Literature Review: What obstacles and issues prevent women from leaving their violent partners?
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Literature Review: 'What obstacles and issues prevent women from leaving their violent partners?' For this research dissertation, I have chosen to study the subject of domestic violence, and more specifically, the issues and obstacles which make it difficult for women to leave their abusive partners and the role of the social worker and influences they have in practice. My research will be concentrating solely on women as victims, as although I acknowledge that men can also suffer at the hands of domestic violence, it is universally accepted that females are more frequently victims of domestic violence (Hague et al, 2003). Introduction Domestic violence is a serious criminal and societal problem. Over the last thirty years domestic violence in the UK has gone from being a largely unspoken subject to one which is being tackled and confronted by government and statutory bodies and the voluntary sector. Furthermore, thirty years ago, little was written or known about domestic violence. This allowed the abuse of women to go on behind closed doors of many homes, without interventions; help was limited for sufferers of domestic violence. Today the issue of domestic violence has become more prominent within the public arena. Domestic violence is now a relatively well documented phenomenon. The former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, said at a world conference on ending violence against women in 1999 - "Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation and it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards, equality, development and peace."
It is apparent then, that a sizeable number of women who have been affected by various forms of domestic violence, are reluctant to testify to the police about their experiences. I shall now start to examine some key themes and reasons that have been acknowledged by experts of the social problem of domestic violence, which could explain why some women stay with their abusive spouses, although the actual research dissertation itself will explore these themes in greater detail. "Poorly educated or unemployed women are dependent on abusive partners and therefore forced into staying" (Freeman, 1979, p.159). One of the first reasons that is often quoted by researchers, and of course by the survivors of domestic violence themselves, as to a factor which might stop them leaving a relationship is financial constraint. The North London Domestic Violence Survey, as conducted by Mooney (2000), is still the largest survey of domestic violence ever to be carried out in Britain, gathering data from 1,000 individuals. The Survey reported that 'economic dependence' was the most frequently given response as a factor which prevented women from leaving a violent relationship, with 27 per cent of the women in her sample stating this as a reason (Mooney, 2000). In households where the wife or girlfriend of the violent partner is unemployed, and reliable upon the income of her partner, a lot of women simply cannot afford to part from a relationship. Money might be needed in order to pay for a bed and breakfast or a hotel whilst a woman plans what she should do, or to buy clothes and supplies if she was to leave spontaneously, if the violence suddenly became too violent to live with.
In both cases, if a woman realises that by leaving her violent husband or boyfriend, she may face an increased amount of violence, and as brought up earlier, even risk being fatally injured, then it is clearly comprehensible why she would have doubts as to whether or not to walk away. "All the evidence suggests that men who are violent to their partners do not stop being violent, but, rather, increase the frequency and the severity of the attacks" (Hanmer et al, 1985, as cited in Hoyle, 1998, p.188). One theory that is often conveyed by females who have found themselves victims of domestic violence, is the notion of it 'only being a one off', or similarly claiming that external factors such as alcohol, were to blame for his violence. As expressed, this is rarely the case, and it is argued that the women are often influenced to believe this by their partners, who try to divert the blame and responsibility from themselves (Cavanagh et al, 2001). In regards to the issue of alcohol being to blame for domestic abuse, it is true that in some cases drink does play an important part in the battering process (Hearn, 1998), but moreover that "many battered partners have partners who did not drink" (Walker, 1979, p.88). It also begs the question of whether drink can truly be used as an excuse in the committing of domestic violence. I consider that the majority of the public, both men and women, would agree that this can never be a justifiable reason to hit, or inflict even greater violence on one's partner.
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