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“The guarantee of safety in a battering relationship can never be based upon a promise from the perpetrator, no matter how heartfelt,” a quote from Judith Lewis Herman, an American psychologist and teacher. Often times women enter relationships, even marriages, expecting to be protected rather than abused. Needing some sense of safety and security, many experience betrayals at the hands of the very men they entrust and love, resulting in domestic violence. Women have been publicly, economically, politically, and even emotionally oppressed for what may seem like since the beginning of time, so to be oppressed in the form of abuse, at the hands of a loved one is like pouring salt on an open bruise. Domestic violence, as will be learned through this essay, is one of the leading oppressors of women, not only in America, but globally.
One may ask, “What is domestic violence?”. According to Women’s Advocates website, domestic violence is described as “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.” It is abuse that comes in many forms, including but not limited to physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual. Such acts of threats or acts of violence are usually inflicted by persons women trust and love deeply and dearly. This type of abuse is intended to “frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone.” Its end results are usually psychological trauma, physical injury, and even death.
Domestic violence does not discriminate against women. Victims belong to any age group, race, ethnic background, economic class, religion, sexual orientation, educational levels, socioeconomic status, and or religion. Married couples, domestic partners, single women dating, common-law couples and co-habituating couples are also susceptible to the acts of domestic violence. Though the severity and frequency vary, one factor that is sure to influence of domestic violence is usually related to one partner’s, usually the dominant one, innate need to dominate and control the other. The abuser and the abuse often leave the victim feeling a sense of weakness and lack of self- confidence.
Red flags of domestic violence usually start small and are usually dismissed or downplayed. Some of these behaviors, according to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Visio- a website committed to advocating against and spreading awareness about domestic violence, “name-calling, threats, possessiveness, or distrust. Abusers may apologize profusely for their actions or try to convince the person they are abusing that they do these things out of love or care.” Usually, such small acts of manipulative behaviors usually intensify into more violent behaviors.
Although it does not have a history that is extensive and equipped with dates and locations, domestic violence is not a new epidemic. “Medscape” states that the history of domestic violence date back to a period when it was legal for a man to punish his wife. The Common Law of England which dates back to the monarchy era in England, stated that a man was permitted to “beat his wife, provided the diameter of the stick so used was not wider than the diameter of his thumb, hence, the term ‘Rule of Thumb’.”
In America, domestic violence was a normality and a man beating his wife was usually considered to be a joke. It was considered to be a valid reason for husbands to exercise and express authority of their wives. Domestic violence was considered to be a trivial offense and some psychologists even regarded it as a man’s way of relieving his stress. In 1641, a document was drafted giving guidelines for the use of force and abuse against women. The document was called the Body of Liberties of the Massachusetts Bay and it stated that a woman should not endure any type of bodily infliction or strife at the hands of her husband.
A wave of feminist movements, probably the first ever to be seen, started in nineteenth century, which lead to changes if opinion and even legislation about the physical abuse of women and domestic violence as a whole. The state of Tennessee became the first to pass a law prohibiting wife beating in 1850. Other states soon followed, and by 1870, most courts in America denied husbands the right to physically abuse their wives. In 1920 the once legal act of wife beating was made illegal in all states in America.
In 1878 The UK Matrimonial Act was passed in the United Kingdom, which allowed women to seek legal separation from their abusive husbands. The passing of the laws allowed for police officers to arbitrate in the cases of domestic violence. However, men still were not punished for their behaviors. It was not until the 1990s and beyond, that the issues of domestic violence began to be taken seriously.
In 1993, the United Nations paved the way for countries around the world to allow domestic violence to be seen as a criminal act with the publication of a manual known as Strategies for Confronting Domestic Violence: A Resource Manual. In 1994 U.S Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 which was a part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. According to Legal Momentum, the VAWA was the first “comprehensive federal legislative package designed to end violence against women.” The act included prevention and funding strategies for domestic violence victims, as well as the “federal criminal law against battering and a requirement that every state afford full faith and credit to orders of protection issues anywhere in the United States.”
Guttmacher Policy Review website states that there is a coalition between domestic violence and that of it being a “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights issue in the United States.” An interesting perspective I thought as I read the article written by Kinsey Hasstedt and Andrea Rowan. Rather than referring to the act as domestic violence, the pair calls it “intimate partner violence (IPV)” and explains how it is a public health crisis in America, while addressing the consequences which seems to be “a critical component of sexual and reproductive health and rights in this country.”
The sexual abuse factor of domestic violence is considered to be a for of reproductive control and unfairly affects women of all ages. The pair concludes that the acts of sexual domestic violence and sexual and reproductive health have intersectionality perspectives which occur at federal policy levels. The pair continues on to states that of the large proportion of women who fall victim to domestic violence in America, “nearly half have experienced psychological aggression, approximately one in four have been subjected to severe physical violence, and nearly one in 10 have been raped.” Of all women murdered in America, one third of them are murdered during acts of domestic violence by former or current partners.
As a result, the act of domestic violence publicly costs the country billions of dollars. They state that apart from sexual violence and reproductive which results from domestic violence, the heinous act has been “linked to negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes. Moreover, it is women of reproductive age — most often, those who are young or poor — who are most likely to experience IPV, including sexual violence and reproductive control.” They also report that there are a number of negative health issues regarding sexual and reproductive problems women experience as a result of domestic violence. The physical violence women endure allows women to experience heightened risks of reproductive damage.
Aside from the sexual and reproductive negative effects of domestic violence, the act also imposes millions of dollars I annual economic costs. Medscape estimated that as of 2003, the annual costs resulting from domestic violence was estimated to be 8.3 billion dollars. Of that amount, 6.2 billion was spent for victims of physical assault, 461 million dollars was spent for victims of stalking, 460 million dollars for victims of rape, and 1.2 billion dollars for victims who were killed as a result of domestic violence.
The worldwide epidemic of domestic violence has statistics that exceeds limitations. Statistics show that one in every four women fall victim to domestic violence in one form or another. UN Women, a website dedicated to ending domestic violence against women, states that thirty five percent of women globally have experienced domestic violence, either physically or sexually, by an intimate partner or a non- partner at least once in their lifetime. While seventy percent of those women have experienced the violence intimately.
Children have confessed to witnessing their mothers being abused by their fathers, or other male figures globally. It is stated that, as of 2017, 87,000 women were intentionally killed during an episode of domestic violence, which is a direct result of one hundred and thirty-seven women being killed daily across the globe by a family member or intimate partner. About thirty thousand women were killed by their former partners.
In America, NCADV states that nearly “nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. For one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.” One in every four women experience severe domestic violence whether it be physical, sexual, or stalking by intimate partners. On a daily basis, it has been reported that there are more than twenty thousand phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. As a result of domestic violence, there has also between reports of higher rates of depression and suicide by domestic violence victims.
It can be concluded that a great percent of domestic abuse is usually committed by intimate partners, both husbands and wives. In countries around the world, at least one in every three women experiences domestic violence by their husbands or intimate partners. There are at least ten million people per year, in the United States, that fall victim to domestic violence. That amounts to at least twenty people per minute. Though numbers are not as high as the U.S, domestic violence is still in prevalent in other countries. Studies have shown that even women belonging to different culture that forbids violence against women experience domestic violence. As a comparison, there were reports that 832 Muslim children interviewed, seventy six percent of them reported to have witnessed domestic violence upon their mothers, at the hands of their fathers. Another study carried out in Tunisia, and Islamic country, of 500 women interviewed, 33.3% of them admitted to have been abused by their spouse. Among the American Muslims, thirty-one percent reported experiencing domestic violence by an intimate partner in a relationship. Fifty-three percent of American Muslim women have reported some sort of domestic abuse throughout their lifetime. Like divorce, it is frowned upon in the Muslim community to commit acts of violence against women. However, just like pervious eras, in some Islamic countries, domestic violence is considered to be a private affair, and is often said to be an act of justification as a result of a woman’s misbehavior.
I believe that cultural factors play a major part in the act of domestic violence, and can be considered as a form of oppression as it is used in a way for the husband to control and instill fear in his wife. As have been learned throughout this essay, domestic violence isn’t always physical, it also comes in the form of sexual, psychological and emotional abuse. Domestic violence against is a very heinous act, in my opinion. Women and children should always be protected, especially by the men in whom they trusted. From a feminist point of view, women have always been seen as the weaker or of lesser value than that of men, being oppressed for centuries. It is outrageous and extremely disheartening that women cannot be protected in the comforts of their own homes or by the men who vow to protect them. It is the ultimate betrayal for women to die at the hands of an intimate partner. I believe that the government and even family members ought to do more to protect women against domestic violence. I urgently request to anyone who may read this essay, if you see or know someone who is victim of domestic violence, please help. Please encourage such women to seek help or leave indefinitely.
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