even more challenging. In the UAE, it is difficult for females to leave abusive relationships due to the lack of support both from the government and society. Hence, the absence of desire to leave violent relationships and report abuse is in connection with the demand for support from society.
Domestic Violence Impact
Intimate abuse provokes serious psychological and physical effects on victims. In the case of the physical effects, domestic violence victims suffer from internal bleeding, lacerations, head damage, a broken bone, and some acute domestic violence consequences that need hospitalization and medical attention (Chhikara, 2013; Kaur & Garg, 2008). Pregnant victims suffering the domestic violence often have to face a greater risk of injuries, pre-term labor miscarriage, and fetus death. In the case of the psychological impact, domestic violence often experiences a high amount of anxiety, fear, and stress. Apart from that, the common issue is depression, as victims are forced to feel guilty for ‘causing’ the violence they are often subjected to. It was found that around 60% of victims meet depression diagnostic criteria after relationship termination or during the relationship (Chhikara, 2013). Moreover, they have a greater risk of suicide possibly.
Additionally, domestic violence victims often experience long-term panic and anxiety, and they usually meet the Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder diagnostic criteria. Nonetheless, the most often mentioned psychological effect of inmate abuse has been Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Chhikara, 2013). The such condition includes flashbacks, avoidance, exaggerated startle response, nightmares, and intrusive images related to the abuse. Such symptoms are usually experienced for a long time. According to Chhikara (2013), PTSD is possibly the best diagnosis for people who suffer from the psychological consequences of domestic violence since it considers different symptoms usually relevant for trauma victims.
However, domestic violence provokes not only physical and psychological effects but also financial impacts. When a victim leaves the abusers, they can be shocked by the reality of the extent to which the abuse shifted their autonomy. Due to the isolation and economic abuse, domestic violence victims usually do have not enough personal money and lack people whom they can rely on to get some help. It was found one of the main challenges experienced by domestic violence victims and the most influential aspect that can discourage them from leaving their abusers (Chhikara, 2013). Therefore, the consequence and influence of domestic violence on victims lead to a serious threat to their well-being.
Theories Related to Domestic Violence
Intimate violence can be explained through theoretical approaches. According to psychological theories that concentrate on a person, domestic violence is perceived as a medical challenge, which means that an abusive offender has an illness that provokes violent behavior toward partners, specifically excessive use of drugs or alcohol (Jura & Bukaliya, 2014). Such perspective decreases the males’ accountability or their abusive behavior since they are explained to be not in full control of their own emotions and in need of medical assistance. Therefore, it does not explain the causes of abusive behavior in men. Psychological theories do not consider all domestic violence acts performed by males. Moreover, some great somatically violent males do not have signs of abusive behavior in other social contexts, such as community events or workplaces. According to Jura and Bukaliya (2014), domestic violence can occur in men with a normal mind state or with no relation to addictive behaviors. Such evidence means that the insignificant degree to which domestic violence perpetrators have signs of personality disorder questions these theories’ credibility.
From a systematic theories perspective, domestic violence is provoked not by one factor. Such behavior is an outcome of different factors involving violent socialization within the community and individual features (Jura & Bukaliya, 2014). Socially acquired individual instigators or behaviors of domestic violence are not sufficient on their one and usually account for abusive behavior in males. Such a perspective of explaining abusive behavior opposes simple cause and affects explanation, thus meaning that any number of alternatives within the system occurs to create a single effect.
According to feminist theory, psychological theory’s limitations are challenged by rejecting the view of domestic violence as a rare event specific to males with assistive behaviors or psychological disorders. The theory emphasizes the structural power differential between women and men and the way these issues are played out at the intimate relationship level, where male abuses power to gain control over females (Jura & Bukaliya, 2014). From this perspective, attitudes, beliefs, processes, and structures in social support and maintain violent practices toward females. Nonetheless, this theory fails to consider males who are not violent in their relationships with female partners. Females can be abusive in homosexual couples, which also challenges the feminist perspective in terms of male behavior dominantly over females (Jura & Bukaliya, 2014). Therefore, all these theoretical perspectives explain the nature of domestic violence.
Management and Prevention of Domestic Violence
Nowadays, several approaches have to be applied to manage and prevent domestic violence. One of them is public information and awareness campaigns. It is a common method for the prevention and management of domestic violence. Public awareness campaigns have been used worldwide to break the silence that surrounds domestic violence. Moreover, they assist in informing and affecting the personal attitude and social norms about the acceptability of such behavior. Apart from that, such campaigns assist in promoting political addressing of this issue (Harvey, Garcia-Moreno, & Butchart, 2007). Campaigns can send the message through such mass media channels as billboards, posters, magazines, newspapers, radio, and television, as well as include other mechanisms such as community theater and town meetings. Campaign goals have to include changing public opinion, dispelling stereotypes and myths about domestic violence, as well as providing accurate information, and increasing public awareness. Such campaigns have the potential to address a great number of people. Main good communication principles have to be applied to public awareness campaigns (Harvey et al., 2007). Effective campaigns are based on evidence of the problem and protective and risk factors. Moreover, they shape measurable and clear objectives, determine factors to measure the campaign influence, apply consumer research, shape the evaluation mechanism, and use the research to check the influence and improvement provoked by the campaign.
Another approach is community-based prevention. Leadership and activism on the community level from the women’s movement have been critical, especially for raising the violence visibility against women and playing it on the international goal. Community efforts are critical in settings where resources are limited. Usually, two common community-based prevention forms are used, such as intervention aimed at the population subgroups and clear community-wide intervention provided in multiple settings (Harvey et al., 2007). Comprehensive interventions have several elements that are aimed to influence social change by developing the enabling environment for changing personal behavior and attitudes. Such an approach usually uses a mix of participatory education or training, social marketing techniques, and public awareness campaigns. The community mobilization approach underlines the role of people as change agents instead of passive program beneficiaries and places priority on community leadership and ownership of the change process.
All these approaches have to be actively applied in the UAE, Nowadays, in the UAE, one of the most well-known organizations aimed to assist domestic violence victims is DFWAC. It provides campaigns, shelter, counseling, and research activities to domestic violence victims. The organization was the first to develop a play therapy program that provides therapy services to children who experienced or witnessed domestic violence (Dubai Foundation for Women & Children, 2018). Specifically, the organization provides shelter for emergency cases. Such services involve temporary housing under the supervision of the integrated team. Additionally, all residents have access to transport, clothes, drinks, and food. The organization sets the number of professional, recreational, and educational activities and empowerment programs to alleviate the stress of cases. Such programs and activities aim to integrate victims into society through different activities that are made periodically and regularly to increase and educate societal awareness (Dubai Foundation for Women & Children, 2014). Moreover, DFWAC participates in organizing awareness-raising campaigns about domestic violence. The organization builds mutual relationships grounded in community awareness, teamwork, and dialogue.
Overall, domestic violence is a challenging problem. It is an abuse expressed through emotional, psychological, sexual, verbal, and physical control. Victims of domestic violence are diverse. However, women are more often included in that list. The females experience serious psychological and physical consequences provoked by domestic violence. The phenomenon of domestic violence can be explained from different perspectives, but the feminist theory is the most referred to represent the nature of gender abuse in intimate relationships. Domestic violence victims need effective approaches to manage and prevent such a problem. DFWAC is one of the well-known organizations in the UAE focused on assisting domestic violence victims. It actively applies such critical approaches as community support and public awareness through numerous campaigns.
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