Many different forms of violence exist with each having adverse effects on its victims. Almost everyone has been exposed to violence whether it has been through the media, walking down the street, or experiencing it personally. The type of violence that so many are exposed to through society is not that of the private sphere, but the public sphere of violence. Society teaches our children that walking alone at night is not safe and not to talk to strangers. Society also tells women not to go out alone and not to dress too revealing or she may get raped. These are messages that speak of the public dangers that we should be aware of in order to protect ourselves. We learn that home is where you are safe and that family will protect you. This is not always the case. Violence occurs in the family as well. It is a type of violence we have labeled as wife abuse, which is a form a violence that Canadian society has only recently begun to examine. Perhaps a possible explanation for this is that wife abuse may be linked to families and divorce. After all, preserving the nuclear family is something that Canadian society has strived so hard to do.
Many explanations from all areas have emerged about why wife abuse occurs and the costs it has on the family, all of which have contributed to further knowledge of wife abuse. Some explanations have come to conclude that violence is natural or that violence is the husband's right in order to maintain control over his wife. These types of explanations are detrimental and need to be disregarded. A sociological perspective does not hold faith in these types of examinations. Instead, sociology believes that many factors, such as social learning, attitudes, etc., are what contributed to the causes of wife abuse. This paper will examine and discuss several causes and effects of wife abuse from a sociological perspective. The causes to be examined will be social learning, culture, attitudes, values, economic and political realties and patriarchy. The effects to be examined will be divorce, job loss, relationship with peers, schooling, murder and poverty in relationship to women and children who have been exposed to wife abuse. It will be the intent of this paper to demonstrate that there is no one answer to why wife abuse occurs. Instead, this paper will show that many factors contribute to wife abuse.
The first area to be examined is social learning of violence. Much research into violence supports the idea that violence is learned. People can learn violence in the home or in the public sphere of life. It is the people and ideas that individuals are exposed to daily that has a high influence on our behavior. According to the social learning theory, "people form ideas about how to behave and how to solve problems through observing influential people in their lives"(Johnson, 1996: 2). From the day of birth we are exposed to many people, whether it is family, peers, or strangers on television, with each contributing to how we perceive ways to behave. Exposure to many people over a life span usually means exposure to violence. Violence "becomes the way in which problems are solved, if the consequences of using violence are perceived as positive, and if the opportunity to learn more peaceful means are infrequent or unavailable" (Johnson, 1996: 2). Perceiving violence as positive in Canadian society may be the case. Violence is plastered all over the media, games and in books to mention a few. It has been acceptable in Canadian culture for us to spank our children, beat our wives and use violence to express frustration. It is not often that an individual is not exposed to violence. Research has shown that "individuals will copy aggressive behavior they see on television or in movies if it is performed by someone they identify strongly or share common characteristics" with (Johnson, 1996: 2). Children who are continuously exposed to violence through society may become desensitized to violence and view it as natural behavior.
Desensitization of violence can also occur from observing it in the family. Evidence has shown "that men who have been exposed to violence as children, either as witnesses to violence by their fathers or as victims of parental violence, are more likely to be violent toward their wives later in life" (Johnson, 1996: 2). It is apparent through examination of research that violent behavior occurring in the family, is socially learned. In the family is where many people learn most of their morals, values, attitudes, and behavior. Therefore, it can be concluded that witnessing or experiencing violence in the family would largely contribute to people becoming violent themselves.
Being continuously exposed to violence, whether in the home or in society, reinforces husbands to be violent toward their wives. Reinforcement is an important part of the social learning theory. Violence, according to the social learning theory, "will increase in frequency if it produces the desired outcome and if it is not met directly with punishment" (Johnson, 1996: 6). Production of desired outcomes may be power over the wife, control, submission, etc., all of which many in society view as the husbands right and duty. After all the husband is supposed to be the head of the household and it is his duty to keep the family in order, right? Wrong. This is a traditional, patriarchal view of men and the family. This view has carried through the centuries and is one example of reinforcement of wife abuse.
The social learning theory provides much insight into one of the many causes of wife abuse. However, this theory tends to infer that men learn violent behavior and also have no control over their actions. This implication does not hold true. Men do have control over their actions. When a man becomes violent toward his wife it is because he chooses to do so. As mentioned earlier, violence is a way for the man to achieve certain goals and to maintain his power over the family and his wife. By taking on this view, responsibility of violence is clearly not the victims nor poverty and socioeconomic status but the man's. In spite of, studies indicate that low socioeconomic status and poverty are linked to wife abuse. Lupri, Grandin, & Brinkeroff (1994) showed that "individuals in blue collar positions showed higher rates of abuse than their white collar counterparts" (50). The results showed that men making less than ten thousand dollars a year are 350 percent more likely than those making forty thousand to beat their wives. It therefore can be concluded that low socioeconomic status does increase the possibility for wife abuse to occur. Nevertheless, socioeconomic status cannot be used as the only excuse or reason why men beat their wives.
Social learning of violence against women is influential in shaping a person's behavior but is hardly the only contributor to wife abuse. Another contribution of wife abuse may be roles and norms that society has put in place for people to follow. It has been assumed that each person in a family has certain roles they are to follow. An example of a traditional role would be the stay home wife who takes care of the home and family. The wife is not to seek employment and should always emotionally support her husband. The husband on the other hand is to be responsible for all of the finances, work outside the home, and be the head of the household. These roles have long since been a well-known tradition for families, but over the years these roles have been challenged and changing. Women are gaining more independence by paid employment, having more equal rights in all areas of life, and having the right to choose what roles she would like follow. With these changes for women came changes for men and families as a whole. Both husbands and wives now share similar roles, with neither being the head of the family. This caused much resentment toward wives and threatened to take away much of the husband's power. Thus, many husbands began or increased the usage of violence as a means to regain their control over the family and wives. A certain theory named the systems theory focuses on how changing of roles can contribute to violence in the family. According to the systems theory "violence is a product of family system and is based on the premise that in each family there is established rules of behavior for each individual member, that each member's boundaries are defined, and the patterns of interaction have been dominant over time" (McCue, 1995: 10). When a member, such as the wife challenges the traditional roles a "corrective action by another family member occurs . . . to establish the member's own power position and is done through an increase in violent behavior" (McCue, 1995: 10). In other words, violence is a means for the husband to relieve tension and restore family order. This leads to the assumption that husbands and/or men are feeling threatened by women's new found independence and rights. Thus, many husbands use violence as a means to an end.
Overall, the idea that changing and challenging traditional roles of the family leads or contributes to wife abuse is a good basis for an explanation. However, like the social learning theory, it has been found that more than one explanation of wife abuse can be the answer. Perhaps a large contributor to wife abuse is society's overall attitudes and beliefs. Canadian society, as mentioned earlier, appears to promote or at least not discourage violence. Violence for centuries has been considered an acceptable means of resolving conflict. The government and world wars are an excellent example of how society supports the usage of violence. The attitudes and beliefs that society holds also help to reinforce wife abuse. Many believe that a marriage license is a license to beat their wives. It has been discovered that "many believe that under certain circumstances, it is perfectly appropriate for a husband to hit their wife" (Gelles & Straus, 1988: 26). How is it possible for so many to believe it to be appropriate to hit their wife? Perhaps, it is that we as a society have learned that violence is okay or that violence occurring in the home is a private matter not a public one. Maybe people learn that men have the right to dominate over women, children, and society. It is all of the above and much more. Individuals learn these types of attitudes in the family, at school, work, religion, and through the media. It is "social attitudes that set the stage for violence as an acceptable means of solving problems and self expression" (Gelles et al, 1988: 30). Canadian society is set up so men hold the economic and social power. Therefore, they can hit their wives without the worry of consequences. The way society has been set up is in such a way that men are able to view their wives as property and are able to do as they wish to them.
Social policies and the legal system are one area that reinforces such attitudes. In the past, the old rule of thumb was that a husband could beat his wife with a rod no rounder than his thumb. A man "killing his wife, particularly if she was having relations outside the marriage, was generally excused as a regrettable but understandable consequence of male passion" (Ontario Federation of Labour, 1998: 2). Of course in Canadian modern society, this law has been disregarded. Today's laws still require changes although efforts to change them have unsuccessful. In 1991, "some members of a federal legislative committee refused to endorse a report on violence against women because the title, "The War Against Women" used language too strong for their sensibilities" (Ontario Federation of Labour, 1998: 2). It is almost unimaginable to realize that Canadian society is one that still does not completely realize the seriousness of wife abuse. It is hopeful that soon the Canadian government will come to realize that a marriage is not a license to beat your wife. These social policies and laws need to be changed because it is within these "sexist structures and traditions of western society" that wife abuse occurs and is reinforced (Petersen, 1980: 399). A possible way to achieve change to social policies and Canada's legal system would be to try to change the norms and values that many people in society hold. As Lupri et al (1994) states "the elimination of wife abuse must involve the basic restructuring of the power relationships between women and men, inside and outside the home" (69).
Overall, from examining these possible explanations and contributions to wife abuse a central theme is present. That theme is patriarchy. Patriarchy is male dominance over many or all areas of the private and public spheres of life. It has existed for many centuries and continues to be a never-ending burden for women. Patriarchy "gives males power and control over women, placing them in inferior, dependent status in the family and society" (Brinkeroff & Lupri, 1988: 408). With the existence of patriarchy come's an acceptance and support for violence and wife abuse. When a man uses violence against his wife, it is often a way to maintain patriarchal order in the home and in society. Research has painstakingly shown "the legacy of male supremacy and authority have dominated the institutional matrix of the economy, polity, law, and religion, and men as a group have controlled women as a group throughout history" (Brinkeroff et al, 1988: 410). Thus it can be concluded that power differentials between men and women have long since created an environment for violence against women to occur and to be supported. "Not until women's roles within the family are no longer restricted to domestic work, child care, and emotional and psychological support" (Kurtz, 1989: 497) will these power differentials between husband and wife lessen or stop completely. Equality in marriages between husband and wife has its problems however. Equality "may increase rather than decrease conflict and violence within the family" (Kalmuss & Straus, 1982: 154). Therefore clearly eliminating power differentials in marriage will not solve wife abuse, but perhaps it is a step in the right direction for stopping it.
Through the examination of research it can be seen that several factors contribute to the causes of wife abuse. No one reason or explanation can account for why wife abuse occurs and how to stop it. Perhaps the combination of the few causes mentioned in this paper and the many more that exist could provide society with a better understanding of wife abuse.
The last issue to be discussed is the effects wife abuse has on the women and children who have been exposed to violence. Research has shown that both women and children suffer many psychological and sociological effects as a result of wife abuse. Some psychological effects of experiencing or witnessing wife abuse, according to Trimmer (1998), are depression, lowered self esteem, anxiousness, nightmares, and anger to mention a few. These effects are a result of the trauma of being beaten by the husband or children witnessing their father beat their mother. Usually these psychological problems are long term and can affect many areas of the victim's life, such as work, school, peer relations, etc. It is often that the wives and children will become withdrawn from outside family members and peers. This causes further isolation of women and children and makes it less likely they will receive help. In many cases, women's jobs become threatened due to continuous days off because of the abuse they have sustained. The wife may begin to lose friends because she may not invite them over in fear of her husband's potential attacks. These are all ways in which many wives hide their abuse from others. They hide their abuse for several other reasons as well. It may be because they think he will stop, or they do not want their husband to go to jail, or they fear the reaction they will get from others. Whatever the reason women hide their abuse is not so much the issue, but rather that the abuse occurs and it needs to be dealt with. Unfortunately, abusive husbands are not dealt within time and the end result may tragic, or even murder. Many murders that occur "have been provoked by the decision taken by the woman to leave the relationship" (Conway, 1997: 171). When a woman does decide to leave the abusive relationship, she and the children are most vulnerable and at risk. There is not enough safety in society for those women and children that leave the abusive relationship. Women often end up staying in an abusive relationship for this reason and many others. Another reason for staying is "women's continued economic dependence on their husbands" (Kurtz, 1989: 497) Consequently, many women for this reason alone "find that they are trapped in an abusive marriage" because their husbands have financial power (Kalmuss and Straus, 1982: 278). Another possible explanation as to why so many abused women stay in their marriage may be because of stereotypes, such as failing to be a good wife or divorce is not acceptable or she provoked the abuse thus it is her fault. These are only some possible stereotypes that many women face when deciding to leave her abusive husband. Many in society cannot "imagine that someone could be socially, legally, and materially entrapped in a marriage" (Gelles, 1997: 9). As stated by Gelles (1997) "wives seem to bear the brunt of considerable victim blaming" and that "battered women are somehow culpable, and their culpability in enforced by their decision not to leave" (9). This is far from true and these types of beliefs help reinforce wife abuse. Gratefully, society is beginning to realize that women and children are in risk of being murdered and that they do suffer adverse effects from wife abuse. Why Canada has only recently begun to realize the damage of wife abuse and violence overall can only be speculated. However, as mentioned before, many abusive relationships end in divorce. Divorce obstructs the traditional nuclear family from existing which is something Canadian society has worked hard at preserving.
Before concluding on the effects of wife abuse discussing the often forgotten victims of wife abuse is important and that is the children. Children who are forced to see their mothers brutally beaten by their fathers create problems in many areas of their lives. Research has shown that children who witness their father beat their mother "have lowered school achievements and tend to have lowered social skills" than those children who have not been exposed to wife abuse (Health Canada, 1998: 2). Children also become more socially withdrawn for fear of detection of the abuse or because their behavior has become so aggressive that other children will not interact with the child. Studies show that children from violent homes may suffer peer rejection because "they may be afraid or forbidden to bring friends to a potentially violent home; they may change schools frequently; or they may not attend school regularly" (Health and Welfare Canada, 1990:4). It can be concluded that "high rates of instability and change undoubtedly affect the development of solid peer relationships" (Health and Welfare Canada, 1990:4). Also, children from violent homes are exposed to role models that do not teach them proper pro social behavior and problem skills. Instead they often learn that violence is normal and is a way to deal with frustration. These types of messages do not teach a child peaceful and productive ways to behave and interact socially on a daily basis. Instead these children learn "rigid views of gender roles" and that it is "appropriate for men to be aggressive and domineering" (McCue, 1995: 105). These children who witness violence are more prone to abuse drugs and alcohol, and also more likely to commit crimes in society. Clearly, violence can be seen as a cycle in which generation to generation learn that violence is appropriate in Canadian society. What is needed are prevention and intervention programs in order to stop the cycle of violence from generation to generation (McCue, 1995: 106).
After reviewing literature on wife abuse and its implications it can be seen that much is needed in order to stop the cycle of wife abuse from occurring. More accurate research and explanations are required so that professionals and society can have a better understanding of wife abuse and violence in general. Violence costs everyone in society. It "reflects and grows from attitudes, values, and economic realities that show disrespect for women and that see women as less important than men" (Health Canada, 1998: 3). Statistics show that it costs billions of dollars each year for health care, shelters, counseling, policing, etc. all for the sake of helping the victims of wife abuse and violence. Perhaps the billions of dollars spent each year to help the victims and incarcerate the abuser needs to be spent on prevention and understanding of violence in families. Media also needs to stop portraying violence in a glorified manner. Attitudes, values, and morals need to be corrected through education and learning in the home that violence against all human beings is not acceptable in any manner. Once or if this is accomplished, maybe then women will stand a better chance of being viewed as human beings with equal rights and respect from society and its members.
Brinkeroff, M. B., & Lupri, E. 1988 "Interspousal Violence." Canadian Journal of Sociology. 13(3), p. 407-434.
Conway, John. 1993. The Canadian Family in Crisis. Toronto: James Lorimer and Company Ltd. Publishers.
Gelles, R. 1979. Family Violence. London: Sage Publications.
Gelles, R. 1997. Intimate Violence in Families. 3rd edition. London: Sage Publications.
Health Canada. 1998. Wife Abuse (H72-22/4-1995EISBN 0-662-23774-9). Canada: Author.
Health and Welfare Canada 1990. Research on Children from Violent Families. Ottawa, Canada: Author.
Johnson, H. 1996. "Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Violence Against Women." Dangerous Domains: Violence Against Women in Canada. p. 1-25.
Kalmuss, D. and Strauss, M. 1982. "Wife's Marital Dependency and Wife Abuse." Journal of Marriage and the Family. 6:227-285.
Lupri, E., Grandin, M., & Brinkeroff, M. 1994. " Socioeconomic Status and Male Violence in the Canadian Home: A Reexamination." Canadian Journal of Sociology. 19(1), p. 47-73.
McCue, M. 1995. Domestic Violence. California: ABC-CLIO, Inc.
Ontario Federation of Labour. 1998. No Longer Silent: Taking a Stand Against Violence in our communities, our workplaces and in our homes. Canada: Author.
Petersen, R. 1980. "Social Class, Social Learning, and Wife Abuse." Social Service Review 9: 392-405
Trimmer, M. 1998. What can be done about Spousal Abuse? .
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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 victim.
Perpetrators of domestic violence can be found in all age, racial,
ethnic, 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
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
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
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 itself.
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 communities.
1. Carrillo, Roxanna, Battered Dreams, UNIFEM, 1992
2. Connors, Jane Francis, Violence Against Women in the Family, Toronto, 1989
3. Facts About Domestic Violence, "http://gladstone.uoregon.edu.violence.html"
4. Jarman, F.E., et al, The Living Family: a Canadian Perspective, J.
5. Kantor, Paula, Domestic Violence Against Women: A Global Issue, UNC Press,
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), firstname.lastname@example.org
9. Violence Against Women Home Page, "http://www.usdoj.gov/vawo"
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