Domestic abuse epidemic

Following from Jender’s post on the focus of domestic violence responses, have a look at this article, reporting on an ‘epidemic’ of domestic abuse in the UK, and this report from a woman who was herself abused.

Many philosophically relevant issues:

The first report stresses the need for ‘urgent attention and … for doctors to be trained to spot victims and help them’. Little is said about the form that help might take – clearly, the view one takes about the autonomy, rationality, of the victim’s choice – or even whether (see comments on Jender’s post) there is a choice – would make a difference here.

The thought that it is fruitful to look at the abuser’s behaviour rather than focus on the victim’s psychology seems to be echoed in the first person report, and her perspective on how she considered her situation: ‘I kept asking myself if I still loved this man… I should have been asking myself why I was subjecting myself to this profound humiliation, with or without love’.

Back in the first article, some interesting epistemological issues and silencing issues also raised – one of the problems being that ‘some victims were not believed [concerns about lack of epistemic credibility, perlocutionary silencing] while others did not realise the abuse they suffered was a crime [locutionary silencing]’.

Finally, in the first person report, it struck me that there was a similarity between the response of the woman:

‘My sincere but perhaps feeble act, which I doubt the children remember, was to apologise to them for their father’s behaviour every time they heard or observed him hitting me’

…and the response Jender noted of the victim in the De Anza rape case – to apologise. Although the earlier post on domestic violence considers refocusing responses, away from the moral psychology of the victim, I couldn’t help but wonder: is there a documented phenomena of ‘victim-apology’? Is this something more often found in women than men? Just wonderings – any help?

2 thoughts on “Domestic abuse epidemic

  1. The apology thing is really interesting. If nobody has done work on, somebody should. Victims apologising for what is done to them is surely not a uniquely female thing, but it seems (anecdotally, anyway) to be a significant factor in women’s experiences as victims.

  2. This is definitely a problem that shows up in victims of abuse – children and women. According to An “Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection,” at one of the signs of abuse is self-blame:
    You may notice someone taking all of the blame for things that go wrong. A co-worker may share a story about something that happened at home and then take all of the blame for whatever occurred. If you notice this happening a lot, it may be a sign that this person is being experiencing emotional abuse. Keep in mind that in an emotionally abusive relationship, abusers often excel at constantly “reminding” the victim that THEY are to blame for whatever has been happening. Once internalized, this can poison one’s ability to see through an abuser’s lies.

    This blaming is not only done by the abuser, but often by those around the individual (e.g. a mother saying, “don’t make daddy mad…”). In addition, the legal system often doesn’t know how to handle this (sorry for the focus on the legal system, but I studied this for most of last year) – they are often frustrated by a victim who refuses to press charges because they think they are somehow at fault. Some states have adopted forced prosecution (the state files charges even if the victim refuses), but this can also be disempowering to the victim and make their lives worse (or even put them in danger) when the abuser is released on bail, etc.
    There is not simple solution to this complex problem and every abuser and victim is different, but it is something worth looking into and figuring out better ways of dealing with the problem.

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