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Domestic Violence In the Family “A Feminist Perspective”

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The family is a fundamental unit encompassing the human society in which it is partnered. What then happens when this vital support unit is overwhelmed by domestic violence? In this essay I will try to point out to you the issues of family violence from a feminist point of view and how power and inequality are features of this perception. To describe this in a feminist way, we have to understand the meaning of feminism. Feminism is described “as a social movement, which aims to improve women’s rights. A doctrine, originating in the late eighteenth century, suggests that women are systematically disadvantaged in modern society and advocates equal opportunities for men and women” (Abercrombie, Hill, Turner, 1984. pg. 131.).

Domestic violence describes a situation where one partner in a relationship is using violent and abusive behaviours in order to dominate and control the other partner. So in a family environment the issues of power and inequality are of great importance. Figures have stated that in 95% of all domestic assaults observe that men are committing these transgressions against women. The term patriarchy here is of consequence; the term patriarchy ” is used to describe the dominance of men over women. Patriarchy is essentially based on the household in which men dominate women, economically, sexually and culturally” (Abercrombie, Hill, Turner 1984, pg. 258.).

Men use their dominance in various forms, physical assault being the most common they also use other types of violence, which include, psychological and social abuse. Examples of physical abuse (with the objective to injure) is varied from slapping, punching and weapon use. Psychological Abuse includes emotional and verbal abuse with aggressive/intimidatory behaviours. Social abuse includes purposeful isolation, regular supervision and cutting her of from support networks (family and friends). Financial abuse is when the abusive (man) partner controls the woman’s access to money to obtain his position of power over her. Note the relevance of the word power; man himself is indeed looked upon society as the power figure of the family (the upholder of rights, the father figure) as the old saying suggests ” A Man’s Home Is His Castle His Domain”. “A random sample study in Canberra in 1997 estimated that 15% of married women- 6679 of 44 523 – living in the Australian Capital Territory at that time, had suffered physical abuse from their husbands” as cited in (Scutt, 1990, pg. 97.). Here again the issue of power and the distributaries of rights (equality) for both man and women seem increasingly stacked in favour of the male.

The violence against women (family violence) is an enormous global issue, which is hindered by lack of knowledge, lack of prohibitive laws and the disregard by authorities (public) for example the police, to enforce the existing laws, which are themselves flawed ” law reform can never be expected to do the job – for the so-called reformers are all men; women hold no positions of power in the law-making process”( Scutt 1983, pg. 196). Family violence also includes not only violence towards the spouse (women) but also includes violence towards siblings by the dominant partner (in most cases the male). In December 1993 the United Nations General Assembly invoked a resolution on gender violence called the Declaration on the Elimination of violence against women. It defined violence as ” any act of gender based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary depravations of liberty whether in public or private life” cited in (Healey, 1995, pg.23.). Is it then strange that we find the lack of equality or inequality towards women in an environment that is indeed there for the support that as such family unit offers?

The term inequality refers to ‘lack of equality; variableness, un-evenness’ (Mackenzie 1981, pg. 151.). Not only does the dominance of inequality and power by the male exist within the family structure, but also has great relevance towards the positions that men hold within our society. For it is without doubt that men in today’s society hold positions of greater influences than that of women, such examples are politics, religion and law. Although a minority of women (compared to men) have managed to climb to the top of their professionalisms, positions of authority, they’re faced with increasingly alienation. Such issues, as discrimination (sexual usually) ” Of the 430 complaints of sexual harassment received by the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission in 1993-1994 (an increase of 160 % on the previous year), most are by women against men in position of power or authority over them” -the Age, 29 June 1994 cited in (Linden, 1995, pg. 33), lack of further advancement with the lacking of respect by the men in the business are established in these position’s.

Associate this with the issue of domestic violence; it is not hard to see why men then carry over their influence (power, authorities) into the family environment. It is also worth mentioning in what society deems as social ‘norms’ by that I mean what society expects men to be, for example ‘the power figure of the family’ ‘upholder of rights’, and the very foundation of the family structure, `it is with this rationality that is threatening the very society in which we live. The president of the RSL (1994), Major-General ‘Digger’ James said, “The need to cave in … to demands that a family can be anything you like is a sign of a nation very much in danger of losing its way” as cited in (Linden, 1996, pg. 15).

As society deems certain avenues of work between men and women to two very distinctive avenue’s we have to wonder that if at all, are we addressing the real issue of domestic violence or simply turning a blind eye towards it? An assortment of theories have tried to explain the increase in domestic violence from what sociologist’s call a move from a modern ‘epoch’ to a nuclear family environment. Why then is it that we have moved forward but the issue of this violence (family) seems to be more established than before? Theories try to explain the cause and effects whilst some also seem to exemplify the myths behind this type of violence. A number of theories dispute points such as men’s natural in built tendency to be aggressive in nature, and that biological differences between men and women are of significance, for example female’s are considered more placid- less aggressive than male’s, (Freudian psychoanalysing theory). ” what one has to do is look at what masculinity is, to see what its emotions, deprivations are, as well as its emotional satisfactions, how it is linked to violence and what can be done about it” (Healey, 1995, pg.29).

Additional theories seem to place culpability elsewhere such as in family composition (that domestic violence is a symptom of insecure or ‘dysfunctional’ family interaction) “I am not saying the family unit itself causes problems. But it can reinforce them.” Dr Alan Cooklin, Psychiatrist cited in (Pollard, 1987, pg. 37). More familiar theories try to explain domestic violence being caused by external factors such as stress; alcohol, unemployment, drugs and gambling are few examples of these external factors. Whilst some of these theories might explain some of the additional views of family violence they don’t give attention to the core predicament of violence on women. Consequently we may possibly suggest that the feminist theory of gender, rights and power (authority) is a more plausible one.

The feministic methodology believes that certain ideals play major roles in contributing towards the issues of domestic violence, which are occurring in our society. Firstly the issue of the violence in a wide-ranging social perception is usually overlooked by other theories. Secondly, they believe that gender plays an unequivocal role in domestic violence (in that the prevalence of the abuse is committed by men and the greater part of sufferers are women) ” Men want to feel in control. They like to feel they’re a support for women a protection…”(Linden, 1996, pg. 8.). Thirdly additional theories give justification for men to commit these acts of aggression on women by incorporating culpability on factors such as stress, traditional, cultural values or religion as a result allowing men to avoid accountability for their actions. Fourthly a majority of theories to a certain extent do not take into account the fact that domestic violence is a crime.

Feministic theories point out to us the affiliation between the ways in how gender is associated to the power in society. “Domestic violence transpires because men have greater political, social and economic power than women.” (Healey, 1995, pg.37). These ethics are also compounded in ways in, how we adapt with the governing bodies that are mostly dominated by men, such examples are the law, media and the military and many other institutions. Social solidity is at fault also, for as men live to the ‘norm’s’ of society they are duty-bound into the beliefs to uphold the family unit over the safety of women and children, and sustain their rights and power over the household (this is regarded as being assenting to the social ‘norms’).

In conclusion we can see the spectacular effects that domestic violence has on women, on society, and in the family environment. We have to indisputably question the very make up of society into the allocation of equal rights and power (economic, sexual and social) for women worldwide. ” To stop violence against women, each society needs to look at itself and to challenge those values and beliefs that reinforce male violence” (Healey, 1995, pg. 27.). The power struggle between the male and his loss and sharing over his rights and power (especially in the family) has in no uncertainty hindered the pathway to the sharing of equal rights for both men and women. We cannot totally purge the problem of household violence, until we transform the communal characteristics that promote it. Men can also be prominent in this progression in that they can educate themselves in the remuneration of having a support structure that is given free of force instead of imposing the condition on to others (women) “Every man is a supporter of violence against women, so long as he does not speak out against it”(Scutt, 1983, pg. 323). For women in society deserve our respect, our faith and above all, they deserve to have the same rights and equality that is freely given to men. We as a society should value women for what they are, mothers, wifes, lovers, and a great deal more, but above all equals.

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