Domestic violence is physical, psychological, sexual or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. It may involve partners, ex-partners or household members of other relatives.
A common view of domestic violence is that it is the work of a few disturbed individuals, causes are psychological rather than social. However, some sociologists challenge this view, such as Mirrlees-Black. Her survey in 1999 of 16,000 people estimates that’s there are 6.6 million domestic violence assaults every year, half of which involving physical injury. Mirrlees-Black follows the belief that domestic violence is far too widespread to be simply the work of a few disturbed individuals. She found that most victims are women, 99% of all incidents against women are committed by men and nearly one in four women have been assaulted by a partner at some time in her life. One in eight are repeatedly assaulted.
Coleman et al (2007) found that women were more likely than men to have experienced ‘intimate violence’ across all types of abuse; partner, family, sexual and stalking. She follows the belief that domestic violence does not occur randomly but follows particular social patterns and these patterns have social causes.
Dobash and Dobash (1979) found that violent incidents could be set off by what a husband saw as a challenge to his authority. For example, this could be an incident where his wife asks him why he was late home for a meal. He may see this as a challenge and assault her to assert his authority.
However, we have to be cautious when looking through official statistics because they aren’t always representative and do not always produce an accurate picture of domestic violence.
Firstly, victims may be unwilling to report assault to the police. Yearnshire (1997) found on average a woman suffers 35 assaults before making a report to the police. The woman may feel uncomfortable reporting abuse as she fears triggering further abuse, resulting in them being passive to the assaults.
Secondly, police and prosecutors may be reluctant to record, investigate or prosecute those cases that are reported to them. According to Cheal (1991), this reluctance is due to the fact that police and other state agencies are not prepared to become involved in the issues surrounding the family. They believe that the family is a private institute, and agencies access to this should be limited; family is a good thing and so agencies tend to neglect the ‘darker side’ of family life and that the individuals are free agents.
Radical feminists see the family and marriage as the key institutions in patriarchal society and the main source of women’s oppression, men dominate society through domestic violence or the threat of it. Widespread domestic violence is an inevitable feature of a patriarchal society and serves to preserve the power that all men have over women.
In addition, male domination of state institutions helps to explain the reluctance of the police and courts dealing effectively with cases of domestic violence.
However, sociologist Elliot (1996), rejects this radical feminist claim that all men benefit from violence against women. Not all men are aggressive and most are opposed to domestic violence. Radical feminists ignore this.
Radical feminists also fail to explain female violence, including violence