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Domestic Violence and Patriarchal Societies

For centuries, the issue of spousal or partner abuse has been concealed from the culture at large, and this general lack of knowledge lead to the formation of myths and untruths, which still permeate our society today. Most of us still hold on to the old notions about domestic violence and until recently, even wondered if it ever existed at all. Now that many of us know that it does indeed exist, we wonder who are the victims and who are the perpetrators. Socialization and enculturation play significant roles, but patriarchy societies aim is to control women.

Global violence is not random violence. Women are targets because of their sex, and the risk factor is being female. The myths in The United States raise questions about these victims and perpetrators are that they lack education, take drugs or alcohol, and have low self-esteem. In 1989, a recently married woman in Delhi, India was beaten and doused in whiskey and then set aflame. Her murder was cited as one of the 110 “dowry deaths” or “bride burning” in Delhi that year. These deaths are attributed to the custom of the brides family giving gifts to the groom to secure a good home for their daughter.

When the dowry is not adequate, he may kill his wife in order to remarry and claim another dowry. In Africa, the prospective husband pays “Bride wealth” to secure a womans hand in marriage the exchange is so commercialized that the inflated costs of bridewealth leave the man with the distinct impression that he has “purchased” his wife (Heider, 1997). Also in Africa, about 2 million girls each year (6,000everyday) are genitally mutilated the female equivalent of a male circumcision, which is amputation off all or part of the male penis.

This makes a woman marriageable and controls her sexuality (Torr & Swisher, 1999). It is this unequal balance of power institutionalized in the structure of the patriarchal family- that is the root of wife beating and deaths (Jaggar & Rothenberg, 1993). In the United States we condemn those acts and even cry out for justice for these women. This is a culture and society unlike our own. Women here in the United States are free from dowries and the traditions which make them property of their husbands, however, acts of violence stands as a reminder to women of their low worth in society.

The “dowry deaths” in India are undercounted, largely because the husband and his family frequently try to disguise the murder as a suicide or an accident. A frequent scam is to set the wife alight with kerosene, and then claim she died in a kitchen accident. In 1987 the police officially recorded 1,786 dowry deaths in all of India, but womens action groups estimates that 1,000 women burned alive in Gujurat state alone (Jaggar & Rothenberg, 1993).

As Cheryl Bernard, director of Austrias Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Politics, notes: “Violence against women in the family takes place because the perpetrators feel, and their environment encourages them to feel, that this is an acceptable exercise of male prerogative, a legitimate and appropriate way to relieve their own tension in conditions of stress, to sanction female behavior or just to enjoy a feeling of supremacy” (Jaggar & Rothenberg, 1993). (Jaggar & Rothenberg, 1993) However, in our history women endured much violence and it was once accepted to beat ones wife.

Under English common law, for example, a husband had a legal right to discipline his wifesubject to the “rule of thumb” that barred him from using a stick broader than his thumb. Judicial decisions in England and the United States upheld this right until well into the 19th century. In April, a New York judge let off with only five years probation a Chinese immigrant who admitted bludgeoning his wife to death. The judge justified the light sentence partly by reference to traditional Chinese attitudes toward female adultery (p. 5). Its hard to believe that twenty years ago women had virtually no legal protection from abuse by their partners. Domestic violence cuts across all social and economical classes. A study done by Richard Gelles, Ph. D, Director of the Family Violence Research program at the University of Rhode Island. “The incidence of violence did decrease exponentially as wealth increased. But still, nearly 20 out of ever 1000 women with income over $40,000 reported severe violence. Thats a lot of Park Avenue Abuse” (Torr & Swisher, 1999).

We are socialized to believe that men are physically stronger and better able enforce protection in the home for the wife and children from possible outside threats. So, society has gone to great lengths to protect the image of the “good” father, provider, and husband. Also, stressed in our society is the role of the woman to make the man happy, to produce and rear children. The image of the “good” wife and mother is one of endless helpfulness, smiling patience, and good cook and housekeeper. Yet, society surrounds this “nurturing” family with all kinds of violence, in media, movies, music, history, and pornography.

Society has turned its back on the possibility that violence has become a way of life in todays family. Parents do beat, torture and kill small children and teenagers. Men do beat, torture, and kill their partners unless she beats him to the draw (Torr & Swisher, 1999). The largest single category of murder victims in the United States consists of person related to the assailants. In a California study, one-third of all female murder victims were killed by their husbands. One-fourth of these victims were pregnant.

In 1973 approximately 124,000 wife-abuse complaints reached New York courts. Today wife and child beating are among the most common crimes in America (Torr & Swisher, 1999). Only the victim can assess lethality, whether the abuser will kill her once she leaves, and no one else can make that decision for her. The dynamics of Domestic violence for the perpetrator identifies men or women who batter as being: v Abused as children by fathers who neglected or rejected them, and these batterers discipline their children with violence, thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse. Believe in traditional sex roles (i. e, macho men, subservient women). Abusive men talk about their “rights” as husbands and their role as “head” of the family. v Controlling every move his wife or partner makes, where she goes, the amount of money she can have, and what she can buy. He monitors her calls, mileage, clothing and make-up. Batters fear of not being in control stems from the fear of death or injury he experienced as a child in a violent home. v Deny, minimize, and blame his intimate partner.

He denies he hurt her by saying “She fell”, he blames his intimate partner by saying “I dont get this way with anyone else, its your fault”, they minimize the incident to “Its just a bump” or “I didnt know what I was doing, I was out of control. ” v Master manipulators, they know how to convince his partner to feel sorry for him. He tells her what she wants to hear. The batters worst fear is that she will leave and is charming enough so she wont leave. v History of violence may hear a batterers friend comment on how “moody he is. A bad track record of how he mistreats women. Extremely passive and very charming one minute and explode in anger the next. The violence can be triggered if he feels threatened, shamed, powerless, or humiliated. Drugs and alcohol are often used as an excuse for “losing control. ” v Most batterers know if he intimates his partner enough, and she doesnt tell anyone, he knows he can get away with abusing her. Especially if she is smaller, weaker, someone who is economically dependent on him, and cares about him, he can bully her into not going to the police. v Use subtle forms of abuse to punish, humiliate, and control their partners.

He finds everything wrong with her, shes too fat, doesnt know how to clean, or raise children. After the partner turns herself inside out to please him. A batterer feels so small inside he will continually put his partner and children down to maintain his feelings of importance. Why does she the victim stay? Is the most asked question from those who are misinformed about the dynamics of domestic violence. There is not one simple answer, as there is not only one form of abuse. v Neglect medication medical help v Grooming and how to dress what to eat v Threats to DPSS have kids taken away

Battered women or men stay due to: v Fear of everything, their life threatened if they leave. v Children having them taken away by batterer. v No place to go turned away when asking for help v Failure women still responsible for relationships v Guilt family traditions that a womans obligation is to keep the family together. v Love Batters have traits that make them lovable to the victim, try to change him. v Language not able to learn English v Hostage mentality identify, look up to the captor for survival (V. Jojola, lecture, YWCA, July 9, – August, 15, 20001).

The answer to end the violence is to make society accountable and to empower women by giving them choices to stay or leave a violent situation. The objectification of women, the victim blaming mentality to battered women, as underlying forces must be challenged. The purpose of violence is to control women. This assumption of patriarchy women and children are property of men is underscored the world over. This male domination is the social structure based on the traditional roles underlying every culture in the world and keeps women from attaining social and economic independence, and thus maintaining patriarchy.

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