Dr. Elizabeth Altmaier
Participation year
Project title

Why is a Community Problem Viewed as a Private Matter: Perspectives on Domestic Violence


Statement of the problem: Domestic violence is difficult to reduce due to the many different perspectives on its meaning; examples of these perspectives include the victim, his/her children, law enforcement, community program staff, neighbors, clergy, and victim culture. For this particular study, domestic violence is defined as acts of abuse that occur in a household including physical, sexual, mental, emotional, verbal, and spiritual. By definition, domestic violence pertains only to those individuals who cohabitate, have children together, or are intimate partners. In most instances, this phenomenon occurs in the home where there may be no witnesses around to intervene. Purpose of the study: The purpose of the study is to describe the various perspectives that are held in relation to domestic violence. In order to achieve this goal, interviews were held with victims, law enforcement, a representative from a women’s shelter, and members of community programs including a local clergy member. Methods: Personal interviews using common questions, and literature review including research and relevant theory. Major findings (victim will be identified as female, although men are also abused)

Law enforcement is typically involved through third parties, not by the victim In many instances, when the victim contacts law enforcement, she only wants immediate resolution of the current violent episode. Once the law enforcement agent has neutralized the situation, she may not want to press charges. Women will say that the man is just visiting the home to keep him from being charged with domestic violence. In this case, simple assault or battery would be the most likely charge. Most abused women will return to the partner several times. Women return because they hope that he will change. The batterer may be the only source of income The victim may be reluctant to contact law enforcement for fear that she will be arrested as well She may fear losing her children When women come to the shelter, they want the abuse from their partner to end. The purpose of the shelter is not to tell women they “need” to leave their partner. The purpose of the intervention from the shelter is to shift the blame off the victim and focus on the batterer’s actions. The shelter representative also wants the victim to focus on goals she wants to achieve now.

Preliminary conclusions: Domestic violence will continue to be a major social problem until effective ways of prevention and remediation are established. However, the various perspectives must be defined and understood by all parties. More educational resources should be provided at schools for children. Women need to be made aware of resources that are available to them for their protection. Protective orders are more effective when the victim notifies the police each time the batterer violates. Members of the community need to have more cohesion; many times neighbors do not know each other.

Further research: Continue to conduct interviews, review the literature, and ask common questions

Sources of information:

Information was gathered from residents of Iowa City, IA Research articles retrieved from PsychNet Sokoloff, N.J. (2005). Domestic violence at the margins: Readings on race, class, gender and culture. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press
Sylvia  Hill
Grambling St University