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Article

Emily Wright and Brandon Valgardson

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious problem that affects many individuals and crosses national borders, religions, gender, sexual orientation, racial, and ethnic groups (Harvey, Garcia-Moreno, & Butchart, 2007; Krug, Mercy, Dahlberg, & Zwi, 2002). The World Health Organization has defined intimate partner violence as any behavior that inflicts harm on an intimate partner, such as a spouse, prior spouse, or partner. This harm can be physical, psychological, or sexual in nature and is inflicted through physical aggression, psychological abuse, sexual coercion, or other controlling behaviors (Krug et al., 2002). At times, the terms domestic violence and partner/spouse abuse are used interchangeably with the term intimate partner violence (Harvey et al., 2007). Historically, intimate partner violence was seen as a matter to be dealt with in the home (Andrews & Khavinson, 2013); that is, it was largely considered a private issue between intimate partners. As such, little attention or support was extended toward victims of violence. The women’s rights movement during the 1970s brought many of the deleterious effects of IPV to the attention of the public. As a result, assistance became increasingly available for victims (Dugan, Nagin, & Rosenfeld, 2003). Some of the efforts to provide assistance to victims of IPV include mandatory arrest laws, victim advocacy, counseling services, shelters, and crisis hotlines. Substantial efforts have been made to provide needed services to the victims of IPV, yet the exact rates of victimization are unknown. This is due to different research methodologies and operationalizations of IPV that are used across studies. For instance, there is some controversy as to whether IPV should be measured by acts of violence (e.g., hitting, choking) or the severity of injuries (e.g., bruises, broken bones). Complicating the issue is the fact that different sampling methods may yield different estimates of IPV. Research drawn from the general population, for instance, may uncover higher rates of less severe IPV, while purposive samples drawn from domestic violence shelters may yield higher rates of severe IPV (Johnson, 2008). Measurement challenges also occur because many individuals underreport or misrepresent their victimization. Thus, research that incorporates multiple study designs and sampling techniques, indicates that approximately 16% of adults in the United States experience IPV victimization each year (Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Misra, Selwyn, & Rohling, 2012). Social scientists have used a number of theories to better understand IPV. These theories include feminist theories, power theories, social learning theories, and personality theories. Research grounded in these theories has found many risk factors that are related to the likelihood of victimization and perpetration. Additionally, various risk factors for IPV perpetration and victimization have been identified, including individual (e.g., alcohol abuse, anger), historical (e.g., abuse as a child), and demographic (e.g., cohabitation, age) factors (Stith et al., 2000; Stith, Smith, Penn, Ward, & Tritt, 2004). Recently, behavioral scientists have begun to investigate the biological and genetic factors related to IPV perpetration (Barnes, TenEyck, Boutwell, & Beaver, 2013; Hines & Saudino, 2004). Because there are many short- and long-term negative effects of IPV victimization, scholars and advocates continue to explore new avenues to increase understanding of IPV perpetration and victimization to better assist victims and perpetrators. Currently, the main sources of help for victims of IPV include mandatory arrest laws, domestic violence shelters, crisis hotlines, civil protection orders, victim advocacy, treatment programs, and informal means of assistance. However, each of these resources has demonstrated varying degrees of effectiveness for increasing victim support and reducing repeated victimization.

Article

Bonnie E. Carlson

Intimate partner violence—physical, emotional, or sexual abuse experienced in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships—has emerged as a significant and complex social problem warranting the attention of social workers. Numerous risk factors have been identified in individual perpetrators and victims, as well as at the level of the relationship, community, and society. Partner violence has diverse consequences for female victims, as well as for perpetrators and children who are exposed to it. Although many female victims do seek help and end abusive relationships, seeking help from professionals such as social workers is often a last resort.

Article

Meda Chesney-Lind and Nicholas Chagnon

Though it is generally given less attention than sexual assault, domestic violence is quite often depicted in corporate media products, including news broadcasts, television shows, and films. Mediated depictions of domestic violence share many of the same problems as those of sexual assault. In particular, the media tends to imply that women are somehow culpable when they are being beaten, even murdered, by their partners. News on domestic violence is often reported in a routine manner that focuses on minutiae instead of context, informing audiences minimally about the nature, extent, and causes of domestic violence. Though it is encouraging that over the past several decades the media has begun to acknowledge that domestic violence is a serious problem, this recognition is challenged by antifeminist claims-making in the media. Such challenges generally cite contested social science research as proof that feminist research on domestic violence is biased and inaccurate. Furthermore, media representations of domestic violence often supply racializing and class-biased discourses about abusers and their victims that frame domestic violence as largely the product of marginalized classes, rather a problem that affects the various strata of society. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, media coverage of the violence against women abroad, particularly in Islamic nations, has provided more racializing discourse, which juxtaposes “progressive” Western cultures with “backward” Eastern ones. On the domestic front, news focusing on indigenous communities replicates some of the racism inherent in the orientalist gaze applied to domestic violence abroad. Generally, the media do a poor job of cultivating a sophisticated understanding of domestic violence among the public. Thus, many researchers argue such media representations constitute a hegemonic patriarchal ideology, which obfuscates the issue of domestic violence, as well as the underlying social relations that create the phenomenon.

Article

Since the mid 1980s, a growing body of theoretical and empirical literature has examined the existence of intimate partner violence (IPV) in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities. Collectively, this research has suggested that IPV in rainbow communities occurs at rates comparable to those documented among heterosexual populations and results in similar detrimental psychological, social, and physical consequences for victims. Importantly, however, this work has also highlighted myriad ways in which the social and structural marginalization of gender and sexual minority populations create unique vulnerabilities for IPV that are not shared by cissexual and heterosexual individuals. This entry provides an overview of this scholarship to inform strength-based social work practice with and for LGBT survivors of domestic violence at the macro, mezzo, and micro levels.

Article

Larry W. Bennett and Oliver J. Williams

Perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) use coercive actions toward intimate or formerly intimate partners, including emotional abuse, stalking, threats, physical violence, or rape. The lifetime prevalence of IPV is 35% for women and 28% for men, with at an estimated economic cost of over ten billion dollars. IPV occurs in all demographic sectors of society, but higher frequencies of IPV perpetration are found among people who are younger and who have lower income and less education. Similar proportions of men and women use IPV, but when the effects of partner abuse are considered, women bear the greatest physical and behavioral health burden. Single-explanation causes for IPV such as substance abuse, patriarchy, and personality disorders are sometimes preferred by practitioners, advocates, and policymakers, but an understanding of IPV perpetration is enhanced when we look through the multiple lenses of culture and society, relationship, and psychological characteristics of the perpetrators.

Article

In the United States, the history of sexual assault in the first half of the 20th century involves multiple contradictions between the ordinary, almost invisible accounts of women of all colors who were raped by fathers, husbands, neighbors, boarders, bosses, hired hands, and other known individuals versus the sensational myths that involved rapacious black men, sly white slavers, libertine elites, and virginal white female victims. Much of the debate about sexual assault revolved around the “unwritten law” that justified “honorable” white men avenging the “defilement” of their women. Both North and South, white people defended lynching and the murder of presumed rapists as “honor killings.” In courtrooms, defense attorneys linked the unwritten law to insanity pleas, arguing that after hearing women tell about their assault, husbands and fathers experienced an irresistible compulsion to avenge the rape of their women. Over time, however, notorious court cases from New York to San Francisco, Indianapolis and Honolulu, to Scottsboro, Alabama, shifted the discourse away from the unwritten law and extralegal “justice” to a more complicated script that demonized unreliable women and absolved imperfect men. National coverage of these cases, made possible by wire services and the Hearst newspaper empire, spurred heated debates concerning the proper roles of men and women. Blockbuster movies like The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind and Book of the Month Club selections such as John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Richard Wright’s Native Son joined the sensationalized media coverage of high-profile court cases to create new national stereotypes about sexual violence and its causes and culprits. During the 1930s, journalists, novelists, playwrights, and moviemakers increasingly emphasized the culpability of women who, according to this narrative, made themselves vulnerable to assault by stepping outside of their appropriate sphere and tempting men into harming them.

Article

Jill Theresa Messing

Intimate partner violence—the continual and systematic exercise of power and control within an intimate relationship that often also includes physical and sexual violence—has emerged as a significant and complex social problem warranting the attention of social workers. Risk and protective factors have been identified at the individual, family, community, and societal levels. Some of these risk factors for repeat and lethal violence have been organized into risk assessment instruments that can be used by social workers to educate and empower survivors. Intimate partner violence has multiple negative health and mental health consequences for female victims and their children. Social workers in all areas of practice should be prepared to intervene with victims of intimate partner violence in a culturally competent manner using a strengths-based framework.

Article

Selena T. Rodgers

Domestic violence is a public health problem shown to inflict severe mental and physical injury on millions of individuals and has considerable social costs. Absent from the literature is an examination of womanism ideologies, which provide a greater understanding of the full praxis that black women who experience domestic violence engage. Drawing from initial conceptualizations of womanism and later contributions of Africana womanism, this article brings into focus pervasive acts of violence perpetrated against black women, their racial loyalty to protect black men, and the limitations of existing domestic violence models and interventions. This entry addresses how these three interconnected areas are treated within the conceptual framework of womanism. An overview of violence against black women reveals the historical and contemporary forms of knowledge and praxis that have sought to overcome the social problem of intimate partner abuse, including the social construction of controlling images and the Power and Control Wheel (The Duluth Model). This entry also examines the prevalence of violence perpetrated against black women and compounding factors. In addition, this author considers the Violence Against Women Act and its consequences on laws and policies that affect the race, gender, and class experiences of black women coping with domestic violence. Also analyzed is the quintessential role of demographics, the culture of domestic violence, and international debates about womanism, including how black women intellectuals are prioritizing race-empowerment perspectives and a reference point to articulate healthy black relationships are prioritized. The article also reviews social work practice with black women victims/survivors of domestic violence and their families.

Article

Ruth A. Brandwein

This overview entry introduces the topic of women, beginning with general demographic information. The section on poverty and inequality, which follows, describes the gender differences and delineates some reasons why women are poor and unequal. Issues of childcare, welfare, and education are explored. Domestic violence and sexual assault are discussed, followed by a discussion of health and mental health issues affecting women. The role of women in politics is briefly explored. The entry concludes with a discussion of current trends and challenges, including implications for social justice.

Article

With a population of 186,000 (2012) and an area of 1,001 km², the twin-island republic of São Tomé and Príncipe in the Gulf of Guinea is the second smallest country in Africa. Following the decline of the once prosperous plantation economy after independence from Portugal in 1975, the country has largely become dependent on foreign aid. More than half of the population lives in poverty, especially women, children, and people in rural areas. After fifteen years of socialist one-party rule, a multiparty democracy was adopted in 1990. The local Creole population, called forros, is descended from white colonists and African slaves who settled the hitherto uninhabited islands from the late 15th century. The minority of descendants of African plantation workers from the first half of the 20th century tends to assimilate into Creole culture, while the angolares, descendants of a maroon community from the 16th century, constitute a distinct sociocultural group. According to 2012 census data, 80 percent of the population is Christian, predominantly Roman Catholic, while 20 percent is nonreligious. African beliefs in witchcraft and other occult forces frequently coexist with Christianity. The kinship system is bilateral where descent and inheritance are passed through both father and mother. Infant baptism is an important ritual, whereas initiation ceremonies for adolescents, including male and female circumcision, are non-existent. The dominant conjugal union is the customary union, while the formal marriage is a rare exception and only practiced by the educated elite. Polygamy is a common practice, but a man’s different wives never live together in the same residence. Local society considers polygyny and male dominance as a natural condition of men. Despite their subordinated role in family and society, individual well-off or educated women have always achieved considerable prestige and recognition. During the socialist regime, legal equality between the sexes was guaranteed and the emancipation of women was promoted, at least officially. Since the 1990s, several externally conceived campaigns, government programs, and new legislation have combated gender inequality and discrimination against women.

Article

Joseph C. Miller

Small communities of Bantu-language-speaking cultivators, and eventually also cattle herders, settled and thrived during the last three millennia throughout nearly the entire African continent east and south of Cameroon. They mobilized the people who did so in many ways, transferring many of them among the groups they formed. Mobility was assumed to be normative. Most they repositioned by mutual agreements protecting the daughters or others they moved as wives, some sought new places voluntarily as clients, and others found themselves involuntarily abandoned, captured, or otherwise isolated and vulnerable to the strangers who took them in. The last group most resembled the people who, in modern societies, we recognize as “enslaved.” However, those who acquired these vulnerable people used them for purposes very different from the plantations and backbreaking labor associated with African “slavery” in the Americas. And they faced futures more varied than the permanently and inheritably enslaved Africans in the New World. This essay sketches these varied purposes and outcomes of enslavement in the context of Bantu speakers’ worlds built around premises that often contrasted with the modern world we take for granted. It adds a historical argument that Bantu-speaking communities met the major challenges in their three-thousand-year history by mobilizing personnel through slaving. This essay follows three broadly defined eras in which Bantu speakers over more than a hundred generations used strategies of slaving to create historical changes. The earliest slaving moved people who were unwanted in their home communities, or destitute survivors of communities that had failed and dispersed, into vulnerable places among the communities of others. As early Bantu speakers gradually grew in number, they intensified collective local strategies to create diverse communities in which they ultimately valued obligating relationships with one another more than they accumulated personal material wealth. Prizing people more than property, they saw themselves as perpetually short of personnel, particularly of women as wives to bear succeeding generations. Politics more than production motivated their quests for males, often clients but also opportunistically supplemented with the destitute and their neighbors’ cast-offs. Dependency was the norm and not a violation of individual freedom, since everyone was beholden to others. Since residential groups and neighborhoods routinely circulated their members in several ways, the distinctions between those moved involuntarily as slaves and others who moved in protected conditions as wives or clients were much subtler than our familiar (though unrealistic) dichotomy of mutually exclusive “slavery” and “freedom.” Despite modern searches for Bantu speakers’ terms cognate with “slavery,” they created no discrete, permanent social condition similar to the institutionalized commercial slavery of the Atlantic. The acquiring groups treated slaves better than the abandoned, isolated, displaced outsiders whom we treated as little more than inanimate “property,” always vulnerable to further removals by sale. To the contrary, the early Bantu-speaking groups tended to find places for the people they acquired and treated them as human resources of significant value in the complex politics of their neighborhoods and communities. In the second phase, from roughly 500 to 1500 ce, trading opportunities tended to promote connections over greater distances, among strangers. These opportunities supplemented the small scales of the earlier personal networks of kinship, affinity, guilds of skilled hunters and healers, and clientage. Communities in propitious locations recruited isolated outsiders to sustain local production, while insiders moved out with their products. Some networks of more regular interactions among otherwise unfamiliar contacts at greater distances consolidated into political systems distinguishable from the balanced communities of familiarity composing them. They kept the peace among themselves by recognizing neutral central authorities among the components, and the central figures who gained significant independent power recruited kinless outsiders to build retinues of their own. Some of these central political authorities eventually obtained commercial resources from Indian and later also Atlantic Ocean merchant networks. They used these imported goods, bought or borrowed on terms of commercial credit, as working capital to consolidate their positions locally. At first, they paid for what they had borrowed with low-investment exports of extracted commodities (ivory, gold, and other natural resources). Increasing extraction depleted resources and provoked greater borrowing to seek resources farther afield. Growing commercial credit soon inflated local competition and accelerated the needs for additional personnel to protect the initial windfall gains they had made. By the end of the 17th century, Atlantic merchants attempting to serve vast markets for captive Africans in American mines and plantations introduced goods in quantities that exceeded the capacities of African domestic economies to pay for them without resorting to raiding for captives to sell abroad to pay their debts. So long as populations farther from the sea remained undisturbed and vulnerable to violent seizure and sale, Africans financed by growing Atlantic credit tended to retain more people than they had to sell off into the maritime trade. They were the profits from people kept in Africa and who increasingly populated expanding trading networks. As European investment grew, so did African indebtedness. For more than three centuries from the late 1500s until the second half of the 19th century, the resulting Atlantic “frontier of slaving violence” moved haltingly inland. The circumstances of the captives kept in regions closer to the coast grew correspondingly more contingent and abusive, vulnerable to being sold abroad, and the means of acquiring them became more violent. An Indian Ocean counterpart took shape in the later 1700s, and eastern and south-central Africa sank into violent displacements of whole populations. Commercial credit and slaving had enabled Bantu-speaking Africans to transform their world from communities dedicated to reproducing their members to warlords and bands of enslaved mercenaries that thrived by capturing people whom others had reproduced. Commercialized slaving in Bantu-speaking Africa produced more captives for the export trades of both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans than from any other region of the continent, but slaving within the continent was also the principal strategy that people used there, over more than two thousand years, to create the major historical changes in their lives. Each succeeding historical context on growing geographical scales—increasingly politicized, and eventually commercialized—had been an outcome accomplished by the slaving developed in its predecessor.