Domestic violence affects many women throughout the United States, as well as the rest of the world. The United States’ culture has different expectations of men and women regarding domestic violence. The societal expectation of domestic violence is that a male partner is the aggressor and abuser toward the female partner. Not all instances of domestic violence originate from males abusing their female partners; there are female abusers in heterosexual relationships, there are abusers in homosexual relationships, and non-binary individuals can be abused or abusers. However, I will be focusing on societal expectations of domestic violence in heterosexual relationships today.
The distorted perception of solely male-instigated abuse is a result of overemphasizing expectations and stereotypes about gender. Certain behavior can often be excused or even expected from certain genders. For instance, society uses the phrase “boys will be boys” when boys fight one another the playground; there is no equivalent phrase for girls. Societal expectations of men typically stem from traditional ideas of masculinity; men in the United States are expected to be tough, aggressive, and able to physically defend themselves. Meanwhile, the societal expectations of women in the United States stems from femininity. Traditional ideas of femininity include being submissive, dainty, and less powerful than men. These gendered expectations have manifested in reality. For instance, the vast majority of the incarcerated population is male.
Female victims of domestic violence are often viewed as weak and defenseless (Berns, 2017). However, female victims of domestic violence are also blamed for being in an abusive relationship. It can be extremely hard for victims of domestic violence to leave an abusive relationship, no matter the gender of the victim. This is especially true when there are children involved and one partner in a marriage does not want to break up their family. Nevertheless, women do not get as much sympathy from society when they are criticized for not leaving a difficult situation.
There are gendered norms for helping victims as well. Shelters for victims of domestic violence are often referred to as “women’s shelters”. The diagnosis for someone who has been abused over an extended period of time is “battered woman syndrome”, although some people are using a genderless title when referring to this diagnosis. Male victims of domestic violence, on the other hand, are not treated the same as female victims. This is especially true for male victims of sexual violence; it can be hard for many people to imagine a man being raped. Men are generally expected to want most sexual encounters, and having a woman be aggressive in a sexual situation can be seen as desirable. As a result, many men remain silent when they are sexually harassed or raped. They can have fears of not being believed, as society expects men to be able to physically overpower a woman. They could also have concerns about being taunted for not being enough of a “man” for not wanting the sexual encounter.
Some might not consider verbal abuse as domestic violence. However, I believe verbal abuse is included in domestic violence. Progressive verbal harassment contributes to the diagnosis of battered women syndrome. Not only that, but domestic violence is an evolutionary cycle; it often starts with smaller instances of abuse before reaching the point of extreme violence. Women who verbally abuse their partners might not be seen as abusive because they are not often expected to be abusers or seen as a threat. Rather, they can be seen as “bitches” or be called derogatory names. Overall, domestic violence affects people all over and of all genders, that’s why domestic violence should not be considered to be a woman’s issue.
One thought on “Domestic Violence, A WOMAN’S Problem?”
I think it’s easy for people who have never been in an abusive relationship to say “just leave” but it’s not as easy as it sounds. People definitely need to be more educated on abusive relationships, how to recognize one and ways to help someone involved in one.