Research on domestic violence - Why do we do it?

Why should one research domestic violence? While the answer truly is self-evident, I still receive looks of wonder when I state that domestic violence is one of my research interests. Needless to say, these looks usually come from male academic colleges, who either are quick to assess that such research topic is somewhat troublesome for gaining a high number of quotes, building up your h-indexes and such. Victims and perpetrators of domestic violence are marked as "ungrateful sample" for quantitative analysis approaches, which in these times are seen as a form of true science. At least in criminal justice discipline (Richard, 2009) Domestic violence dynamics are far more too complex to be easily coded and interpreted by quantitative software in a sig < p (=0.05) manner. I am not critical of quantitative methods, but of an idea about current mainstream science, that is putting such approaches on a form of a pedestal. It is not the method to be blamed, it is we as a scientific community that should be cautious. I personally strongly believe that using mix methods is a way to go. Both qualitative and quantitative methods should be used, especially – and here, I agree with Kraska and Neuman (2008) – in criminal justice. Secondly, there is this old school mentality that domestic violence is not such a big deal, worryingly present in academia as well. However, when national statistics clearly indicate that by frequency incidents of domestic violence is among top ten forms of general crime (Policija, 2020) and that close to half of murders and manslaughters in certain years are in a way connected to domestic violence, there is great evidence that this is a big deal.

Those of us, who enter criminal justice curriculums are usually driven by some notion of a drive to "fix things", to do good, and when I begin my studies at the Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security I had a strong vision of what I wanted to do. It was movies like chasing bad guys, making a difference with "putting them away" and getting rid of crime. And I thought that a diploma from a faculty would help me do that. Little did I know, that studying into criminology and deviance will also fuel me with bits of pessimism, as one of the first things that I learned is that I will not be able to help get rid of crime, I will only help in managing it. As elsewhere managing certain forms of problematic behaviour and crime is done better than others, worryingly, tackling problems of domestic violence in Slovenian settings happens to be on the less efficient side. The system to tackle it and certain other forms of deviant behaviour just is not properly set. Through my studies and working with my professors, I discovered that research is something that I like to do, that reading countless books and papers, to develop methods, that dissects the problematic behaviours and creating solutions to address them is something that I want to do. While police officers, health personnel, social services are on the frontlines, my role is to help them with fixing the problematic prementioned system.

To be a go-between them, the frontlines, and countless know-how that is being dally added to numerous publishing houses web depositories. They, the frontlines seldom have the time and energy to go read these papers, after a long day in the "field". They, however, have a lot of ideas or knowledge that is useful to other frontlines around the globe. But as they seldom have the time to read the papers, they usually have even less time to write them, and here my role as a researcher comes in. I can be the one that is the messenger of those thoughts. To take a scientific method and probe their knowledge and either send it into the world by publishing or by designing solutions that policymakers can use. That bosses of police officers, healthcare workers, social workers and others can use. Whether this is actually done, well that is a discussion far beyond this post. But we must try. Some policymakers listen or act on their own accord and create a step forward, for instance, when the Istanbul Convention was drafted. Some others make steps back and begin to make room for the return of pain and suffering, by resigning from the premediated convention or making conservative political decisions because they have the power and can put their views above the rights (and desires) of those without such power. And whose life, in the end, will be affected or even ruined. In some way, there is this Atwoodian notion that we are living with the technology of the future, with conservative views of the past. Science is a safety officer; it can predict what will happen if something is not done correctly. It safeguards the know-how to tackle the problems, and in many cases, it is the only one that has a chance to take a step back and assess the situation from neutral ground, to take that time. A frontline responder does not have such luxury, (s)he must react and act promptly. However, it is to the science that gives these frontline responders the tools so they can act properly.

To return to the title question, why do I do it, why I must research the behaviour of domestic violence. The answer is truly fairly simple, because we must ... and we can.

Kraska, P. B., & Neuman, W. L. (2008). Criminal justice and criminology research methods (1st edition). Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
Policija. (2020). Letno poročilo o delu policije za delo 2019.
Richard, T. (2009). Qualitative versus Quantitative Methods: Understanding Why Qualitative Methods are Superior for Criminology and Criminal Justice. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Criminology, 1(1), 38–58.

The views and statements are of the author of the blog post and do not necessarily represent the views of the institutions in which the author of the blog post is employed or works for.

2021-02-03 by Boštjan Slak