What is domestic violence? A series on Dr. Bradley's sourcebook (part 6) The History of Domestic Violence P.2
The History of Domestic Violence pt 2
Although in the first portion of this topic we covered how domestic violence has been an integral part of society for the past few millennia, massive strides have been taken in the last couple of centuries to ensure that one day, women won’t be subjugated to the same mistreatment thousand of others have received. Unfortunately to get to the point we are at today women only 50 years ago, faced “appallingly insensitive attitudes” when trying to traverse the limited options available to them (Bradley 22). One example is the prosecutor joke about the “fifteen minute rule” which was something along the lines of if the lawyer himself wanted to hit the victim after only talking to her for fifteen minutes, he would go ahead with the case (Bradley 23). Even in American courtrooms up until the 1970’s if a man beat a stranger beat a stranger he could be convicted of a felony, but if he beat his wife it was only a misdemeanor (Bradley). The legal system was so caught up in trying to hand out short term solutions for this nation epidemic, it failed to recognize any long term options in terms actually solving the problem.
Even after women would be mistreated for seeking the help the needed, the available help out there was extremely limited. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that options besides the police and the victims family started to spring up and eventually gain mainstream attention (Bradley). Women’s groups, shelters, hotlines, and other various organizations were being formed in addition to the limited help women had, and it was finally becoming apparent that this wasn’t an issue the victim had to suffer through alone. Bradley states the first book ever written on domestic violence was published in 1974 and a documentary of the same name helped draw attention to the issue in America and England (Bradley). Since that books origin in 1974, hundreds of different organizations have been created to help bring awareness too and combat the unfortunately reality many women are subject to. Bradley notes that an especially interesting element of this recent movement, is that almost all action taken in regards to creating these help groups stemmed from the victims themselves. Where other issues usually require an outside force to intervene to help a certain set of people, the victims in this certain movement took it upon themselves to better their situation when they finally accepted that no one else would.
One specific positive example Bradley gives on the route to ending domestic violence is the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project which originated in Duluth, Minnesota (Bradley 24). This specific project did an excellent job of connecting various shelters, police forces, mental institutions, women groups, and other social service agencies with each other, so that each domestic violence case was handled professionally and promptly. Bradley states that this project has been seen as a model example of how cities should begin dealing with ending domestic violence within its boundaries (Bradley). Finally after years of mistreatment from their husbands, the last 15 years has shown great progress being made in reinforcing the notion that domestic violence is a criminal offense and not just a family matter.
Bradley states that stiffer laws are being placed to the domestic violence cases as a whole, like the mandatory arrest clause which many states have now adopted, or being allowed to charge officers who neglect the fundamental procedures of dealing with a domestic violence case (Bradley 25). Finally, women are being heard and taken seriously in regards to domestic violence and multiple legal options are opening up for them. A disturbing reality which Bradley points out though, is that this treatment isn’t the same wherever you go across the nation. Many places still have the double standard set in place which qualifies the crime on whether it happened in public to a stranger, or in the house to a family member. Why is it that in some places of the country the role of sparking change is still placed on the victim, and not on the agencies set up to stop this criminal behavior (Bradley 26).
Even though tremendous amount of progress has been made, there are still large general misconceptions which the public holds on the issue of domestic violence. One of the is the question which is commonly asked which is, “why didn’t she just leave?”. This question assumes that each and every individual has the important web of connections which would assure her safety when making the decision to leave. And also has the financial and legal support already set up for her while she embarks on the timely and costly endeavor of charging her perpetrator (Bradley). This question is a small example of how the public is still shrouded in a fog of ignorance when it comes to handling domestic violence. Bradley even suggests fairy tales and children stories help reinforce the negative idea that what happens behind closed doors stays there. Although all of the above outlines the lengthy and negative timeline of domestic violence, massive improvements have been made in the last two or three decades, and there is a plethora of new and recent change to be proud of. The direction is trending up and spreading awareness about domestic violence will only get easier from here.
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Berry, Dawn Bradley. The Domestic Violence Sourcebook. Contemporary, 2001