Consequences of Violence against Women

Topics: Child abuse, Domestic violence, Sexual abuse Pages: 9 (2436 words) Published: August 28, 2013
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Violence Against Women: A literature review
Violence Against Women: A literature review

Violence Against Women: A literature review

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Violence against Women: A literature review commissioned by the National Group to Address Violence Against Women

5. Making the links

blame the woman
blame the drink
blame the weather

(Zero Tolerance, 1995)

This slogan, taken from the Zero Tolerance 'Excuses' campaign, encapsulates some of the most common assumptions made about what causes violence against women. Alcohol and/or drug use, poverty, unemployment, mental illness, stress, poor anger management skills, sexual deviance and personality disorders are all commonly identified either as causes of, or triggers for, male violence against women. It is perhaps to be expected that most people, if asked to consider violence against women, will focus initially on the circumstances surrounding an individual act, rather than violence against women as a wider phenomenon. At an individual level, all of these factors may play a role. There is, however, a need to look at the wider picture. Violence against women is experienced by women of all ages and social classes, all races, religions and nationalities, all over the world. It is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men. Individual characteristics and circumstances alone cannot explain why this should be the case.

Violence may be experienced as a single discrete event in a woman's life. However, when the opportunity is provided, many women describe a continuum of abusive experiences at different points in their lives, and at the hands of different abusers. Domestic abuse, sexual violence, stalking and harassment, child sexual abuse, pornography, prostitution and all of the combinations of these, are linked in many ways. Sometimes several of them happen to the same women. Sometimes several of them are perpetrated by the same men. The context of what happens may differ - perpetrated by known men or strangers, at home or at work, in relationships or out of them - but the impact on individual women and the consequences both for them and the rest of society are too similar to ignore.

The consequences of violence against women for women's health, sense of self worth, economic position and continued safety are consistent across all forms of violence against women. The rates of depression, anxiety and post traumatic reactions are similar whether a woman was abused by her partner or raped by a stranger. Feelings of guilt, shame and self blame are commonly experienced by women survivors of domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, and abuse through pornography and prostitution. The role that male violence plays in limiting women's social and economic potential is acknowledged throughout the literature. At a policy level, there is perhaps a clearer understanding of the links between male violence and the poverty of women in the 'developing' countries of the world; certainly it is acknowledged in international initiatives to address violence against women (Spindel, Levy and Connor, 2000).

Common themes also emerge from women's descriptions of the violence they have experienced, regardless of where, when and by whom they were abused. Whether they are talking about physical or sexual assault by a partner, by someone else known to them or by a stranger, they describe the abuse of power and control, being degraded and humiliated, feeling hated and worthless:

"…my father would call me all sorts of names and would storm around saying 'You're no goddam good. You're a whore. You're a nothing.'…It's hard to know which was...
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