Domestic violence

Domestic violence is a complex issue, which affects the whole of society. Thirty years ago, there was an incredible silence across most criminal justice and social welfare agencies. Today the issue of domestic violence has become more prominent within the public arena. Public interest in the issue has grown significantly, as indicated by its increasing presence within the media and in soap operas such as east Enders.This essay attempts to offer an evaluation of the explanations of violence against women. It explains how the issue of violence, particularly within the family was brought to the public’s attention, and how women are no longer willing to accept the subordinate roles such a patriarchal society offers. This essay looks at the process of change and the innovations to change because of the activity of organisations such as women’s aid.Domestic violence according to the women’s aid federation is defined as,”Physical, emotional, sexual and other abuse by someone (usually, but not always a man) of a person (usually but not always a woman) with whom they have had or have some form of intimate relationship, such as marriage, in order to maintain power and control over that person. It may include threats to kill or harm the woman and/or her children or other family members.”www.womensaid.org.uk/stats/statwhat.htmDomestic violence is an issue that until the 1970’s lay outside the public domain. It was regarded as a private matter that was no-one else’s business. Even the law in the 18th century agreed that it was ok for a man to beat his man with a stick so long as the stick that he used was no thicker than his thumb. During the 18th and 19th centuries, men had almost all rights over all his family members. Wives did not share equality with their husbands, and it was quite acceptable for men of this time to control their wives by force and violence. Women were seen in terms of a dichotomy of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ in relation to domestic violence.Women whose behaviour was seen as uncontrollable because they had had an affair, did not keep a good home or got drunk were seen as deserving of the violence they suffered. Many believe that if women were caring, nurturing and sensitive to the needs of their men then violence would not occur. Dallos ; McLaughlin (1994) argued that this ideology was all well and good, for the middle classes however working class women were often faced with poverty, squalor and drunkenness from their husbands, which under circumstances made it impossible to keep the good home, this often resulted in violence from the husband, blaming women for such situations. It appears that no matter what behaviour women displayed, violence did not matter because the women was to blame anyway. Even the law of this time gave no protection for women who had been attacked.Women of this time were not equal to men nor were they suppose to be, society kept women in subordinate roles to men which endorsed men to believe that it was their right to control women by whatever means. The only way women could gain some sort of equality was to be in control and civilised within the family. As times changed society took on a new discourse Dominelli (1990) argues that feminist activity started to redefine social problems such as domestic violence form the personal problem between men and women to the social matter involving all men and women because such behaviour has been legitimised by the subordinate position women hold within society. As times changed so to have views but not enough, and society took on a new discourse where men and women were suppose to be equal but different because women were best suited to the home. All this did was disguise the fact that men and women are different but unequal in a patriarchal society. Dominelli (1990) describes an example of this”In December 1989, a man walked into a university in Montreal and committed femmicide. Fourteen women who were engineering students were gunned down by the man, he claimed to hate feminists, because these women had dared to enter a mans world of waged work. He was making the point that womens place was not at work in the community but at home ministering the needs of men”Dominelli, L, (1990) pg. 40In contemporary society, views of society have changed, for both men and women. We no longer believe that men should dominate their wives or use violence as a means of control. However, though views have changed, many men still believe that they are superior to women because of the patriarchal view that still prevails within society today. Some men still believe that they can control women by means of violence.Dallos ;McLaughlin (1994) argue that the privacy that surrounds domestic violence may do so to cover up the abuse that exits within a family and unfortunately, this is a culturally shared belief still. Women in today’s society still do not have the same power as men have and even if they did, in regards to domestic violence physical differences in terms of size and strength would give women a disadvantage. This is not to say that women don’t fight back because the majority do, it is just if you put a man and women in a boxing ring the man will almost always win, it is the biological differences that women don’t have that give men this advantage.Definitions of domestic violence have changed over the years and what one person would regard as being domestic violence another would not. Domestic violence may include a wide range of abusive behaviours not all of which are of a violent nature. Women’s aid argues that violence can mean many things some being threats, intimidation, manipulation, isolation, being kept without money, locked up and deprived of food or using children as a threat in order to gain compliance, it can also include systematic criticism and belittling comments. Domestic violence destroys many areas of a victim’s life including the freedom to live their life without fear. It is controlling behaviour that wrecks thousands of lives every year. So, is enough really being done to end the cycle of abuse?Groups such as women’s aid believe not. Although progress has been made, it is still not enough. Before the 60’s and 70’s, there was very little help for women who had been abused. Now because of feminist activity such as women’s aid, help exists throughout the world in the form of self- help groups, telephone care lines, refuges etc. the emergence of this activity came about quite by accident. It started with a group of 500 women and children and a cow protesting about the end of free school milk, although the protest was not a direct success it did bring solidarity among women.This spurred women to meet on a regular basis within local communities. It was at some meetings that women began to talk to one another about the brutality many suffered at the hands of their partners. It was because of this that the first woman’s refuge was opened in Chiswick and where violence against women became publicly defined as a problem, where inspiration for change started to become the publics concern instead of leaving it within the private sphere of the home. Dobash ; Dobash (1992)We can never be certain what causes some men to be violent and others not. Dobash and Dobash (1992) argue that domestic violence seems to be rooted in a mans obsession to obtain control over women, using force if necessary. Women do not choose a violent partner or violence. Quite often violence does not begin until the relationship is well established, often the first pregnancy. The governments report on an enquiry into maternal deaths showed that 30% of domestic violence cases occurred when the woman was pregnant the report believed that this was because women were at their most vulnerable in relation to the man. www.bbc.co.uk

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