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The family is often described as 'A Haven in a Heartless World'. Discuss this statement with reference to Domestic Violence.

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Introduction

The family is often described as 'A Haven in a Heartless World'. Discuss this statement with reference to Domestic Violence. The notion of the family as being a place of sanctuary, a private idyll, where the individual is protected from the pressures of the public aspects of life has been much criticised. Various writers have sought to bring to attention the violent abuse that occurs within families. It is accepted that the majority of incidences of domestic violence are those that involve women being abused by men and this discussion will focus on that particular scenario. However, it is important to recognise that other forms of domestic violence occur. Men, children and the elderly are also abused and the notion of domestic violence is not peculiar to heterosexual relationships. The idea that the family, rather than acting as an institution which functions to protect its members, is, in fact, a powerful tool of ideological patriarchy has been much emphasised by feminist writings. "The value system of male supremacist society holds the family to be inviolable..." (Ward, 1997 in O'Toole and Schiffman, 1997. Page 479). Millett (1970), further describes the family as being a patriarchal component contained within a patriarchal whole (society). This analysis by Millett (1970) is important as she refers to the family as being an important link between the individual and the external social structure. Thus, the family is central to the social control to which women are subjected to in both realms of their lives. ...read more.

Middle

"Parsons himself sees women as the property of their husbands." (Evason, 1982. Page 6). Thus, from this assertion within Parsons' writings about the family, it is possible to conclude that even (relatively) modern theories about family life incorporate notions of male ownership and control over women. Though it is impossible and, indeed, implausible to regard this as an open advocacy of domestic violence on the part of Parsons, it can certainly be alleged that domestic violence is heavily influenced by power relations (Radford, 1987. In O'Toole and Schiffman (editors) 1997. Due to this factor, Parsons' work can be deemed to be relevant when considering the topic of domestic violence, in so far as it clearly defines the inequality of power between the sexes and, rather than criticise it as feminists have, regards it as both inevitable and positive. Whilst feminist consciousness raising about the subject of domestic violence continues, it is generally recognised now that the awareness of domestic violence has increased and the acceptability of it decreased. However, there is debate about the extent to which existing legislation in Britain actually helps the situation of those suffering at the hands of a violent partner. The reluctance of the police to become involved in 'domestic matters' is outlined by Edwards (1989) who argues that, laws regarding violence in the home are "...clearly imbued with value-judgements about who and what forms of violence should be regulated." (Edwards, 1989. Page 1). It can be claimed that the ideology influencing the legal responses to domestic violence against women clearly challenges the notion that the home is a haven ...read more.

Conclusion

McWilliams describes how "the 'public' and 'private' juxtaposition of violence also lead to contradictory messages about what constitutes 'acceptable' and 'unacceptable' forms of violence" (McWilliams, 1998 in Dobash and Dobash, 1999. Page 130). Hence, it is possible to conclude that by classifying violent attacks into an, alleged, order of importance or seriousness the law acts in an extremely biased way and somewhat trivialises the phenomenon of domestic violence. However, Mirlees-Black (1999) argues that, according to The British Crime Survey of 1996, figures relating to domestic violence show that 23% of women aged 16-59 state that a current or former partner has physically assaulted them, at some time. If this statistic is believed, then it is possible to conclude that almost a quarter of British women who have experienced, or who are experiencing, domestic violence would heavily refute the notion that the family is a haven in a heartless world. In conclusion, the popular notion of the family home providing a place of safety for women, away from the alleged dangers of the outside world, is one which is continually being reinforced through social agencies, especially the media and the police. The idea ties in with outdated assumptions that women's role is one which should be primarily based around the home. Edwards (1989) argues that such patriarchal ideals and attitudes have had negative consequences regarding what and who are policed in society and who is protected and result in violence in the home being accorded "...a low priority because it happens behind closed doors, has a low visibility, occurs within a sphere traditionally considered private and is perpetrated against women by male partners." (Edwards, 1989. Page 31). 4 1 ...read more.

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