What do you do when you know a friend, sister, mother, or child is being abused, mistreated, and neglected? Often times, the answer to this question is nothing. Women from all over are being abused, and no one has a voice to stand up for them. What is the fear of lending a hand, offering shelter, or listening to a story, when the outcome could be a life saved? The violence that young girls and women face goes largely unnoticed by a vast majority of people within society, and small numbers stand up for the cause to fight the abuse that females endure. Women around the world are still being treated unfairly, the justice system has failed them, and they are controlled by a mechanism called fear.
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I have been doing a lot of research on violence against women, and I have had a very close encounter with a type of violence that women face every day. Through the numerous amounts of research, personal testimony¿½s, and videos, I have realized that violence against women only has one requirement: being female. Violence against women does not focus on black or white, rich or poor, young or old, or even married or single. According to the National Organization for Women, Domestic Violence is defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. There are many different forms of abuse that women and girls can suffer from, and stepping up is the only way to stop it.
There are many different types of abuse that women endure that range from verbal abuse to physical abuse. However, one of the most prominent types of abuse is physical violence. Many women from across the world are controlled by physical violence inflicted by men, and even in some cases women. A Safe Place has reported that about every nine seconds, a woman is physically abused by her husband. The World Health Organization has reported that between 16% and 52% of women have been assaulted by an intimate partner. In a recent article that I read about battered wife who kill, this woman¿½s husband would beat her for bills coming at the same time, forgetting to pick up something from the store or even giving the wrong answer to a question that he asked. A Safe Place also mentions that 95% of assaults on spouses or ex-spouses are committed by men against women. The women that are being physically abused are dealing with being beaten with objects, burnt with cigarettes, being punched, getting kicked, and even being spit on. The abusers in the cases stop at nothing to harm the intimate partners.
Many people that abuse in intimate relationships, are just seeking to be in control of the relationship. It is stated in Gendering Violence, ¿½For feminists, power and control are the core of male violence¿½ (McLeod, and Gilgun 167-193). We live in a world where gender roles are still embedded in a vast majority of people¿½s thoughts and minds. A women¿½s work is supposed to be cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children. In addition to this, women are expected to be passive and obedient to the every command of her husband or intimate other. This control mechanism that men strive so hard to have, is why many women are abused to date. This is typically referred to as hegemonic masculinity, which according to Wikepedia refers to the belief in the existence of a culturally normative ideal of male behavior. In Gramsci¿½s Prison Notebooks, hegemony as originally formulated is about the winning and holding of power (McLeod and Gilgun 167-193). Power and control is what the integrity of a woman is worth to some men.
A very controversial topic of violence against women in intimate relationships is marital rape. Some men believe that women have to always be willing and ready to perform sexual acts, and some women believe that it is not rape as well. Being woken out of your sleep, being touched when you don¿½t want to, and being forced into sexual activity with a partner all fall under the category of rape. I have read several articles where women are sleeping with the person that they are in a relationship with and awaken out of their sleep to a body on top of them or wandering hands. It seemed that it took to be in the situation to actually feel how these women did, but the women in the articles felt violated just as they would if it was a stranger. In the National Violence Against women survey, approximately 25% of women said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date in their lifetimes.
Rape itself, which has been around for age¿½s, dates back to slave days. People of Caucasian backgrounds would rape black women to enforce control over the black men. It left them hopeless, with a feeling that they could not do anything to protect their women. Even to this day, rape is a major problem for women and young girls. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which includes unreported rapes to the police, 232,960 women in the U.S. were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006 (National Organization for Women). Rapes are rarely reported; in fact the FBI estimates that only 37% of all rapes are reported to the police. Another disturbing fact is that in 2000, nearly 88,000 children in the United States experienced sexual abuse. (ACF 2002). Not even our children are safe, which is who we strive to protect and keep out of harms way each day. From testimonies that I have overheard, majority of the child sexual abusers are family members, and sometimes the father of the child. The women that I heard these stories from were adults, where the sexual abuse occurred years ago. The abuse that these women suffered as children continues to haunt them many years later. These child abusers don¿½t realize the scar that they are leaving on the women and young girls that they are violating.
A common thread in all of the different types of violence that I have previously introduced, are all controlled by fear. Fear is what feeds the abusive nature of these men and women, who are inflicting abuse among women and girls. Fear has caused women not to come forward in reporting what is going on with the abuse in their households. Women fear their safety and the safety of their children. Women fear being left alone with no resources, money, or family to assist with the leaving process. Women also fear being embarrassed or turned away from family or friends because of what they have experienced. According the to Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 36% of rapes, 34% of attempted rapes, and 26% of sexual assaults were reported to the police in 1992-2000 (Renninson).
I go to say that women are still treated unequal because of the multiple variations of abuse that women endure every day. Not only does a significant other abuse some women; they are also abused by a justice system that is solely based around the hegemonic male figure that I have previously mentioned. When a father sexually abuses his child, the blame for this occurring is placed on a mother for not protecting her child. The blame is therefore taken off of the perpetrator, and is instead put onto another one of his victims. Since mothers are supposed to nurture and protect, it is not in the norm of our society for anything to happen to our children. I have recently watched a video where children have come forward and admitted that their father was sexually abusing them, and custody was ripped from these mothers. I¿½m not talking about unproven or undocumented allegations, these children have seen plenty of doctors who have verified with courts that misconduct was going on. But because court systems are based around men, the thought of a father wanting to take care of his children ultimately deems him the fit parent. Judges didn¿½t care one bit about what these children were going through, because fathers just wouldn¿½t behave in this manner. In Regulating Womanhood, it was stated ¿½children tend to be safest from sexual abuse in the absence of men, but it is in part men¿½s separation from children which makes them a threat when they return¿½ (“Regulating Womanhood: Historical Essays on Marriage, Motherhood and Sexuality” 53-77). A mother is expected to keep the child away from the abusive situation no matter what her stability situation may be.
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Another injustice that women are facing is a lack of protection, to assist them in leaving a bad situation. If you are a prostitute, lesbian, handicapped, or deaf, your protection services are pretty much limited. Shelters don¿½t have the proper equipment to assist deaf or handicapped victimized women, and they turn away lesbians and prostitute. Does protection from a violent situation come with a face, a sexual preference, or a completely functioning body? If we cant attempt to protect every kind of women being victimized what are we really doing? Doesn¿½t every women deserve to be treated with the same respect and dignity as the next? Women are scared to leave an abusive situation when the reality is that they may have no money, no food, or a warm place to sleep at night. So turning away minority women is hurting us as a whole, not just as individuals.
Have you ever jaywalked, played your music too loud, or parked your car on a street all night? The offenses just named have the equivalent charge as punching your girlfriend in the face or breaking your wife¿½s ribs. What does that say to you? Speaks of one of the most injustices that plenty of women face everyday. Cheryl Winters recited, ¿½ It is hard for abused women to find justice, you see, when our lives hold the same value as someone found guilty of vagrancy¿½. If abusing your significant other holds the same consequences as a misdemeanor, what does that speak to men but of the minor value of a woman? Things implemented to help protect women, are actually benefiting men help get around the system.
I¿½m sure once or twice you have come across stories or headlines about battered women who kill. These are the women who saw no other way out than the kill their intimate partners. These women feel that this is the night that he is going to kill me. This is when the mentality of ¿½rather him than me¿½ mentality begins to kick in. The opinion of certain men about the dominant role that is associated with the hegemonic role is so disturbing. William Blackstone many years ago stated ¿½ if the baron kills his feme it is the same as if he had killed a stranger or any other person; but if the feme kills her baron, it is regarded by the laws as a much more atrocious crime, as she not only breaks through the restraints of humanity and conjugal affection, but throws off all subjection to the authority of her husband¿½ (Schneider). This again results back to the control that man is supposedly entitled to, and it shows how strong the belief was in the dominance of man. Main arguments in women who kill their partners are battered women syndrome and or self-defense. Schneider stated that work on self-defense for battered women who kill has been premised on the notion that self-defense requirements of reasonableness, imminent danger, and equal force are sex biased. I completely agree with this statement seeing as equal force between a man and woman is highly unlikely and the fact that a woman is acting out of the norm of a woman¿½s traditional role is unreasonable.
In plenty articles and movies that I have viewed and read, women are getting charged more harsh and men more lenient. Actually Schneider has an article where a man got 18 months in a work release program for killing his wife after catching her sleeping with another man. The judge stated that ¿½ he could only imagine nothing that would provoke an uncontrollable rage greater than this: for someone who is happily married to be betrayed in your personal life, when you¿½re out working to support the spouse¿½ (Schneider 117). Here we see once again an exception for a man to violate his intimate partner, even if it results in killing her. Since a woman is supposed to accept openly that her partner is cheating on her, for her to act in killing is atrocious, but for a man to act in the heat of the moment is absolutely normal. What¿½s acceptable for a man is of course unacceptable for a woman.
I have learned that more needs to be done to protect the women in our country. The things we value and believe in need to be change to fit the new way of living. It has become clear to me, that men value money, control, and structure more than they value of women. We need to do more to continue and widen protection for women. We need to learn how to stand in, step up, and speak out!
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