How Domestic Violence Has Evolved to the Issue it Is Today Term Paper

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Domestic Violence

Evolution of Domestic Violence to Today: What it Is, and How We See It

Domestic violence has become a very important issue to be tackled in today's society. Fortunately, over the years, many have recognized the need to address this issue, which can grow to quite serious proportions. In order to provide a context for the following paragraphs, I would like to include some statistics on domestic violence here. Though upsetting, these statistics are necessary to see just how much of a problem this issue can be. According to Strengthen Our Sisters, an organization that aims to help domestic violence victims by providing them with information and a hotline which to call in times of trouble, women suffer greatly under this issue, with a woman being physically assaulted nearly every 15 seconds. Battery also contributes to the single major cause of injury for women, and exceeds any other circumstance, including car accidents. Furthermore, Strengthen Our Sisters claims that not only are almost 3,000 women killed each year by their husbands, but that almost six million women are battered in any year. [1: Coha, A. (1993). "Domestic Violence Statistics." Strengthen Our Sisters. Retrieved May 1, 2011, . ]

Domestic violence has clearly become paramount to address not just by authorities, but also by society as a whole. This paper will discuss how the recognition of domestic violence has evolved within our society, what laws there are in place to ensure the safety of those that may become abused, and what significant events or organizations have put these laws into place.

Domestic Violence Historically

As an issue, domestic violence was not always recognized as serious and in need to be addressed. Throughout the centuries, and especially before women had rights or were involved in social and political life, they would often find themselves at a disadvantage, for their husbands had full control over their lives. In Roman times, for example, a man could beat or murder his wife for the offenses she committed that tainted his honor or threatened his rights, with no legal recourse, as these were considered "private matters." In the 15th century, the Catholic Church endorsed a set of rules that cemented the husband's authority towards his wife by allowing him to beat her if she committed an offense. Furthermore, England common law as well, maintained that the husband should be allowed to control his wife as such in the "interest of maintaining family discipline." [2: Davis, J. (1999). "Domestic Abuse." Cabot Police Department. Retrieved May 1, 2011, <>. ] [3: Davis, J. (1999). "Domestic Abuse." Cabot Police Department. Retrieved May 1, 2011, <>. ]

According to a Columbia University journal, it was only in the late 19th century that domestic violence became a social issue. At this time, women became more and more involved in society and opportunities for women's activities emerged. The research further states that spousal torture was subject to a jail sentence for the husband in England who, while in jail, had to provide for the family. With the advent of women's rights in the 20th century, domestic violence shifted from "the wife" to children. The focus, at this time, was thus placed on negligent mothers and juvenile delinquency. [4: Not Available. "History of Domestic Violence." Columbia University. Retrieved May 1, 2011, .]

Battered women cases resurfaced, however, in the 1970's with the women's power movement, and spousal abuse became a public issue. This happened because of the women's liberation movement, women's health movement and anti-rape movements. It is important to note these movements for they had the resources necessary and the networks in place to help battered women and their movement gain strength and influence. Eventually, according to Columbia University research, "It was calls to rape hot lines from wives who had been victims of their husbands' abuse that helped domestic violence be placed on political agendas [and...] it was the anti-rape organizations that began to speak about battered women, informing others through newsletters and training sessions." [5: Not Available. "History of Domestic Violence." Columbia University. Retrieved May 1, 2011, . ]

In 1974, according to one article, the first shelter for women was opened. This initial establishment led to the opening of hundreds of others, and to programs that provided "emotional, financial, and vocational assistance to domestic violence survivors and their children." Furthermore, police forces, which had heretofore treated domestic violence by talking to the victims to "calm" them and even threatening arrest for both parties if domestic disputes continued, were trained to deal with the issue head on, and to address especially the women's side, which was most often the victim side. [6: Moser, P. (2007). "The History of Domestic Violence." Suite101. Retrieved May 1, 2011, <>. ] [7: Moser, P. (2007). "The History of Domestic Violence." Suite101. Retrieved May 1, 2011, <>. ]

The media and academia also had a great impact on this issue. As early as the 1960's, newspapers began publishing articles condemning the beating or killing of women by abusive husband, such as seen in the headline, "Husband goes berserk and shoots estranged Wife," according to one report. Books were published on the dissatisfaction of domestic conditions as well, including Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique, which captured "the discontent of a whole generation of middle class women […] struggling between aspirations for fulfillment and an ideology that assigns them to the home." Furthermore, academic research and articles were published, for example, as those in the Archives of General Psychiatry, which suggested that battering was a serious offense and that "battered wives were like the wives of alcoholics." [8: Not Available. (1999). "Herstory of Domestic Violence." SafeNetwork: California's Domestic Violence Resource. Retrieved May 1, 2011, .] [9: Not Available. (1999). "Herstory of Domestic Violence." SafeNetwork: California's Domestic Violence Resource. Retrieved May 1, 2011, . ]

Laws Concerning Domestic Violence

Due to all these issues surfacing, and being addressed in all areas of society, the legal system had to take note, and laws began to be passed on various women's rights issues, including domestic violence related matters. The first matter was taken by Congress, who passed a law prohibiting discrimination of women in the workplace, though kept the legal marriage contract intact. The next step was taken by the State of New York in 1966, which claimed that beating was inhuman treatment, and a woman could divorce her husband on these grounds. In 1969, California also adopted a divorce law that ensured that either partner could request divorce without fear of contestation by the other party. During the late 1960's killing a woman was also made an offense in Italy, interestingly. [10: Not Available. (1999). "Herstory of Domestic Violence." SafeNetwork: California's Domestic Violence Resource. Retrieved May 1, 2011, .]

The most active period with regards to the issue in the legal arena was from 1978 to 1984, according to the Columbia University study, when bills were presented and passed by Congress on various domestic violence issue, such as the "Domestic Violence Prevention and Services Act," passed in 1980. Then, in 1984, the "Family Violence Prevention Services Act" was also passed. This latter act authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services to "make grants to States to assist in supporting the establishment, maintenance, and expansion of programs and projects to: 1) prevent incidents of family violence; and 2) provide shelter and related assistance for victims and their dependents." [11: Not Available. "History of Domestic Violence." Columbia University. Retrieved May 1, 2011, . ]

The next step, as aforementioned, was to train the police force to respond more efficiently to domestic violence cases. In 1994, the Victims of Crime act and the Violence Again Women Act were passed. This law definitively stated that "gender-motivated crimes" violated women's rights and women could sue a perpetrator, even if he was the husband. The law also set parameters for police response. Police protocol thus changed and arrest became the preferred response to domestic violence related calls. Officers were taught how to make an arrest and not just a threat, in order to save lives, for a person in jail could not kill or harm his or her spouse. Some states went further, and made officers personally liable if they failed to arrest a perpetrated who then injured a victim. Other states set up heavy fines for those officers who failed to follow new regulations. Furthermore, officers were also given authority to issue Restraining Orders temporarily, especially in emergencies or when courts were not opened. [12: Nolte, M. (2002). "Spousal Abuse." Women's Issues Then and Now. Retrieve May 1, 2011, . ] [13: Moser, P. (2007). "The History of Domestic Violence." Suite101. Retrieved May 1, 2011, <>. ] [14: Moser, P. (2007). "The History of Domestic Violence." Suite101. Retrieved May 1, 2011, <>. ]

The courts also did their parts, and held themselves accountable to upholding the new laws by offering stricter punishments for first-time offenders, including 6-month sentences in some cases. Thus, by the 1990's, states and…[continue]

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