As a Chicago domestic violence lawyer, my first duty is providing all citizens with their Constitutional right to a fair trial, no matter what crime they have been accused of. I am also responsible for ensuring that those who are falsely accused are given back their freedom and their good name. However, I also see the pain of domestic violence – for the victims, the perpetrators, and those who are wrongly accused – and it has made me passionate about putting an end to the problem of domestic violence.
There is no one cause that can be called the primary or motivating factor in the crime. Domestic violence is not generally like other crimes such as theft or drug possession where there is an objective in mind. It is a psychological crime, and therefore one that is harder to understand. Nevertheless, researchers, psychologists, and welfare workers have come up with several primary factors in domestic abuse cases. If we work together to end these root causes, we can come close to seeing an end in this cycle of violence.
Living in a violent environment and early exposure to violence. According to the Child Welfare Department, this is the single biggest cause of domestic abuse. Children who grew up in a violent household or who were themselves the victims of domestic violence are more likely to become perpetrators themselves. Similarly, children and adults who live in a violent neighborhood or who are more frequently exposed to our culture of violence through community standards, video games, music, and similar things are more likely to become domestic abusers. Of course, trying to put an end to this factor in domestic abuse is a daunting challenge, much like trying to find the beginning of a circle. However, putting more safe havens in place for domestic abuse victims and setting up more community outreach programs in violent neighborhoods could be a good and effective first step.
Living with an unmarried partner. Research shows that women in a domestic relationship with an unmarried partner were more likely to become victims of abuse than their married counterparts. Of course, there are many married spouses who are victims, as well, so this will not end the cycle of violence, but public awareness of this little known fact could go far in reducing incidents of abuse.
Religious differences. Research has also revealed that women in a relationship with a partner whose religious convictions are more conservative than her own (whether or not they are of the same denomination) are more likely to become domestic abuse victims. However, couples who regularly attend church are less likely to be plagued by domestic violence. Again, spreading word of this statistic could help to end the cycle of abuse.
Mental illness. Experts warn that not all domestic abusers are ill, and that boiling every case of violence down to a mental disorder is problematic. However, there is a strong correlation between mental illness and domestic violence. Women with a history of depression, PTSD, and anxiety disorders are more likely to be victims, while men who have struggled with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar problems are more likely to be perpetrators. Mental health care is appallingly bad in this country. Even those with health insurance are often denied mental health care. Making treatment for mental illness more widely available in the U.S. could greatly reduce cases of domestic violence (as well as other crimes).
Substance abuse. While addiction to drugs and alcohol does not cause domestic abuse, drug users and alcoholics are more likely to engage in domestic violence, and the two problems can often feed off of one another. Creating better, more accessible, and more affordable substance abuse programs could bring about a significant decrease in both drug and alcohol use and domestic violence.
As a defense attorney, I have seen the pain of domestic abuse firsthand, and my heart goes out to the innocent victims of violence. However, I also see the psychological pain of the perpetrators, many of whom have grown up with violence and abuse from the time they were born. Putting an end to domestic abuse will bring peace to victims, wholeness to abusers, and – hopefully one day – serenity to areas that are plagued by violence.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, Illinois. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Mr. Weisberg is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar. Mr. Weisberg is a solo practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.