Violence against women is a major social concern that encompasses health and human rights interests (Martin, 2005). Women may experience physical, mental and other types of abuse (Schechter, 2005) even throughout their lifecycle – in infancy, childhood and/or adolescence or during adulthood or older age – whether or not they are married, merely cohabitating with a partner or just in an intimate relationship.
While violence has severe health consequences for the affected woman (Schechter, 2005), it is also a social problem (Martin, 2005) that warrants an immediate and coordinated response from multiple sectors in society (Walker, 2005). Martin (2005), states that descriptions or enactments of violent acts intrude into the American home many times each day by way of news papers and televisions. But the Federal Communications Commission says that it has no jurisdiction over other content in family primetime programming save for the regulation of sexual content (Martin, 2005).
It is noted that as long as portrayals of violence remain popular on television and other such media, such programs will continue to be patronized. And as rape incidences increase, women are often advised to stay at home where they won’t get hurt (Martin, 2005). But Martin (2005) stresses that women are less safe in the confines of the home due to incidences of domestic violence and wife battering. Violence has been defined as any physical attack by one person upon another; it is a violent act and an instance of illegal aggression even if no visible injury results (Martin 2005).
Reliable data on violence occurring within homes are inadequate (Martin, 2005) primarily because it is seen as a phenomenon that is largely restricted to the private sphere. Hence, reporting gender violence, particularly domestic violence or domestic disturbance as it is referred to in other states – has historically been a taboo issue. Though reports of incidences concerning domestic violence and wife batterings have been received, they are most often ignored (Martin, 2005). People are, however, aware that it is happening in society.
Despite this knowledge, most people are unaware of the real magnitude of violence in homes or among married or cohabitating partners and their family (Martin, 2005; UNDP, n. d. ). Moreover, people are also unacquainted with the causes and consequences on why such violence happens in the home. Martin (2005) observed that though individuals in society are generally aware and can witness instances of violence among couples, many choose to keep their distance instead, believing that the dispute between a woman and her partner – whether in or out of the home, is the couple’s personal business (Martin, 2005).
According to Martin (2005), the shared home is the key element in violent homes and not the marriage. It is supposed that some men feel that they have the right to exercise power over the women they live with whether or not they are legally married to them (Martin, 2005). Dobash and Dobash (2005) explains why such exercise of power are utilized by men. They said that prior to the 19th century, it was considered a necessary aspect of a husband’s marital obligation to control and chastise his wife – through the use of physical force.
Although the legal prescriptions which once supported this practice no longer exists, such acts or behaviors continue, forceful and as intense as before (Dobash & Dobash, 2005). Dobash and Dobash (2005) add further that these behaviors which were once legally condoned are now forbidden by law, unfortunately, cultural and normative prescriptions still support such practice and it is only mildly condemned, if at all by law enforcement and judicial institutions.
Martin (2005) writes, violence not only occurs in the family and in the general community, but is sometimes also condoned or perpetuated by the state through policies or the actions of agents of the state such as the police, military or immigration authorities, the majority of whom are men. The fact that domestic violence against women has long been considered a “private” affair has contributed to the serious gap in public policy-making and the lack of appropriate programs in health and other sectors.
Dobash and Dobash (2005) noted that in contrast to other views that wife beating is deviant behavior, it in fact is not. Rather, “it is a form of behavior which has existed for centuries as an acceptable, and indeed, a desirable part of a patriarchal family system within a patriarchal society, and much of the ideology and many of the institutional arrangements which supported the patriarchy through the subordination, domination, and control of women are still reflected in our culture and our social institutions” (Dobash & Dobash, 2005).
Reputedly, the first law of marriage was proclaimed by the Roman Romulus, and it proclaimed that married women were “to conform themselves entirely to the temper of their husbands, and the husbands to rule over their wives as a necessary and inseparable possessions,” thus the notion still held by many that by marriage, a woman would fall under the control of her husband. During these times, the man was the absolute patriarch who owned and controlled all properties and people within the family.
The induction and imposition of the church brought about these decrees. Women had no formal positions outside the home; she could not acquire property, and administer it. They had to be dependent on the men for their survival for men were given effective control of land (Dobash & Dobash, 2005). “Some changes took place in the family, however, during the later stages of the Roman Empire.
The Punic wars meant that men were absent for long periods and during that time, women had taken on more responsibility, gained more independence, and some of them inherited property, were educated, and engaged in traditional male pursuits such as politics and philosophy. The severe sexual code was modified and relative to the earlier period, women were greatly emancipated. Although a man could still beat his wife, greater limits and restrictions were placed upon him and it was made illegal to beat a woman of the upper class.
” (Dobash & Dobash, 2005) This proposition indicates that the church is the cause for the existing inequality between genders and is also the reason why violence exists in the home. It is further asserted by Dobash and Dobash (2005), that Christianity embraced the hierarchical family structure that maintains the authority and power of the patriarch. And that the scriptures support such hierarchy in Peter 3:1; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 3:12; and 1 Corinthians 14:34 (Dobash & Dobash, 2005).
Men were to control their wives because “the man who is not the master of his wife is not worthy to be a man” (Dobash & Dobash, 2005; Schechter, 2005). Such ideology is responsible for the mentality of many men involved in wife abuse and battering. Physical violence against wives provoke little expression of moral or social disapproval unless the “injury” is extremely severe, and only if the attack was public and went beyond the tacit limits set by the community would the husband be subject to moral sanctions (Dobash & Dobash, 2005).
Hence the observation of Martin (2005) is supported by this study that the male authority is till revered and protected by social institutions and reinforced through the socialization of children. Violence in homes is therefore still seen to continue due to these actions for violence is issued to men so they may chastise their wives in order to maintain hierarchical and moral order within the family (Dobash & Dobash, 2005). The types of aggression and hostility inflicted upon women are numerous.
Most studies on violence against women indicate that the perpetrators of violence against women are almost exclusively men. Moreover, women are at greatest risk of violence from men they know. Walker (2005) asserts that it is the theory of learned helplessness that causes women to be battered because they perceive they are in a helpless situation and allow battery to happen. In the theory of learned helplessness, women are convinced that they cannot do anything to help themselves; hence they stay in the abusive relationship and allow the abuse to happen over and over again.
Women are the most frequent victims of violence within the family, and between intimate partners, physical abuse in intimate relationships is almost always accompanied by severe psychological and verbal abuse. Unfortunately, social institutions put in place to protect citizens too often blame or ignore battered women for their dilemma (Schechter, 2005). To help the women, feminists, community activists, and former battered women worked together to provide emotional support, refuge, and give battered women a new definition of the problem they were facing.
Activists and women’s groups in support of battered women proposed state legislation that would champion and protect the rights of women. Schechter (2005) relates that changing social attitudes – social transformation, and generating concrete assistance through educational efforts is a primary strategy towards eliminating domestic violence. Changing the mindsets of women about themselves is also the key to eliminating violence against women (Walker, 2005). The following steps are also suggested by Walker (2005).
First is to convince the woman to leave the battering relationship or persuade the batterer to leave; secondly, battered women need to be taught to understand what success is once they leave the relationship. This is important so as to raise their motivation and aspiration levels, to be able to initiate new and more effective responses so they can learn to control their own lives – and not to be controlled by others. Self-esteem and feelings of competence are extremely important devices for the battered woman to use so as to protect herself from feelings of helplessness and depression.
Furthermore, women must believe that their behavior will affect what happens to them (Walker, 2005). But as a result of growing gender awareness, more people – particularly women – have begun to recognize, as well as become increasingly willing to recognize and report cases of violence against them (Schechter, 2005). As more statistics on gender violence become available, it is noted that an increasingly negative picture emerges, attesting to the prevalence and intensity of wife battery and abuse, and of gender violence and inequality in general (UNDP, n.
d. ). There are no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic predictors of abuse, all women are at risk of being abused. According to estimates, an overwhelming 50 percent of all women will experience physical violence in an intimate relationship. And men are not the only ones who can initiate such violence. Martin (2005) and the rest of the resources allege that the primary inequality that gives rise to gender-based violence is the power inequality between women and men. However, women, too can be as violent.
Martin (2005) attributes the relationship between domestic disturbance figures and wife-battering to two factors. One, that many households are composed of conventional heterosexual marriages or relationships, and that, two, in most such relationships, the woman is physically weaker than the man. In an experiment documenting same sex relationships, particularly woman to woman, Hart (2005) noted that it is the power struggle that exists in a relationship, and that is what which causes battering to happen.
In a study about lesbian battering, Hart (2005) documents that there is a pattern of violent and coercive behavior whereby a lesbian “seeks to control the thoughts, beliefs, or conduct of her intimate partner or to punish the intimate partner for resisting the perpetrator’s control over her. ” Therefore, such studies oppose such theories by social scientists that male dominance alone leads to battering. BIBLIOGRAPHY Martin, D. (2005). “Battered Wives”. Violence against Women: Classic Papers.
Raquel Kennedy Bergen, Jeffrey L. Edleson, and Claire M. Renzetti (Eds. ). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. Dobash, R. E & Dobash, R. P. (2005). “Wives: The Appropriate Victims of Marital Violence”. Violence against Women: Classic Papers. Raquel Kennedy Bergen, Jeffrey L. Edleson, and Claire M. Renzetti (Eds. ). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. Straus, M. A. (2005). “Measuring Intrafamily Conflict and Violence: The Conflict Tactics (CT) Scales”. Violence against Women: Classic Papers.
Raquel Kennedy Bergen, Jeffrey L. Edleson, and Claire M. Renzetti (Eds. ). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. Schechter, S. (2005). “Women and Male Violence: The Visions and Struggles of the Battered Women’s Movement”. Violence against Women: Classic Papers. Raquel Kennedy Bergen, Jeffrey L. Edleson, and Claire M. Renzetti (Eds. ). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. Walker, L. E. (2005). “The Battered Woman”. Violence against Women: Classic Papers. Raquel Kennedy Bergen, Jeffrey L. Edleson, and Claire M. Renzetti (Eds. ).
Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. Browne, A. (2005). “When Battered Women Kill”. Violence against Women: Classic Papers. Raquel Kennedy Bergen, Jeffrey L. Edleson, and Claire M. Renzetti (Eds. ). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. Hart, B. (2005). “Lesbian Battering: An Examination”. Violence against Women: Classic Papers. Raquel Kennedy Bergen, Jeffrey L. Edleson, and Claire M. Renzetti (Eds. ). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.