The Psychology of Trauma

Domestic Violence

What is the history of attitudes toward domestic violence?

The problem of violence between people in intimate relationships has received shockingly little attention until quite recently. As part of the wave of civil rights movements starting in the 1960s, feminism brought attention to the profound problem of battered women, and the disturbing neglect that society has shown the victims. Several researchers and activists interviewed dozens, if not hundreds, of women who told dramatic stories about years of violence and abuse that were minimized, rationalized, and dismissed by the larger society. Police would brush off domestic violence as a private family matter, the clergy would emphasize the need to keep the family together over the women’s safety, and the courts would fail to prosecute the cases. Starting in the 1970s, a movement began to bring attention to the profoundly destructive effect of domestic violence and wife battering. Shelters for battered women were set up, new laws were written, and police, clergy and other authorities were educated about the seriousness of the problem.


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