Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Domestic violence motivation

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Domestic violence motivation:
What motivates domestic violence?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Recreation of a Domestic Violence scene

Domestic violence (DV) is aggression or violence that is used to instill fear or exert control, typically over a person’s immediate family member, and involves physical, emotional, financial or cultural abuse. While women are at a greater risk of DV each situation varies in terms of the perpetrator, target, severity of the case, and type of abusive behaviour (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018). In most cases, however, victims are often comfronted with homelessness which leads them to return back to their abusers (Australian Insitute of Health and Welfare, 2018). Various theories are used to explain both the occurrence and motivations behind DV, including feminist, psychopathological and social learning theories.

What is domestic violence?[edit | edit source]

Domestic Violence can be described as using violence, aggression or abuse to instill fear and/or exert control against a person’s significant other, or in some cases, children (Hornor, 2005) There are various forms of domestic violence. Broadly speaking, these include: economic, physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological (Huecker et al., 2023).

Domestic violence is a dynamic behaviour pattern that may include, in addition to physical acts of violence, sexual abuse and emotional abuse (Hegarty et al., 2000).

Abuse[edit | edit source]

Abuse is a widespread problem in all countries around the world, and it is described as any behaviour that intentionally damages, hurt, or impairs a person physically, psychologically, or socially (Radell et al., 2021).

There are six main forms of abuse: physical, verbal, emotional, financial, cultural and sexual[factual?].

Physical forms can include beating, choking, being taken advantage of sexually and in worst case scenarios, death.

Emotional (or psychological) abuse is predominantly mental, including: verbal abuse, threats, humiliation, manipulation, intimidation, and neglect. This is the most common type of abuse[factual?] as it is normally harder to identify since it typically occurs behind closed doors and does not manifest physically.

Financial (or economic) abuse encompasses scenarios such as: controlling all the money, denying targets access to their own bank accounts, or even causing debts in the victim’s name[factual?].

Cultural (identity) abuse is when the perpetrator uses parts of their partner’s cultural identity against them in a way which may cause a lot of hardship. A common situation with this form of abuse is abandoning their partner who does not speak the main language where they reside, or even not letting their partner honour their faith via dietary requirements or dress customs[factual?].

Prevalence[edit | edit source]

While it is more likely for men to experience violence in a public place from strangers, violence against women normally takes place in their home and the perpetrator is known[factual?]. One in 16 Australian men and one in six women have been subjected to violence - physical and/or sexual - by a current or previous partner since the age of 15 (ABS 2017).

On average, two men and almost eight women were hospitalised each day after being assaulted by their partner or spouse between 2014-15 (AIHW 2017). Violence from a current or previous partner resulted in the death of approximately one woman a week and one man a month between 2012-2014 (Bryant and Bricknell 2017).

Women are also more likely to be victims of emotional and sexual abuse. Almost one quarter of women and one-sixth of men have experienced a form of emotional abuse since the age of 15 from a current or previous partner (ABS 2017). Similarly, about one in five women and one in 20 men over the age of 15 have experienced sexual violence (ABS 2017). Police recorded about 52 sexual assaults each day against women and 11 against men, on average in 2016.

Domestic violence cycle[edit | edit source]

Domestic violence involves various things[vague]. In most cases there is a cycle of domestic violence. This begins with tension building, then the incident occurs to which perpetrator and victim reconcile, and finally, the calm stage occurs, before the cycle repeats[factual?].

1. Tension Building - In this phase, abusers often begin to feel ignored, neglected or wrong, leading to a buildup of stress, which can last anywhere between minutes to weeks[factual?]. The target typically feels like they have to walk on eggshells as they are afraid and/or anxious of the abuser's accusations, unrealistic demands or verbal aggression[factual?]. However, regardless of the target’s efforts to stay quiet and take minimal actions, to the abuser the target is never right, meaning that within seconds any small incident can instigate a difficult situation[factual?].

2. Incident - During the second phase, the abused becomes upset or threatened by something the target says or does, leading them to try and dominate the target through physical, verbal or sexual abuse[factual?]. In many cases, targets do not disclose the incident to others, and in some situations when the target is hospitalised, they might even lie about the source of their injuries[factual?].

3. Reconciliation - Following the incident, the abuser will try to reconcile out of a feeling of fear or remorse, such as by buying gifts, flowers, taking the target out or suggesting a to go on a holiday[factual?]. The target might decide to stay because they have children or for financial reasons[factual?]. The abuser normally promises that this is the last time that the abuse will occur, emphasising that they did not want to do what they did and explaining that it happened because of the target’s behaviour, lack of understanding, or because they ‘do not listen'.[factual?]

4. Calm - The final stage, also referred to as the honeymoon stage, involves the abuser being calm, kind, potentially engaging in counselling and/or asking the target to forgive them[factual?]. Targets, sometimes believing that the abuser has changed, accept the apology before the perpetrator begins passively-aggressively criticising minor flaws and behaviours as their apologies start to become less sincere[factual?]. Over time, the same behaviour resurfaces and the cycle returns to the tension building phase[factual?].

Perspectives[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Feminist[edit | edit source]

According to feminist theoretical approaches, domestic violence constitutes an intentional pattern of behaviour that is used to create and maintain control and power over a female partner (or ex-partner). Understood in these terms, DV exists as part of a patriarchal social structure and therefore adequate responses must involve substantive social, cultural and communal change.

Psychopathological[edit | edit source]

Psychopathological perspectives of domestic violence emphasise the narcissistic and/or antisocial personalities that are often found among perpetrators (Gondolf 2002). Generally speaking, this theory explains domestic violence through the mental illness of abusers and therefore views the solution in terms of medication or psychiatric treatment.[factual?]

Investigating perpetrator typologies[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Debunking generalisations[edit | edit source]

Every situation involving domestic violence varies, from whether the perpetrator is female or male, the severity of each case, to the behaviours that derive from the six main forms of abuse. Not all victims endure the same amount of hardship, some may experience more or less. It is important to recognise that each of these variables makes every situation unique.[factual?]

Coercive controllers[edit | edit source]

Coercive controllers - common behaviours/characteristics (McMillan and Lombard 2013):

  • Isolating victim from friends and family
  • Controlling finances
  • Sexual coercion
  • Threatening
  • Dehumanising

Abuse motivation and behaviour[edit | edit source]


Motivation[edit | edit source]


Theories[edit | edit source]

Motivation for Domestic violence can be understood through Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. This theory is one of the most well-known perspectives in the marital violence literature. Often perceived as the “cycle of violence” when applied to a family with children, it discusses how individuals replicate behaviour that they were once exposed to when they were younger. Violence is a learned behaviour which is learnt through exposure from role models. This is normally carried with them into adulthood, and can then be used as a coping mechanism (Bandura 1973).

Coercive controllers[edit | edit source]

Coercive controllers typically have certain motivations for their actions, some of which may include their own personal gratification, psychological projection, personal gain, and enjoying the ability to exercise an unequal power dynamic within the household. Psychological projection is a common defense mechanism for coercive controllers, and bullies in general. This is when a person externalises their own personal feelings of vulnerability onto the victim.[factual?]

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2020). Partner Violence - In Focus: Crime and Justice Statistics, January 2020.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017). Personal Safety, Australia.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2018). Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, February 2018.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020) Family, domestic and sexual violence Reports.

Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: A social learning analysis. Prentice-hall.

Brown, T., Bricknell, S., Bryant, W., Lyneham, S., Tyson, D., & Arias, P. F. (2019). Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, (568), 1.

Gondolf, E. (2002). Service Barriers for Battered Women With Male Partners in Batterer Programs. Journal Of Interpersonal Violence, 17(2), 217-227.

Hegarty, K., Hindmarsh, E. D., & Gilles, M. T. (2000). Domestic violence in Australia: Definition, prevalence and nature of presentation in clinical practice. Medical Journal of Australia, 173(7), 363–367.

Hornor, G. (2005). Domestic Violence and Children. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 19(4).

Huecker, M.R., King, K.C., Jordan, G.A., Smock, W. (2023, April 9). Domestic Violence. StatPearls Publishing. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

McMillan, L., & Lombard, N. (2013). Violence Against Women: Current Theory and Practice in Domestic Abuse, Sexual Violence, and Exploitation (Research Highlights in Social Work). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Myhill, A., & Johnson, K. (2015). Police use of discretion in response to domestic violence. Criminology & Criminal Justice, 16(1), 3-20.

Radell, M. L., Abo Hamza, E. G., Daghustani, W. H., Perveen, A., & Moustafa, A. A. (2021). The impact of different types of abuse on depression. Depression Research and Treatment, 2021.

External links[edit | edit source]

If you have found any of the above material triggering please refer to the links below for assistance.

  • 1800RESPECT (Confidential information, counselling and support service, Australia Wide)
  • MensLine Australia (Telephone and online counselling service for men with emotional and health and relationship concerns)
  • Legal aid (Legal advice and representation Australia wide, specifically for those in financial need)
  • Lifeline 13 11 14 (Lifeline provides compassionate support for people in crisis)

If you are after more related information you may find the following of interest: