Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence as it is sometimes called, is a global problem.The study aims to examine domestic violence that takes place within the walled Indian families and particularly against women.
Domestic violence is a need of control, it includes all kinds of physical, sexual and emotive mistreatment within all kinds of close human relationship. The offenders of domestic violence or abuse are commonly men and the victims or unfortunates are usually women .Violence against women looks like a worldwide epidemic that affects the victim physically, psychologically, sexually and economically. There is uneven power relations in men and women which has led to social control against women by men.The realness of women’s lives remains unseeable to men and women alike and this invisibility prevails at all levels opening with the family to the nation. Although geographically men and women share the same space, they live in different universes. The mere fact that ‘Women hold up half the sky’- does not appear to give them a place of self-respect and equality . Domestic Violence in India is endemic. National Crime Bureau reveals that a crime against a women is committed every 3 minutes, a woman is raped every 29 minutes, a dowry death occurs every 77 minutes, and one case of ill-treatment bound up by either the husband or the relative of the husband occurs every nine minutes. This all happens disregarding the fact that women in India are lawfully protected from domestic abuse under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.World Health Organization (WHO) has defined domestic violence as “the range of sexually, psychologically and physically coercive acts used against adult and adolescent women by current or former male intimate partners”.
The most ordinary causes for women hunting and battering include discontentment with the dowry and exploiting women for more of it, disputation with the spouse, refusing to have sex with him, neglecting children, going out of home without letting the partner know, not cooking decently or on time according to the needs, humoring in extra marital affairs, not looking after in-laws etc. In some proceedings infertility in females also leads to their assault by the family members. The desire for dowry, want for a male child and alcoholism of the partner are prima causes of domestic violence against women in rural regions. There have been ghastly reports of young bride being burnt alive or subjected to day-and-night harassment for not bringing home the amount of needed dowry. Physical abuse such as slapping, beating, arm twisting, stabbing, strangling, burning, choking, kicking, threats with an object or weapon, and murder. Women in India also admit to striking or beating because of their hunch about the husband’s sexual engagement with other women.
The World Health Organization reports that the magnitude of women who had ever experienced physical or sexual violence or both by an intimate partner ranged from 15% to 71%, with the majority between 29% and 62%.2 India’s National Family Health Survey-III,3 carried out in 29 states during 2005-06, has found that a significant quotient of married women have been physically or sexually abused by their husbands at some time in their lives. The survey bespoke that, nationwide, 37.2% of women ‘experienced violence’ after marriage.
In India, more than 55 percent of the women suffer from domestic violence, especially in the states of Bihar, U.P., M.P. and other northern states. Bihar was found to be the most violent, with the abuse rate against married women being as high as 59% Strangely, 63% of these incidents were reported from urban families rather than the state’s most backward villages. It was followed by Madhya Pradesh (45.8%), Rajasthan (46.3%), Manipur (43.9%), Uttar Pradesh (42.4%), Tamil Nadu (41.9%) and West Bengal (40.3%). Violence is present in every country regardless of culture, class, education, income, ethnicity and age. There is no worldwide accepted definition of violence against women. The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993)defines violence against women as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.’ Domestic violence is one of the crimes against women which are linked to their inexpedient position in the society. Domestic violence refers to violence against women especially in marital homes. Violence against women is partly a result of gender relations that expects men to be superior to women. Therefore domestic violence is recognized as the epochal obstructor of the empowerment of women, with consequences of women’s health, their health health-seeking behaviour and their adoption of small family .The government and voluntary organizations are making efforts towards ending aggression against women which will be hopeless if a common man is not supportive. In urban areas there are many more causes which lead to differences in the beginning and later take the shape of domestic violence. These include ‘ more income of a working woman than her partner, her absence in the house till late night, abusing and neglecting in-laws, being more forward socially etc.
Violence against young widows has also been on a rise in India. Most often they are cursed for their husband’s death and are deprived of proper food and clothing. They are not allowed or encouraged for remarriage in most of the homes, especially in rural areas. There have been cases of molestation and rape attempts of women by other family members in nuclear families or someone in the neighbourhood. At times, women are even sexually pressured by their partner themselves against their will. They are savagely beaten and tortured for not conceiving a male child. Incidents like, ripping off a woman’s womb for killing the female foetus when she disagrees for abortion have also come to light especially in rural areas. Female foeticide and female infanticide continue to be a rising concern.
Violence against women is a hindrance towards equality, development and peace. Violence against women violates and underestimates or prevents her benefit of human rights and fundamental liberties. The habitual inability to protect and promote these rights and liberties in the cases of violence against women is a trouble in which all nations are involved and which petitions that measures must be taken. Since the Conference of Nairobi, the knowledge of the causes, consequences and reach of this violence has been considerably widened, as well as the measures to bring it to an end. In every society, to greater or minor extent, women and girls are open to maltreatment in physical, sexual or psychological aspects, with no distinction being made with regards to their income, social class, or education. Belonging to lower classes and facing economic troubles may be a cause as equally as a consequence of the violent attacks women suffer. Additionally there are many more factors which lead to deviations in the beginning and later take the shape of domestic violence.
Domestic violence has a powerful impact on women with disabilities, not only physically, but both mentally and emotionally. Symptoms may include: depression, post traumatic stress disorder, self-destructive behavior or self mutilation and low self image. If community workers and service providers become adequately disciplined on the issue of domestic violence and disability, they will be better able to empower disabled victims of domestic violence to take control of their lives and break the cycle of power and control. ‘Gender inequality holds back the growth of individuals, the development of nations and the evolution of societies to the disadvantage of both men and women’. Gender issues are not simply talking about women’s issues. Understanding gender means understanding opportunities, constraints and the impact of change as they affect both men and women. History of domestic violence dates back to the pre-historic period. Traditionally the women were viewed as property. Domestic violence against women is the most common of all forms of domestic violence. One of the most important reasons for this is the traditional and centuries old mind set of the people that fairer sex is physically and emotionally weaker than the men (Penelope Harvey & Peter Gow 1994).
The Tandoor Murder Case of Naina Sahni in New Delhi in the year 1995 is one such dreadful incident of a woman being killed and then burnt in a Tandoor by her husband. This incidence was an outcome of suspicion of extra marital affairs of Naina Sahni which led to marital discord and domestic violence against her.
Indian theater personality and feminist Tripurari Sharma was shocked to learn that a well-educated and respected actor in her theater group was abusing his wife, also an established actress.
“He was the most helpful, cordial and endearing man,” she said. “His wife would attend rehearsals with bruises at times that she would cover up. Later, found out she was being beaten. If the actress herself had not told me, I would have never believed it. So, I think it is a myth to think that the high education and economic status will lessen the risk of violence against women.”
Domestic violence, as defined for includes violence perpetrated by intimate partners and other family members, and manifested through:
1. Physical violence
Physical injury is the most visual form of domestic violence. The scope of physical domestic/intimate partner violence includes slapping, pushing, kicking, biting, hitting, throwing objects, strangling, beating, threatening with any form of weapon, or using a weapon. It also includes traditional practices harmful to women such as female genital mutilation and wife inheritance (the practice of passing a widow, and her property, to her dead husband’s brother). Worldwide, the percentage of women who suffer serious injuries as a result of physical domestic violence tends to range from 19% – 55% Physical injuries as a result of domestic violence against women are more obvious than psychological ones, and can be more easily discerned by health professionals as well as courts of law in the context of lawful prosecution.
2. Emotional abuse
Psychological abuse can gnaw a woman’s sense of self-worth and can be unbelievably noxious to whole mental and physical wellbeing. Emotional/psychological abuse can include torment; threats; verbal abuse such as name-calling, degradation and blaming; stalking; and isolation.
Women who experience domestic violence overpoweringly tend to have greater overall emotional distress, as well as disturbingly high happenings of suicidal thoughts and attempts. Psychological abuse which includes behaviour that is intended to frighten and persecute, and takes the form of threats of abandonment or abuse, confinement to the home, surveillance, threats to take away custody of the children, destruction of objects, isolation, verbal aggression and constant humiliation. According to a study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, suicide attempts in India are correlated with physical and psychological intimate partner violence.
Sexual assault is another ordinary form of domestic violence in India. Sexual violence can include a range of forceful and non-forceful acts including unwanted kissing, touching, or fondling; sexual/reproductive ;rape and marital rape. Menacing a person or using force to receive engagement in sex, against her/his will, even if she/he is spouse, is an act of aggressiveness and violence.Abusive sexual behaviors were also found to be correlated with an raised rate of unplanned pregnancies. Sexual abuse such as coerced sex through threats, intimidation or physical force, forcing unwanted sexual acts or forcing sex with others.
The sexual abuse can be of following two types’ 1. Compelling a person by physical force to pursue in an activity of sex against one’s will; 2. When the perpetrator of a sexual abuse engages or tries to engage in a sexual act, by force, a person who is not in a position to make out the nature of the act, or is unable to express his/her unwillingness to participate in the sexual act for reasons such as immaturity, sickness, disability, drunkenness or the undue influence of the perpetrator.
It is an approach of gaining control by one of the members over the other by way of creating terror. It is one of the most ordinary sorts of couple fierceness having possibility of intensifying over time and involving physical injuries.
5. Marital rape
When one of the spouses engages the other in a sexual activity without the permission of that other spouse it is the case of a marital rape. It is a sexual act by one of the spouses on the other, without the consent of that of the other. It is a sexual abuse and a domestic violence also known as spousal rape.
The abuse wherein the abuser uses language and words of mouth to cause disgrace, disrespect or to knock the victim is called the verbal abuse. Verbal threat to cause physical harm to the victim, name-calling humiliation and blaming are some other forms of verbal abuse. There can be some gentle ways of verbal abuse such as false accusation, humiliation, misleading to submit to unwanted behavior and the isolation of the victim.
Rebecca J Burns quoted, ‘When I am asked why a woman doesn’t leave abuser I say: Women stay because the fear of leaving is greater than the fear of staying. They will leave when the fear of staying is greater than the fear of leaving.’ A common Indian house wife has a tendency to bear the harassment she is subjected to by her husband and the family. One reason could be to prevent the children from undergoing the hardships if she separates from the spouse. Also the traditional and orthodox mindset makes them bear the sufferings without any protest.
Domestic violence consists of three basic phases:
1. Tension building phase – this phase starts with the beginning of building tension over small domestic issues like money, children or jobs. It all starts with verbal abuse. The victim pleases the abuser in order to control the situation, by avoiding the abuse. But the violence does not stop. Consequently the physical abuse begins.
2. Acute battering episode – the mounting tension ultimately results in igniting the physical violence. The violence occurs not because of victim’s behavior, but because of an external event or because of the emotional state of the abuser. Therefore the violence is a highly unpredictable episode and is beyond the control of victim.
3. The honeymoon phase – the abuser expresses regret on his abusive behavior. He pleads excuse, shows care and tries to minify the abuse and can even go to the degree of blaming it on the partner. The abuser may then show loving and caring attitude, shower kindness followed by generosity and helpfulness. A genuine effort is then made by the abuser to win over the victim that no such thing will occur in future. This caring approach strengthens the bond between them and will probably convince the victim, once again, that leaving the relationship is not necessary.
Factors that perpetuate Domestic Violence Culture
-Definitions of appropriate sex roles
-Expectations of roles within relationships
-Belief in the inherent superiority of males
– Values that give men proprietary rights over women and girls
-Notion of the family as the private sphere and under male control
-Customs of marriage
-Acceptability of violence as a means to resolve conflict Economic
-Women’s economic dependence on men
-Limited access to cash and credit
-Discriminatory laws regarding inheritance, property rights, and maintenance after divorce or widowhood
-Limited access to employment in formal and informal sectors
– Limited access to education and training for women Legal
-Lesser legal status of women either by written law and/or by practice
– Legal definitions of rape and domestic abuse
-Low levels of legal literacy among women
-Insensitive treatment of women and girls by police and judiciary Political
-Domestic violence not taken seriously
-Notions of family being private and beyond control of the state
– Limited organization of women as a political force
Consequences of Violence
Ill-treated women have inclination to remain quiet, agonized and emotionally distressed after the happening of the torment. A psychological set back and psychic trauma because of domestic violence affects women’s productiveness in all forms of life. The suicide case of such victimized women is also a fatal outcome and the number of such cases is accelerative. A working Indian woman may drop out from work place because of the illtreatment at home or office, she may lose her unskillfulness in work. Her health may crumble if she is not well physically and mentally. Some women leave their home immediately after first few direful attacks and try to become self-dependent. Their aliveness becomes difficult and painful when they have to work hard for earning two meals a day. Many such women come under rescue of women welfare organizations like Women Welfare Association of India (WWAI), Affus Woman Welfare Association (AWWA) and Woman’s Emancipation and Development Trust (WEDT).
Fight against ‘Domestic Violence’, the Evil: A recent study has concluded that violence against women is the fastest-growing crime in India. The response to the process of domestic violence is a emblematic accumulation of effort between law enforcement agencies, social service agencies, the courts and corrections/probation agencies. The role of all these has progressed over last few decades, and brought their activities in public view. Domestic violence is now being viewed as a public health problem of epidemic proportion all over the world ‘ and many public, private and government agencies are seen making every achievable effort to control it in India. There are several organizations all over the world ‘ government and non government ‘ actively working to fight the problems generated by domestic violence to the human community
‘ Slapping is the most common act of physical violence by husbands. Thirty four percent of married women say their husband has slapped them; 15 percent say their husband has pulled their hair or twisted their arms; and 14 percent have been pushed, shaken, or had something thrown at them
‘ One in 10 married women have experienced sexual violence at the hands of their husband, i.e., they have been physically forced against their will by their husband to have sex or perform other sexual acts they did not want to perform.
‘ Often, this physical and sexual violence causes injuries. Almost two in five women who have experienced physical or sexual violence report having injuries, including 36 percent who had cuts, bruises or aches; 9 percent who had eye injuries, sprains, dislocations, or burns; and 7 percent who had deep wounds, broken bones, broken teeth, or other serious injuries.
‘ Twelve percent of married women with 12 or more years of education have experienced spousal violence, compared with 21 percent of married women whose husbands have 12 or more years of education. This suggests that women’s own education reduces their likelihood of experiencing spousal violence more than their husband’s education.
‘ Spousal violence is lower among couples in which husbands and wives have both been to school and are equally educated (23 percent) than among couples where the husband has more education than the wife (36 percent).
‘ The cycle of domestic violence is repeated across generations. Women whose mothers were beaten by their fathers are twice as likely to experience violence as women whose mothers were not beaten by their fathers: 60 percent, compared with 30 percent.
‘ Women married to men who get drunk frequently are more than twice as likely to experience violence as women whose husbands do not drink alcohol at all. However, even though alcohol is important, it is not the only factor accounting for the high prevalence of violence against women, as 30 percent of even women whose husbands do not drink have experienced spousal violence.
In New Delhi, India, a brilliant doctor tries to commit suicide after her husband slaps her for contradicting him in front of his friends.
In Manila, Philippines, a former beauty queen tells police she was coerced into “entertaining other men” after being locked in a room without food for days by her husband.
In Santiago, Chile, neighbors respond to distress calls from a woman battered by herhusband for refusing to let him watch aparticular TV program in front of the children.
In Cairo, Egypt, the wife of a highly placed bureaucrat finally speaks up after enduring years of physical and mental abuse for being unable to bear a child.
The incidents were documented in a series of studies carried out by the Washington-based International Center for Research on Women in collaboration with independent Indian researchers. The cross-cultural study looked at the problem of domestic abuse in India, Egypt, Chile and the Philippines and found that violence against women was prevalent across regions, communities and classes.
“Education is an empowering tool for women and should not be seen as impacting negatively. In fact, this correlation points to the imperative need for an attitudinal change among men and society in general.”
India’s ‘Domestic Violence Act 2005’
The Domestic Violence Act 2005 is a piece of legislation meant to provide more effective protection to the right of women guaranteed under the constitution who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family. The very nomenclature of the Act indicates that it is not restricted to violence perpetuated against women by her husband or in-laws. It includes under its protective umbrella every women living in a domestic relationship as a member of family with the person indulging in violence (Kaur Kuljit 2007). Thus the law protects women who are victims of violence occurring within family or in domestic relationship. Moreover the Act has been designed to create certain civil rights, some declaratory (e.g., right to protection against Domestic Violence) and some substantive (e.g., right to maintenance, right to compensation, right to shared household). But the law essentially falls under the criminal jurisprudence not merely because it is enforced by magistrate under CPC 1973 but also and mainly because the consequences of breach of certain orders passed by criminal court for affording to the aggrieved women the due protection of law has been made a new penal offence.
Risk Rises with Education
‘Literary education is of no value, if it is not able to build up a sound character.’ – Mahatma Gandhi Education has been regarded as the most significant instrument for changing women’s subjugated position in the society. It not only develops the personality and rationality of individuals, but qualifies them to fulfill certain economic, political and cultural functions and thereby improves their socio-economic status. One of the direct expectations from educational development in a society is the reduction in the inequality among individuals and that is why Education was included as the basic right of every human being in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Kumud Sharma of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies in New Delhi traced the correlation between education and domestic violence to patriarchal attitudes. “Educated women are aware of their rights,” she said. “They are no longer willing to follow commands blindly. When they ask questions, it causes conflicts, which, in turn, leads to violence. In many Indian states, working women are asked to hand over their paycheck to the husband and have no control over their finances. So, if they stop doing so or start asserting their right, there is bound to be friction.”
Domestic violence experts say the problem in India stems from a cultural bias against women who challenge their husband’s right to control their behavior. Women who do this—even by asking for household money or stepping out of the house without their permission–are seen as punishable. This process leads men to believe their notion of masculinity and manhood is reflected to the degree to which they control their wives.
“The behavior of men stems from their understanding of masculinity,” said Nandita Bhatla, researcher with the International Center for Research on Women, “and what their role should be vis-a-vis women, especially their wives.”
Problem of Perception
Men have always been taught to comprehend themselves as the superior sex, said Jyotsna Chatterjee, director of the Joint Women’s Program, a women’s resource organization based in New Delhi. It is this conditioning, she said, that makes them think they have to control their wives, especially if they are reasoned disobedient.
Although men’s thought with controlling their wives declines with age–as does the incidence of sexual violence–researchers found that the highest rates of sexual violence were among highly educated men. Thirty-two percent of men with zero years of education and 42 percent men with one-to-five years of education reported sexual violence. Among men with six-to-10 years of education–as well as those with high-school education and higher–this figure increased to 57 percent.
A similar pattern was seen when the problem was analyzed according to income and socioeconomic standing. Those at the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder–migrant labor, cobblers, carpenters, and barbers–showed a sexual violence rate of 35 percent. The rate almost doubled to 61 percent among the highest income groups.
Equally distressing is the finding that two of every five women in an abusive relationship in India stay quiet about their suffering because of shame and family honor. The studies have also shown, nearly one-third of the Indian women experiencing abuse had thought about running away, but most said they feared leaving their young children and had no place to go. Activists felt that for intervention strategies to succeed, attitudes about violence would have to change and the level of awareness, among both men and women, about the negative impact of violence had to be raised.
Women in India The social structure in India has been traditionally a male dominated one. Women are considered not only as fairer sex but also as weaker sex. They always have to depend on men folk in their family and outside, throughout their life. They are treated as secondary in the family and their role is reduced to mere carriers of order of men in the family. But the traditional set up is now changing in the modern era. And the women are now adays getting more and more educated. Sometimes they even outperform their male counterparts. They are now shoulder to shoulder with men in almost all walks of life. Consequently quality of their life is improving. Although the gap in the ideology and practice of Activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya obtained this piece of information through RTI.
‘The act stipulates the magistrate shall try to dispose of every application within 60 days ‘ But there has been zero conviction,’ Bhattacharya said.
A woman who lives or has lived with a person under one roof on the strength of a relationship or adoption and has suffered at his or her hands can file a case.
Therefore this creates a problem on how we can understand and explain this. The objective of this study is to try to gain a deeper understanding of some of the underlying factors of increased reporting of sexual violence in India, and to understand in what way the ‘modernization’ process possibly could be put in relation to this, something that is analyzed with help from Durkheim’s theory of anomie. This study draws on a qualitative desk study with a compilation of material from existing research on sexual violence against women, both at home and in public spaces. The findings were analyzed in relation to Durkheim’s theory of anomie and gender theories from two authors. The results show that some of the underlying factors for increased reports of sexual violence against women in India, like patriarchy, education and employment for women and gendered power inequalities are in a complex interplay. It was further seen as ‘traditional’ norms and values clashed with ‘modernity’ and caused these factors for violence. The outcome of the study showed that the increased reporting of sexual violence can be related to the ‘modernization’ process both in a positive and negative way. Through Durkheim’s theory of anomie it was possible to see that ‘modernization’ could have caused a state of anomie, which has lead to deviant behavior and resulted in increased reporting of sexual violence against women.
the women’s empowerment policy in India still causes social, economic and educational backwardness of womenfolk.
The law to protect women from violence at home has fallen short of meeting its purpose by 100% in Delhi.
Of the 14,887 cases filed under the Domestic Violence Act, a central law, since 2007, the courts have failed to settle even one. However, applicants have withdrawn 1,926 cases after mediation.
India is often described to be a country with a fast growing economy and progressive indicators of human development. However, over the last decade there has been a growing concern of increased reporting of sexual violence in India which seems to negate the first statement. We talk of gender inequality and rape culture, we seldom talk about from where it all flows into the society. An essential origin of all this is domestic violence. Nobody talks about it, but we all know it happens. It continues to exist, concealed from plain sight because we think it is not a common occurrence.
But when we want to build a society that is safe for women and equal in all aspects regardless of one’s gender, we need to address this issue. When children see domestic violence as an everyday occurrence, they perceive it to be something normal and natural, and values like these are imbibed by them. In a society that treats issues of the welfare of women too casually, some stringent measures are necessary to keep in check the unscrupulous and unbridled male of the species. But this needed to be brought about not by adding to the statute book with-ill-advised measures but through proper enforcement of the existing legal framework.Violence against women is the fastest-growing crime in India. The State of India took the menace of domestic violence very seriously which is evident from the combined effort of law enforcement agencies, social service organizations, and the justice deliver system and corrections/probation departments. The collaborative effort of these bodies has started yielding results also. Many public, private and governmental agencies are seen making huge efforts to control it. In an endeavor to strike a balance between the mutual rights and obligations of men and women the framers of the law seem to have gone overboard to load the dice totally against the former. The above mentioned facts of the Domestic Violence Act are only some of its features that leave one in a disturbed state of mind. The Act has created a framework which is leading towards anarchy and representing a paradigm shift of tectonic plates supporting civil society. The consequences are bound to be disastrous for the ‘wife’ as the ‘other woman’ now has equal claims over man in matters of maintenance and shelter, two issues that count the most. The law projected as welfare measure for women might boomerang destroying the life of the women who reposed trust in the sanctity of marriage as institution. One dreads at the prospect of a day when society and the polity would be picking up pieces of aftermath, may be within a decade from now.
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Domestic Violence Against Women is a global issue reaching across
national boundaries as well as socio-economic, cultural, racial and class
distinctions. It is a problem without frontiers. Not only is the problem
widely dispersed geographically, but its incidence is also extensive, making it
a typical and accepted behavior. Only recently, within the past twenty-five
years, has the issue been "brought into the open as a field of concern and
study" (Violence Against Women in the Family, page 38).
Domestic violence is not an isolated, individual event but rather a
pattern of repeated behaviors that the abuser uses to gain power and control
over the victim. Unlike stranger-to-stranger violence, in domestic violence
situations the same perpetrator repeatedly assaults the same victim. These
assaults are often in the form of physical injury, but may also be in the form
of sexual assault. However the abuse is not only physical and sexual, but also
psychological. Psychological abuse means intense and repetitive humiliation,
creating isolation, and controlling the actions of the victim through
intimidation or manipulation. Domestic violence tends to become more frequent
and severe over time. Oftentimes the abuser is physically violent sporadically,
but uses other controlling tactics on a daily basis. All tactics have profound
effects on the victim.
Perpetrators of domestic violence can be found in all age, racial,
ethnic, cultural, socio-economic, linguistic, educational, occupational and
religious groups. Domestic violence is found in all types of intimate
relationships whether the individuals are of the same or opposite sex, are
married or dating, or are in a current or past intimate relationship. There are
two essential elements in every domestic violence situation: the victim and
abuser have been intimately involved at some point in time, and the abuser
consciously chooses to use violence and other abusive tactics to gain control
over the victim. In some instances, the abuser may be female while the victim is
male; domestic violence also occurs in gay and lesbian relationships. However,
95% of reported assaults on spouses or ex-spouses are committed by men against
women (MTCAWA e-mail interview)
"It is a terrible and recognizable fact that for many people, home is
the least safe place" (Battered Dreams, 9). Domestic violence is real violence,
often resulting in permanent injuries or death. Battering is a widespread
societal problem with consequences reaching far beyond individual families. It
is conduct that has devastating effects for individual victims, their children
and their communities. In addition to these immediate effects, there is growing
evidence that violence within the "family becomes the breeding ground for other
social problems such as substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, and violent
crimes of all types" (MTCAWA e-mail interview). Domestic violence against
women is not merely a domestic issue; but, rather a complex socio-economical
crisis that threatens the interconnected equilibrium of the entire social
Causes & Effects
"Within the family there is a historical tradition condoning violence"
(Violence Against Women: The Missing Agenda, 29).
Domestic violence against women accounts for approximately 40 to 70% of
all violent crime in North America. However, the figures don't tell the entire
story; less than 10% of such instances are actually reported to police (The
Living Family, 204).
The causes of domestic violence against women are numerous. Many claim
stress is the substantial cause of domestic conflict resulting in violence.
Though stress in the workplace is a contributing factor, it is by no means the
substantial one. Many people suffer from stress disorders, but most don't
resort to violence as a means of release. It is apparent that the substantial
causes have more to do with the conditioning of males culturally, and within
the family of orientation than anything else.
Historically, women have been treated more as belongings than human
beings; Old English Common Law permitted a man to abuse his wife and kids, as
long as he didn't use a stick thicker than the width of his thumb--"Rule of
Thumb" (The Living Family, 201). Culturally, men have been conditioned to
repress their feelings of emotion--always acting like the tough guy, the
linebacker, the cowboy. But, when confronted with an emotionally difficult
conflict, one which is impossible to shove down deep, they irrupt in volcanic
proportions, often taking out years of repressed rage on those closest to them,
in particular their own family.
However, what seems to be the most significant cause of the male tactic
of violent conflict resolution is violence within the family of orientation.
Statistics show that 73% of male abusers had grown up in a family where they
saw their mother beaten, or experienced abuse themselves (MTCAWA e-mail
interview). Using the (relatively accepted) Freudian model, which claims that
all mental illness stems from traumatic childhood trauma, one can see how there
is a direct correlation between violence in the family of orientation and
violence within the family of procreation. And, indeed, abusers are mentally
ill, though the illness tends to be more subtle than others: many abusers
display a Jekyll&Hyde personality, where they are nothing like their domestic
selves outside the home.
In most cases the cycle of violence starts slowly; it usually consists
of a slap in the face or a hard shove. But the frequency and degree of violence
escalates with time. The abuser will justify the abuse by pointing out his
wife's inadequacies and faults. But, no matter how wrong the wife is, there is
little, if no, justification for spousel abuse within a civil society.
The real issue at hand is the neurosis within the male psyche. Just as
in rape, the key issue is control. Male abusers are laden with fear about
losing power. They inflict physical abuse on their spouse to prove that they
have, still have, and will have control over their spouses (and/or children.)
They won't stop there either. The pattern of abuse involves severe mental
torture and humiliation--blaming, threatening, ignoring, isolating, forcing sex,
monitoring phone calls, and restricting any form of social life. It is a
vicious cycle of abuse, where the wife is almost literally chained to the
husband. Her self-esteem has been obliterated. She is financially, emotionally,
and functionally helpless. She is incapable of reaching out for help for
herself or for her children. At this point the abuse gets more routine; the
abuser sites his partner's pathetic state as more reason to beat her. And the
victim sinks deeper, and more beatings ensue. She has been infected with
psychological-AIDS; she has no defense ("immune system") to combat the disease
For women, escaping an abusive relationship is VERY difficult. And the
abuse usually doesn't stop at the discretion of the male. An in-depth study of
all one-on-one murder and non-negligent manslaughter cases in Canada from 1980
to 1984 found that 62% of female victims were killed by a male partner (Violence
Against Women Homepage). It is painfully clear that victims have little but two
choices: leave or die. Sadly, the latter is the easier one.
Domestic Violence as a Health Issue
The World Health Organization defines health as "a state of complete
physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or
infirmity" (In the Health of Women: A Global Perspective, 78). Based on this,
domestic violence against women is clearly a health problem. In 1984, the U.S.
Surgeon General declared domestic violence against women as the number ONE
health problem (Violence Against Women Homepage).
Physical violence is the most basic form of domestic violence, leading
to extensive injury, unsuccessful pregnancies and even murder. As mentioned
above, in Canada 62% of women murdered were killed by an intimate male partner.
These are deaths caused by a preventable social problem.
Actual or threatened physical violence, psychological violence and the
denial of physical and economic resources all have an enormous impact on women's
mental health. "A history of victimization is seen as a strong risk factor for
the development of mental health problems" (MTCAWA e-mail interview). These
problems take many forms, all affecting women's ability to attain a basic
quality of life for herself and her family. Abuse is strongly associated with
alcoholism and drug use in women (Facts About Domestic Violence). It also can
lead to "fatigue and passivity coupled with an extreme sense of worthlessness"
(Violence Against Women in the Family, 78 ). These symptoms together remove any
initiative and decision making ability from the victim. This lethargy, coupled
with economic barriers, makes escape from the situation very difficult. The lack
of initiative also thwarts women's abilities to participate in activities
outside of the home. High levels of stress and depression are also extremely
common mental health problems for victims of family violence, often leading to
suicide (Facts About Domestic Violence). In the United States, one quarter of
suicide attempts by white women and one half of attempts by African American
women are preceded by abuse (In the Health of Women: A Global Perspective, 128).
The World Bank's analysis found domestic violence to be a major cause of
disability and death among women; the burden of family violence is comparable
to that of HIV, tuberculosis, cardiovascular disease or cancer (Domestic
Violence Against Women: A Global Issue, 29). In industrialized nations one in
five healthy days of life are lost to women age 15 to 44 due to domestic
violence (Fact Sheet About Domestic Violence)
Domestic violence "diverts the scarce resources of national health care
systems to the treatment of a preventable social ill" (Violence Against Women
in the Family, 87). Medical costs for the treatment of abused women total at
least 3 to 5 billion dollars annually in the United States. Battered women in
the United States are four to five times more likely than non-battered women to
require psychiatric treatment, and over one million women in the U.S. use
emergency medical services for injuries related to battering each year. Finally,
families in the United States in which domestic violence occurs use doctors
eight times more often, visit the emergency room six times more often and use
six times more prescription drugs than the general population (Facts About
A Socio-Economic Crisis
Domestic violence against women is not an individual or family problem.
It is an important social issue. Using the Systems Theory as a theoretical
framework helps show the resonating effect of such violence. The family unit
is one of many sub-systems. Together, all these different sub-systems make up
the one big system (i.e., society). The human body serves as a good example:
when one organ (sub-system) is malfunctioning, all other organs are effected
(other sub-systems). This will have an effect on the whole body itself
(society). Although the family unit is only one among the many sub-systems, it
is considered to be the most important of them all--the heart, if you will.
Since the family unit is responsible for the socialization of children who will
later go on to participate in other sub-systems, than it is logical to assume
that a deterioration in the crucial family unit can result in a deterioration
within other sub-systems, and of course, the entire system itself.
As mentioned above, the sub-system of health care is feeling the
pressure. Something as preventable as domestic violence against women is
diverting funds from an already under-funded health care system. There are
people out there who need serious medical treatment, but will never, or at the
very most, will get insufficient treatment. In the U.S., domestic violence
against women ranks as one of the most expensive health problems (Facts About
Domestic Violence). Monies allocated to the medical treatment of abused women (3
to 5 billion dollars annually) diverts much needed funds from such already
under-funded institutions as education, law enforcement, social services etc.
Therefore the possibility exists that adults of the future will be sparsely
educated delinquents; crime will be on the increase; and important social
services won't be able to look out for the welfare of the people--such as
shelters for abused women. The result is long term decay within the entire
system, which will add further to the decay within the family, which will cause
the entire vicious cycle to continue.
As previously mentioned, 73% of male abusers were abused, or saw abuse
as children. Thus an epidemic of violence within the family of orientation is a
primary cause of psychological disfunction--in specific, violent conflict
resolution--which is responsible for the breakdown of the entire social order.
U.S. Justice Department statistics show that at least 80% of men in prison grew
up in violent homes (Facts About Domestic Violence.) And in at least half of
the wife abusing families, the children were battered as well. And 63% of boys
ages 11 to 20 who commit homicide, murder the man who was abusing their mother.
As mentioned initially, violence within the family "family becomes the
breeding ground for other social problems such as substance abuse, juvenile
delinquency, and violent crimes of all types." The all important family unit is
the centre of social universe. All other institutions revolve around it. If
the sun were to blow up the entire galaxy would go with it.
Domestic violence against women must be perceived as a socio-economical
problem rather than a private issue imbedded within family -- a domestic issue
which can be easily ignored. It must receive appropriate attention from the
various institutions within our society as an issue affecting the overall
standard of living. It is not only a women's issue, but also a problem that
threatens the harmony within our communities.
1. Carrillo, Roxanna, Battered Dreams, UNIFEM, 1992
2. Connors, Jane Francis, Violence Against Women in the Family, Toronto, 1989
3. Facts About Domestic Violence, "http://gladstone.uoregon.edu.violence.html"
4. Jarman, F.E., et al, The Living Family: a Canadian Perspective, J.
5. Kantor, Paula, Domestic Violence Against Women: A Global Issue, UNC Press,
6. Ed. by: Koblinsky, Marge, et al, In the Health of Women: A Global Perspective,
Westview Press, 1993
7. Ed. by: Koblinsky, Marge, et al, Violence Against Women: The Missing Agenda,
Westview Press, 1993
8. Metro Toronto Committee Against Wife Assault (MTCAWA), E-mail interview w/
Morag Perkens (Thurs, Nov, 15/96), email@example.com
9. Violence Against Women Home Page, "http://www.usdoj.gov/vawo"
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