Feminism has played a large role in re-discovering domestic violence as a social problem and challenged assumption of the privacy of the home. ‘The work of the women’s aid federation has been very important in increasing awareness of gender inequalities, abuse and violence against women which has hitherto been concealed within the private area of family and personal relationships’ (Kelly 1988 cited in Blakemore 2003:82) Erin Prizzey opened a women’s centre in 1972, first safe house for women leaving men, the refuge in Chiswick attracted a lot of media attention.
Demand for refuges grew; more opened up together these formed national women’s aid federation in 1974. Domestic Violence against heterosexual women became main focus of early interventions and public policy. (May 2002) Domestic Violence was represented by the media and in policy debates as a ‘hidden crime’. The scale of the problem was not yet realised until in 1973 Jack Ashley revealed to the House of Commons that there were 16,000 abused women making calls to the police each year. (May 2002) A select committee was then set up by the government in 1975 to investigate violence in marriage.
‘Domestic violence was now more prevalent than it appeared, it was severe, it threatened the welfare of the future generation, and the state had a part to play in making a response quickly (Dobash and Dobash1982 cited in May 2007:75) There were fundamental differences in the way in which NWAF and Chiswick refuges represented the problem of domestic violence. NWAF was concerned domestic violence within an analysis of Patriarchy, gender and power seeing the abuse of women as linked to there position in society.
This Feminist ideology seeks intervention of political campaign and social change. The Chiswick refuge however had psychopathological ideologies as well as social learning/family violence ideologies. Chiswick argued that domestic violence came from deviancy in the family, past experience of living in a violent family, alcohol abuse and mental illness. Although both refugees agreed that the main aim was to get women away from violent relationships. (May 2007) This lead to the ‘exit discourse’ and lead to questions of why wont the women leave?
(May 2007) ‘Women’s dependence on men or the state has tied women to social and familiar relations which have often provided the site of there experience of domestic violence’ (Blakemore 2003:82) Patriarchal welfare state caused women to be trapped in marriage as the had little support from welfare, British welfare state was built on Patriarchal assumptions it assumed that the gender division of labour of men in paid employment ‘bread-winner’ and women in the home carrying out un-paid domestic work ‘home-maker’.
(Blakemoore 2003) ‘Married women were encouraged to rely on derived insurance rights until the late 1970s, and were bared from claiming means tested supplementary benefit for the family until the 1980’ (Blakemore 2003:82) The financial dependency of women to men, makes it difficult from them to leave an abusive relationship, this could be just one off the many reasons an abused wife will stay in her marriage.
‘Social Feminists see domestic violence as a result of poverty and material deprivation which are examples of class related economic factors. The notion of male breadwinner and construction of women’s dependency is linked with the poverty which children and women face’ (Blakemore 2003) Little public discussion of domestic violence in the 1960s In the 1950s early 1960s the family life consisted of the husband as a bread-winner and wife as a homemaker, men earned the money, supported there wife’s, dominated family law and social policy.
Rising divorce rate meant single parenting by women was on the increase, women rate of employment was on the increase most of growth being in part time work however the increased opportunity for women’s employment was not matched by child care provisions or a sharing of domestic unpaid labour, in comparison with men women have very little employment rights. The exit discourse is concerned with the reluctance of the women to leave. This centres the attention on the woman’s behaviour rather than the abusers responsibility to stop or agencies’ responsibility to act.
The selected committee primary concern was helping women separate from their abusers; this was done by urging local authorities to sympathetically consider applications for refuge funding. Major changes in family law and housing policy such as The Housing Homeless Persons Act 1977 changed no longer considered women who left home because of domestic violence as purposely homeless and stressed the importance of keeping women and children together.
The Domestic violence and Matrimonial proceedings act 1975 enabled spouses to apply for a court order which prohibited violence and ‘molestation’ and for the right to occupy the matrimonial home. (may2007) The Marital Rape Act was only introduced in 1991 making rape in marriage illegal, also in the 1990 there was a legislation brought out in relation to stalkers and harassment and in 2004 The Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act.
Domestic violence moved from a social phenomenon to a social problem, due to feminism, The scale of domestic violence and the media interest also contributed to this, the fact domestic violence challenges the ideological family life and values meant it had to be confronted by the government. The legislation and social policy for domestic violence is centred around the family as this is the place of the abuse, the idea of the cycle of violence that if your socialized in a violent home your very likely to become violent.
‘Balance to be struck between saving families and protecting women from domestic violence’ (May 2002:73.
Bibliography Blakemore, K (2003) Social Policy: an Introduction Open university press Foreman, S and Dallos, R (1993) social problems and the family Oxford Press Fulcher, J and Scott, J (2006) sociology 3rd edition Oxford university press Lavatte, M and Pratt A (2006) social policy, theories and concepts and issues Sage May M, Page R, Brundsdon E (2002) understanding social problems Blackwell.