Using Science to end the Violence

Image sourced from Associação Portuguesa de Apoio à Vítima

Image sourced from Associação Portuguesa de Apoio à Vítima

Research has shown that the commitment someone feels towards their partner and relationship can significantly reduce the aggressiveness of their response to ‘provocation’.

Surprising, right? After all, it seems logical to assume people who are more committed (and therefore invested) in their relationship would react more negatively when it’s threatened.

But research conducted by a team of researchers in 2012 shows this isn’t the case. This study told us something totally new that, for many of us, isn’t obvious.

Their work has strong implications for understanding violence in relationships, and ideally over the long term, reducing violence in relationships.

‘Putting the Brakes on Aggression Toward a Romantic Partner: The Inhibitory Influence of Relationship Commitment’ (well worth reading in full), details four studies focusing on whether commitment reduces aggression towards a romantic partner in the face of perceived betrayal. One study presented a hypothetical situation of being out with your significant other, and observing them being approached by an attractive stranger. Where their partner rejected this cheeky interloper, commitment was obviously irrelevant to their reaction. But when their partner was swept up by the stranger’s charms, those who were less committed reacted far more aggressively than those who were deeply committed. Another study had participants given false feedback from their partner on participants’ artwork, which determined whether they received a financial reward. Negative feedback resulted, again, in a more aggressive response from those who were less committed.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) tells us one in six Australian women will experience violence from a romantic partner in their lifetime.

Tragically, the statistics we have, as horrifying as they are, tell us only a fraction of the whole picture. The majority of such incidents go unreported, women (and to a greater degree even, men) do not admit to being the victim of assault from their spouse. The ABS tells us that 15% of women report experiencing violence from a previous partner, while 2.1% report experiencing violence from a current partner. 2.1% doesn’t seem like much, until you think about just how unlikely women are to report experiencing violence from a relationship they are still in. The numbers are undeniably higher.

And yet, this research is groundbreaking, with too little investigation into this area. The small amount that is conducted, is not being effectively and widely communicated, nor used to create interventions such as those suggested by this research. While the numbers appealing for help from support organisations grows, funding is cut.

We all need to take a stand. Obviously, just saying that domestic violence is unacceptable is not enough. We need to demand real work towards change. Current interventions, where they exist, are ineffective, and without research into this area we may never find a solution.

A solution that is desperately needed.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please contact the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for support and advice on 1800 RESPECT.


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