Reaction Paper 2

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Reaction Paper 2

  1. 1. Karl Sather Reaction Paper #2 Family Violence Fall 2014 Intimate Partner Violence, or IPV, is a global issue that has been largely ignored throughout history and has been poorly addressed up to this day. IPV is an issue that disproportionally affects women wherever one is to look. Crime databases, self-report surveys, and data from community-based social service institutions all support this claim, (Ferraro 2006:51-53). What is alarming is that situations of IPV, whether in the United Kingdom or the United States, have similar causal effects and outcomes. It’s time for us as a people to examine why this is and how IPV could exist as a global phenomenon and garner relatively no attention from the media, public discourse, or legal policy. In the following paragraphs, I seek to describe why IPV has become the issue that it has. Furthermore, I will rely heavily on the examination of patriarchy in society and the outcomes this ideology has on legal proceedings. Finally, I will conclude this paper by reflecting on the concept of IPV while discussing some possible solutions aimed at mitigating the prevalence of IPV in society. The United States is defined as a patriarchal society, meaning that men hold power in most institutions in society- whether it be government, family, medicine, or economics. If we examine patriarchy only as a construction of society, we are missing a big piece of the puzzle. Ferraro (2006) claims that patriarchy is most accurately viewed when it is being looked at as an ideology. An ideology is a set of beliefs that has the power to silently make its way into all facets of society and guide the practices of the institutions that govern and police our behavior. Many people in the United States would argue that we live in a free and equal democratic society that promotes egalitarianism, in that we all reserve the right to have our voices be heard. This is true, but only to a point. Ferraro (2006) explains, “Women
  2. 2. Karl Sather Reaction Paper #2 Family Violence Fall 2014 are no longer excluded from political participation in the United States, but their representation is far below their majority position in population,” (p. 79). Though women are free to participate in political action, that does not mean that our society is egalitarian by any means. An ideology has the power to guide behavior and solidify a group’s position in society without the individual having any idea this is happening. Gender roles are a great example of this. Women are expected to take on a submissive, passive, supportive and nurturing role. Men are expected to be tough and assertive leaders in society. Women are all but trained to be “their natural, appropriate followers and helpmates,” (Ferraro 2006:79). Until one sits down and truly examines the structure of society, or lives through oppression, the stratification of society has the tendency to be glossed over or easily lost on most, thus perpetuating the construction of inequality itself. The stratification of a group is best described by the subordinate’s position in society. This is what Michael Foucault calls “subjugated knowledge” and what feminists call “standpoint theory,” (Ferraro 2006). Standpoint theory, as discussed in class, can best be described using the analogy of a forest. If one is to fly over the forest, they only see the canopies of trees and the vegetation that blooms in the light of the sun. If one were to walk through the forest, they would see the ground floor vegetation, the roots of the trees, and the ecosystem that produces the canopy vegetation. Similarly, those who enjoy the privilege of being on the top of the stratification ladder may only see society at a superficial level, while those who are subjugated by oppression have a more accurate view of how society is truly constructed and how oppression comes into play. This may be one of the
  3. 3. Karl Sather Reaction Paper #2 Family Violence Fall 2014 main reasons patriarchy has not been addressed and how women are continually treated unfairly in virtually all facets of society. The true consequences of patriarchy and its far-reaching effects can be best described by the Power and Control Wheel developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota. The Power and Control wheel does an excellent job at presenting how cultural forces can affect institutions, how institutions can affect personal behavior, and vice versa. The ideology of patriarchy, as it creeps into institutional practices and cultural norms, can offer insight as to how IPV disproportionally affects women, and why it is poorly dealt with in the Criminal Justice System. When the issue of IPV is not effectively dealt with and an abuser is not punished or rehabilitated, conditions are created that allow IPV to reproduce itself and spread further and further throughout society. When a police officer arrives on the scene of an IPV call, they are responding solely to the event that occurred at the time, disregarding prior history that lead up to the event. In this case, women’s expert knowledge is largely ignored (Ferraro 2006). The response to an IPV incident is usually the recommendation of an order of protection or arrest. But, as many women have found out, an order of protection is simply “a piece of paper that means nothing to their abusers and is not enforced by police,” (Ferraro 2006:51). Abusive partners will stop at nothing short of murder to remain in control within the relationship. Men, living in a patriarchal society, have grown up with a sense of entitlement that teaches them to expect to be in positions of control, with women being their direct subordinates. This culture of entitlement makes its way into our courtrooms,
  4. 4. Karl Sather Reaction Paper #2 Family Violence Fall 2014 which I argue is one of the main issues that must be dealt with to mitigate the reproduction of IPV. Women who have fallen victim to chronic IPV have had plenty of experience in dealing with the law in relation to IPV. Most would say that the law is an enemy, rather than a friend to their pain. When women work up the courage to press charges and testify against their partner, the defense will stop at nothing to devalue the woman’s testimony. The most common way this is done is by attempting to mitigate the severity of the situation by playing on personal characteristics of the affected woman. Ferraro (2006) explains one of these situations in her work. Dianne was a working- class woman who provided for herself, worked hard, and spent a lot of her time hanging out in bars playing pool. The prosecuting attorney played on these characteristics and spun them out of context, downplaying the historical factors that lead up to repeated cases of physical and psychological abuse. The prosecutor painted Dianne as a “tough woman who could defend herself physically, and as an ‘outrageous flirt,’” (p. 66). Even after testimony by family and friends supporting the claim that Dianne’s partner was an extremely possessive partner who brutally beat her on a common basis, this prosecution put forth by a male attorney, heard by a male judge was enough to sentence Dianne to prison for 5 years for a murder committed in self-defense, (Ferraro 2006). This is where the true issue lies. At the end of all of the years of abuse, the countless beatings, death threats, and sexual assaults, women have very little resources that aid them in their efforts to escape and hold their partners responsible. The consequences of the lack of prosecution and accountability are far reaching. Victim blaming, psychological,
  5. 5. Karl Sather Reaction Paper #2 Family Violence Fall 2014 economic, physical, and sexual control are all consequences of IPV and the lack of attention paid to this serious issue. Women who are victims of IPV have no other option than to be ashamed of their situation because they have been told symbolically and literally by the Criminal Justice System that their situation is of little importance. Even the families of these women felt that “they had made their own bed’s and now have nobody to blame but themselves,” (Ferraro 2006:31). In conclusion, it is clear to see that patriarchal ideologies have promoted a culture that allows IPV to breed and thrive. Men are taught to devalue and stratify women at a young age. For some men, this is enough justification to beat, entrap, and sexually abuse their partners in order to establish control and property rights of their partners. When women finally make an attempt to come together and fight IPV, their efforts are snuffed out by ad-hominem arguments, lack of interest, and the unwillingness for men to change their stance on legal policy pertaining to IPV. Kathleen J. Ferraro (2006) said it best when she wrote, “Instead of asking women why they stay, we should be asking men why they hit.” It’s time to stop blaming the victim and address the practices of the perpetrator. It makes more sense to unload the gun than to wear a bulletproof vest. Here is where I shall begin my reflection. This course presented a lot of useful information in explaining my past and my family, but it also presented me with quite a bit of cognitive dissonance. IPV was one of those situations that I had not closely examined in my life, nor my studies. I have witnessed many of my friends suffer from psychologically
  6. 6. Karl Sather Reaction Paper #2 Family Violence Fall 2014 abusive relationships and have asked the same question that most do- why doesn’t she just leave? Now I realize the dependency an abusive partner creates. When we speak to someone, especially someone we love, we trust him or her to tell us the truth. Some use this trust as a manipulative effort to gain control over another individual. Being in a relationship currently, I realize that it is the tendency to become very close with our partner and, for better or worse, shut out the rest of the world. With the lack of contradictory opinions and the occasional reality check, one is likely to continue their life believing that the current states of things are normal. This causes a situation that can easily allow for abuse to continue, without realizing that abuse in a relationship is in fact not normal and is extremely damaging psychologically and physically. As was demonstrated in class, it is easy to manipulate personal opinion when trust is established. I am now a firm believer that we should rather address the accountability, or the lack thereof, of the abuser. Why not teach boys that they do not have to be aggressive to express themselves? Why not promote creativity rather than violence? Why not focus more of our attention on updating our old and harmful techniques of socialization? Whenever I see a news article that reports a domestic abuse situation, it always focuses on the immediate context of the abuse that occurred. Most of the time, the context is painted as ridiculous or even laughable. An example would be recent events of a woman stabbing her partner because he threatened to kill her beloved pet turtle, or the man who grabbed a chicken sandwich out of his pregnant wife’s hand and decided to beat her with it because he didn’t like chicken sandwiches. On the surface, it seems as if only barbarians or idiots would do something like that, when in fact there was probably a long history of prior
  7. 7. Karl Sather Reaction Paper #2 Family Violence Fall 2014 abuse that lead up to these situations. A follow up on the turtle news story found that the woman is being charged with attempted murder, while her husband is being painted as the victim. Situations above and the media bias that ensues creates an apathetic stance on what actually happened. Most are likely to read the headline, laugh, and shrug it off thinking that it is anomaly that won’t affect them. Rather, it is likely that someone in his or her apartment complex is going to be beaten that night for whatever reason, and somewhere in his or her state a woman will be killed due to IPV. It is clear to me that there is no sex, gender, ethnic group, leader, politician, judge, or law enforcement officer that is exempt from addressing IPV in our society. The reason being that this is a cultural issue- a patriarchal issue. I am an optimistic pessimist when it comes to addressing and minimizing the issues of IPV. I believe that all men have the capacity to be empathetic to the cause if it is framed right, but I also believe that, with men being in power, they are more reluctant to promote equality because it is a threat to the traditional power dynamics that men have become accustomed to. Those who have power spend most of their time working to maintain the positions they hold. But, those who have power also have a mother. If it was their mother who was being abused, I have faith that they would step in and do something. If for their mother, than why not step in elsewhere? While reading Neither Angels Nor Demons, I consistently felt guilty. I felt subhuman, as I identified with how some of these men felt. Though I must make it clear I have and never will strike a woman, I understand the feeling of control and power that was being exercised over the women in the book. Possessiveness and jealousy is something I have
  8. 8. Karl Sather Reaction Paper #2 Family Violence Fall 2014 always struggled with in relationships that stem from personal issues such as self-esteem and past experiences. The mechanisms I employ to cope with this fall right into that tiny little circle at the center of the Power and Control Wheel. Psychological, physical, and economic control practices employed throughout the book stemmed from the same feelings I have felt in a relationship. I fear my partner leaving me sometimes, and so did these men- they just dealt with it in the wrong way. For me, I deal with these feelings by adjusting my expectations and reminding myself that my girlfriend is just as equal to me, and that these feelings stem from a skewed view of reality I posses, not because of anything she does. I had to get up and walk away from this book quite a bit while reading it to remind myself I am not like these men and I must not fall in the trap of feeling the way they did. In conclusion, I will no longer blame the victim of anyone who has experienced IPV. The web of control that ensnares a woman is too much to break from. Life is not a sitcom where one can up and leave with little consequences. Rather, when a victim of IPV tries to up and leave, they have nowhere to run to and a man who will most likely chase them down. I see the importance of supportive, understanding networks of people and institutions alike. If we as a society can provide the resources for women to escape an abusive relationship and reestablish themselves, then I think real progress will follow. By offering support and help, awareness is able to be raised, and that is the first step to coping with an illness in a society that has not yet been coped with effectively.
  9. 9. Karl Sather Reaction Paper #2 Family Violence Fall 2014 Works Cited Ferraro, Kathleen J. 2006. Neither Angels nor Demons: Women, Crime, and Victimization. Lebanon, NH: Northeastern University Press

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