Chilling New Study Identifies Domestic Violence “Trigger” Through Jailhouse Phone Calls
12:45 pm, August 1st | by Amy Tennery
In the horrific aftermath of a domestic assault, it’s difficult to figure out what went wrong. Why do domestic assaults happen? What leads to incidents of intimate partner violence? How do you explain an inexplicable, unthinkable act?
It may seem impossible. But a new study may provide some answers — and give researchers an in-depth look at what triggers domestic assault.
The report, co-authored by Ohio Sate doctoral student Julianna Nemeth and Ohio State Associate Professor Amy Bonomi, studied jailhouse phone calls between 17 different heterosexual couples in Washington state. In each case, “the male was in detention in a facility… for felony-level intimate partner violence,” according to a statement provided to The Jane Dough. “The victims had sustained seriously injuries during the attacks, including severe head trauma requiring hospitalization, bite wounds, strangulation and lost pregnancy.”
Amazingly, these phone calls contained moments of brutal honesty, in which the attacker and the victim discussed the circumstances leading to the attack, researchers say. Behind each of these conversations were underlying themes that may trigger domestic violence:
The findings showed that violence often immediately followed accusations of sexual infidelity made by one or both of the partners. Drug or alcohol use was often involved.
Researchers have long known that sexual jealousy played a general role in abuse, but this is the first time it was shown that it was a specific form of jealousy — infidelity concerns — that tended to initiate the violence.
Of course, this doesn’t tell us what “causes” domestic violence, per se. Many couples endure jealousy, infidelity and all manner of distrust — without resorting to violence. But what’s remarkable is the study’s pinpoint identification of what co-author Nemeth calls “the catalyst.”
“I have worked in domestic violence intervention for many years, but still the findings shocked me,” Nemeth said in a written statement. “We never knew that it was the accusation of infidelity that tended to trigger violence.”
But while police, victims’ rights advocates and journalists have recorded domestic violence victims’ stories countless times, Nemeth and Bonomi have collected what they believe is unfiltered retellings of these assaults. And the results are chilling. From the Ohio State release on the study:
The violence at times centered on “reproductive coercion” — men who wanted to control when and if their partner became pregnant… In about half of the couples in which they had clearly internalized traditional gender roles, religion was used as a justification. In one case, the male abuser told his victim that his attack was about “cleansing your soul.”
Incredibly, couples in these phone conversations were informed their calls were recorded, as part of the detention facility’s regular policy of recording calls.
Image of hands behind bars via Shutterstock.