A brief and incomplete history of violence against women:
During the 1800s husbands had the choice of whether or not to beat their wives. It was a right and a privilege condoned by society. All states in the U.S. made “wife beating” illegal by 1920, the same year women won the right to vote. It was presumed, under the umbrella of privacy and sanctity of home, that there was a reluctance to interfere when men beat or raped their wives.
However, a recent 2013 article The Exit Myth: Family Law, Gender Roles, and changing Attitudes Toward Female Victims of Domestic Violence by Carolyn B. Ramsey
suggests that until 1930 offenders were likely to be charged in criminal court and sentenced to a jail term. Wife killers often faced the death penalty and juries tended to acquit women who killed their husbands in self-defense.
It is now thought that changing gender roles, women exercising their right to vote and entering the workforce, led to the premise that women were capable of leaving an abusive relationship. Sympathy for female victims of violence in the home waned. The changing view that women no longer needed to be cared for in paternalistic ways resulted in a period of apathy, leaving women of the 1930s basically unprotected from domestic violence.
In 1945 the State of California passed a law that made corporal injury of a wife, or cruel and inhumane punishment of a child, a felony. But it wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 70s that The Women’s Liberation Movement set the stage for the legal protection of battered women by claiming that what goes on in the privacy of people’s homes is deeply political.
In 1994 Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), part of the federal Crime Victims Act, which funds services for victims of rape and domestic violence, allows women to seek civil rights remedies for gender-related crimes, and provides training to increase police and court officials’ sensitivity. Its attempt to connect the crime of violence with an assault on civil rights was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court.
The VAWA has been controversial and subsequently improved and expanded in 2000, 2005 and again in 2013 (giving jurisdiction to Native American tribal leaders).
Domestic violence is now a serious crime.
Recognize violence. Don’t sweep it under the rug
Domestic violence — also called intimate partner violence — occurs between people in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse. Men are sometimes abused by partners, but domestic violence is most often directed toward women. Domestic violence can happen in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.
It might not be easy to identify domestic violence at first. While some relationships are clearly abusive from the outset, abuse often starts subtly and gets worse over time. You might be experiencing domestic violence if you’re in a relationship with someone who:
- Calls you names, insults you or puts you down
- Prevents or discourages you from going to work or school
- Prevents or discourages you from seeing family members or friends
- Tries to control how you spend money, where you go, what medicines you take or what you wear
- Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
- Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs
- Threatens you with violence or a weapon
- Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets
- Forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
- Blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it
If you’re lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you might also be experiencing domestic violence if you’re in a relationship with someone who:
- Threatens to tell friends, family, colleagues or community members your sexual orientation or gender identity
- Tells you that authorities won’t help a lesbian, bisexual or transgender person
- Tells you that leaving the relationship means you’re admitting that lesbian, bisexual or transgender relationships are deviant
- Says women can’t be violent
- Justifies abuse by telling you that you’re not “really” lesbian, bisexual or transgender
More information: http://www.domesticviolenceroundtable.org/domestic-violence-cycle.html
U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 TTY 1-800-787-3224
The capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest meaning and significance.