Evaluation of the Current Social Policy on Domestic Violence

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Table of contents

  1. Functionalist Theory:
  2. Conflict Theory:
  3. Feminist Theory:

Social issues are difficulties that are present in a society and individuals may go through these daily. In order to be a social problem, these issues tend to affect more than one individual meaning there needs to be a group in the society who consider the condition to be undesirable or negative. Examples include Poverty, Unemployment/Education, Inequality, Homelessness, LGBT issues, Abortion, Immigration and much, much more… In this essay I will evaluate the current social policy responses to the social issue of domestic violence. I will explain my understanding of each of the social theories and link them to policy responses that I feel relate to the theories. Domestic Violence accounts for fifteen percent of violent crimes that take place (Home Office 2009). Domestic violence is an issue that has many aspects affecting the culprit, the survivor and their families. This means that the involvement of other organisations will be necessary when it seems fit. There are different kinds of abuse, but it's always about having power and control over you. Women’s Aid define domestic abuse as an “incident or a pattern of events of controlling, intimidating, degrading and violent behaviour between those aged 16 or over, this includes sexual violence, in most cases by a partner or ex-partner, but it can certain cases it can be a family member or carer who is the perpetrator.” Therefore, this definition covers less traditional family measures and practices from different cultures, examples of these include “honour-based” violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriages. Domestic violence is not classed as a single offence but many different associated offences, such as rape, common assault, false imprisonment and attempted murder. In most it’s when women experience being perpetrated by a man however this is not always the case as domestic abuse can be committed by women on men and within same sex relationships. According to the Home Office, 2009 Domestic violence is “predominant within all levels of society, whether they are poor or rich and with no respect for ethnicity, religion or geographical location.”. It is estimated that domestic violence cost the nation £23 billion per year (Women’s Aid, 2007)

There are different kinds of abuse, but it's always about having power and control over you. Women’s Aid define domestic abuse as an “incident or a pattern of events of controlling, intimidating, degrading and violent behaviour between those aged 16 or over, this includes sexual violence, in most cases by a partner or ex-partner, but it can certain cases it can be a family member or carer who is the perpetrator.” In most it’s when women experience being perpetrated by a man. This can involve but it is not limited to the following types of abuse and these are Psychological, Physical, Sexual, Financial and emotional abuse. Many social theories have been planned to help in understanding the reasons behind domestic abuse: feminist theory, symbolic interactionism theory, functionalist Theory and social conflict theory.

Functionalist Theory:

The functionalist theory suggests that domestic violence occurs when women try to occupy influential roles that are meant for men. According to functionalists the nuclear family is a positive establishment that implements meaningful purposes for the benefit of the whole society. This includes primary socialisation where children learn acceptable values and behaviours, food shelter to every family member and reproduction. Functionalism theory keeps to the idea that domestic violence happens when the government and the nuclear family fail to execute its roles appropriately. The main victims of domestic violence tend to be “women because men seek for a different route through the use of violence when they cannot dominate the influential roles in the society.” This is According to O’Leary K, Smith and O’Leary S’ theory (2007). Functionalist explain that Domestic violence arises when necessities are not met this relates to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Maslow said that individuals must be content with the lower level deficit before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs similarly if families fail to provide financial support or schools fail to give basic education then there is a lack there and children will fail to learn the norms and values this includes their morals and behaviour therefore this contributes to domestic violence occurring. (Mcleod, Saul. “Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.” Simply Psychology, Simply Psychology, 21 May 2018, www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html). As for the financial stability if none has been provided within the family then the children or individuals maty feel the need to fill that void and get the things they need in the house which can then result in domestic violence as they feel the need to do something which then makes them feel pressurised and the turn to violence.

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Conflict Theory:

Domestic Violence occurs in an “intimate relationship when one partner holds more possessions than the other partner “so to balance the wounded ego of the hurt partner he/she would usually resort to violence according to the social conflict theory stated (Chibucos & Leite, 2005). Conflict becomes unavoidable when power differentials show that some groups will exploit others resulting in the foundation of tension and struggle. The conflict theory keeps to the belief that in society there is a power struggle which is frequently won by the rich and often lost by the normal individual. The society is regularly in a state of constant conflict as there is struggle for resources that are scarce. According to the conflict theory, individuals who have wealth endlessly seek to increase their riches at the expense and misery of individuals who do not have wealth which then increases the conflict and abuse rate within families that come from the poorer parts.

Another factor of abuse seems to be marriage because it is a social foundation that contains a variety of resources that may not be equally shared. These include money, employment, creativity and talent, character is another example. What tends to happen is that when one partner lacks the resources, a feeling of lowness and inferiority is created and thereafter conflict happens. Abuse behaviour starts showing as the power of conflict rises, which then leads to domestic violence. Jealousy can be a contribution factor from my understanding, the reason for my belief on this is because from research I found out that most of the time, conflicts rises in an intimate relationship when one partner may have a better job than the other, or if “the salary income for one individual is higher than the other therefore to compensate for one’s hurt ego, the hurt partner will normally turn to domestic violence” (Boss, Doherty, LaRossa & Steinmetz, 1993).

Feminist Theory:

The Feminist Theory comes from the social and governmental movements to understand the nature of gender inequality. Nancy Fraser’s idea in the 1970s was that Neoliberalism agrees with second-wave feminism. Domestic violence is an example of second-wave feminism as this fights paternal, public-achieved capitalism because it oppresses women. So, feminism is co-chosen by neoliberals. Neoliberal feminism differs from liberal feminism as it lacks a critique of systemic factors leading to gender inequality. It’s about the individual. This theory sees Domestic Violence as male coercion and oppression of women in their homes. Feminists have the idea that domestic violence is evidence of the male-controlled structure this relates to Carlson Brown’s theory (1994) where he said suggested that the idea of Domestic Violence didn’t exist was because of the patriarchal society that was, and to some extent still exists and this ideology was challenged by the increase of feminism. This was certified by religious texts. It was the belief that women and children were the property of the man and it was his duty to discipline them as he saw fit. This meant that women and children were where under the pressure to act according to the way the male figure in the family wanted them to. In result of going against that or challenging the thoughts they may get abused in many ways for example they maybe belittled, threatened and intimated or even stopped from going to work if they have day jobs.

Liberal Feminists believe that gender inequality is mainly caused by ignorance and socialisation -Domestic Violence is based on gender and power. There are other factors that can contribute to domestic violence one being the incapable power relations that tend to exist within the society and the family two when there is a misunderstanding between both individuals. The fact that in some countries domestic violence is often seen as acceptable is unacceptable and this is mostly in cases of alleged unfaithfulness on the female’s part and it is legally permitted. At first only physical abuse was considered domestic violence but in the nineteen-eighties sexual abuse started to be considered as domestic violence. Despite this until 1991 marital rape was not considered a crime in England and Wales (Rape Crisis, 2008). This ties into the feminist theory’s idea that domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment are all part of the systematic oppression of women and that DV is a way of controlling women alongside verbal, economic and emotional abuse. Research shows that Domestic Violence is used when men feel as if their dominance is being threatened this is because men are taught to associate power, dominance and strength with masculinity and feminity with submissiveness, inferiority and passiveness. The outcome of this is men feel as if they are the attackers against females and using this method of abuse helps them uphold the male power in the family.

To tackle the issue of Domestic Violence, policies were put into place by the Government. The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act was the main policy introduced in 2004 this is the biggest service of the law on domestic violence in the last 30 years. with the purpose being to give greater power to the police and courts when dealing with the offenders of domestic violence whilst offering increased protection to the survivors (Home Office, 2008a). Implementing this act helped explain the reluctance of police and courts to deal effectively with DV cases. One way in which this legislation contributed to increasing the power of the police was by making common attacks an arrestable offence, this then allowed individuals to think about whether they wanted to carry on with the trial. The fact that the police are trying to create agreement between the individuals involved in this crime may result in less happenings being reported as the survivor may not wish to criminalise her partner, particularly if he is the father of her children. Continuing from this it can be made even more valid within the “Black and ethnic minority communities” who are less likely to look to the police for help and support because of their fears of racist discrimination (Women’s Aid, 2007).

As mentioned above Domestic Abuse can be committed by women on men and within same sex relationships therefore an additional change in police influence was implemented to make sure the breach of non-molestation counts as an arrestable offence, this offence holds up to a five-year prison sentence. In order to recognise the needs of non- cohabitating couples and same sex couples for the same protection afforded to heterosexual cohabiting couples the idea of non-molestation orders was changed. By doing this it is anticipated that these measures will decrease the number of breaches of these assaults, which leads to greater protection to survivors, due to the bigger penalties that are now applied. This alteration also means that the survivor is a bystander in a criminal matter and no longer responsible for acting over the trial nor are they burdened with the costs of that prosecution which reduces the stress and worry they might potentially be in. This can also mean that the Crown Prosecution Service may follow cases that the fighter may want to drop. This could result in her feeling as if she isn’t in control once again which may trigger the moment when she was being abused none the less, she “may feel as if she is being disempowered” and mistreated (Women’s Aid, 2007).

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