A Multi-Sided Approach to Partner Violence
For many academics, their research leads them to volunteer. For Monica Solinas-Saunders, associate professor of public affairs, it was just the opposite. A volunteer position led her to a new area of study.
While living in Tippecanoe County, she dedicated her time to a local domestic violence shelter. There, she spoke with many women who had served jail time as a result of dual arrest policies in cases of domestic violence. Solinas-Saunders also spent time working for a program that offered classes to offenders.
“That’s when I started putting the pieces of the puzzle together,” she said.
At first glance, the issue of intimate partner violence seems straightforward—to get justice for the victim. However, Solinas-Saunders’ research suggests that society’s response to domestic violence needs to go much deeper than that.
“We need to show support to victims,” she said. “But two sides of the coin need to be investigated. We also need to know who the perpetrators are, what triggers violence, and whether we can create protocols of treatment to prevent future escalating situations.”
What kind of “treatment protocols” should be in place to rehabilitate offenders? This question is central to Solinas-Saunders’ research. She argues that our current system takes a one-size-fits-all approach, when we should be looking at gendered differences.
“Men and women are different in terms of the way they manifest their aggression, and we need to stop using programs that are identical for both men and women,” she said. “We need to investigate the underlying causes of aggressive behavior among women, compared to the underlying problems that trigger men's aggression”
Solinas-Saunders also points out a major gap in the existing research surrounding intimate partner violence and sexual minorities. She seeks to learn more about how different genders, sexual orientations, races, and ethnicities experience domestic violence.
But no matter the gender or race, one thing remains abundantly clear—that intimate partner violence is the root cause of many other crimes. “If we’re able to eliminate domestic violence, there will be very little street crime,” Solinas-Saunders said.
After all, many perpetrators are motivated by trauma they experienced growing up, often as a result of exposure to violence within the family. And this is a pervasive problem in many communities, as well as our own.
Solinas-Saunders’ expertise in intimate partner violence allows her to make an impact on Northwest Indiana. “[I have] the opportunity to recommend changes to current policies and treatment protocols,” she said. “I truly hope one day it will contribute to making a difference in our communities.”
Clearly, Solinas-Saunders is well-positioned to make waves. But what actions can we take to quell intimate partner violence? According to Solinas-Saunders, the key is a growing interest in research and dedication to more appropriate rehabilitation programs.
While in-person research isn’t possible due to the pandemic, Solinas-Saunders hopes that students can show passion for the subject in other ways.
“There is a huge demand for people who have an interest in interpersonal violence, intimate partner violence, and family violence. There are many jobs for people who have the compassion,” she said.
And there’s plenty to do for those who want to embark on their own research. The literature on intimate partner violence has many gaps, presenting new areas of inquiry.
“Researchers have an unquenchable thirst for finding out issues,” Solinas-Saunders said. “We add a piece to the puzzle, but we also create a new question.”
Intimate partner violence is a pervasive issue, and it’s significantly underreported. With so many people feeling the effects of violence, it’s always useful to discover more questions worth answering.
Untangling the Web
Tuesday, October 05, 2021