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Violence against women is still very much a problem in our society, there are increasing numbers of young girls living in abusive homes, involved in abusive relationships and who have experienced sexual assault and harassment throughout their lifetime. The first step to stopping violence and bring out what is happening behind closed doors is awareness, “we cannot stop something we cannot see” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 440). Women now more than ever have come out about the violence they have encountered in the past and once it is something across all cultures that can freely be discussed then change will occur. “Many experts have suggested that nations worldwide are experiencing an epidemic of violence against women” (Crawford &Unger, 2011, pg. 440). Without change women and men will continue to suffer the consequences of violence, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and even more serious mental health issues. Prevention starts with awareness, education, and programs that not only change attitudes but behaviors.
One of the earliest cases of women’s violence is seen in child abuse; when an adult family member, friend or strange takes advantage of the vulnerability and trust of a child. In most cases, children are abused by people in their families that they trust to protect them. “Almost 90 percent of children who are raped are victimized by someone know to them, 43 percent by family members” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 442). Unfortunately, “with childhood sexual abuse, victims are often too young to know how to express what is happening and seek out help” (Babbel, 2013). In patriarchal systems rates of abuse against young girls increased and is often covered up, “because sexual abuse, molestation, and rape are such shame-filled concepts, our culture tends to suppress information about them”. The books national source found that “27 percent of women and 16 percent of men, in a telephone interview, reported childhood sexual abuse” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 442). Furthermore, “in a telephone interview of children ages of 10 and 16, researchers found that 15 percent of girls and 6 percent of boys reported being victimized” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 442). Research from another article found that “in the U.S. one out of three females and one out five males have been victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18 years” (Babbel, 2013). More statistics show that “white women were more likely to have experienced sexual abuse earlier in their childhood than black women, but the rates of victimization by childhood sexual abuse are similar for black and white women, Hispanic and non-Hispanic women, and for Native American women” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 443). However, rates for Asian American seem to be lower, underreporting may be in relation to that. There can be several reasons why a child does not report sexual abuse, the child may have been threatened if they tell someone and fear something will to them or their family. The child may also be concerned that no one will believe them and even though fear the abuser doesn’t want to see them go to jail. Most concerning is when the family does know of the possibility of abuse going on and decides to remain silent about in fear of judgment and shame. This can especially be common in Asian American families who value family honor in their community and other immigrants due to different cultural values and beliefs.
Most of the sexual abuse of girls is done by a man more commonly a man that the child knows like a family member or close family friend. “Only 7 percent of sexual contacts between adults and children involve strangers” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 443). “It is more likely for a child to experience sexual abuse at the hands of a family member or another supposedly trustworthy adult” (Babbel, 2013). Furthermore, “Asian American and Hispanic American children are more likely to be living in the same home as the perpetrator” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 443). This closeness between the child and the perpetrator may result in a longer time of the abuse, more frequent and often more severe. “For the abuse to occur, the individual must possess the motivation to offend and an ability to overcome internal barriers, external barriers, and the resistance of the child” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 443). Some abusers may feel guilt and shame for taking advantage of the child and promise them it will not happen again; however, the cycle abuse more often continues. The victims of child abuse are situational, incest is more common in families who are emotionally distant, or households where the father makes all the decisions and parental-control are strong. Children who are living with divorced parents are more at risk of child abuse by step-fathers or different boyfriends coming into the home. In the past, the mother was often blamed for letting the abuse happen but as stated before the child has many reasons for not reporting abuse but when it is reported the mother normally does believe the child and takes action against the situation.
Children suffering from sexual abuse can develop long-lasting problems from their experiences, “children who are victimized often feel powerless to stop the abuse and feel they have nowhere to turn for help, comfort, and support” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 444). The adult has often gained the trust and loyalty of the victim making it harder for them to resist the contact and report what is going on. “Perpetrators often select emotionally vulnerable children and establish a trusting relationship with them (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 444). The perpetrator is attempting to convince the child that this is not wrong and that relationship is real love and care for one another, for those children who are emotionally vulnerable this attention is something new and confusing. “The immediate effects of sexual abuse may be seen in children’s emotional, social, cognitive, and physical functioning” (Crawford and Unger, 2011, pg. 445). “Symptoms can extend far into adulthood and can include withdrawn behavior, a reenactment of the traumatic event, avoidance of circumstance that remind one of the events and physiological hyper-reactivity” (Babbel, 2013). Although most children remain silent about their abuse when they come into adulthood some find the voice to talk about their trauma. As an adult they can be “reminded of their abuse when seeing a family member again, looking at pictures, watching a movie about incest, being sexually victimized again, or having children reach the same age they were when they were abused” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 445). The trauma of sexual abuse follows the victims from childhood into adulthood impacting their lives consistently. However, now more than ever we have been educating others about how to protect and notice children being abused. “Schools are educating teachers about signs of physical and sexual abuse”, they are also teaching children in school how to stay safe, have a voice in who touches you and know when something is not right (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 446). Furthermore, doctors are being trained to notice signs of child abuse and what actions to take when abuse has been confirmed. There is even help for those who did not receive it as a child, adults can seek help from therapists, support groups from other survivors and books talking about overcoming this trauma.
Dating is something young people look forward too, children as young as elementary school talk about how they have boyfriends and girlfriends but the real relationships start around high school and college. The idea of having someone that loves and cares about you can make you feel on top of the world. However, in every relationship there are problems, no one really knows how they are going to react to an argument until it presents itself and unfortunately this can provoke women or men to act in aggressive behavior. “Violence is a frequent reaction to the confusion and anger young people experience in heterosexual conflicts” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 447). “Depending on the definition used, rates of courtship violence range from a low of 6 percent, when the definition includes only severe physical aggression, to a high of almost 90 percent, when the definition includes all form of aggression” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 448). There are several different types of aggression, verbal aggression includes any kind of name calling or screaming, this type of aggression is common and more often displayed by women. Psychological aggression is similar to verbal but involves controlling tactics like intimidation, both men and women experience this. Lastly physically aggression, when a partner physically assaults the other by pushing, hitting, slapping or more serious violence. Gender differences are not always clear on who expresses more aggressive behavior but when motive is taken into consideration gender differences are clear. “Although both women and men initiate violence, women are more likely than men to sustain serious injury” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 448). “Men are two to four times more likely to use severe forms of violence, and women are three to four times more likely to report injuries” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 448). Men motives for violence in a relationship is to gain control and dominance over his partner, whereas women’s aggressive behavior is normally due to loss of control, including anger and jealousy.
There are three types of abusers of courtship violence, first relationship-only, second violent/antisocial and lastly histrionic/preoccupied. “Relationship-only perpetrators appear the most “normal”; they engage in only mild psychological and physical abuse and are not aggressive outside of the dating relationship” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 449). “Violent/antisocial type is responsible for about 20 percent of all cases and is most likely to be male, these individuals are likely to be aggressive inside as well as outside the dating relationship and to have witnessed domestic violence and parental physical punishment” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 449). They may also have a criminal record, abuse alcohol and show signs of antisocial behavior and struggle with developing healthy social relationships. Lastly, “the histrionic/preoccupied type is responsible for 30 percent of all cases of dating violence and is likely to be female, this type is likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse and parental physical punishment” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 449). Children who come from dysfunctional homes who experience parental abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse are at risk of being aggressive in the same manner as they become adults as well. “Several studies have determined that, for males, experiences with parent-child aggression during childhood is a significant predictor of acting abusively toward their dating partner and, as college students, of being physically abused by their dating partner” (Shook, Gerrity, Jurich, Segrist, 2000, pg. 3). In another research, “reported that female offspring with histories of parent0child aggression were at significant risk for becoming victims of courtship violence but not for acting aggressively toward a dating partner” (Shook et al., 2000, pg.3). This violent behavior is often what children grow up seeing and begin to normalize those same behaviors and believe that it is a healthy way to handle conflict in a relationship. Furthermore, “for men, in particular, dating violence is associated with being quick to react to anger, believing that violence will aid in winning an argument, and having successfully used violence in other situations” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 449). Further evidence has shown that men who abuse their dating partner are at a higher risk of continuing that behavior into marriage.
The relationship does not begin with violence, it seems healthy and happy until someone or something changes that trigger aggression, it can months or years into the relationship before violence is ever used. “Women who experience ongoing victimization are often more committed and in love with their partner, less likely to end the relationship because of abuse, and also allow their partner to control them, compared to non-victimized” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 450). This can be extremely dangerous in an abusive relationship when one partner feels they have no control and are too fearful to try to leave. The abuse can continue and become more severe and complicated if the relationship furthers into marriage or children, once children are involved it is almost impossible for the woman or man to leave the relationship. When talking about family violence this is common, women take the abuse to protect their children, often the abuser isolates them and controls all financial means. The victim has a very limited social life and the abuse may go unnoticed by family, friends, and coworkers. “Courtship violence is most likely to occur in a private setting; it is more likely to occur in serious than in casual relationships” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 450). Women and men can suffer from many consequences when involved in courtship violence, “victims are likely to experience sorrow anger, fear, or surprise, whereas offenders experience sorrow” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 451). Many physically and psychological problems consist of lack of motivation, low energy, poor academic performance, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and suicidality. “Until recently, courtship violence did not receive the public attention that has been given to other forms of violence against women” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 451). There is no one solution to stopping or educating people about courtship violence; however, there are programs for victims and abusers but they have only been successful at changing attitudes rather than behaviors. Therefore, “identifying what factors are associated with these separate aspects of courtship violence may be useful in planning and implementing preventive and remedial interventions”, creating programs that include sexual assault prevention and provide needed education on courtship violence (Shook et al., 2000, pg. 3). Programs like “the Youth Relationships Programs which has significantly reduced physical and psychological violence”, “this 18-week program targets at-risk 14- to 17-year-olds; “at risk” was defined as experiencing maltreatment and witnessing domestic violence” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 452). “The program stressed education and awareness, skill development, and social action” (Crawford & Unger, 2011, pg. 452).
Abusive relationships may not always be easy to identify, some relationships are clearly unhealthy and abusive but abuse often starts subtly and gets worse over time. There are some key characteristics that indicate an abusive relationship including name calling, insults, isolation from friends and family, control money, where you go, medication and what you wear, act jealous or possessive, gets angry when drinking or using drugs, threats with violence or weapons, physically or sexually assaults you or puts blame for actions on you. The victim is stuck in a cycle of violence, “the abuser threatens violence, abuser strikes, abuser apologizes, promises to change and offers gifts, the cycle repeats itself” (Mayoclinic, 2017). Therefore, it is important for the victim to take to steps to leaving like creating a safety plan, “call a women’s shelter or domestic violence hotline for advice, make the call at a safe time when the abuser isn’t around-or from a friend’s house or other safe location” (Mayoclinic, 2017). Unfortunately, with the lack of awareness about women’s abuse many women do not know their options and don’t seek help. However, there are resources to help women who are in abusive relationships or have been assaulted including the National Domestic Violence Hotline, health care provider, women’s shelter or crisis center, counseling or mental health center or even a local court. Prevention is possible and with programs, shelters, counseling women are protected but prevention and awareness needs to go beyond national but global.
Women and men suffer from violence from early childhood by people they trust and rely on for protection, then into their youth and adulthood by the ones they love, work with or strangers. Women’s violence is not a national problem it is a global problem, in the United States women have to freedom to report violence but in other nations, they do not have that right. Therefore, it is important to notice the warning signs of violence and notice sign of others who could be victims. Violence against women can be prevented by awareness, programs, education, and resources available to those seeking help. This is a problem that is affecting young girls and boys, teens, college students, mothers and fathers, violence against women and men must end before there is already too much damage.
- Babbel, S. (2013, March 12). Trauma: Childhood Sexual Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/somatic-psychology/201303/trauma-childhood-sexual-abuse
- Crawford, M., & Unger, R. K. (2011). Women and gender: A feminist psychology. Brantford, Ont.: W. Ross MacDonald School Resource Services Library.
- Domestic violence: How to leave a dangerous situation. (2017, March 01). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/domestic-violence/art-20048397
- Shook, N. J., Gerrity, D. A., Jurich, J., & Segrist, A. E. (2000). Courtship Violence Among College Students: A Comparison of Verbally and Physically Abusive Couples. Journal of Family Violence,15(1), 1-22. doi:10.1023/a:1007532718917
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