In violence, we forget who we are.
Ask yourself – what is home? It is in many ways the basic unity of society, a bastion of shelter and family bonds. It is a safe haven and a comfort zone. A place to live with our families and pets. A place to throw parties. A place to build memories.
Yet for millions of women, children, and men, all over the world, home is not a safe place and the only memories that are formed in it are painful ones. The challenge of dealing with domestic violence and the importance of doing so are two sides of the same coin. Domestic violence is so devastating precisely because it causes problems at the core of people’s lives—their homes.
During the lockdown, all those dysfunctional families with violent tendencies turn into battlegrounds of perpetual abuse.
Lockdown – Favorable Environment for Domestic Abuse
While most people struggle to get their hands on some toilet paper, others struggle to escape domestic violence.
For some people, going to work may have been their only relief from emotional abuse and violence. Now they have to work from home. For others, the only place their children are safe from abuse iს – school.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have reported an increase in domestic violence and intimate partner violence. The UK reported a 25% rise in reported cases, France 32% and the USA 27%.
Meanwhile, the Georgian government’s press office reported: “As of now, there is no evidence of increased domestic abuse in Georgia. The state remains alert, as the social and economic risks are heightened in this time of crisis. The hotline 116 006 and the Emergency Response Service 112 continue to operate 24 hours a day. Psychological and legal consultation is provided in eight languages, free of charge.”
Just to say that because the numbers haven’t increased and the general level of domestic violence hasn’t increased either, is flawed logic, the conclusion just does not follow. Static data only means that women are under control of the bullies and are not able to report violence. Many of them cannot call because they fear that their violent partner will hear them and the violence will escalate and they will be locked in the house. Isolation and interruption of the victim’s contact with the outside world are common patterns of a perpetrator’s behaviour. This situation makes it easier for them to exercise control over the victim and prevent them from seeking help.
But being deprived of any physical contact with the outside world is not the only reason for low outreach. The biggest restraining force is in the victim’s brain, which only tightens its grasp in the favorable environment of the lockdown. The battered woman or child syndrome, or battered person syndrome, is a psychological condition that can develop when a person experiences abuse, usually at the hands of a family member.
Often enough a battered person may develop learned helplessness that causes him/her to believe they deserve the abuse and that they can’t get away from it. In many cases, it’s why they don’t report their abuse to police or avoid telling friends and family what’s really going on. Those who may have felt safe once their partner left for work or their children were at school now live without any window of relief as businesses and schools are closed. When the mind is constantly in a fight, flight, freeze mode because of perpetual fear, that can have a lasting impact on a person’s mental health.
Georgian data tells us that at least one out of seven women has experienced domestic violence. 31% or women have been victims of physical violence, 13% of sexual violence, 73% psychological abuse and 14% of economic oppression. An average salary of women is 5 Gel an hour. How is she supposed to work for this amount, supply her family and be strong while at the same time being subjected to domestic abuse?
All those who live in dysfunctional families in these times of self-isolation are at greater risk of violence because the additional stress, frustration and tension that the isolation brings can boost the dysfunctional patterns of behaviour among family members or abusive partners. Thus a violent person can become even more violent.
In addition to physical violence, which is not present in every abusive relationship, common tools of abuse include isolation from friends, family and employment, constant surveillance, strict rules for behavior, and restrictions on access to such basic necessities as food, clothing and sanitary facilities.
For an abused the lockdown is a perfect environment – the victim has nowhere to go and no way to call anyone without the oppressor knowing about it. The thing is that this does not only concern women, but children, men and elderly as well. The only thing left for the victim to do is remail patient and resilient, tip-toe around the house and avoid irritating the beast.
Unlike the government’s official data, non-governmental organisation “Sapari” has reported a rise in domestic violence reports. According to them, they have had 60 calls during the last three weeks. For such a small company as that, with just three lawyers, those numbers are quite high.
One of the callers was a transgender woman, who because of the lockdown is forced to live with her mother and brother. The latter does not recognise her gender-choices and exhibits violent tendencies, ensuring that the unfortunate woman lives in the horror of violence every day.
Famous actress and television personality Baia Pataraia also got a call from a woman, who was trying to report the abuse of her mother by her brother.
The isolation has also shattered support networks, making it far more difficult for victims to get help or escape.
Eventually, the lockdowns will end. But as the confinement drags on, the danger seems likely to intensify. Studies show that abusers are more likely to murder their partners and others in the wake of personal crises, including lost jobs or major financial setbacks. With Covid-19 ravaging the economy, such crises are set to become much more frequent.
It’s About Power and Control
Right now, many different factors are combining to cause people all around the world to feel like they’ve lost control over their lives. Regular routines for work, education, exercise, entertainment and socializing are all disrupted. Millions have lost their jobs or had their hours or pay reduced.
When we feel powerless in one area of their lives, we often seek to establish more power over other areas. This is particularly dangerous in domestic violence situations, because domestic abuse is, at its core, an effort by one party to dominate and establish psychological, emotional, physical and sexual control over the other. This is just another reason why the number of cases is increasing.
The Culture of Violence
Historically, domestic violence was not always regarded as a crime. In English Common Law, until the mid-19th century, a man was legally and financially responsible for the actions of his wife and children, and he had wide latitude to physically and verbally punish them to try to control their behavior. Does this sound something like modern developed countries would endorse? No, of course not because “cultural DNA” changes with every generation, thus what seemed sound a century ago might not be appropriate today.
Our actions as individuals and that of institutions are influenced by the norms, values, language, and other cultural factors that are like the dust in the air that surrounds everyone and is ingrained in us from the day we are born, and can play a role in either ending or perpetuating violence.
For example, the tradition of not interfering in matters between family members that occur in private has led to reluctance for government, the criminal justice system, and other systems to respond to domestic violence, even after it became a crime. Not only that but even people nearby think that way: “It’s their family business, it won’t be appropriate for me to stick my nose in it.” Appropriate? Really? Who cares about what appropriate and what’s not when you hear painful cries of a fellow human being.
In addition to this, we live in a society that tends to value and glamorize violence, music and the media continue to portray domestic violence as “lover’s quarrels” and domestic violence homicides-suicide as “crimes of passion” by crazed men who think, “If I can’t have her, no one else will.” This trend of “romanticizing” domestic violence is degrading and contributes to our not-so-very serious attitude towards the problem.
Children – The ‘Neglected’ Victims of Family Violence
There is a huge and growing body of evidence that suggests that different types of violence may occur simultaneously in the same family and that the presence of one form of violence may be a strong predictor of the other.
Violence between intimate partners and the maltreatment of children are not new phenomena, both have been evident in families for centuries. But the term ‘family violence’ has become widely adopted as part of the shift towards addressing domestic violence in all its forms, including child abuse and neglect.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that in homes where violence between partners occurs, there is a 45% to 60% chance of co-occurring child abuse, a rate 15 times higher than the average. Even when they are not physically attacked, children witness 68% to 80% of domestic assaults. These numbers are a sobering reminder of the toll a violent environment takes on kids.
These children are not merely innocent bystanders. They are victims. By the time they become adults, most of them will have already witnessed hundreds or even thousands of acts of violence. It’s possible that early exposure to violence numbs children to it or legitimizes it as a means to solve problems. More importantly, children are master imitators, which means they exhibit tendencies to imitate what they see or identify with characters who commit or are victims of violence.
Genetics are Important too
As we already stated, culture and environment clearly matter when it comes to violence, but the question is whether it is the only factor that does. And the answer is “almost certainly not.” Genetics matters just as much, if not even more.
Most men are not especially violent, but most people who are especially violent are men. It is not to say that all men are more violent than all women, but that men have higher tendencies and intrinsic resources for it. And this is the fact because the difference between the behavior of the sexes is seen as early as puberty and not just in humans, but in other mammals too.
The thing is that majority of all violent crime is committed by a comparatively small group of antisocial repeat offenders. There actually are specific genes (like the so-called Warrior Gene or MAOA, or DRD2 or DAT1) that contribute to severe or recidivistic violent behaviors such as homicide. According to a meta-analysis on huge data from 24 genetically informative studies, up to 50% of the total variance in aggressive behavior is explained by genetic influences. Both our genotype and the environmental factors to which we are exposed to throughout life contribute to shaping our brain functions. Changes in the expression of specific genes in the brain can influence functions such as intelligence, mood and memory, just as environmental influences including stress, substance abuse, diet, sleep quality and social relationships also affect the brain. So you can’t just go ahead and blame the society for producing oppressor, but you can most certainly blame it for not persecuting them enough.
So, the thing is that a child of an oppressor is more likely to become one himself, not just because of the environment, but also and more importantly because of the genetic material passed down to him
Religion’s Bill of Indictment
Allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience. There is one charge to be added to the bill of indictment – endorsement of Oppressive Patriarchy.With astonishing tenacity, nearly every religious tradition, including Christianity, has advanced the innate superiority of males throughout history.
Gender inequality and stereotyping are an integral part of history and go all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Genesis story. Women are portrayed in the Bible as secondary role players in God’s plan for humanity; as background figures; as being destructive and harmful to men; and not really made in the image or character of God. And we are not even talking about specific disgusting anti-women and minorities laws presented in The Law of Pentateuch as well as various teaching of the New Testament.
The oppressive patterns in Christianity toward women and other subjugated are too obvious to miss simply because they are endorsed by God. Today we should be even saying that patriarchy as a supremacist ideology is at its core evil, repressive and oppressive, and needs to be contested and exploited for what it stands for. Gender inequality is a crime against women and society, and for mass change to happen here in Georgia, it will have to start within the church, which is most unfortunate.
Not to Forget LGBT People
While we are on the subject of the sins of religion and as the members of LGBT community are under a higher risk of being victims of violence, domestic, as well as social, let’s have a quick word about it.
Research shows that one in four lesbian and bi women have experienced domestic abuse at home. Almost half (49%) of all gay and bi men and women, especially men, have experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16.
A special brand of conservative lunacy and homophobia is pretty strong in Georgia. Special thanks to their ideological sponsor Christianity for its role in the violence against LGBT communities. These homophobic ignorant bigots have been ravaging all around the country oppressing and often physically dealing with the members of LGBT communities. Just to give you a taste of how stunningly full of shit their rhetoric is. We should not be tolerating this kind of superhuman bullshit.
Break the Cycle of Abuse
But the problem of abuse goes deeper because the society is constantly repressing the victims by dismissing them as ‘playing the victim’, accusing of dwelling on imagined slights or indulging in an exaggerated sense of grievance. In the face of ridicule or, worse, the threat of violence, it would be easier to keep quiet. But fortunately enough, these victims of injustice sometimes do speak up, without any desire for glory and fame.
The thing is, that not all oppressors are the same. Some people are just ruthless, some lose control, yet most violence remains unfathomable. The fact that non-psychopathic people are hurting others in much greater numbers than the psychopaths is disturbing. The truth is that these people aren’t monsters, that’s why they aren’t easy to spot. They hide in plain sight, often exhibiting Jekyll-and-Hyde behavior. In public, they seem smart, trustworthy, and charming with a personality that draws people in, but in private, they are a waking nightmare. Exactly because of this, it is so very important to educate ourselves about the subject, in order to be able to identify sources of the problem.
But as far as their responsibility goes I’m not actually that interested in why the abusers act the way they do. I want jail time for them. I want ignorant populist politicians tossed out of office, morally-deprived priests defrocked, corrupt judges fired and replaced. I want a country that doesn’t treat violence and oppression as entertainment.