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Domestic Abuse Fractures Lives

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About Domestic Abuse

The following is based on the ‘Historical and Sociological Setting of Domestic Abuse’*

Understanding Domestic Abuse

To understand domestic abuse and the way that it is a part of so many of our lives, even if we don’t always know it when we see it, we have to look at abusive behaviour and see how it was seen in the past and how many of us grow up today with the same way of looking at it.

Violence is not about a problem in a relationship, it is a problem with the way we (society) give men control over women. Believing it is a problem in a relationship is what makes many people think that the ‘victim’ might be to blame and could do something to stop it. It also makes people think that men and women are living equally and so they have the same rights and the same choice.

Over time violence has become thought of as being masculine and manly. Lots of films, TV programmes, adverts and even magazines and fairy stories, show a ‘macho’ or big and strong man. A ’Macho Man’ will fight, not walk away, that is what is seen as being a real man. Men are told to be strong and tough, they are taught that to fight and be powerful is the way they should be.

What we know today is that domestic abuse was seen in the past to be the ‘normal’ way for men to treat the women in their lives. It was even written about, as though it was normal.

This is an old English proverb:

"A spaniel, a woman and a hickory tree,
The more ye beat them the better they be”

This has been translated from Russian:

"A wife may love a husband who never beats her,
But she doesn’t respect him”

In British common law, not too long ago, women were still seen as the property of men. They ‘belonged’ to their fathers and then when they got married they ‘belonged’ to their husbands. Most people will have heard at a wedding, the question, "who gives this woman?", as if she is an object to be passed from one man to another.

Husbands were told it was ok to punish their wives with any reasonable object. The rules were changed later to - it was OK to beat your wife as long as the stick you used was no thicker than a man’s thumb! In America, the rights to beat your wife were still around into the 20th century, giving men and women the message that women were ‘owned’ by men. An American judge even said:

"If no permanent injury has been inflicted, nor malice nor dangerous violence shown by the husband, it is better to draw the curtain, shut out the public gaze, and leave the parties to forget and forgive”

Throughout history, we (society) have given men a higher status than women, even today when we talk about women being equal to men, men who are violent to women still act as though they have a right to behave like that.

Men act like they have the right to be violent and they will find reasons why it is OK for them to be violent, like when they can say to themselves that the woman has done something wrong, broken the rules they have set, like not waiting up, even though he hasn’t come home until 3:00 in the morning!

Justice Bollen, Judge of the Supreme Court SA, was quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald on Friday May the 14th, 1993 (only 15 years ago!) as saying:

"There is, of course nothing wrong with a husband, faced with his wife’s initial refusal to engage in intercourse, in attempting, in an acceptable way, to persuade her to change her mind, and that may involve a measure of rougher than usual handling”

Even though we are influenced by our society and the words of powerful people in it, we are still able to think for ourselves. Not all men are violent. Some men believe in women being equal, they work co-operatively with and have respectful attitudes towards women.

It is time to change!

Reproduced with kind permission of North Derbyshire Domestic Abuse Action Group (NDDAAG), supported by Chesterfield Borough Council.