One of the most complicated issues facing most health care professionals and governmental agencies today is that of domestic violence. Domestic violence encompasses any violence that is inflicted upon one family member by another family member. Thus, domestic violence can be described as spouse abuse, child abuse, sibling abuse, or elder abuse. Most authorities suggest that domestic violence is typically expressed in violence against women and children. Such acts of violence can involve health care professionals in the treatment of physical injuries, the psychological impact upon the victim, or the aggressive behavior of the abuser. Often governmental agencies are called upon to investigate such matters to ensure the safety of the victims or to determine appropriate punishment for the offender. However, given the importance of the bonds and rights of the family that our culture maintains, it is difficult to determine when the situation at home "is no one's business" and when it merits intervention from outside parties in order to protect the welfare of those involved. Despite these difficulties and complexities, domestic violence is considered to be a worldwide health problem necessitating urgent intervention ("A Priority Health," 1998). The purpose of this paper is to explore the incidence and treatment regarding domestic violence.
The occurrence of domestic violence appears to be a worldwide problem occurring in every nation on earth. The small island of Fiji reports incidents of husbands killing wives over marital disputes (Adinkrah, 1999). Japanese officials refer to domestic violence as a "hidden crime" (Mieko, 1999). One survey conducted by the local government of Tokyo indicated that: one-third of the women interviewed had suffered physical violence from their husbands, violence was repeatedly inflicted on almost seven percent of the women, and over three percent indicated that they had been beaten severely. The government of India suspects that at least five thousand women were burned to death in 1991 by their husbands over marital conflicts (Singh & Unnithan, 1999).
Although Sweden is generally considered a country sensitive to social and family issues, it is also plagued with incidents of domestic violence. Consequently, the Swedish government introduced a new offense in 1998 in order to discourage spouse abuse (Nylen, & Heimer, 1999). As such,
one part of the new offense, gross violation of a woman's integrity, covers repeated acts committed by men against women with whom they have a close relationship. Its companion offense, gross violation of integrity, protects children and other close relatives. The new offense means that if a man commits certain criminal acts (e.g., assault, unlawful threat or coercion, sexual or other molestation, or sexual exploitation) against a woman to whom he is or has been married or with whom he is or has been cohabiting and seriously damages her selfconfidence, the courts can sentence him for gross violation of the woman's integrity in addition to sentencing him on each traditional crime, such as aggravated assault. In this way, the new legislation allows the courts to take into account the entire situation of the abused woman and increase the offender's punishment to fit the severity and frequency of the acts. (p. 19)
Of course, the crime of domestic violence is also prevalent in the United States. In fact, in recent years, many famous individuals have been accused of abusing their wife. For example, film director John Singleton, former football player and actor Jim Brown, and rock musician Tommy Lee have all appeared in court to face charges of such crimes.
The most prominent forms of domestic violence are spouse abuse, particularly with the wife as target, and abuse of children. In some cases, both types are occurring simultaneously. In other situations, only one type of violence is occurring. Other forms of domestic...