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Domestic violence is an issue within our society, which will not go away. It unfortunately does not have a high public profile but it is said to affect 1 in 5 Australian families. (Derived from statistics from the Office of The Family and literature from Waratah). It is not unique to Australia it is a problem of worldwide epidemic proportions. It is still considered by many to be a private affair. Domestic violence results*** from the inequality of the power relationship within a family unit. It knows no boundaries, being prevalent across all-socioeconomic classes and cultures. About 95% of domestic violence is carried out by men against women. (Office of The Family.1992) That makes the women victims of a violence that takes many forms. These include: physical assault sexual assault psychological economic emotional or verbal abuse designed to make the woman feel small, destroy her confidence and self-worth. Isolation-bonds between family friends and neighbours are broken or forbidden. Total financial control is exercised-she has nothing of her own. Many of the services available to the victims of domestic violence provide for such things as shelter clothing food and money. What then of the needs of the victims themselves. I have hopefully identified some of those needs. They are as follows.. to be: believedrespectedempowerededucatedsupportedheardshown she is not aloneaffirmedlistened to not considered a failureable to recognise that they not condoning the abuse by failing to take action able to avoid boredom assured they have a choice I would like to address 3 of these points:condoning the abuseeducationchoice *** Consider the broader societal issues-power relations between men and women. DV is one of the outcomes of a Patriarchal Society. A feminist analysis of DV would provide an interesting view Condoning the abuse. The victim invariably picks up the pieces of the partners abuse and attempts to rebuild or very often hide the effects of the problem. In doing this they forfeit the very quality of their own lives and become prone to a downward spiral of self-deception. This is borne out by many women making excuses for various physical injuries. They don’t say ‘he hit me’ they say ‘I walked into a door’. Sometimes they rationalise the abuse as ‘he really loves me ‘or’ I deserved it’. The victims act as a shield hiding the abuser behind them and experiencing the full pain of the trauma themselves. It can be said then that this phenomena is an illness where it is only natural for the partner to deny it by the desire to protect, provide comfort and alibis and all the other excuses. ***The issue of security-will Police act?- many view women as victims it is upto society to say no to DV through legislation and action. The abuse depends on the victim’s willingness to accept the blame and continue to cover up the problem. *** Sadly there is a cycle to his violence and very often the daughters (and sons) of these families themselves find that they are subject to and involved in similar relationships. So the example of domestic violence in its many forms are handed down like a family tradition or heirloom. In the early stages of a relationship the abuse may be viewed as getting to know each other or settling in. Much of the problem can be ignored under these guises. By this subtle deception the victims can take the first step towards hiding the true nature of the situation. She puts up with it in the hope that it will get better. The abuse is however subject to the ratchet effect of escalating violence- it gets worse. The victim themselves are the only ones who have the power to break the Cycle of violence if only they can be shown how. The victims have to learn to detach themselves from the dependence on them by the abuser, to be shown how to improve the quality of their own life by establishing boundaries to take charge, to recognise the difference between helping and hiding. In doing so she may be able to rebuild her own life as well as force the abuser to take responsibility for their own actions. The abuser himself is responsible for the abuse it is their choice, they must realise that, come to terms with it and do something about it, before it is too late. *** There is also a broader issue integral in condoning the abuse.. Why do women feel that they condone the abuse?- If men believed that society really did not tolerate DV then perhaps the incidence would be less. The condoning is part of a patriarchal system.They do it because they think, no, they know they can get away with it. This brings us to the question of education. Education. I’ll make a brief point here, it is not just the family subjected to the violence that need education but society as a whole. Only by raising the problem through education can we hope to bring about a greater awareness of the problem and then hopefully a change of attitude in general to domestic violence. ***Lesislation and Police Action also needs to be considered here. One of the un-kindest things about the victims of domestic violence is the social stigma. This is a societal issue. The attitude that puts it in the “behind closed doors” territory. The victim feels isolated and completely alone because of this. If only she could be told that she is not alone, that there are many, many victims of domestic violence, then she could lose her sense of shame. The victim often has a very low opinion of themselves, have poor self-esteem and feel worthless. She needs to be educated to try to understand why she is subjected to violence and why she may think it’s justified. She needs to work out how she reconciles the treatment and why. Maybe she thinks she can control the situation. Why? Does she think because (maybe) she was brought up with it, that it’s natural. She needs to be assured that it’s not. This is again a societal response.
By addressing some of these issues the victim can be helped to discover what she thinks causes the violence. To become more aware of the effects of her beliefs, to see if her beliefs have in fact contributed to her as a victim. Also she can be shown how adaptable she really is, after all she has been coping with an impossibly negative situation for years. Show her the positive. Help her to realise the uselessness of trying to stop the violence from within it. By doing so she will become more aware of how to help herself and show that there are choices available to her. She is not to blame. Choice. Invariably the focal point of the abusers life is his domination of the family unit and in particular his partner. The family in turn has to revolve around his abuse. They learn to avoid situations of pain and allow themselves to become subjugated totally to the abusers will. This is not healthy. It has to change. Unfortunately the belief that the women has no real choice is reinforced by societies attitudes towards domestic violence. She must, either put up, or leave. She must either bear the unbearable or end the relationship. There are other choices and as soon as the victims is made aware of this and realises it she is on her way ‘out’. This needs to be turned around so that women have a lot less to lose. The victims choice seems quite simple but hard to undertake. She must stop accepting the blame making excuses, giving alibis and hiding the problem. She must turn her attention away from the never-ending cycle of violence and its painful consequences. She must get back to her own agenda. As long as she continues to accept the effects of the domestic violence then, she shoulders some of the responsibility of finding an answer. By returning to or starting her own agenda by turning the focal point of the relationship around she raises her own self-worth and exercises her right to choose. She turns the problem back to where it belonged in the first place- the abuser. By this she gives him back the responsibility for his own actions and hopefully engender in him the reality which he must face. He must now do something about himself. Until this happens he cannot stop. This can be seen, as for many years the partner may have tried to control the situation. The results in many cases have had disastrous effects on the women’s self-esteem. In trying to cope and manage the situation she sees herself as a failure. This is not the case, what she may have been living with is impossible and no-one would ever succeed alone. She cannot solve the situation neither should she think she should or she can.The victim has the choice by exercising that right to choose. She can at least take the very first positive, albeit tentative, steps towards stopping the violation of her person through the onerous reality of domestic violence. In my own experience I have been involved in many incidents of domestic violence. Unfortunately a recurring trend is to return home and ultimately again become subjected to the same or even worst violence. Even more bemusing are-the reasons for remaining, they vary from ‘but I love him” which questions their definition of love, to simply believing that she has nowhere else to go. The victim may think that the abuser needs her or that if she leaves will find her and punish her. Some victims believe that its their duty as a wife to stay, some stay on religious grounds and some stay ‘for the sake of the children’. They believe that they need a father whatever the problem. These are psychological “he needs me” coupled with practical and societal reasons as for “the sake of the children”. One reason why women go back is that it’s within the situation that they have a place and with that knowledge she feels safe. She rationalises that its not that bad, he never really hurts her and if she doesn’t do anything wrong then she will be alright. She feels comfortable in her assumed role and the man plays his part. He never goes to far and always knows the right way to reach her if she leaves. A game is played between them where everyone knows their place. It has certain guarantees and rewards if everyone plays the game. As can be seen the processes of education, condoning the violence and choice cross over and include many of the other needs listed. The first step however needs to be taken by the victim. She may not know she is asking for help. It must be recognised. Often the woman exaggerates a small thing to give her an excuse to leave. This decision is not taken lightly for it may be just the last desperate attempt at getting out of an impossible situation. In my opening paragraph I stated it could be said that an average 1 in 5 Australian families could be affected by domestic violence. This is borne out by societies attitudes. A survey undertaken by the Office of the Status of Women revealed that 1 in 5 Australians thinks that sometimes a women deserves to be beaten by her partner (West Australian Tues Mar 28 1989). Domestic violence then is not something which always “happens to someone else”. “no one we know is like that”. The fact is that they could be someone you know. It could be your doctor your best friend or even your local clergyman. We need to raise the awareness of the problem, stop it from being a private affair and address the needs of the victims and the validity of their place in our society. ***We need an empowering process in women, forming part of a societal action group to pressure government and the Police to bring about appropriate legislation and action and change. References:Domestic Violence Information Kit: The Office of the Family: Government of Western Australia.Narrogin Women’s Refuge: An Overview (no date)Beyond the Image: Womens Emergency Services Program Evaluation 1987:WESP.The West Australian Newspaper Mar/Apr, 1989.Wanneroo News Apr 1989.Various pamphlets and publications and video supplied by and during interview with WARATAH (Bunbury) and the South West Women’s Centre
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