Pathogenesis of domestic violence : predator and prey.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Medical Humanities


The prevalence of intimate partner abuse, despite judicial, social, and therapeutic programs, continues unabated. The U.S. Department of Justice conducted a study in 2000, and of the 16,005 participants surveyed, 59.1% of women and 66.4% of men admitted to being assaulted by a caregiver as a child. The pathogenic link between childhood abuse, and adult re-victimization indicates that survivors of childhood abuse or trauma may be susceptible to adult victimization. During the acute phase of abuse, the victim is in a heightened state of arousal and may retreat back into an unconscious survival mode; created during the very first abuse. The pattern of denial and repression enables the victim to survive the moment, and escape from the immediate trauma; with repeated trauma, the escape becomes permanent. Current crisis counseling is meant to promote immediate recovery from the acute battering phase. Unfortunately, survivors reluctantly participate in therapy sessions, and their attendance, and participation in programs are notably lacking in long term effect. Short term crisis intervention does not allow regressive reflection, and past and present abuses remain isolated. This research study examined the pathogenic long term effect of dissociative coping mechanisms. At the end of each session, data was gathered from the responses given on the participants' questionnaires. Aggregate research data indicate the majority of participants found the material helpful, new, and important. Post study discussions, one, three and six months with program directors, supported and confirmed the data. The study revealed that victims who participated in the research sessions were unlikely to return or engage in abusive relationship at one, three or six months post study. The workshop environment of learning and reflection created a group paradigm of support and surprisingly fostered accountability to the group when any participant missed a session. The research study was beneficially to victims of emotional, verbal and physical abuse. The group surveyed, indicated that after the workshop their cycle of domestic violence was curtailed.