Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Domestic Violence: A Global Issue

(Picture of early morning downtown Detroit, Michigan and Ontario, Canada divided by the Detroit River. While other residents sleep, how many women and children have been awake and plagued by the terror of domestic violence?)

Domestic Violence: A Global Issue

Global Overview
The global movement for human rights and democracy has had a profound effect on individuals around the world. International human rights standards are based on the principle of universality, that is, that human rights standards apply equally to all persons and all nations. Yet every day, women are murdered, beaten, raped, traded as chattel, denied their basic human rights and marginalized around the world. Yet, increasingly strides are being made to establish the human rights of women and the girl child as an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights according to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action convened in 1993. Violence and all forms of sexual harassment and exploitation, including those resulting from cultural prejudice and international trafficking, are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person, and must be eliminated.

A woman cannot reach her potential and participate in the development of her country if her basic rights to safety and dignity are violated.

Some forms of gender violence are culturally specific and practiced primarily in certain regions of the world, for example, bride burning in India, child brides and female circumcision in parts of Africa. A fairly universal type of violence perpetrated against women is battering. Battering, referred to by a number of names - domestic violence, conjugal assault, wife bashing, spouse abuse, denotes the abusive behaviors that occur in an intimate relationship.

Dr. Aaronette White isolated the following social psychological factors in societies that demonstrate high rates of male sexual violence:

*acceptance of interpersonal violence as a way of life
*male dominance as a part of the social ideology
*rigid sex role stereotypes
*acceptance of dominance and exploitation of women

David Levinson’s study of over ninety societies around the world revealed the following profile of the few societies that reflect low family violence:

Profile of Societies with Low Rates of Family Violence:
*monogamous marriages
*economic equality between men and women
*equal access to divorce
* availability of alternative caretakers for children
*frequent & regular interventions in domestic disputes
*norms that encourage nonviolent settlement outside home

United States
Violence against women is endemic in the United States. Every year two to four million women are battered by a partner. Both women and men can and do commit violent acts. While some women perpetrate violence against males, overwhelmingly the perpetrators are males in instances of 90% and higher. And while both women and men suffer physical and psychological injury from violence, however, women are at greater risk for sexual and domestic violence. Thirty percent of women murdered annually are murdered by husbands/boyfriends or ex-partners.
American society has been slow to recognize violence against women as a pervasive societal problem, rather than a personal one. Only in the last twenty to thirty years have shelters evolved as a way to help women escape violent relationships. Institutional responses to abuse of women have been uneven and thus inadequate. There are still serious knowledge gaps in our understanding about the problem. Prosecution and conviction rates of offenders still remain low despite civil protection orders available in every state. The ultimate task is to prevent domestic violence from occurring in the first place. The key is to shift from reacting to individual incidents of violence, and focus on changing the social, behavioral, and environmental factors that support violence. The full participation of communities is vital to engender a sense of ownership of the problem.

Research indicates that when police and other social control agencies are trained they are more willing to take women seriously, make arrests and follow up on prosecution. Most states now integrate domestic violence protocols in their law enforcement trainings which include woman abuse, sexual assault, elder abuse, stalking and sexual harassment. In many instances that training also addresses dynamics that impact the immigrant and refugee communities. Together we can stop the tide of violence against women and children in the United States of North America and around the world.

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