The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Just as victims of domestic violence require post-trauma counseling to heal, experts say psychotherapists need to also reach out to perpetrators to reduce the number of cases.
"Most perpetrators of domestic violence need counseling to help them deal with the impulse to commit violent acts," psychiatrist Surjo Dharmono told a media gathering on Saturday.
"However, one of the biggest challenges in dealing with domestic violence is getting the perpetrators to voluntarily acknowledge their problems and attend therapy sessions."
He said steps such as assisting victims in reporting abuse, providing counseling and advocating legal actions were not sufficient to suppress acts of violence within the home.
"How can we guarantee domestic abusers will not resume their evil ways after serving prison terms without undergoing therapy to rectify their abnormal behavior?" Surjo asked.
He called for legal measures enabling domestic abusers to receive psychiatric help to break the cycle of violence.
"As soon as the judge passes a ruling, there should be an immediate follow-up with respect to counseling," Surjo said.
"This is to ensure that both victims and perpetrators are fully rehabilitated -- not just the victims."
The 2004 law on domestic violence allows judges to pass additional sentences, including a restriction order and an order requiring convicted abusers to undergo counseling under the supervision of accredited bodies.
The provisions, however, have never been exercised in rulings on domestic violence to date.
Rita Kolibonso of Mitra Perempuan (MP), a NGO dedicated to women's issues, told the gathering the impediment to fully enacting the Domestic Violence Law was negligence and ignorance on behalf of the judges.
"Many judges are staunchly conservative when it comes to passing rulings; they basically fail to explore the many legal ruling options now at their disposal," she said.
"The judges can call for experts like psychiatrists to stand witness in a trial to facilitate a ruling oriented at rectifying the behavior of perpetrators, instead of merely punishing them for their crime."
MP reported Saturday that 283 women and children in Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi had contacted the NGO for counseling and legal assistance this year.
It said the number of reports of abuse had slightly decreased from 455 in 2005 to 323 last year.
Purnianti, a criminologist, said social control should be used to prevent violence within the household.
"Negative social control, in which violence orchestrated against women is frowned upon, is a way to discourage potential perpetrators from acting on violent impulses." (amr)