Domestic Abuse and Forgiveness


Domestic violence against women includes physical assaults, sexual assaults, emotional abuse, isolation, threats, intimidation, financial control, and many other forms (Williamson, 2010). Domestic violence can lastingly damage a woman’s self-confidence, self-respect, self-esteem, and social and family life. However, it is important to note that men, while often the perpetrators of violence, can be, and often are, victims of domestic violence of the same form stated above. Social constructs are such that much of the violence against men goes unreported. However, I am particularly interested in the male abusers and why they abuse their partners. It may be these men feel they need to control their wife/or female partner because of their own low self-esteem, extreme jealousy, and difficulties in regulating anger or other strong emotions (Williamson, 2010). They could also feel inferior compared to their partner in education and socioeconomic background. Williamson explains that some men with very “traditional” beliefs may feel they have the right to control women or that women are not equal to men justifying their actions (2010). Abused women often have similar views, leading towards a belief that they should be, or wiliness to be, abused.

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The focus or action taken against domestic violence could be put on the abuser or the abused. Domestic violence is often still seen as a woman’s issue, skirting its effects on the family as a whole, children, men, and the society they live in as a whole. “Domestic violence in general, and wife battering in particular, poses a grave problem for women, children, and society in general. Without understanding the male batter’s assumptions, we are ineffective in their treatment” (Wallach & Sela, 2008). This narrow focus could be a very serious issue in stopping the chain of violence. Abuse issues could benefit from more support in all sectors.

In the following paper, I set out to explore the risk and benefits of focusing help and forgiveness onto one or the other side of domestic violence, and in doing so seek a broader view of this form of violence. Often forgiving abusers seems necessary, while on the flip side forgiving them seems wrong and potentially further destructive. Archbishop Tutu states “No one can be fully human he or she relates to others in a fair, peaceful and harmonious way” (1998). Then one must ask what motivates those people who are able to act violently against other in their group or society? In my opinion, one of the keys to answering this question can be found in another quote, “Nobody who hasn’t bodily gone through what we went through will ever be able to understand fully” (Alkalaj, 1969). I believe that something outside of one’s self makes an abuser, and something inside keeps them going. Maybe we shouldn’t judge people for what they are, or rather what they have become, but judge them for what they refuse to change when given the right guidance. The men who commit violence against women are in need of serious help, and to help them one must accept that they have probably internalized something outside of themselves, something bad that has happened to them, something they could not control. Perhaps something society itself has a hand in. Accepting this is, on some levels, forgiving those abusers. ” But almost never do we hear public leaders declaring their belief that forgiveness can bring people together, heal their wounds, and alleviate the bitterness and resentment caused by wrongdoing” (Enright & North, 1998). Society seems to lean away from forgiving those who harm us, and thus the cycle of abuse continues.

So what is it that allows abuse to continue in many societies? “Mothers are constructed in our social service systems like the ones responsible for the care of the children, which sets them up for being blamed for the domestic violence. It has been argued that a case involving children will rarely be articulated as a ‘protective mother/harmful father problem” (Mandel, 2010). What is a mother in American society? What is a father? The roles of parents have slowly been changing but some hard lying gender roles have stood still throughout. “…It is necessary to address definitions because of the way behaviors have been defined, legally, morally, culturally, and individually” (Williamson, 2010). How we define gender roles may be the number one predictor of abuse. “Gender, patriarchal attitudes, religion, childhood experiences with family violence, and mother’s employment status were investigated as predictors of attitudes toward wife-beating. Consistent with feminist theories of wife abuse, “gender and attitudes toward women’s roles emerged as the strongest predictors of beliefs about wife-beating” (Obeid, Chang & Ginges, 2010). “Additional variable of possible relevance include male privilege attitudes, marital roles and economic power distribution in the family of origin, and parental conflict resolution style as well as individual-level characteristics such as personality, trauma history, and value orientation among others” (Obeid, Chang & Ginges, 2010).

Therefore, what is forgiveness? Is it necessary to forgive to move forward with your life? The answers can be varied and wide-ranging. Forgiveness has much to do with a person’s temperament, personality, and feelings, as well as individual situations. Each case of abuse is unique. How we can forgive and be forgiven is not universal.

Some people would argue that those who abuse women should not be forgiven because it may in fact aid in forever negatively affecting women. “Women exhibited higher levels of fear, depression and other problems than any other group even though they had not been assaulted by their partners for an average of 10 years” (Williamson, 2010). The effects of abuse, and the ways one reacts or deals with it, are obviously lasting. Wallach & Sela (2008) pointed out, “Most violent men live in stressful and unsatisfying marriages. They attribute the responsibility “for their marital difficulties, for their violent behavior, and the marital stress, to uncontrollable situations-society, their boss, their wife, etc” (Wallach & Sela, 2008). This indicates an unwillingness to accept any responsibility for their actions. Forgiving an abuser in this case may in fact only work to give them leeway to abuse again.

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Background of conflict

Domestic violence is a common term in many a family world over which encompasses any kind of emotional and or, physical abuse experienced by either partner in a relationship. The perpetrator of this criminal act is a batterer who executes crime at will by: physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence, psychological battering and destruction of properties and pets. The victims of domestic violence exhibit some syndromes that are associated with ‘Self Blaming’ characteristics whereby they tend to believe that they should be on the receiving end irrespective of their innocence on the matter. These victims are also characterized by ‘The Stockholm Syndrome’ making them feel unsafe when they are a way from their batters (Dee, 1991). They tend to be submissive, obliging to the command of their batters synonymous to ‘captor-hostage relationship’. Finally, the victims do also suffer from “The Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS)’ making them feel guilty for their crumbling families” (Dee, 1991).

Scholars the world over have gone an octave high in trying to come to the bottom of domestic violence. Psychologists believe that through forgiveness many issues regarding family conflicts can be brought to rest. Their have been increasingly more evidence in the positive contributions of forgiveness in trying to resolve domestic violence. However, the borne of contention is the precise definition of the same. It is apparent that the concise definition cannot be framed owing to the divergent of issues at hand. With respect to conflict resolution as regards domestic violence, concessions are made so as to accommodate parties involved. As opposed to the general definition of forgiveness where reconciliation is paramount, domestic violence and incest do not necessarily eventuate to reconciliation (Salzman, 1996). Scholars argue that the act of forgiving a perpetrator of domestic violence does not guarantee a termination of the abuse against the victim henceforth. The effect can either be positive or negative impacting a progressive or a retrogressive effect to the victim respectively. Amid the raging controversies surrounding the impact of forgiveness, it is argued that “forgiveness can be the key to our recovery from abuse, and to seeing restoration in our life. Christ died to buy our forgiveness and release from sin, and we are likewise to release others” (Corrin, 1996).

Domestic violence came to the limelight within the last three decades due to its alarming rate thanks to a national survey conducted during the period. Despite the many efforts by governments and Non-Governmental organizations to try and stem this social evil, the results haven’t significantly been achieved. More than four decades ago, this social evil has been stirring behind the scenes resulting in many physical disorders that culminated to death of the victims. However, this trend started taking a reverse direction in the year 1970 when lobbyists advocating for women’s rights brought this issue to the public domain. This brought the matter to the attention of state organs, prompting to the formation of legislations that rendered domestic violence illegal and, of late, many governments are enforcing these laws. In New Jersey in the United States, these laws are in full force and these has been replicated in the other states as well (Bauer and Rodriguez, 1995).

There are many delusions that come with domestic violence trying to undermine the existence of this problem in our society. Some people perceive domestic violence as a rare occurrence which is not actually the true picture on the ground. An FBI report in the United States reports a string of domestic violence after every 12 seconds (Human Rights Watch, 1996). These people who host the same school of thought claim that domestic violence is a reserve for the poor, the illiterate and the disintegrated families. These are fallacies since there have been so many reports of elite families experiencing this ordeal. Furthermore, their thoughts are borne of the idea that the row that ensues between the two opposing parties is inconsequential with respect to the surrounding environment. This is not true since as evident in many families experiencing this chaos, there has been a significant ‘spillover’ effect to their children as well as relatives. Apart from the physical injury as they try to calm the situation down, they do also suffer psychological torture and may later replicate the same in future to their partners. To cap this, these people believe that domestic violence cannot stand the test of time since as time goes by it subsides back to the normal situation. They don’t see the need for an external intervention. This is actually not true because with time and, with devoid of external deliberation the scenario will turn to the worst culminating to death of a partner.

The misconception that follows the term domestic violence has for many cases been associated with violence against women. However, there have been and there are still many cases of domestic violence against men around the world that is happening underground and going unabated. In most cases, these atrocities experienced by men at the hands of women continue surreptitiously owing to the fact that women are seen to be more vulnerable as compared to men. Moreover, with respect to the gravity of the physical damage imposed, men’s impact to their counterparts is so immense rendering women’s violence against men immaterial. In addition, owing to the men’s ego, it is unheard of to report cases of men batters thus making men to suffer within. This self-esteem is exhibited in many forms like, “it is assumed than a man with a bruise or black eye was in a fight with another man or was injured on the job or playing contact sports”(Edelson, 1999). Another key factor that has seen domestic violence against men relegated to the second position is the mobilization of a campaign seeking to address the women’s plight. It is through many years of backing from different activists and human rights groups, seeking to halt this backwards trend that has brought domestic violence against women brought to the spotlight relative to their male counterparts.

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It is therefore vital to try and address this quagmire surrounding domestic violence in a wider concept so as to accommodate the many divergent issues encompassed in the conflict. There is need to understand and resolve the misconceptions argued in this context while trying to comprehend the contributions o forgiveness in dispute resolution.

Literature review

Domestic violence and forgiveness are two terminologies that continue to mount argument as far as societal issues are concerned. Domestic violence in particular, more often than not tends to be biased seeking to address generally violence afflicted to women as opposed to men. This has tremendously demoted the plight of men at the hands of women to the background as men continue to suffer behind the scenes. On the other hand, as far as conflict resolution is concerned, some scholars have argued that forgiveness is the key to unlocking the impasse. However, some scholars argue that it can instead propagate the situation to the worse.

The victims of domestic violence normally have almost a zero chance in their quest to receiving justice. This is apparently not because of lack legal set up that can address their woes but, it’s because they fear for their security due to a notion borne in their minds. They always think that an attempt to seek their human rights would trigger the violence to the worst nature. Consequently, they constantly live under fear trying to avert any slight confrontation that could spark violence. The quest to resolving domestic violence has led to a greater understanding of the mayhem establishing the root cause as well as the consequences of the same. Many a conventions in the recent past with the ‘Conference on Women in Beijing’ being one of them have stepped up campaigns against violence afflicted to women (Kabeer, 1998). The sluggish rate in the implementation of policies and legislations owing to the fact that they are still being formulated only suspend the women’s problems. As a result, women continue facing their tribulations unabated. As these formulations still waits, according to Kabeer (1998), it is reported that the prevalence rates now ranges between 20% and 50%. The problem will however not be alleviated if the stakeholders who are the governments and civil institutions fail to tackle the issue head on. The issues will amicably be tackled if the government recognizes domestic violence as a criminal act. To date, only approximately 44 countries the world over have effectively implemented legislations to curb domestic violence (Landsberg-Lewis, 1998). Domestic violence is a compound term such that it deals with holistic matters of human suffering. It deals with “health, legal, economic, educational, developmental, and above all, a human rights issue” (Human Rights Watch, 1996). Women deprived of any of the above are deemed to be victims of domestic violence.

The historical ascendancy of men over women has its roots way back in the ancient times. Even with the evolving nature of human behaviors, this supremacy of men has continued prevailing to date exposing women to the predatory nature of men. Thus, women have continued remaining vulnerable and always on the receiving end incase of a conflict. Domestic violence cut across all and sundry from country to country, within different cultures and across different ages among others. There is a big challenge in trying to address this issue since it has been complicated by cultural and religious misinterpretations as they try to define the roles of a woman (Mitra, 1999).

Even with continued efforts to try and stem this malpractice that is part and parcel of the men’s domain, formation of legislations and policies could have insignificant effects since the root cause of the problem is not addressed. In a quest to try and get to the root cause of the problem, psychologists try to bring the term forgiveness. According to scholars, this term cannot be separated from religiosity. There is an evident correlation between forgiveness and religiosity though this is only true with respect to ‘Personal Religiousness’ as opposed to ‘Religious Conformity’(Corrin, 1996). Forgiveness is fundamental in lifting grudges in a conflict enhancing healthy relationships, lowering blood pressure and, also lowers the chances of abusing other drugs that can further aggravate domestic violence. However, psychologists argue that forgiveness and self-redemption is not only an avenue for more violence but also renders domestic violence a light affair. Therefore the dilemma that comes forth is whether to go for forgiveness or not.

To date, the prevalence is scaling up such that in Europe, it’s reported that “one in every four women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and six to ten percent of women a year report being physically assaulted by their partners”(Kabeer, 1998). Many a surveys have been done around the world but, limited studies have been conducted in the Arab world with respect to domestic violence. However, even with these narrow surveys conducted, a large number of cases have been reported. In Egypt, 1 out of 3 women have reported to have experienced domestic violence at least once in their marriage life (Human Rights Watch, 1996). In the Gaza strip and West Bank, a survey conducted suggested that more than 50% of women reported to have experienced domestic violence within a year(Human Rights Watch, 1996). The prevalence of domestic violence in these part of the sphere is attributed to; lack of policies set by the governments to curb this vice, absence of lobby groups campaigning against this malpractices, and inadequate services for the victims(Salzman, 1996).

Text Body

Causes of domestic violence

Domestic violence which is a common place in many households around the globe has its origin embedded in many divergent issues. As per the abusers point of view, the notion to dominate the partner is as a result of the feeling that the partner is superior to him in many fronts. The perpetrator may feel second-rate with respect to educational standards as well as socioeconomically. Additionally, the abuser “may feel the need to control their partner because of low self-esteem, extreme jealousy, difficulties in regulating anger and other strong emotions” (Landsberg-Lewis, 1998). As a result, the feeling of control over the other partner is manifested through physical abuse as well as emotional torture.

Women batters normally vent their anger through many ways. The physical torture they afflict to their partners is normally done under the watchful eyes of their children. Consequently, this is replicated to the children and, once they grow up they tend to believe that conflict is the only way to go about disputes. Violence as a tool of settling a row is also influenced by the cultural practices which normally tend to be biased viewing them as servants to the males.

Finally, other factors e.g. drug abuse and alcoholism has profound effects having far reaching consequences as regards domestic violence. More often than not, a person under drugs will fail to control his emotions and as a result he will elicit row which culminate to physical confrontation.

Defining roles that enhances domestic violence

The roles of women in the society and how we define mother in our cultural setting is the recipe that determines the fate of the woman. It is by defining the roles of the mother that will give an insight to the basis of domestic violence. In general, over the years women have had few carrier opportunities than men. The profession that was reserved to the women was wifehood and motherhood. Women have ever since been considered inferior to men and a cause of social evil. Many different cultures downgrade women such that they are considered children with regards to Early Romans (Carrin, 1996). Religious doctrines have however not been left behind in defining women. According to St Jerome who was the father of the Christian church termed women as “the gate of the devil, the path of wickedness, the sting of the serpent, in a word a perilous object” (Dee, 1991). Hinduism sought obedient from their wives and they weren’t allowed to walk in front of men (Mitra, 1999). All these portray a picture of how women are feeble at the hands of men.

The whole idea of caring for the family was reserved to the women as opposed to men whose function was to cater for security of the family. Women were not viewed as equals and for the success of the family, the credit will always go to the ‘head’ of the family who is always the father and incase of any failures the reverse is true. The double standards faced by women are the norm of the cultures and thus, the woman will continue suffering as long as we are still bonded within our cultures.

The role of forgiveness in conflict resolution

As emerging humanitarian bodies seek to resolve domestic violence by formulating legislations, scholars tend to believe that unearthing the main cause of the vice is the way forward towards conflict resolution. The scholars bring the term ‘forgiveness’ forth which they define it as ability to “willfully abandon resentment… and endeavor to respond to the wrongdoer based on the moral principle of beneficence, which may include compassion, unconditional worth, generosity, and moral love”(Baeuer and Rodriguez, 1995). However, a different perspective of psychology views it as the “context of choices to punish or reconcile” (Baeuer and Rodrigueze, 1995). As opposed to the first definition, the later claims that forgiveness is not a guarantee for the termination of domestic violence. Instead, they hold to the thought that forgiveness tend to wreck more havoc in relationships.

When a positive feedback is received from the offender, then accountability is guaranteed since the focus is not on the person but, the conduct of the person. However, forgiveness depends on the offender’s willingness to change to the better. Otherwise, forgiveness will always be a formality in conflict resolution.

Possible resolutions to the conflict

In addressing the issues concerning domestic violence, it is paramount to consider all the concerned bodies so that an amicable solution can be found. The factors that trigger this violence have to be looked into cautiously so that they are tackled to bring the women to a level ground. Furthermore, there is need to redefine the roles of women in the society so as to curb the tribulations they suffer at the hands of their batters.

However, the borne of contention is whether to resolve these issue by forgiveness or, you choose not to forgive as it can breed continued violence. The whole idea is very complicated since it depends with the character of the offender and the willingness to bring to a stop the whole paradox. However, studies have revealed that the positive effects of forgiveness carry more weight than the negative effects. Therefore, it is vital that one should forgive even though it’s very hard to forget (Edelson, 1999).


In a synopsis, the term ‘domestic violence’ is a critical and a complex issue that needs to be addressed since even with the many efforts made by governments to try and contain it, the fruits are minimal. There is need to involve all the players in the row to come up with unprecedented solution to this problem. Even with the cultural diversities in the world over, their definition with respect to a woman is the key to domestic violence. Therefore, the need to redefine the role of the woman can scale down this violence enhancing a healthy living.

Amid many efforts put across in addressing this problem by Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations understanding the offender and the factors that elicit their cause of action should not be undermined. Psychoanalysis of the batter will conclusively address the problem at hand. As scholars advocate for forgiveness in trying to resolve the issue, critics believe that forgiveness may turn the situation to the worst. However, many reports published show that forgiveness has had significantly greater impact in trying to resolve issues. In a nutshell, an embrace towards forgiveness is a sure method to ground domestic violence.


Bauer H., & Rodriguez M.A. (1995). Letting Compassion Open the Door: Battered Women’s Disclosure to Medical Providers. New York: Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics.

Corrin, C. (1996). Women in a Violent World: Feminist Analyses and Resistance Across Europe. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Dee, R., Graham, L., & Edna, R. (1991). Bonding with Abusive Dating Partners: Dynamics of Stockholm Syndrome, in Dating Violence: Young Women in Danger, note.

Edelson J.L. (1999). Children Witnessing Adult Domestic Violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence No 14 (8), pp 839-870.

Human Rights Watch. (1999). Crime or Custom? Violence against Women in Pakistan. New York: Human Rights Watch.

Kabeer, N. (1998). Money Can’t Buy Me Love? Evaluating Gender, Credit and Empowerment in Rural Bangladesh. IDS Discussion Paper 363. Brighton: University of Sussex.

Landsberg-Lewis, I. (1998). Bringing Equality Home. Implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. New York: UNIFEM.

Mitra, N. (1999). Best Practices among Responses to Domestic Violence in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Washington, DC: International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).

Salzman, E. (1996). The Quincy District Court Domestic Violence Prevention Program: A Model Legal Framework for Domestic Violence Intervention. New York: Boston University Law Review 329, 1994.

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