The Problem

battered_3.jpg For decades the people who control our society have showed us that men are violent and women are submissive, and not only is this an accepted norm, but we are taught that this is a good thing, how things should be. This socialization of what a man's role in a relationship is and the ways in which a woman is expected to behave has led to a significant amount of inequalities and dominance of men over women. This can be seen through the sexual division of labor, where men often marry down and women marry up (Anderson: 658). One of the side effects to this stratification of male superiority is domestic violence. Predominantly women are abused by their significant others which destroys their self-esteem and causes a feeling of entrapment. According to Anderson, often times women who experience domestic violence do not leave the relationship, but rather they stay in their abusive relationships because there are a lack of solutions and support from greater society, or it is possible that many of these women desire the satisfaction of “healing their man.” Often times women in these relationships have limited economic and social resources.

Domestic violence is not new in the world of sociology. An average of 6 different sociologists who surveyed the U.S. population found that 12% of women were victims of domestic violence at least once within the year of 1996 with the perpetrator being her husband (Wilt and Olson). A later study found that nearly 1/3 of American women (31%) have reported being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at one point in their lives (The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across A Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, May 1999). Clearly domestic violence impacts the lives of many and is a serious social problem.

There are three main forms of domestic violence which are: physical, sexual, and emotional. We will focus on all three of these in a broad sense in relation to socioeconomic status. All forms are harmful and ultimately a result of socialization of gender roles.

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Making Domestic Violence

Abuse can stem from many different factors of life. There are an alarming amount of women who are abused and there is very little help for them within the institutional system. For example in Nancy Berns article, she explains that the institutional system can be held accountable for some reasons why people can be abusive and are abused. Women do not have the consistent support from judges or law enforcement systems. Women also lack support from the medical system as well. Another institution that lacks support for abused women is the educational system. We see a lack of education in schools, the media, and advocate groups. Domestic violence goes unnoticed, undiscussed, and hidden behind closed doors. Often times it appears that society wishes to hide domestic violence. When the Dixie Chicks came out with a song called "Goodbye Earl" about women conquering domestic violence, it was banned from the radio and the music video was banned from television. When Garth Brooks made a music video for "Thunder Rolls" and showed a woman living with an abusive husband, it was also banned from the television. Not only is domestic violence not being talked about, but it is being covered up and put out of eyesight.

We can also see that our own cultures and social structures play a role in why women are abused. Media from today and the past condone the abuse of women by their husbands and boyfriends. As can be seen in an advertisement for coffee (see below), the woman is being spanked by her husband. Taking a closer look at the add can reveal the subconscious messages it sends out. The woman's face is still happy and pain-free even though her husband has demeaningly placed her over his knee and is about to hit her. Our family structure is designed so that we live in a patriarchal society with patriarchal dominance. We can even see dominance within sports culture through publicized knowledge of athletes being in abusive relationships.

A prevalent factor relating to domestic violence is low socioeconomic status. Living with unemployment and or poverty can cause stress, which heightens tension within a relationship, which can result in violence. According to Anderson's article, “higher rates of violence are among young, poorer, less educated, unmarried, African American, Hispanic, and urban couples.” We can also see that social class effects socialization. Anderson’s article states that, "lower class men often lack power and authority in their work environments, so they construct rigid, aggressive models of masculinity at home." Society has told men that they aren't a real man if they aren't violent and aggressive. If men are losing their "power" they will seek other ways to obtain it. In another article written by Wilt and Olson, "income is inversely related to prevalence of domestic violence." All of these factors can play a huge role on abused and battered women. We have came up with a plan to solve and help women who are in need of the kind of resources that they are not receiving on their own.

Stopping Domestic Violence

external image 361649891_c9ef246700_m.jpg Institutional problems within legal, medical and educational systems are some of the root causes of domestic violence (Berns, 1999). More policies and laws need to be employed to protect the safety of victims of domestic violence. One solution is to have a mandatory training session regarding domestic violence for individuals in these institutions. Police officers who receive calls for domestic abuse cases not only need to be sensitive to the victim but also need take the situation seriously. Health care professionals need to know what steps to take when confronted with a victim of domestic violence. If teachers suspect one of their students or a student's parent to be a victim of domestic violence, they must report the situation immediately. The availability of violent prevention groups in K-12 schools, junior colleges, and universities will allow people to gain knowledge about domestic violence issues and resources will be readily available to help anyone in need.

Prevention requires cultural and structural changes since factors such as social attitudes, socialization, violence in the media, tolerance of violence, social stratification within gender, class, race, etc. may contribute to the cause of domestic violence (Berns, 1999). Raising consciousness about the problem is necessary to encourage people to take action. V-Day is a global movement founded by feminist and activist Eve Ensler to help end violence, including domestic violence, against women and girls. The V-Day campaign has raised money for antiviolence organizations and funding for shelters around the globe, and put on benefit performances all around the world including at college campuses to bring awareness to the students that will control our nation's future.

Prevention should occur in schools beginning at a young age to educate children on the topic of domestic violence as well as what one can do if violence does, or starts to occur in their homes. Guest speakers are encouraged to share their own personal experience of domestic violence at schools to give children a first hand perspective on the impact of domestic violence. Children of abused mothers may not even know that domestic violence is wrong, or abnormal if they have been exposed to it their entire lives. By showing them that domestic violence is wrong, maybe they will come forward and seek help for themselves and their mothers. Also, this type of education will teach children not to become abusers themselves and end the cycle of domestic violence in their future families.

Based on statistical evidence, neighborhoods that have a high correlation between domestic violence and low socioeconomic status should have targeted programs for prevention. Employers should offer and encourage their employees to attend stress management programs to help workers cope. Courts should require men who have abused women to attend anger management classes instead of imprisoning them. More welfare programs and funding should be made available to low income workers to help ease their situation in poverty and improve the standard of living.

Restraining orders are not enough for women to feel safe, a piece of paper often does very little to keep an abusive male from harming a woman. Public and private safe houses do exist; however, not all women know that they do have the option of seeking shelter in a safe house. Domestic violence resources such as pamphlets and hot-line numbers should be distributed in low-income neighborhoods. This way, battered women can call to find a safe house without their abusers' knowledge. Even here on the UC Davis campus we have a campus wide program to help all students in need regarding abuse. The Campus Violence Protection Program here on the UC Davis campus is committed to helping those in need.

Sometimes violence is portrayed with humor or irrelevance in the media. For example, in the popular video game Grand Theft Auto, gamers have the option of beating up a prostitute. Laws need to be passed to prevent game developers from releasing games that humorize domestic violence. This policy also needs to be applied to other forms of media such as music, movies, television, advertisements, etc. Domestic violence should not be trivialized.

By making institutional changes, cultural, and structural changes, as well as taking preventative measures, domestic violence can be reduced and someday eliminated. The best thing to do is to educate everybody and to demand that such abusive actions are not acceptable. No more hiding domestic violence behind closed doors.



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Anderson, Kristin L. "Gender Status, and Domestic Violence: An Integration of Feminist and Family." Journal of Marriage and the Family. Vol. 59, No. 3. 1997: 655-669

Berns, Nancy. "'My Problem and How I Solved It' : Domestic Violence in Women's Magazines." The Sociological Quarterly. Vol. 40, No. 1. 1999: 85-108

Domestic Violence Statistics. "The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman's Lifespan." 1998 Survey of Women's Health. 1999

Flikr. www.flikr.com. Yahoo! Inc. 2008

V-day. http://v10.vday.org/

Wilt, Susan and Sarah Olson. "Prevalence of Domestic Violence in the United States." JAMWA. Vol. 51, No. 3. 1996: 77-82