What Is Domestic Violence?

With the Domestic Violence Act 1994, domestic violence is no longer a private matter but a crime under the Penal Code.

Understanding Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is abuse committed against a person by someone in the family. People who commit domestic violence are trying to control the person being abused.

With the Domestic Violence Act 1994, domestic violence is no longer a private matter but a societal concern. It is a crime under the Penal Code. (Malaysian women’s organisations lobbied for almost a decade before the Domestic Violence Act was passed in 1994.)

Today, women who are battered can get help from the police, welfare department, hospitals and women’s NGOs as well as take action against their abusers.

Domestic violence takes different forms, which includes:

  • Slapping
  • Kicking
  • Choking
  • Hitting a person’s head against the wall
  • Forced sex, or sexual acts
  • Threatening to hurt a person
  • Making a person feel small, stupid, or worthless and
  • Damaging property to upset the victim.

Types of Domestic Violence

Violence against women can be classified into several types:

Physical Abuse

  • Pushing or shoving a woman
  • Holding or keeping her from leaving
  • Slapping or biting her
  • Kicking, choking, hitting or punching her

Sexual Abuse

  • Forcing a woman to have unwanted sex with others or forcing her to watch others having sex
  • Forcing sex after a beating
  • Forcing sex when she is sick or when it endangers her health
  • Forcing the purpose of hurting her with objects or weapons
  • Threatening or hurting her with a weapon

Emotional Abuse

  • Continually criticizing her, calling her names, shouting at her
  • Humiliating her in public or privately
  • Refusing to allow her to socialize with anyone
  • Keeping her from working, controlling her money, making all decisions
  • Manipulating her with lies and contradictions
  • Threatening to kidnap the child(ren) if she leaves
  • Harassing her about extramarital affairs the abuser imagines she is having

Who Is Affected By Acts of Domestic Violence?

The Victim

  • Low self-esteem and lack of confidence
  • Mental breakdown
  • Shame, guilt and fear
  • Isolation
  • Depression or suicidal thoughts

The Children

  • Fear, insecurity, and dependency
  • Frustration and anxiety
  • Problems in school (truancy, poor grades, etc.)
  • Deep anger (that may lead to violent behaviour)

The Abuser

  • Family breakdown
  • Punishment by law
  • Separation/divorce

The 3 Phase Cycle
The cycle of violence is the pattern that often occurs when a woman is abused by her husband or partner. While each woman’s experience may be different, the cycle points out the phases that tend to occur in an abusive relationship. An abusive relationship often follows a three-phase cycle:

The cycle of violence can happen hundreds of times in an abusive relationship. The total cycle can take anywhere from a few hours to a year or more to complete. It is important to remember that not all domestic violence relationships fit the cycle. Often, as time goes on, the ‘honeymoon’ stage disappears.

Why Do Abusers Engage In Violence?

Power and Control
Abusers are usually self-centered and think only of themselves and neglect other people’s feelings. They control their family members through violence, make all the major decisions and mistreat their partners.

Family Factors
Some abusers may have been raised in a “violent home” environment. They may have experienced family violence in their childhood and learnt violent behaviour from their family.

Social Factors
Abusers tend to have traditional ideas about the roles of women and men, thinking women should be subordinate to men. They cannot accept that women have the right to make decisions about her own life such as going out to work.

Psychological Factors
Abusers may suffer from psychological problems and have personality disorders which are associated with severe mood swings, lying, sexual problems, substance abuse, or suicidal behaviour.

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