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Perceiving their family as a guarantor of security, most people strive to create stable, equitable and based on mutual respect relationships. However, today, horrific cases of violence against women and reports of domestic abuse have become regular news features. Fear of humiliation, disgrace, possible injuries, pain, and potential threats inherent in victims can induce their retaliatory actions and lead to severe crimes. Being unmasked by Fannie Flagg in her novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (1987), violence-related incidents of the past are perceived as an actual social issue due to their frequent occurrence today. Aggressive behavior, assaults, violence, and offenses contradict ethical norms and moral standards established within many centuries.
Despite the lack of cohesion in definitions of domestic violence, this phenomenon involves actions and threats of physical, sexual, psychological, and economic origin aimed at prostrating, controlling, intimidating, and domineering over victims. Besides traditionally implied battering and drubbing, domestic violence involves systematic harassment, intimidation, threats, forced sexual relations, economic oppression, multiple prohibitions, and other coercive actions. Male abusers isolate their battered wives from others, control their communication with friends and relatives, and forbid them to work and study. Although psychological, cultural, sociological, religious, personal, and even inherited characteristics specific to perpetrators have been precisely investigated and assessed by empowered scholars and practitioners, statistical data and injury reports testify to the growth rates of domestic violence.
Obsolete norms of family hierarchy and views on female social position have receded today. Several decades ago, in Ruth's time, spousal abuse was not perceived as misdeeds or crime. Erroneous dogmas did not allow women to publicly resist their offenders; they were socialized to play a role subordinate to their husbands and suffer violence. Age-old traditions, cultural and family values urged abused women to preserve their families at all costs. Women believed that their solemn duty and obligation was to maintain their marital status, irrespective of domestic violence. Violence within a family was considered to be a private problem instead of being a punishable crime. Male perpetrators of domestic violence were rarely penalized for abusing their wives. Moreover, abusive husbands were allowed to punish and discipline their wives through corporal punishment and other methods (Jackson 60). Females' economic dependence, limited official assistance, psychological damage specific to victimized women, and an insufficient community response contributed to the prevalence of spousal abuse. The development of society, clarification of the issue in literature and films, and promotion of feminism-oriented concepts have transformed social values and laws. Today, many communities across America have taken steps to respond to domestic violence (Jackson 178). Domestic violence shelters have been founded in many countries in order to provide battered women and their children with legal and protective services. Domestic violence infringes human rights and perpetuates false stereotypes of gender roles. Allowing domestic violence to pass with superficial redress emboldens violators and verbally neuters their victims.
Domestic violence occurs in families, between close relatives. Suffering physically, economically, and emotionally, women and children comprise the vast majority of survivors of domestic violence. Although experts involved in research on domestic violence state that females from industrialized Western countries are less victimized than those from other nations (Graham-Kevan Archer 451), the phenomenon of domestic violence is not limited by social or property statuses of perpetrators; it does not totally depend on gender, race, ethnicity, education, culture, or family incomes. While rates of exposure to violence vary across demographic and socioeconomic groups, no group is fully shielded from violence or its effects (Herrenkohl et al. 76). Multiple myths and misconceptions concerning violence within families complicate the development of prevention, intervention, and treatment programs. False stereotypes involve public visions of behaviors, motifs, appearance, and social status of women in abusive relationships. Domestic violence has a high degree of latency due to victims' reluctance to contact the police or supportive groups, fear of losing financial support, unawareness of regulations, personal prejudices, and psychological unpreparedness for the disclosure of incidents. In most cases, battered women and abused children do not have adequate physical and moral strengths to resist violence and aggression.
The frequency of manifestations and forms of spousal abuse are distinct in different countries and communities. Sexual, physical, economic, and emotional abuse instituted by males on females is connected with women's financial hardships, worsened living conditions, psychological traumas, health problems, and high rates of morbidity and mortality. Over half of all attempted and/or completed mass murders in the United States involve domestic homicides (Hickey 9). However, despite iterative incidents of violence, women often hope for positive changes in their offenders. Victimized women do not terminate their relationship with abusers for multiple reasons. They do not always believe that the judicial system is able to provide adequate redress to abusive men. Moreover, female victims of domestic violence experience fear of conflicts escalation resulting in more detrimental consequences. They fear that if they try to leave, their husbands might take retaliatory measures including physical violence or threat to their children. From previous incidents, battered women know that as soon as they attempt to take advantage of someone's help, the intensity of violence will increase. Violence cannot by its very nature be used continually, without serious injury and death resulting (Graham-Kevan Archer 447).
Victimized women stay with their abusers due to the lack of viable alternatives in terms of employment and financial assistance; finances are controlled by perpetrators. Abused women do not often have accommodations for living and protecting their children. Psychological and physical traumas result in female immobilization; traumatized women cannot mobilize forces required for the termination of their relationships with offenders, especially in the period treading on their injury. Some women do not consider divorce to be a real option because of their financial dependence. Moreover, they sometimes believe that occasional beatings are better than loneliness and insecurity inevitable after their divorce. However, Ruth Jamison, one of the major characters of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, finds the resolve to her life-threatening marriage and abandons her abusive husband Frank Bennett, affronting religious dogmas and public attitudes.
Furthermore, contrary to popular myths and general perceptions of victims of domestic violence as individuals who are prone to passive obedience, abused women often use different strategies in order to survive violence within their families and resist offenders. Domestic violence, physical attacks, male aggression, insufficient social support, and absence of relevant protection can result in female psychological damage though dependency, low self-esteem, and traditional attitudes about male and female behaviors are inherent in battered women. Domestic violence and coercion frequently engender aggression in abused women. The term aggression originates from the Latin language and means attack. Aggression involves different actions aimed at causing harm to or insulting others. However, female aggression and violence against men are often substantiated by their aspiration to defend their loved ones. Protecting Ruth's child, Sipsey Peavy kills Frank Bennett in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.
According to Jackson, Hickey, Straus, Graham-Kevan Archer, and other researchers, current rates of female-on-male aggression and violence are increasing. Some issues of a gender aspect of violence and offenders appear to be underestimated. In conformity with numerical data provided by the Equal Justice Foundation, approximately 2.2 million males are assaulted by their female partners annually. Despite a large body of high-quality evidence, gender symmetry in the perpetration of physical assault against a partner in a marital, cohabiting, or dating relationship has not been perceived by the public or service providers' (Straus 553). Taking into consideration the fact that battered men do not often report injuries due to their specific psychological characteristics and tendency to diminish or conceal the seriousness of female abuse, their accurately defined total amount can be far more considerable.
In addition to male violence, female aggression can be induced by extensive alcohol consumption or drug intake, intentions of asserting themselves, a desire to engage a partner's attention and establish control over their relationships, parental examples, self-defense, warped conceptions of male physical abilities, and losses of ethical norms and moral standards. Specific male psychological abilities do not allow battered men to admit being battered or assaulted by their wives. Most abused males are disinclined to come forth about their experiences as the stigma of being a victim to a woman is somewhat emasculating. Therefore, abused and depressed men start seeking ways to preserve their natural status of a strong and powerful personality. The given fact can trigger an increase in male aggression and aggravate violence within a family.
Male offenders are not aggressive and rude towards all women; most of the perpetrators are able to control their behavior. According to psychological studies, male abusers are characterized by depression, obsession, despotism, and pathological jealousy. However, enormous male aggression and violence against women can be induced by the specificity of human existence. Males defend and fight when something threatens their vital interests, which involves good physical and mental conditions. The system of values and goals inherent in men influences their reaction to abuse instituted by females. Male retaliatory actions are caused by their fear of disgrace, humiliation, pain, insults, frequent threats, possible injuries, as well as their strong desire for revenge. Male violence is sometimes provoked by women; females can be the first to institute verbal or physical abuse.
Domestic violence has negative effects on children. Male violence and physical aggression against women can result from adopted behavioral patterns of violent family relationships and anxiety-producing experiences in childhood. Relationships between adult family members are unconsciously perceived by children as examples for imitation, basic scenarios, and main principles of family life.
Violence within a family is a source of infantile alarm, anxiety, depression, painful emotions, and internal pressure. Behavioral patterns of violent parents make impacts on their children mental and physical development. Being influenced by their parents' attitudes to each other, children exposed to domestic violence cannot make a right choice; they cannot distinguish between generally accepted norms and those of their abusive parents. Observing pertinent research studies of homicidal behavior, Hickey states that males who assault females, victimize and murder others do so in an effort to neutralize early childhood traumatization (Hickey 69). Conflicts between spouses result in their diminished attention to children, their education, development, upbringing, health care, and other problems. Infantile needs for love and affection are as important for normal growth and development as satisfaction of their physical needs. A child is sometimes selected as a victim by an abuser because of the similarity with an unloved spouse. Determining enormous requirements for their children, some parents tend to consider their misbehavior as intentional and deliberate insults. Groundless severity of penalties, as well as exaggerated parental control, can evoke aggressive emotions in children.
Coercion and violence instituted by parents on each other creates a context of relationships between all family members; cruelty to children is inextricably linked with spousal abuse. Child abuse involves acts of physical, sexual, and psychological violence performed in order to establish parental authority over children. Most parents, who abuse children, experienced a similar attitude in their childhood. However, sometimes, physical and sexual violence is a consequence of parents' alcoholism, drug addiction, and such personal characteristics as low self-esteem, aggression, and hostility toward others and society. Childhood traumas are devastating emotions that force individuals to vent their experiences on close people. In addition to possible injuries, child abuse leads to such deviations in children and adolescents as immaturity, undeveloped self-control, low stability to difficulties, lack of vital interests, cognitive deficiencies, inability to make decisions and solve problems, and propensity to melancholy and depression. All types of violence within a family generate in children and adolescents such personal and behavioral characteristics that they appear to be unattractive and even dangerous to society.
Destroying foundations of public safety, domestic violence entails tragic ramifications in society. The number of persons killed and injured in family conflicts occupies the first place among various categories of victims of violent crime in judicial reports. Living in conditions of domestic violence, people experience such emotions as horror, hypervigilance, confusion, helplessness, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, safety concerns, and so forth. Abused individuals often have nightmares; they lose confidence in themselves and are characterized by intrusive memories, panic attacks, depression, phobias, grief, suicidal thoughts, self-blame, spiritual doubt, changes in sexual activity, alcohol and drug abuse, and desire for retaliation. Battered women become extremely cautious and suspicious of men, perceiving them as potential abusers.
Negative consequences of domestic violence are multiple. The more severe and frequent acts of domestic violence occur, the deeper injuries and traumas abused individuals have. Physical and psychological traumas develop in victimized individuals, negatively influencing their life. Survivors' confidence destroys; their self-esteem reduces; multiple anxieties develop; an irresponsible attitude to their lives forms in victims. They often lose realistic perceptions of environments and other people. In addition to psychological problems, victimized individuals suffer from different diseases. Health-related consequences specific to victims of domestic violence include such manifestations as a feeling of air shortage, skin diseases, discomfort, mental disorders, escalated blood pressure, internal spasms, headache, decreased sexual activity, weight loss, and so forth. These states have some dynamics; they become more severe if violence within a family occurs regularly. It is essential to realize that violence and aggression are abnormal, illegal and morally wrong, irrespective of gender, age, status, and income of victims and perpetrators. Experts in psychology, social workers, and advocacy groups are able to resolve family conflicts under conditions of spouses' willingness.
In conclusion, domestic violence is one of the most crucial social issues due to its frequent occurrence and deleterious impacts on society. However, the phenomenon of domestic violence is not inevitable. Increasing public awareness of domestic violence, the disclosure of all types of coercion in literature and mass-media, consistent preventive programs, and relevant community responses to the issue are able to deracinate this phenomenon and neutralize its consequences in victimized individuals.