Properties of Domestic Abuse
There are several terms used to describe relationships in the area of domestic abuse, and some terms are used interchangeably in standard conversation. In this work the following definitions from Black et al. and theWorld Health Organization are used:
1. Abuse: Physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, psychological aggression, controlling behavior, and/or neglect.
(a) Physical violence: Acts such as slapping, hitting, kicking, and beating.
(b) Sexual violence: Rape and sexual coercion.
(c) Stalking: Unwanted obsessive attention that directly or indirectly communicates threats and places the victim in fear.
(d) Psychological aggression: Insults, belittling, humiliation, intimidation, and threats.
(e) Controlling behavior: Isolation from friends or family, monitoring, and restricting finances, education, or medical care.
(f) Neglect: Failing to provide adequate care for a dependent.
2. Domestic Abuse: Abuse of an intimate partner or family member (children and elders especially).
3. Domestic Violence: The same as domestic abuse but sometimes restricting consideration to only the violent aspects of abuse.
4. Intimate Partner Violence (IPV): Abuse specifically of an intimate partner.
In this thesis, domestic abuse is focused on to cast a wide net over the dynamics of abuse. However, by far the most prevalent in the data, and most studied in general, is IPV. Additionally, rape and sexual violence in IPV is much more prevalent for women than men, however IPV in general, when considering psychological aggression, occurs in equal proportions (48.4% of women and 48.8% of men) Data has shown that significant negative pressure on men exists in reporting their victimization, which may affect reporting in social media. It is taboo and considered to be emasculating to report abuse for males. 84.2% of women disclosed their abuse to someone, while only 60.9% of men did. Additionally, when men do disclose their abuse, they report that doing so is very helpful to them significantly less frequently than to women who disclose. Of these reports, only 21.1% of women and 5.6% of men reported their victimization to a doctor or nurse.
In addition to prevalence statistics, research has characterized factors associated with IPV. An ecological model proposed by Heise et al. and expanded on by the World Healh Organization suggests four different levels that increase the likelihood that a man will abuse his partner.
1. Individual: Experiencing abuse as a child; witnessing abuse as a child; having an absent father; low levels of education; alcoholism or drug addiction; personality disorders; acceptance of violence as a means of punishment or solving issues.
2. Relationship: Control of finances and decision making; marital conflict; economic stress; infidelity; disparity in education levels.
3. Community: Women’s isolation; lack of support by peers, friends, or family; a prevalence of social groups that condone abuse in the community; high rates of poverty; weak legal consequences for IPV; high rates of violence in the community.
4. Societal: Socially accepted defined gender roles, with a link between masculinity and toughness or dominance; socially acceptable violence as a means to settle disputes or punish; a concept of ownership of women when married or dating.
Additionally, Heise et al. suggest that women are often not passive victims of abuse. The abused actively attempt to maximize the safety of themselves and their children, while struggling to navigate the often insufficient support structures in secret. Researchers outline several reasons women may choose to stay in an abusive relationship: fear of retaliation; lack of financial independence; concern for their children; emotional dependence; lack of support from friends and family; fear of divorce and the potential to lose custody of their children; and/or an optimistic hope through love that their abuser will change. Children play a huge role in abusive relationships: even if the victim has been in the abusive relationship for years, many will leave after their children have grown. Many of these reasons, along with others, are discussed in work by Buel.
Heise et al. also suggest several reasons that victims of abuse leave their relationships: an increase in violence that triggers a realization that their abuser will not change, that it is only going to get worse, that the violence is going to affect their children, or that they may be killed. Additionally, an increase in support from friends, family, or society often allows the abused to leave.
In any case, the victim must frequently go through a difficult process to leave. It usually involves a cycle of denial, self-blame, and doubt, and many women go back to their abuser several times before leaving permanently.
These studies on the prevalence, risk factors, and dynamics of abuse are usually done with population-based surveys with high costs and risk factors for the participants and researchers. In this thesis, an alternative means of gathering and analyzing relevant data is pursued by applying computational models to the abundance of online social media.