Domestic violence

Bits of information about domestic violence against women

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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 familytype relationship and forms a pattern of coercive and
controlling behaviour. It may involve patterns 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 MirrleesBlack'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 four types of abuse ­ partner abuse, family abuse, sexual assault and
stalking.
Similarly, MirrleesBlack found that:
Most Victims are women.
99% of all incidents against women are committed by men.
Nearly one in four women has been assaulted by a partner at some time in
her life, and one in eight repeatedly so.
This is confirmed by 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, raped, 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 legitimates violence against
women by conferring power and authority on husbands and dependency on wives.
Official statistics
Official statistics on domestic violence understate that 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. Domestic violence is the violent crime least
likely to be reported.
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 three assumptions about family life:
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
unable to leave.
The radical feminist explanation
Radical feminists interpret findings such as those of Dobash and 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.

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For radical feminists, widespread domestic violence is an inevitable feature of patriarchal society and
serves to preserve the power that all men have over all 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.…read more

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Suggest reasons why poorer families are more likely to end up in the child abuse statistics than
betteroff families.
Wilkinson: Domestic violence, inequality and stress
Richard Wilkinson (1996) offers an explanation of these patterns. He sees domestic violence as the
result of stress on family members caused by social inequality.
Inequality means that some families have fewer resources than others, such as income and housing.
Those on low incomes or living in overcrowded accommodation are likely to experience higher
levels of stress.…read more

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