Domestic violence, only three decades ago was once perceived to be a family matter and was officially recognised as an area that many people (including authority), felt less inclined to intervene if the violence was between family members. Today, due to the constant pressure from the women’s movements in the seventies, it stands listed as a crime next to marital rape and child abuse, establishing that any woman, regardless of social status, race, age or culture can be a victim.
Many discourses have, and still do, influence how we prioritize certain criminal behaviour, and in deed, how important we perceive particular crimes to be, whether in the home, on the street or around the globe. Challenging media discourses with ideologies and the expectations of family discourses, many people will tend to be carefully cautious about how they involve themselves within it. Personal safety is considered to be a primary concern and ‘hidden crime’ (especially what is going in someone else’s home) does concern society, at least not personally, in the same way as does street crime.
This can produce all types of anxieties as well as prejudices due to one’s own fear of becoming a victim of crime through intervention. ‘Getting involved’ can achieve all sorts of personal problems and in some cases, it may be perceived to be better not to intervene through the fear of repercussion or even intrusion. Today, many people contradict their worries still believing that cities and their residents, harbour, or are, criminals, and moral panics along with historical and media discourses, (in particular, national tabloids) are hugely responsible for instilling fear in the public.
This information in turn, leaves many people carrying this information in their thoughts on a daily basis, stereotyping where it may not even be necessary. Nevertheless, the public clearly want to read about what is going on in their country or newspapers would not sell, and for those who live in run down council estates, that lack proper facilities, policing, and in some cases, who fear their neighbours, media discourses can be seen to be a directory of where and when to go out!
Family violence is seen to be on a patriarchal level, and usually the man, his behaviour can be very dominating and controlling enabling him to produce (what can appear to be) ‘the ideal family’. Along with the violence, bullying and intimidation are generally parallel with his behaviour, and with this in mind, self esteem of his victim/s may be so low, it prevents them from developing any skills to challenge or even question his behaviour. This in turn, can provide the assumption that the family have an apparently well structured and managed home.
However, Women’s Aid groups, confronted domestic violence in the home, and since the beginning of the 1970’s have argued that some men use their masculinities to dominate and control their families, exploiting their power by intimidating and abusing their status in the household. They started to educate and voice how violence in the home was shaped. They forced politicians to listen and argued that women needed more rights and support in order to escape violence in the home. Violence came in many forms, none of which were acceptable.
If animals had rights, then so should women and children. After extreme hard work, many protests and confrontational debates, society itself started to hear, forcing action to be taken. During the 1990’s, domestic Violence in the family home soon became less tolerable and a crime, described having three main categories: physically; punching, kicking, slapping etc. and/or using objects or weapons, sexually; rape, molestation and assault and psychologically; intimidating, insulting, and harassment, many women were now able to identify domestic violence as a crime.
In light of this, and new resources set up to help them, some women took advantage of any help that was provided. However, speaking out about violence in the home was then, and still now can be a very difficult thing for many victims to do. With all sorts of reasons, shame, appears to be a primary explanation along with, not being believed. Other reasons many women feared was that if they were to speak out, further violence on release of a charge or imprisonment, (not just to them but possibly friends and other family members too) would occur.
In the case of ethnic minorities, women may have to suffer deportation if they had been married for less than a year and coming from overseas. Nevertheless, despite the high statistics of family violence, up until the seventies, many people, including authority, believed that the ‘normal ideal family’ should consist of, mother, father and child/ren (with father in hierarchy position) and the nuclear family was necessary in order to produce, good law abiding citizens.
Today this can put extreme pressure and even a large emphasis of blame (in some cases) towards young teenage mothers, same sex or single arent families. In the case of single parenting, it can be easy to assume there was a lack of commitment, without taking into consideration the reasons why some women were/are raising their children alone. Bearing this in mind, one final reason a victim could be seen for not leaving an abusive household may simply be the breakdown of her ‘family unit’, this is a past and present assumption. It comes as no surprise that between 1996 and 1998 two women each week died as a result of domestic violence. (Book 1, Chapter 5, p. 197)
Domestic violence along with child abuse was once an area, only three decades ago, that was reluctantly accepted as an ‘ordinary crime’, forcing it to be a ‘hidden crime’. Not only did the perpetrator himself not acknowledge what he was doing was criminal, but also society and law enforcement agencies overlooked family violence, accepting it as part of family life. With attitudes the way they were, it is not surprising that police, and their court systems, were reluctant to intervene unless, a very serious assault or even murder had occurred.
Domestic violence then, was interpreted as a ‘domestic’ matter, which authorities were not responsible for and therefore perpetrators were justifiably ‘chastising’ where they felt it was necessary. Soon defining violence in the home became a challenge unto itself. What discourses were allowing perpetrators of domestic violence to believe that violent behaviour was a way to produce an orderly home? Some answers to this question could be individual’s cultural beliefs or possibly historical discourses.
These can be a contribution to justification and can have both victims and perpetrators believing they are in fact living in a ‘normal environment’. Some men still argue their women have a subordinate role, and that sometimes the use of violence is permitted in order to keep there women in line. With this in mind both culture and historical ideologies can explain why so many women do not actually see themselves as ‘victims of crime’. (Book 1, Chapter 5, p. 225, Moxton, in Home Office, 2000, paras 59 and 61).
Unfortunately, although not hidden as it was thirty years ago, (due to a diversity of exposure) domestic violence is still not onsidered to be a social concern as it is with street crime, yet, in fact, in 1998, one quarter of all violent crime is actually domestic. (Book 1, Chapter 5, p. 197) This does not mean domestic violence is therefore less important than ‘street crime’ but rather an ideology that crimes committed ‘on the street’ are usually against the vulnerable and innocent, (albeit, so are many victims of domestic violence) thus making it appear more personal leaving individuals questioning what should or needs to be done in order to protect themselves, including avoiding certain ‘no go areas’.
With so many different stories told; either by previous family experiences, ‘gossip’, media discourses or cultural interpretations and/or differences; individuals are left with ideologies of where and when a person is likely to become a victim of crime, and its possible their own fears can produce an exaggeration of what is in fact the true picture of crime. This can be witnessed by looking historical discourses.
As far back as the early nineteenth century, large cities and the poor who lived in them were seen to represent ‘a threat to safety and order….. nfectious, unruly, beggars and criminals’. (Book 1, Chapter 4, p. 153). Poor women generally had large families, lived in what Pearson described as ‘cess-pits’, (what today could be described as our no go areas) (Book 1, Chapter 4, p. 155). The poor were stereotyped as raising children with very little moral, healthy, law abiding standards and were believed to be dangerous people, with dangerous behaviour. This assumption came from public worries’ fearing difference. The poor had very little money, poor facilities, lived in run down areas and more than likely had poor hygiene.
The rich on the other hand lived in reasonably comfortable dwellings, ate well and no doubt had decent washing facilities. For the poor, begging, prostitution and crime may have been an essential part of life and with this in mind, maybe the only way some could ‘provide’ for their families. Nevertheless, the conflict between the rich and the poor, provided barriers and moral panics resulting in fears not only for ‘outsiders’ personal safety, but with prostitution and poor hygiene, a fear of ‘contagion’. ( Book 1, Chapter 4, p. 153)
If the government seriously wants to concentrate on tackling the crime problem in the UK today, it needs to focus its messages on violence in the home with other information relating to ‘stereotype’. Whilst society still carries ideologies about what city life and ‘different’ lifestyles offer, many individuals will feel less inclined to intervene with family violence, even believing intervention to be unnecessary, a part of family life! Fortunately due to many women’s liberation groups, they have managed to highlight that any woman can be a victim and not just the ‘different classes’.
With this in mind, more information about services on offer should be publicized across the mass force of media space available. In the case of first time violent offenders (family or street) short community service programmes, i. e. working with children with disabilities or victims themselves of abuse, combined with anger management services should be enforced. I am a great believer of nipping something in the bud as soon as it happens in hope of prevention. In the case of perpetrators of further offences, they should be named and shamed on a list available to the public and even distributed in public places.
If drug or alcohol abuse is apparent then that too should be addressed as well as attending a further, intensified anger management programme as a border. With the victim of domestic violence, it should be essential that while her spouse/partner is being helped to manage his behaviour, she too should also be enforced to attend programmes that may help her regain her self esteem. Although harsh, if both victim and perpetrator were sanctioned together, despite the different resource programmes, it could be enough to help one or the other see where things may have gone wrong.
Many women love their husbands, despite their violent behaviour, others may not and feel powerless ‘escaping’. Given the opportunity to regain self esteem could be all that is needed in order for a victim to make her decision. Having said all this, domestic violence is not alone in ‘hidden crime’ and there are many that still remain unnoticed, or unreported. Crime is criminal, what may be crime in the UK may not be crime overseas, however, any crime that crosses between the boundaries of our country should be enforced very harshly in order to prevent further offences.