Domestic abuse is more commonplace than we as a society would like to believe. Approximately 1 in every 4 women will experience some form of domestic violence throughout their lifetimes. This experience could include anything from emotional and physical abuse, to rape or even homicide. I currently volunteer at Seton Medical Center Brackenridge and without fail, during every shift, a “code gray” will ring out over the intercom to alert the staff to abusive behavior in progress. If these individuals (I hesitate to say men, even though the profile of most abuse is male abusers upon their partner and/or children) are abusing their partners within the walls of a hospital, what is the situation like behind closed doors? With the recent leak of the Ray Rice elevator video to the media, I decided to dig a little deeper into the history and patterns of abuse.
Ray Rice, the then Baltimore Ravens running back, spat in the face of his then fiancé, Janay Palmer. After the elevator doors closed, Rice punched Palmer, knocking her unconscious. The NFL suspended Rice from only two games- two less than Wes Welker’s punishment for illegal drug use. Only after the video was released to the media did the NFL suspend Rice indefinitely. While ESPN Sports Center focuses on the commissioner’s lack of timely action (reports say that Roger Goodell’s office received the security tape back in April, but swept the issue under the rug), I am more concerned that Janay Palmer married her abuser just one day after a grand jury indicted Rice for third-degree aggravated assault.
Sociologists believe that domestic violence has social explanations, as incidences of abuse are not confined to a few individuals, but form patterns across society. Some people even believe that marriage can legitimize domestic abuse, as husbands are historically seen as the dominant partner, with the wife dependent upon the male for everything. In modern America, this is not the case (though it was at one point in time). However, this is still the case in many societies, especially those have underdeveloped infrastructure and where the status of women extremely low. Sociologists conclude that domestic violence is common in patriarchies, where men were traditionally exploiting and oppressing women, in order to preserve their power; that it is due to deeply engrained sexism and male privilege within the society. Today, as women continually strive for equal footing, this exertion of power is qualified as abuse.
But why did it take so long for this social norm to break? And why is abuse still occurring? Is it due to lack of resources to aid the victims? Lack of punishment upon the abuser? Or is due to the fact that the social norm is not as broken as we would like to think?