Domesticviolence is a significant societal problem that has occupiedcriminology matters for a long time. Several approaches, largelybased on psychotherapy and criminology, are applied in addressingthis problem with varied results. From a criminology perspective, thefocus is placed on offenders with the shaming theory and the labelingtheory being used widely. However, these theories are not 100%effective as offenders may recede or engage in repeat offenses.Previous studies by Sartin, Hansen and Huss (2006) have shownrecidivism to be significantly high in domestic violence cases. Theirsystematic review notes that that patients who have experiencedomestic violence in the past visit physicians twice as often aspatients without a history of abuse. They add that over 86% ofdomestic violence cases were perpetrated by men (ibid). Again, of the22 studies reviewed, efficacy of treatment for the offenders was lowwith only a small effect on post-treatment recidivism (ibid). Giventhat a range of methods are used to punish and treat offenders, thereis need to refocus on recidivism and the strengths of currentapproaches (Sherman & Smith, 1992). For labeling and shaming,each of these theories has its strengths and weaknesses in preventingrecidivism.
Theshaming approach has been used in different societies to punish anddeter criminal behavior. Where shaming is used in managing domesticviolence, offenders are treated to a raft of processes that aresupposed punish them by being associated with such behavior with theintention of deterring others and preventing recidivism. Varioussocieties have developed various approaches to shame offenders. Insome communities, individuals are shamed in public while in others itis through a small group of people usually mediators. In the US, theapproach is based on imprisonment where individuals are removed fromsociety as a form of shaming them (Corvo & Johnson, 2003). Inmost traditional societies and modern communitarian societies such asJapan, individuals are shamed publicly through degradationceremonies. An additional ceremony is also held after they havereformed to welcome them back into the society. Therefore, theshaming theory best prevents recidivism in the communitariansocieties as societies function as unit. In modern individualizedsocieties such as the US, the approach may not work in deterring andfighting recidivism as people tend to strictly mind their ownaffairs. However, there have been several programs such as grouptherapies or forced training meant to shame and reform individualsand prevents recidivism.
Thework of Kivisto and colleagues (2011) highlight the weaknesses ofthis theory. They conducted a research involving 423 undergraduatemen from a large southeasternuniversity with 86.7% being of non-Hispanic White descentwith anaverageage of 19.70 years. The study which aimed at examiningthe role of shame and guilt in the association between antisocialityand partner violence perpetration showed that as the level of shameand guilt increased in a relationship, then the level of partnerviolence increased. This indicates that the shaming theory, whichthat posits that offenders are likely to be ashamed in engaging in anembarrassing behavior such as domestic violence as likely to shun itfuture and avoid recidivism, is flawed. The rate of recidivism ismost likely to increase when stigmatic shaming is used as opposed toreintegrative shaming as a form of punishment. The stigmatic shamingapproach in most cases breaks the offender’s social connection withsociety or the victims and thus recidivism or repeated battering islikely to be reported.
Corvoand Johnson (2003) also acknowledge that the shaming approach doeslittle to reintegrate batterers into society and fight recidivism.Once shamed, the offenders are left on their own to live in shame.The authors note that the vilification of batterers and dismissivecategorization adopted by societies all over the world may be veryuseful in deterring potential batterer who would be afraid of bearingsuch a tag. However, the authors note that this dismissive approachdoes little to rehabilitate offenders and make them develop remorseover their actions and thus avoid recidivism. Therefore, other thanpromoting recidivism, the approach suppresses further research intoalternative measures that would rehabilitate such individuals. It isalso possible un-rehabilitated offenders are likely to recede and hitback for being degraded in society (Kivisto, Kivisto, Moore &Rhatigan, 2011). The un-rehabilitated may also be given derogatory orembarrassing labels that encourage them towards recidivism.
Thelabeling theory, being closely similar to the shaming theory, hasalmost a similar impact. However, the labeling relies on the socialreaction to crime. Therefore, the effectiveness of the labelingoffender approach is very dependent on the nature of society and thelabels that are placed on offenders. In societies intolerant todomestic violence, a harsh label is placed on the action the behaviorand possibly the offenders. On the other hand, societies moretolerant to domestic violence are likely to totally ignore this crimeor even praise the crime. In the US for instance, only towards theend of the 20thcentury and after intensive lobbying was domestic violence recognizedas a legally punishable crime (Welch 1994). Previously, it was viewedas an acceptable way for a man to discipline a partner in an intimaterelationship. On the role in addressing recidivism on domesticviolence, Chricos, Barrick and Blaes’ (2007) assessment of twostudies on domestic violence showed that “that convictionsignificantly reduced the likelihood of recidivism, thus supporting adeterrent effect more than a labeling effect” (p. 555). Labelingthus does not address recidivism but instead promote it.
Onthe other hand, supporters of the labeling theory argue that theapproach has an ability to alter behavior and self concept asoffenders tend to avoid the harmful effects of being stigmatized witha negative label that may be applied as a result of repeatedbehaviors. Therefore, the labeling theory is largely interested inthe behavior of an individual as opposed to the person himself(Sartin, Hansen & Huss (2006). For domestic violence offenders,the probability of repeating the offence decreases out of fear ofbeing associated with a negative label. However, as earlier stated,the label is dependent on how a specific society perceives domesticviolence and the weight attached to it. In the US, conviction of adomestic violence charge equates to being labeled as “convictedfelon of domestic violence” besides the imprisonment punishment(Welch 1994). Therefore, where labeling and conviction are used inpreventing recidivism, it is hard to assess the level of recidivismattributable to shaming.
Onits own, labeling has been accused of promoting recidivism in somecases. Several studies have identified that not all offenders arefear stigmatization from a negative label. In some societies,delinquency and criminal behavior such as domestic violence might beassociated with a certain type of lifestyle. For most individuals whohave a history of criminal behaviors other than domestic violence,there s a higher likelihood to engage in domestic violence as aresult of self-fulfilling effects which also tend to encouragerepetition (Bernbuag, 2006). Additionally in the case of subjectivelabeling where the labels are applied not by the criminal justicesystem of community in general but significant others in people’slives such as intimate partners, parents and family, there is ahigher likelihood to engage in self-fulfilling behavior. This meansthat for individuals already labeled as domestic violence offendersthere is a higher likelihood of recidivism in order to life up totheir labels.
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