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How Factors Perpetuate Violent Crimes Against Women Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3051 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This essay will examine how individual, social, and cultural factors cause and perpetuate violent crimes against women. These three elements have created a gendered inverse power relation with in society that permeates into a multiplicity of social phenomenon and in fact has been the primary factors in constructing the order of power with in society. Through individual, social, and cultural factors, power maximization has become increasingly more complex with in human civilizations. These complexities are due to a number of different social factors that influence humans on an individual and collective scale. This essay is a brief composition summarizing male aggression against female victims, particularly sexual violence and physical assaults, that attempt to reinforce the inverse power relation between the two genders. First, a brief background from a constructionist perspective will be presented to convince the reader of the severity of sexual violence and physical assaults. Then this essay will explore individual, social, and cultural theories that attempt to explain the causes of violent crimes against women. Finally, this essay will argue that when there is genuine equality between females and males, gender crime will decrease.

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Within the social sciences, especially with statistical reporting, there is much controversy on the frequency and severity of this almost one-way street in gender violence. According to Harway and O’Neil (1999, p. 5) approximately three to four million women are victims of gender violence each year in the United States. However, because the majority of female sexual assault victims know their assailants, the victim is often too scared or embarrassed to report the crime and thus the likelihood of prosecution decreases (Jones 2006, p. 443). Statistics reflect only crimes reported to the police. So therefore, Harway and O’Neil’s (1999, p. 5) approximation of three to four million female victims a year may be an underestimate. One study even suggests that ‘fewer than 30% of [rape] crimes are reported to the police’ (Rennison 2009). Prior to the 1970s, the law required substantial evidence of an alleged rape in corroboration with a convincing testimony because of the common belief that women often falsely reported being sexually assaulted as a form of retribution against a man. Although the law has changed and this belief is not as common in today’s society, sexual assault victims often feel stigmatized by the thought of not having enough proof to convict an assailant, leaving them to feel embarrassed about the possibility of having a testimony rejected in court (Rennison 2009). Also prior to the 1970s feminist movement, gender inequalities were much more overt and explicit and it falsely asserted that males are superior to females (Henslin J. 2006, pp. 264-247). This paradigm has constructed a social relationship between females and males in every aspect of life that can still be identified today. That is because it has encapsulated all social institutions, including politics, civil life, and economics, among others.

Patriarchy, a society in which authority is vested in males, is a near universal human phenomenon that develops adversarial relationships between genders (Kottak 1997, p. 241). These patriarchic societies allow for the socialization of a distorted gender-role that has historically resulted in gender oppression, denial of basic human rights, and crime against women (White & Haines 2008, p. 108). It can, therefore, be concluded that because patriarchy has become a norm in society, sexism and inverse power relations among the genders are, for the most part, imperceptible and near universal (ed. Cunneen 2008, pp. 291-302). Anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists have widely agreed that there is substantial evidence from proto-humans and other primates that male sexual coercion and female resistance to it suggest that sexual conflicts underlie patriarchy (Smuts 1995, pp. 1-32). With this in mind, it is evident that adversarial relationships between genders are deeply rooted into human biology, human evolutionary past, and is reflected in the contemporary construct of culture. Although this may be true, genetics and evolutionary processes alone do not dictate human choice. However, genetics and evolutionary processes have universally constructed culture, which in turn impose norms on how humans interact with each other, which includes sexual violence and physical assaults (Smuts 1995, pp. 1-32).

The manner in which culture has been constructed and the common patterns of behavior in society is a major cause of criminal sexual conduct, overarching all other theoretical explanations. The adversarial relationship between genders is extremely complex and

‘multiple levels of explanations are necessary to link developmental and biological characteristics, personalities, sub-cultural variations, and economics, social, political, and community dimensions’ (Miller 1996, p. 208).

Although it is important to examine this social problem from multiple theoretical perspectives, because of the brevity of this essay, I will only elaborate on constructionism, feminism, and social learning theory.

Feminist sociologists have frequently used constructivism, symbolic interactionism and conflict theory to explain violence against women. Feminism fundamentally argues that there is a structural and institutional division between genders, including unequal pay, education, and legal and political inequalities, among others. Interactionist feminists argue that men are socialized to display strength and virility but because there is an inverse power relation among the genders, men turn violent against women (Henslin 2006, p. 273-274). Research has supported this theory by explaining that aggressive men who seek power dominance accept the stereotypes that characterize women as timid and passive, which make them an ideal target (White & Haines 2008, p. 124). Feminists that have used conflict theory to explain criminal sexual conduct argue that because men are losing dominate power in society, ‘some men turn violently against women as a way to reassert their declining power’ (Henslin 2006, p. 273-274). While other feminists use conflict theory to explain that, the structural system of a society and its norms reflect the interests and values of the powerful elite, which are primarily men (White & Haines 2008, p. 91). Because these norms favor patriarchy, male intra-group coalition is maintained, causing out-group enmity and prevents women from obtaining an equal social position. Therefore, crimes that target females are the result of social and cultural patterns of maintaining that inverse power relation between the genders (ed. Cunneen 2008, pp.291-302). This fallaciously reinforces the stereotype that women cannot achieve positions of power and are easy targets.

Social learning theory assumes that deviant behavior is acquired through new knowledge or through observation of other’s behaviors, preferences, or values (Ellis 1989; Akers, R. 2009). Social learning theory also examines ‘reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral and environmental determinants’ (Bandura 1977, vii). Many proponents of this theory argue that learning is greatly influenced by the people whom an individual decides to differentially associate with, regardless if the interaction occurs directly or indirectly, because people tend to imitate others. This is especially true when there are little or no social consequences (Ellis 1989; Akers, R. 2009). Male aggression against women is thought to be sustained through various forms of intermittent reinforcement from various sources. For example, family members and peers, an individual’s culture and subculture, and the mass media may all contribute by teaching methods of expressing aggression, which was then followed by little or no social stigmatization (Ellis 1989, pp. 12-14). A sexual aggressor, therefore, may associate sex and violence by learning from sources such as violent pornography and then attempt to model those rape scenes or other acts of violence against women and then expect little or no consequences (Ellis 1989, pp. 12-14).

This paper has thus far provided a brief over-view of social constructionist, feminist, and social learning theory perspectives. Now, this paper will describe the social impacts and social responses to violence against women. Many of the points that will be presented will come from the said theories to further substantiate their position when dealing with violence against women. Social responses from feminists have particularly been a strong voice against female victimization. Gendered crimes have an extensive array of social impacts and consequences, which includes reinforcing male dominance in society, gender inequalities and stratification, and generational consequences, among others.

From this author’s perspective, the definition of violent crime against women, such as rape and physical assault, is legal in that it is a violation of a semi-universal federal state law and it is natural because it is a violation of human consciousness and basic human rights. As a response to the global phenomenon of gendered crimes, the legal etymology of violence against women has changed dramatically over time from different nations to different states (Fulcher, Alesha, & Emily 2008). For example, prior to the feminist movement in the 1970s, in all U.S. states, laws exempted a husband from being prosecuted for forcing their spouse to have sex against their will. Modern laws now include sexual assault and spousal abuse, regardless of who the assailant and victim is (Fulcher, et al. 2008). The United Nations (1993) has defined violence against women as,

‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life’.

This, in a very general sense, characterizes the contemporary consensus of the global society on the issue of violence against women.

These positive changes, however, have not been met with widespread positive consequences. As mentioned earlier, some feminist theorists argue that because men are losing dominate power in society, ‘some men turn violently against women as a way to reassert their declining power’ (Henslin 2006, p. 273-274). In fact, O’Neil and Harway (1999) claim that recent changes in gender equality have produced a fear in some men that the ‘natural’ order of society is being repressed. These men defend what they think is a defining quality of manhood through verbal aggression and violence in an attempt to preserve their ‘natural’ right over women. Patriarchal values and beliefs about male dominance and female subordination reinforce a gender inverse power relation that permeates into a multiplicity of social phenomenon.

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The World Health Organization (2009) has concluded ‘Violence against women is a major public health problem and a violation of human rights’. When aggressive men violate women to maintain their sexist advantage women may display eating disorders, depression, passivity, submission, feelings of inferiority, dependence, and sacrificing personal needs for others (Nutt 1999, pp. 117-134). These feeling restrict women from seeking help and prevent them from leaving an abusive relationship. As the aggressive-submissive behaviors continue, women internalize oppression, which results in mental, sexual, reproductive, and maternal health problems (Nutt 1999, pp. 117-134; The World Health Organization 2009). These feelings also restrict women from taking risks, for instance academic achievements, career progression, asking for a salary increase, and socialization. These feelings perpetuate the problem because of the continued dependence on an abusive spouse (Nutt 1999, pp. 117-134). However, there is a strong association between status inconsistency, status incompatibility, and gendered abuse. Thus, a woman may increase her chances of abuse if she obtains greater occupational, academic, or financial achievements than her male counterpart does. Some men believe that a successful woman has usurped their ‘natural’ dominant position within the family and so they attempt to reassert their dominance by using violence or coercion (Gelles 1999 pp. 36-48). So therefore, some men will continue to be violence, regardless if a woman is successful or submissive.

Since the 1970s, the academic community has valuably contributed to appropriate response and prevention methods to decreasing men’s violence against women. However, because of the sensitivity and deeply rooted nature of patriarchy and sexism, it is rather difficult to significantly minimize criminal sexual and abusive conduct. There is a rather long list of prevention methods suggested by the academic community and to be most effective they must all work in corroboration with each other. These methods include, but are not limited to: deinstitutionalization of patriarchy (Marin & Russo 1999, pp. 18-35); academic, employment, financial equality for women (Nutt 1999, pp. 117-134); examination of how police handle domestic crime (Radford, & Stanko 1989); examination of how medical and psychological practitioners handle treatment (Feder L. 1999); education of young children (O’ Neil & Harway 1999 pp. 207-241); government’s legal response (Ferraro 1989, pp. 155-184; Office of the status of women 1995); and the strengthening of women-women social collaboration (Silverstein 1999, pp. 81-83). This essay will briefly cover the deinstitutionalization of patriarchy, education of school-aged children, and governments’ legal response in more detail.

As mentioned earlier, patriarchal values underpin all criminal sexual and abusive conduct, in so much that it may seem to some to be a part of everyday life. Eliminating male violence against females requires the elimination of a culture that establishes authority in males and prevents equal authority in females. O’ Neil and Harway (1999, p. 240) suggests that the old masculine paradigm can be replaced with new values, such as ‘healthy emotionality, non-competitive relationships, empathy for others, friendships, and new concepts of power’. Strengthening alliances between women and men will help both genders take responsibility for their actions and resist the ways of the old paradigm.

Because violence against women is a societal problem that influences everyone, community consultation, combined with discursive democracy and a cross-government approach, can be an effective method to target specific communal problems by reducing gender-based violence. Public discussion and debate are an indispensable method to raise awareness of the scale of the problem within the community. This will also build confidence in women that this issue is being addressed and dealt with proactively within their community (O’ Neil and Harway 1999, pp. 238-240). One technique the community consultation program can implement is designing school programs that educate children on how interpersonal violence occurs, its consequences, and prevention. These children may learn how to counter current gender stereotypes portrayed in the media and pop-culture. To encourage diversity, the community consultation program should seek out the opinions and advise from school-aged children (O’ Neil and Harway 1999, pp. 238-240).

Governments should be engage with all sectors of society to minimize criminal sexual conduct and violence against women, which includes providing information, community grants and medical care for victims, being involved in community engagement and specific social projects, and conduct legislative reforms that support gender equality. The British government has exerting a program that compels all governmental administrations into action in efforts to prevent violence against women (HM Government 2009). One of the program’s preventive methods includes special training and services so that police, prosecutors, courts, protective services and intervention programs are able to work together to reduce violence against women. Another aspect of the program is to establish a sexual assault referral center in every police station that can provide medical care, counseling, and gather forensic evidence. This model also includes efforts to reduce the demand for prostitution and overall make public space safer for women. It is vitally necessary that all governments implement federal and state programs, similar to this one, in attempt to reduce violence against women on a national and international scale. Only a collective effort will be successful.

As social scientists continue to provide information and explanations for male aggression and violence against female victims, the more people will accept that there is a genuine equality between females and males. As there is a growing concern and awareness for this issue, more community interventions will be created and government legal changes and policy initiatives will continue to address the problem more affectively. As a result, sexual violence, physical assaults, and psychological abuse against women should degrees. This essay has provided a brief overview from multiple theoretical perspectives on the causation of male aggression and violence against female victims. It has also examined historical through contemporary responses and impacts of female victimization. Then this essay introduced a contemporary case study from Britain that has utilized specific prevention methods. The reoccurring theme has emphasized that only a collective effort among academics, community members, professionals, and the government will provide a successful outcome in preventing male violence against women.


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