Domestic violence

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  • Domestic Violence
    • The women's Aid Federation (2008) defines domestic violence as: 'physical, psychological, sexual or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. It may involve partners, ex-partners, household members or other relatives'.
      • A common view of domestic violence is that it is the behaviour of a few disturbed or 'sick' individuals, and that its causes are psychological rather than social.
        • HOWEVER..sociologists have challenged this view:
          • Domestic violence is far too widespread to be simply the work of a few disturbed individuals. According to the British Crime Survey (2007), domestic violence accounts for almost a sixth of all violent crime.
            • Catriona Mirrlees-Black's (1999) survey of 16,000 people estimates that there are 6.6 million domestic assaults a year, about half involving physical injury.
          • Domestic violence does not occur randomly but follows particular social patterns and these patterns have social causes.
            • The most striking of these patterns is that it is mainly violence by men against women. For example; Kathryn Coleman et al (2007) found that women were more likely than men to have experienced 'intimate violence' across all types of abuse.
              • Four types of abuse - partner abuse, family abuse, sexual assault and stalking.
              • Similarly, Mirrlees-Black found that: Most victims are women, 99% of all incidents against women are committed by men and nearly one in four women has been assaulted by a partner at some time in her life, and one in eight repeatedly so.
      • Russell and Rebecca Dobash's (1979) research in Scotland, based on police and court records and interviews with women in women's refuges.
        • They cite examples of wives being slapped, pushed about, beaten, ***** or killed by their husbands. Dobash and Dobash found that violent incidents could be set off by what a husband saw as a challenge to his authority such as his wife asking why he was late home for a meal.
          • They argue that marriage legitimises violence against women by conferring power and authority on husbands and dependency on wives.
    • Official stats.
      • Official stats on domestic violence understate the true extent of the problem for two main reasons.
        • Firstly, victims may be unwilling to report it to the police. Stephanie Yearnshire (1997) found that on average a woman suffers 35 assaults before making a report.
        • Secondly, police and prosecutors may be reluctant to record, investigate or prosecute those cases that are reported to them.
          • According to David Cheal (1991), this reluctance is due to the fact that police and other state agencies are not prepared to become involved in the family. They make 3 assumptions on why..
            • That the family is a private sphere, so access to it by state agencies should be limited.
            • That the family is a good thing and so agencies tend to neglect the 'darker side' of family life.
            • That individuals are free agents, so it is assumed that if a woman is experiencing abuse she is free to leave.
              • HOWEVER.. this is not true, Male violence is often coupled with male economic power: abused women are often financially dependent on their husbands and are unable to leave.
    • Radical feminist explanation.
      • Radical feminists interpret findings such as those of Dobash+ Dobash as evidence of patriarchy.
        • For example; Kate Millett (1970) and Shulamith Firestone (1970)  argue that all societies have been founded on patriarchy. They see the key division in society as that between men and women.
          • Men are the enemy: they are the oppressors and exploiters of women.
      • Radical feminists see the family and marriage as the key institutions in patriarchal society and the main source of women's oppression.Within the family, men dominate women through domestic violence or the threat of it.
        • For radical feminists, widespread domestic violence is an inevitable feature of patriarchal society and serves to preserve the power that all men have over women.
          • Furthermore, in their view, male domination of state institutions helps to explain the reluctance of the police and courts to deal effectively with cases of domestic violence.
      • Radical feminists help to explain why most domestic violence is committed by men. They argue that violence against women is part of a patriarchal system that maintains men's power.
        • They give a sociological, rather than a psychologica explanation by linking patterns of domestic violence to dominant social norms about marriage.
          • HOWEVER..Faith Robertson Elliot (1996) rejects the radical feminist claim that all men benefit from violence against women. Not all men are aggressive and most are opposed to domestic violence. Radical feminists ignore this.
            • Furthermore, in their view, male domination of state institutions helps to explain the reluctance of the police and courts to deal effectively with cases of domestic violence.
            • Radical feminists also fail to explain female violence, including child abuse by women and violence against male partners.
            • For example; Mirrlees-Black found that about one in seven men has been assaulted, and one in 20 repeatedly so.


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