How does society perpetuate domestic abuse?

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by Tina de Benedictis, Ph.D., Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
www.helpguide.org and www.aaets.org

How does society perpetuate domestic abuse?

Society contributes to domestic violence by not taking it seriously enough and by treating it as expected, normal, or deserved. Specifically, society perpetuates domestic abuse in the following ways.

  • Police may not treat domestic abuse as a crime, but, rather, as a “domestic dispute”
  • Courts may not award severe consequences, such as imprisonment or economic sanctions
  • A community usually doesn’t ostracize domestic abusers
  • Clergy or counselors may have the attitude that the relationship needs to be improved and that the relationship can work, given more time and effort
  • People may have the attitude that the abuse is the fault of the victim, or that the abuse is a normal part of marriage or domestic partnerships
  • Gender-role socialization and stereotypes condone abusive behavior by men

Community solutions may be inadequate, such that victims cannot get the help they need. For example, seeking refuge in a shelter may require a woman to leave her neighborhood, social support system, job, school, and childcare. In addition, teenagers are often not welcome at shelters, particularly teenage males. Teenage girls with children may have difficulty finding shelter because of their own age. And male victims of domestic violence have trouble finding shelters that will take them.

Domestic abuse is more common in low-income populations. Low-income victims may lack mobility and the financial resources to leave an abusive situation.

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