Domestic Violence Against Women A SocioEconomic Crisis by rahulbose



      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
      Perpetrators of domestic violence can be found in all age, racial,
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 structure.

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 of abuse.
      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 Domestic Violence.)

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
      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

1. Carrillo, Roxanna, Battered Dreams, UNIFEM, 1992
2. Connors, Jane Francis, Violence Against Women in the Family, Toronto,
3. Facts About Domestic Violence,

4. Jarman, F.E., et al, The Living Family: a Canadian Perspective, J.
Wiley&Sons, Toronto,
5. Kantor, Paula, Domestic Violence Against Women: A Global Issue, UNC
Press, 1996
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),

9. Violence Against Women Home Page, ""

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