Has Economic Downturn Caused Increase in Domestic Violence?

In the course of my on-going research on domestic violence I keep an eye on the news. Right now there are articles literally every day about how the economic downturn is sparking a rise in the rates of domestic violence. DV rates are usually up this time of year and with the additional stress of people losing jobs and the overall economic recession, marital abuse rates are even higher than usual.

It occurred to me, however, that for women walking in this situation it would be very easy to see the reality backward. I would have seen it that way — I did see it that way when I was in it.

We had some very bad financial reverses. And the violence and verbal abuse always escalated during those times. The holidays were a nightmare every year – both because the rages increased and because my ex had to control every single moment and breath in his own special way. My ex lost his job in 1996 and his resultant violence led to our first separation. He retrained in the computer tech field — just in time for the bottom to completely drop out of that industry. While he, fortunately, did not lose his job, he did not get a raise for seven years up through the time of our divorce. He stayed at entry-level even though he had some promotions. This, of course, led to significant financial stress, since the cost of living didn’t remain stable but increased by approximately 1/3 in our area during that time (I’m trying to remember what I figured out at the time; that’s not an exact number).

My perspective of it from the inside at the time was that his anger was because of his stress, issues at work, because he lost his job, because he couldn’t provide for his family like he wanted to, etc. But here’s the nugget — I excused, or made excuses for, his rages and actions, based on the circumstances. This is the same thing he always did. His rage was always because I did…, the kids did…, if you would only….

Rage and other personal emotions and actions are always a personal choice. They are not something that happens to a person against their will. They choose to behave that way — even if they genuinely believe otherwise. They can choose NOT to behave that way — even if they genuinely believe otherwise.

There is no medical condition* and no circumstances that excuse anger, rage, violence, verbal abuse, name calling, etc. You may doubt me, but this is a fact. It took me a very, very, very long time to learn this myself. Somehow a whole lot of other people in the world, even people with bi-polar disorder (a common excuse) or other medical conditions, manage to learn to be responsible for their behavior under even worse circumstances, without abusing those around them. Somehow other marriages, comprised of two imperfect people, manage to exist for entirely lifetimes without rage, anger, disrespect, violence, etc.

There is no excuse, EVER. Grasping this fact is the very first step to getting free of marital abuse. Once you know with absolute certainty that no circumstances are bad enough to excuse this behavior you can see past it and stand for truth. That gives you options and it gives you strength.

No matter how much the holidays may bring additional stress or how much additional stress the economic recession may cause, these are not an excuse for marital abuse. All these circumstances do is provide an opportunity to reveal a person’s choices to be an abuser. The abuser is an abuser because that is their choice – the circumstances just give them another chance to show it.

[*Let me state, it is possible for a person to experience brain damage or defect which results in the loss of ability to control impulses, leading to uncontrollable violence. However, this is medically diagnosable and these individuals must be medicated and/or institutionalized. They are not free to hurt people at random because they have a medical excuse. This is an entirely different situation than domestic abuse. I rather doubt that a domestic abuser would be willing to undergo medical testing and receive a diagnosis of brain damage and then accept the medical treatment for it. That ought to be a good enough litmus test right there. Another key to this – the violence is random for an abuser. A person with brain damage or defect is not able to miraculously control outbursts so they are targeted toward certain people and able to be contained at times when it would not be advantageous – such as before the new boss who is considering bestowing a raise.]

4 Responses

  1. I have been thinking about those articles that state, “Domestic violence will be on the rise now that the economy has dumped!” I saw one in a faith based magazine, and recently a mod pulled a thread about domestic violence off a faith board telling the thread starter – that it was due to cultural aspects and now the economy. HE realized it was a big issue, but it isn’t as big of an issue as she is making it. The ecomony may might things worse, but it will settle down.

    That conversation was in a private section, and I would have loved to respond but couldn’t. People find all kinds of excuses NOT to deal with it. It seems same goes for other forms of abuse as well – sexual abuse as seen on your site for example! I just LOVE your last line!

    The abuser is an abuser because that is their choice – the circumstances just give them another chance to show it.

    SO true! How blind this world is at times!

    • Exactly! While the statistics demonstrate a direct correlation between the holidays and an increase in DV, and economic recession and DV we can’t just point out the correlation and say, “Oh well! Let’s beef up our DV support structures.”

      Yes, we need more and better DV support systems. But if every time there was an article about the statistics the article also stated that the circumstances are just an excuse for abusers to act more abusive rather than an irresistable force that causes an increase in abuse — we might actually make some very serious progress in both the reduction of the incidence of abuse and in getting victims out of abuse.

      — Danni

  2. Just for the sake of making a record – this post was lifted wholesale right after I posted it. It was copied by another blogger without giving credit back — at get-smart-online.blogspot.com/2008/12/has-economic-downturn-caused-increase.html. I’m not going to give him the blog-land benefit of a link from my site.

    Beside the fact that anyone reading the post on his blog is going to left scratching their heads since it was obviously written by a woman (and the blog owner’s very male picture is right there beside it), this is a serious no-no. This is actually a breach of copyright law, since my copyright is clearly stated in the right sidebar.

    Technically it would be a breach of copyright law even without a copyright statement on my site since the work is my intellectual property with or without a stated copyright.

    While mimicry is supposedly the highest form of flattery, copying without citation in the world of writing is not only unethical but illegal.

    Also in blog-land, copying posts verbatim can result in one or both posts being made to disappear by web crawlers like Google. That is why I stopped copying news stories, even with attribution. If I feel it is absolutely necessary for whatever reason, I post original material above the re-posted material, with a link back and attribution to the original author, so the web crawlers don’t zing us.

    In blog-land this accomplishes a couple things. By creating the link back this automatically lets the author know because their site gets a ping-back. It also does not violate copyright law. (Occasionally an author does not want their material copied even that much, and if their site clearly says not to copy at all without permission, I do get permission first or just don’t copy.)

    The other thing this accomplishes is creating additional blog interlinking – the life-blood of blogland traffic and part of search engine placement. Some blogs artificially create links here, there and everywhere, to blow up their search engine status and traffic. I refuse to play that game. I want my site links to be credible and not frivolous.

    Anyway, injustice is not OK – even in little things. So I’m making a note of it since he refused to correct it when I said something about it. A mistake is one thing; a deliberate refusal to do the right thing is another.

    — Danni

  3. Hi Danni,
    When I was with my ex I noticed that his becoming unemployed contributed to an escalation of the violence. I still believe this, but I no longer see unemployment as an excuse for violence or abuse.
    Interestingly, Lundy Bancroft (“Why Does He DO That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men”) notes that NO outward circumstance causes or excuses partner abuse, but that one of the indicators that a partner is at high risk of harm (that is, more intense violence, more dangerous abuse) is if the abuser is unemployed. It would be far better if the media pointed this out, rather than implying that unemployment can ’cause’ abuse.

    One reason unemployment is so much worse where there is abuse is that the abuser is around his partner a whole lot more. He does not go out to work. He sits at home. He watches TV more and is more in her face with his laziness and demands. The partner gets less respite from his presence.

    Nothing causes the abuse except the abuser’s decision to be abusive.

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