Written by William G. Herron and Rafael Art. Javier
Reviewed by Yifan Zhang
Images flash when we talk about domestic violence—stereotypical scenes of minority women bearing brutal slaps falling on their fragile bodies. However, these images only represent one of many forms of domestic violence and its victims. The content of ‘violence’ exceeds what we might imagine. Aiming to give readers a more holistic understanding of domestic violence as well as suggestions for professional interventions, Herron and Javier define domestic violence comprehensively, offer models of aggression, and include accurate data and truthful narrative stories to back up their arguments. With a clear four-part structure, the book starts with an understanding of the fundamental models behind the phenomena of domestic violence then progresses to the limitations of interventions. This book may be useful for practitioners as it includes practice questions following each chapter.
Understanding Domestic Violence explores the multifaceted aspects of domestic violence (DV). This is one of my favorite aspects of the book—the complexity it discovers. After witnessing instances of domestic violence, myself, I ended up inscribing that temporary image so deeply in my heart that whenever I discuss domestic violence with others, I remember only this scene and generalize DV with just this one case. However, as the book expanded my knowledge, I realized there are different types of victims such as males, and that females can also be the perpetrators. Moreover, how we define aggression limits what can be counted as DV. Mentally ignoring an intimate partner thus causing distress, stalking a significant other due to deep love, coercively controlling the partner to prevent them from forming other social relationships—all these seemingly signs of love can be defined as forms of domestic violence, according to the book. This is an eye-opening concept that pulled an alarm in my mind. Many times, we might strive to stay positive and explain these minor details as “they might just have had a bad time” or “it’s just that he loves me too much.” We forgive once, then we do it twice, then the 50th time arrives until we find out the physical pain cannot be explained away any longer. However, it is just ignorance that allures victims into continuous affliction. The most shocking complexity of the issue to me is the fact that perpetrators might once have been victims. Some perpetrators feared abandonment from their loved ones because they were abandoned in their earlier lives; thus, they felt they had no choice but to exert control over their intimate partners in order to protect themselves from being abandoned again. We often stereotype perpetrators as violent and heartless; however, we forget the complexity of human emotions and experiences. Should we forgive or not? All these questions yield different answers once you consider all these complexities.
Besides the complexity, I admire the book for its professionalism. I remember going to feminism conferences: endless yet rigorous discussions on domestic violence were induced. However, looking back now, what we really did was just discuss our subjective feelings, experiences, or hatred towards this issue. We never really elaborated on the objective basics of domestic violence itself. We didn’t then, and still don’t have a comprehensive understanding about the definition; nor do we have specific models around the topic. This book provides readers with detailed models to help explain how domestic violence occurred, giving us deep understandings towards this issue. For example, the authors present the General Aggression Model, which is composed of five smaller sub theories. This is a structuralized model that connects the input and output of domestic aggressions, with inputs including personal and situational factors and output including the different types of violence (physical or psychological). This model may help predict the probability of occurrence of domestic violence. Therefore, by modeling domestic violence, readers are encouraged to treat this issue in a more organized fashion.
However, there’s one aspect of the book that I personally can’t resonate with. This book is inclusive in its way of talking about how different interventions might be deployed when the subjects are from different racial groups. In particular they discussed cases including Latinos, African Americans, and Arabs. However, there are few traces of advice regarding Asian populations. As a matter of fact, similar to the Latino situation, in which the wife is not able to escape from her husband due to immigration documentation logistics, many immigrated Asian families in America faced similar struggles yet few studies are conducted around them because of their lack of English skills or their tendencies to stay silent as their cultural norms habituated them to do so. But staying silent doesn’t mean Asians are not willing to speak up about domestic violence. There are approximately 18.2 million Asian Americans residing in America. Because of the stereotypes of Asian wives, many victims of domestic violence may lie in this population, yet few research studies are designed for this large group. I think this is inconsiderate and needs further improvements.
In conclusion, Understanding Domestic Violence is a valid, educational text to help readers understand the topics presented more professionally. It also offers a comprehensive way to reflect on the multifaceted reality of the issue. Though this book doesn’t include many studies involving Asians in America suffering from domestic violence, it is still a valuable source for people who wish to wash away the stereotypical image when we talk about domestic violence.
William G. Herron, PhD, ABPP taught in St. John’ University for over 35 years. Being the director of both the School of Psychology and Clinical Psychology Programs, he is experienced in clinical and theoretical l psychology. He has published 12 books.
Rafael Art. Javier, PhD, ABPP is a professor and the director of the Postdoctoral Certificate Programs in Forensic Psychology at St. John’ University, as well as the director of Inter-Agencies Training and Research Initiatives. His current research focuses on moral developments and violence, suicides in adolescents and young adults as well as bilingualism.
Yifan Zhang currently studies psychology at New York University as a sophomore. She interned as a clinical assistant in Zhang Shu Sheng Clinic of Neurology last summer. As a mentor for high school girls of color in NYC as well as a mentor for first-generation international students at NYU, she strives for equality and justice for all. She is passionate about music technology and social psychology, hoping to use music as a way to improve social relationships between people.
Javier, R & Herron, W. (2018). Understanding Domestic Violence: Theories, Challenges, and Remedies. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group. ISBN 9780765709530.
Available in hardcover and eBook.
Hardcover. 389 pages. Includes references and index.