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Violence Against Women: definitions and forms – part 2

Violence Against Women - Part 1
The main thing is about building knowledge, knowledge from people’s experience, and looking at joining theory and practise. And the early feminists directed their activities, particularly, to the rape crisis movement, and also to the refugee movement or the women’s movement, as it’s known in the United Kingdom. So they started to have a practical focus for their politics, to try and begin to address some of the particular issues faced by women experiencing violence. The conceptualised violence against women was something that men did, and not something that women triggered or caused, or anything like that. And they helped develop new research methodologies in order to try and help you understand that this is quite a complex issue.
But there are many frameworks, which have been developed. And this is one. It’s called the ecological framework. And it was developed, originally, to look at child development. And it linked to gender socialisation, and the interaction of a child with its environment, and how it learns and grows. This has been adapted to look at violence against women, in particular. And it helps us to understand some of the layers of experience and understanding that surround the individual. And this was developed by someone called, Heise, who looked at the environment, the social ecology of our surrounding individuals, to try and create some areas of risk within those different layers of the environment.
So within the individual, where a person grows, and learns, and develops, they may learn particular attitudes about gender. They may learn something about the use of violence, in that context, in a relationship. And they may learn some attitudes and so forth. Within the family, they might learn more behaviours and so on. So the individual, their particular characteristics, is set in a family context, in a community context, and in a wider cultural and social context. So all of these different domains of personal, social, and political life are all around all of us. And it might be worth thinking about, as you continue with your work on this course, how that relates to you.
What are the influences that would support or prevent, condone or reject violence against women in any of those domains? And I think what we’re describing here, essentially, is another key concept of feminist analysis, which is this idea of patriarchy. Patriarchy has been described as a system. This is a system. There are components to that system, which will be explored in more detail. But essentially, look at where gender fits. Look at where power fits. Look at where violence is. Where is it happening? How are these contextual factors influencing our attitudes and our behaviour? And where are the areas that we can begin to address those things.
The other way of looking at the actual behaviours that can constitute violence against women is something that Liz Kelly, who’s a very well known feminist researcher– she conceived of the idea of a continuum of sexual violence. Sexual violence in this context is something which shows that it’s not something that’s individual between one person and another. But it’s cultural. And it’s something that affects women in private life and in public life, as well. And all the different forms of violence against women are in that circle. And there are many others, which shoot off from each of those circles. They show that they are what women face every day. Women may not face it consciously.
But women often are aware of these things. And most women would tell you that if they’re coming home late at night, they would take steps to avoid that. That’s because of a wider continuum of sexual violence that exists in society. And we have to think about that. So this ticks within the ecological framework. This looks at the particular behaviours and harms that can happen. And they give us building blocks and tools, and a bit of geometry to help us to understand some of the key frameworks for this very important issue. Again, another one– I’ve gone from circles to pyramids.
And this one shows in a very graphic and interesting way, I think, the link between the individual and what goes on in society. And the importance of recognising that attitudes, what people see, how they see it, leads to behaviours, and forms behaviours. And then a hierarchy of discrimination can lead, ultimately, to very serious harms to individuals and to groups of people. So that’s a way of contextualising it within the wider social ecology, layering on the different forms of violence against women on a continuum, which may or may not affect every woman. But, generally, they affect very many of them. And also to look at how individual behaviours and speech can actually effect them.
So what this is building towards, ultimately, is what is described as a gendered analysis of violence against women, and the other key components, which are intersecting here. Intersecting gender, power, and violence in the different forms, physical, emotional, sexual and so forth. Violence against women must also be understood in its relational context, and its social and historical context. And it also must be contextualised within women’s wider inequality, and it’s enduring inequality across the world, and that it is disproportionately something that affects women. With the proviso that it affects men too and women perpetrate it, but begin to understand about the links to power and gender, and power hierarchies. That’s not incompatible. It’s still gender based violence.
And this continuum allows us to think about it happening across social space. I said at the beginning that some of these forms have been defined as criminal, and legal, and jurisdictions. Not all of them are. But it’s a continuum that affects women nevertheless. Some may be criminal, and some may not be criminal. But it’s important to recognise that it spreads across. It doesn’t affect every woman. And it is not perpetrated by all men. But it’s important to recognise it is a social construct which influences individual behaviour at the intersection of gender, power, and violence.

In the second presentation exploring the definitions and forms of VAW, Anni explores the definition of violence against women, the different forms it can take and introduce some ways of thinking about the issue.

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Understanding Violence Against Women: Myths and Realities

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