Teen Relationship violence is the most pervasive form of human rights abuse in the world today. It includes assault, battery, rape and sexual slavery. Instead, it cuts across social and economic situations and is deeply embedded in cultures around the world—so much that millions of women consider it a way of life. Over the past decade, national and international groups have turned a spotlight on the hidden brutality of violence in teen relationships. They have called on the international community to value human rights. This focus on teen relationship violence has spurred the development of strategies and programs to address the problem. Still, efforts to eradicate violence remain in their infancy and most societies continue to consider violence in teen relationships is a so-called private issue.
Young girls are the most frequents targets of rape. Forty to 60 percent of known sexual assaults are committed against girls aged 15 years and younger, and of course those who are in relationships. Another face of rape aside for those that happen in teen relationships is that rape is used as a weapon of war has been internationally condemned in Nuremberg trials following World War II, armies continue to use it in conflicts around the world. In 1992, as many as 20,000 women were raped in the first months of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Responding to Violence:
The international community has a role to play in reducing the violence against female. For example, Brazils’ new constitution requires the state to combat violence in relationships especially domestic ones. Columbia declares violence in the family destructive and provides penalties by law. Equality under the law is written in most constitutions. Some refer specifically to women, like the constitution in Greece and China.
Rural Women: More prone to teen relationships
The high rates of crime, rape and abuse seem to be very overwhelming. While the media keep people informed about these worrying aspects of society, there is often too much focus on physical violence and too little focus on relationships, perceptions, contexts and the cases of these phenomena. Despite the increasing violence, there are positive developments. Opposition against teen relationship violence has become too obvious. However, the interventions that exist, shelters and programs are mainly in the urban shelters. Rural areas remain largely untouched and unexplored. It is important to note that much of the daily interaction among inhabitants of the rural settlements consisted of cooperation and fun. Yet, physical violence seemed to be quite obvious and important in many relationships especially where age and gender played a role. In one year, 757 cases of violence were reported in rural areas. Boys and men used much physical violence than women. An inclusive definition of violence includes: physical violence, verbal attacks, and refusal to provide resources. Often, a verbal attack or refusal to provide resources led to physical confrontation. Invariably, physical violence was associated with verbal and psychological abuse. It was further evident that levels of domination implied levels of dependency based on age and gender and were seen as natural and given.
Powerful outsiders often acted violently against the people living in the rural settlement. This included representatives of the tribal authority, the homeland government, and white farmers in the vicinity. Men have given themselves the exclusive rights to multiple sexual relationships. If their girlfriends or wives question them, or worse oppose them, they were subjugated by beatings. Apart from this, many men neglected their families by not remitting money regularly. If money was remitted, it was only a small part of the salary that was earned and the rest was used by the man and his new urban household. Men also often stayed away from home whenever they liked, without having to tell their wives as was always expected of them.
Kinds of Violence in Relationships:
The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1993 defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm of suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public of private life (UNICEF,1993). Gender-based violence against women encompasses:
Sexual abuse of female children
Rape, including marital rape
Female genital mutilation
Sexual harassment and intimidation at work and in school
Trafficking of women
Rape in war
Note the emphasis on the word gender, which means that women are the main victims of violence while most perpetuators are men. Because they are female, have lower status and with less power in the society than men, women are easy targets of violent acts.
Here are the forms of violence against women:
Domestic violence occurs within the family, and this includes wife beating, marital rape, child abuse, incest, sibling, sibling violence, abuse of elderly and disabled relatives, abuse by in-laws, and abuse of female household help;
Institutional violence is deemed perpetrated by the State when there is neglect of basic social services, political discrimination, sexual abuse in institutions, political violence in which rape and sexual abuse are used to suppress dissent, legal violence found in ati-women legislation, and violence suffered by women due to political conflicts;
Occupational discrimination is manifested through sexual harassment, gender-biased employment practices and gender harassment, which is marked by “hateful, aggressive, and demeaning behavior expressed toward someone on the basis of that person’s gender” (Rutter, 1996).
Violence in media takes place when women are portrayed as sex objects; and
Public sexual abuse pertains to prostitution (including child prostitution), sex trafficking and the sale of women for marriage.
Domestic violence. In Many communities, the most pervasive form of violence is domestic or partner abuse. Many women often experience battering from their husbands, live-in partners of boyfriends. When someone “is repeatedly subjected to any forceful physical, sexual or psychological behavior by her partner in order to coerce her to do something he wants without concern for her rights,” she is considered a battered woman (Layda, 2002). Although there are some women who also abuse their partners or exhibit violent behavior, majority of domestic violence-related cases are committed by men.
Physical abuse where there is a pattern of physical assault and threats used to control the woman. It includes punching, hitting, choking, biting, and throwing objects at her, kicking and pushing and using a weapon such as a gun or a knife. Physical abuse usually escalates over time and may end in the woman’s death.
Sexual abuse or the control of the woman sexually. This can include demands for sex using coercion or the performance of certain sexual acts, forcing her to have sex with other people, treating her in sexually derogatory manner and/or insisting on unsafe sex.
Emotional abuse of the undermining of the woman’s self-worth because she is subjected to continued mistreatment through verbal abuse. It can include criticisms, threats, insults, belittling comments and manipulation on the part of the batterer.
Psychological abuse which is the use of various tactics to isolate and undermine a partner’s self-esteem causing her to be more dependent on and frightened of the batterer. It can include such acts as:
Refusing to allow the woman to work outside the home
Withholding money or access to money
Isolating her from her family and friends
Threatening to harm people and the things she love constantly checking up on her
Understanding the Causes of Violence
Let us consider the long held belief that “men are by nature superior” and “women are the weaker sex”. Throughout history, men, women and children have been conditioned to think and behave within the context “patriarchy”. Men are taught to be aggressive, dominating ant to exercise authority over women. Women, on the other hand, are taught to be submissive, dependent upon men and to sacrifice for the family’s welfare. Children are taught to respect authority and to completely obey their parents, especially the father. The famous line then and up to now is, “You are just a child, so you have to obey your parents.”
In a patriarchal system, there is an imbalance in the distribution of power between men and women. Tojos and Abuda, in their ‘Handbook on Domestic Violence’, explain that as a social structure, patriarch “is constructed, reinforced and perpetuated by socio-political institutions put in place by men and thereby ensures that men, by virtue of their gender, have power and control over women and children.”As to male violence upon women, Sobritchea and Israel, in their article, “A Review of Conceptual Frameworks and Studies of Family Violence,” suggest that “this comes from exercise of male power and male desire to maintain such power.”
No money, and no place to go. This is especially true if he controls the purse and has restricted her from seeing friends and family.
No feeling of protection from the law or community.
Shame. She may feel the violence is somehow her fault, of that she deserves it.
Religious or cultural beliefs. She may feel it is her duty to keep the marriage together, whatever the cost.
Effects of Violence
On physical health
· Physical injuries including deep lacerations and wounds due to hacking, stabbing and gunshot, bruises, contusions, hematoma, retinal hemorrhage and black-eye
· Body and muscular pains, arthritis due to intermittent hitting, punching, boxing, slapping and kicking
· Partial/permanent disabilities such as paralyzed fingers, loss of hearing and eyesight
· Broken bones and teeth, fractured jaws, hairline skull cracks
· Chills, fever and infections
On mental and emotional health
Fears, anxiety, nervousness, phobias
· Sleeping disorders (insomnia and over-sleeping), nightmare
· Shame, guilt, self-blaming, loss of self-esteem and self-confidence
· Crying spells, mood swings, lethargy
On reproductive health
· Reproductive and urinary tract infections including cervicitis, chronic vaginitis, nipple pains and urinary continence
· Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV/AIDS
· Abnormalities/disruptions in menstrual cycle
· Unwarranted/unplanned pregnancies
· Unsafe abortion due to unwanted pregnancies
· Chornic and abdominal/pelvic pains
R E F E R E N C E S
________________. (2000) The Causes of Domestic Violence are fully explained Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls by the Innocenti Digest.
_______________. (1997), Population Reports :A Framework for Understanding Partner Abuse in Ending Violence Against Women
_______________. (1997) Violence against Women of Where Women Have No Doctor (1997), pp.317.
Rachelle Layda, (2002), Girlfriend Battering Gender in Violence its Socio-Cultural Dimensions, p.3.
Salvador-Tojos, Leticia and Anna Zita B. Abuda’s, Handbook on Domestic Violence.
The definition and key concepts of gender-based violence were taken from Children’s Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls by the UNICEF Innocenti Digest, p.6 and the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, General Assembly Resolution on December 1993.