Family Violence from a Global Perspective: A Strengths-Based Approach


Edited by: Sylvia M. Asay, John DeFrain, Marcee Metzger & Bob Moyer

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    We dedicate this book to all the stories we haven't heard. To all the men, women, and children who have been affected by family violence, we wish you peace and safety.


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    Sylvia M.Asay, JohnDeFrain, MarceeMetzger, and BobMoyer

    Family Violence From a Global Perspective: A Strengths-Based Approach is the first major text to focus on family violence worldwide. Most studies focus on a particular community or culture or a handful of countries. This book tells the story of family violence worldwide by sampling 16 countries, including 17 cultures representing all seven of the world's major geocultural areas:

    • Africa: South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya
    • Asia: China, India, and Korea
    • Europe: Greece, Moldova, and Russia
    • Latin America: Brazil and Mexico
    • The Middle East: Israel/Palestine
    • North America: Canada and the United States
    • Oceania: Australia and New Zealand

    We designed the study in this way so that the reader for the first time can gain a broad understanding of family violence around the world, not just from one cultural perspective but many. And we designed the study in this way so that useful ideas—success stories, if you will—can be shared from one place to another, from one person to another.

    The reader will find that the countries and cultures represented in this study are in many ways remarkably similar, in regard to the dynamics of family violence. The reader will also find fascinating differences from culture to culture as people living in environments with vastly different social, political, economic, and historical backgrounds struggle to deal with a universal phenomenon—the physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse of family members by other family members.

    Perhaps most important of all, because the study takes a strengths-based perspective on family violence, the reader will see how different countries and cultures have found ways to begin to effectively deal with family violence and help to eliminate needless suffering. We will also see, up close and personal, how individuals escape the devastation of intimate-partner violence by tapping into their personal strengths, the strengths of their family and close friends, the strengths of their community, and the strengths of their society. We learn, in essence, how by doing this countless survivors today are finding ways to rise above their misery and build a new life.

    The process is long and difficult, but the results can be powerful and certainly warm the heart.

    What works in one country does not translate perfectly to another very different country. However, what works in one country can certainly be readily adapted to other countries. And so, we believe that many benefits from this study are likely to accrue around the world through the simple act of sharing success stories from one country to another.

    In each chapter, eminent teachers, researchers, and practitioners share information about family violence in their country. To breathe life into the facts and figures, the reader will also learn directly from the survivors themselves as they tell their stories of experiencing, surviving, and in many cases rising above family violence.

    A useful way to explain the interconnectedness and influence of systems is to examine the ecological systems theory developed by Bronfenbrenner (1979). The ecological model describes how the individual, the organization, the community, and the culture intersect and influence each other. In this study we use an ecological model emphasizing strengths around the world, which was developed by John DeFrain and Sylvia M. Asay (2007). Adapting the model to this research, the strengths we focus on include the following:

    • Individual strengths—critical thinking, hope and optimism, good problem-solving skills, adaptability, openness to change, the ability to see a crisis in life as an opportunity, and the courage to reach out to others
    • Family streng ths—strong relationships with other family members and extended family, when possible, and connections with close friends who are willing and able to help
    • Community strengths—availability of safe shelters and victim services, support of local authorities, laws that ensure the rights of women and children
    • Cultural strengths—the condemnation of violence in the family on the national level and an emphasis on gender equity, human rights, and dignity
    Historical Background and Definitions

    The problem of violence between intimate partners first received significant public attention in the early 1970s in the United States and England. Since that time, a great deal of information has been distributed to inform the public about the problems associated with family violence. In the United States and other Western societies, a multitude of books describe the survivors and perpetrators, the theory behind their behaviors, the reasons why family violence persists, the effects on those involved, and the societal response to end family violence.

    This increased awareness has resulted in the understanding that family violence exists in all countries, but the awareness and response to the problem vary widely. One major challenge is that little is known about family violence in specific countries.

    Family violence is often associated only with violence that occurs between married or intimate partners. Indeed, the primary relationship is often the beginning of violence within the home. Many of the chapters throughout the book focus on violence between intimate partners. However, it should be noted that this kind of violence precipitates other forms of violence over time, and you will notice in reading many of the stories of family violence that child abuse and elder abuse are also natural outcomes of the original violent behavior between partners. It is difficult to separate the reasons and causes of violence between what occurs within the intimate relationship and violence that includes all family members, as they are often intertwined.

    You, the reader, may have a good idea about what we mean when we talk about family violence from your previous reading and from personal experience. We felt it was useful to give some definitions at the beginning of the text as a way for all to have a common understanding throughout the book.

    Child maltreatment/abuse/neglect includes all forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, and exploitation that results in actual or potential harm to the child's health, development, or dignity (World Health Organization, 2010).

    Domestic violence/abuse occurs between intimate partners and is an attempt to control the behavioral, emotional, and/or intellectual life of another person and to diminish or prevent that person's free choice. Abuse can include physical harm such as sexual violence, arousing fear through intimidation, verbal abuse, economic abuse, isolation, coercion, and/or threats or preventing a victim from doing what he or she wishes. Relationships in which one intimate partner uses assault and coercion can be found among married and unmarried heterosexuals, lesbians, and gay males (Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition, 2012).

    Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm or distress to an older person (World Health Organization, 2010).

    Family is two or more people who are committed to each other and who share intimacy, resources, decision-making responsibilities, and values (Olson, DeFrain, & Skogrand, 2011, pp. 5–6). There are, of course, innumerable definitions of family. This particular definition is inclusive and allows for diversity in family structure, family values, and ethnic groups.

    Family violence includes all types of violent crime committed by an offender who is related to the survivor either biologically or legally through marriage or adoption (Durose et al., 2005).

    Intimate partner means a spouse or former spouse, a person who shares a child in common with another person, a person who cohabits or has cohabited with another person, or a person who has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature (Crimes and Criminal Procedure, 2006).

    Intimate-partner violence describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013).

    Family Violence Worldwide

    Family violence is a serious problem in every country where it has been studied. Violence within families includes child abuse and neglect, intimate-partner violence, and elder abuse (Phinney & de Hovre, 2003). Intimate-partner violence is often the most recognized form of family violence, with women most often being the survivor of abuse. Findings from the World Health Organization's multicountry study on domestic abuse confirm a reported prevalence of physical or sexual violence among partners varied from 15% to 71% among 24,097 women in 10 countries (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2006). Half of the women involved in a homicide worldwide die from injuries inflicted by a current or former partner (McCue, 2008). It has only been in the past 30 years that this kind of widespread violence against women is regarded as a serious human rights issue internationally (Kishor & Johnson, 2004).

    In addition, family violence contributes to public health concerns as many survivors have limited access to health care, are not allowed to seek medical attention by their abuser, or may intentionally be infected with HIV by their partner (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2006; McCue, 2008). This risk contributes inadvertently to the health of children as well when mothers are denied prenatal and postnatal care (Kishor & Johnson, 2004).

    Because of the various definitions and the differences in the ways statistics are gathered, it is more difficult to get an accurate picture of the scope of child maltreatment around the world. However, it is estimated that from 25% to 50% of all children report being physically abused (World Health Organization, 2010). This does not include emotional abuse and neglect or intimate-partner abuse that disrupts family stability and nurturance. Other, more serious long-term consequences can result, such as poor brain development, risk of future behavioral or mental health problems, and chronic health issues.

    With the projected rapid increase in the number of elderly over the next decade, along with rapid social changes, the World Health Organization (2008) predicts an increase in the incidence and prevalence of elder abuse around the world. They recognize that elder abuse continues to be ignored and may not even be considered when looking at abuse within the family. Around the world, dependence, isolation, and health problems increase the vulnerabilities of elderly people.

    While family violence is a common experience worldwide, in many countries there are problems addressing it that include incidents never reported, police and other officials who do not take the reports seriously, abusers who are rarely removed or prosecuted, and a lack of legal and social services for survivors. In some countries, violence against a spouse is not considered a crime and is often considered a private matter that should not involve the police or the court system (Maryniak, 2000). Similarly, other types of family violence may be disregarded because they are not culturally accepted (Adams, 2004). McCue (2008) suggests that there is a culture of silence that contributes to the widespread belief that family violence is private and may be a factor in underreporting and lack of response from family, community, and government.

    In some areas of the world, family violence also has a connection to religious beliefs and practices. The culture of silence continues as some religious sects perceive women as inferior, view the marriage and other family relationships as private, refuse to allow women to leave an abusive relationship, or offer little or no help when violence occurs. Although many turn to religion for help, most religious leaders have had no training in responding to family violence. Although there is great diversity among religions, most religious leaders reluctantly support divorce or separation as the answer to family violence and view it as a private matter. Some leaders even blame the survivor for the abuse (Levitt & Ware, 2006).

    Reports of family violence vary in relation to level of economic development. More industrialized countries show lower incidence of partner violence. Some countries report higher rates of family violence in more traditional rural areas than in urban areas (Garcia-Mereno et al., 2006). Although patriarchal ideologies continue around the world, each setting holds a specific set of behaviors within the sociocultural context that change the experience of violence for women (Menjivar & Salcido, 2002). McCue (2008) suggests that these patriarchal norms and traditions affect not only the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence but the responses to it as well.

    Johnson and Ferraro (2000) advocate for caution in making assumptions about the global context in light of the complexities that separate populations. These complexities include cultural differences, social and economic structures, and the consequences of political conflict. They suggest that the social, cultural, and political layers of any society must be considered and not carelessly generalized in discussing violence in the home.

    Finally, family violence varies by type. Most violence involves a man being violent with a woman, but not all. Johnson (1995, 2000) argues that there are four basic patterns of partner violence to consider. These are common couple violence, intimate terrorism, violent resistance, and mutual violent control. Keep these types in mind when looking at the cultural context of family violence worldwide. Common couple violence begins with an argument where one or both partners use physical violence to retaliate. This type of violence is not likely to get worse and is often mutual between the partners. Intimate terrorism represents what most people think of when they hear of family violence. This violence arises from a pattern of abusive behaviors by one person against another based on that person's belief that he or she is entitled to use these abusive behaviors to exert power and control over the other party to gain sought-after outcomes. In response to these patterns of abusive behavior, some survivors respond violently as a matter of self-defense as in the case of violent resistance. Mutual violent control arises between couples who have poor coping skills or other problems, such as anger control or mental health issues. This type of violence occurs when both partners are violent and both want control.

    The Importance of Studying Family Violence from a Strengths-Based Perspective

    Families in all their diversity are the basic, foundational social units in every society. So, healthy individuals within healthy families are essential to the core of a healthy society. Creating a positive environment for all families is in the self-interest of people in all societies. On the other hand, unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships create serious problems that can persist from one generation to the next.

    A Historical Perspective on Family Strengths Research

    Family theorists have tried to create one theory or framework that explains the family and the place it holds within society since the beginning of the 20th century. According to White (2005), early family theory focused on the family and how it fit within society, creating frameworks that borrowed from other disciplines such as anthropology and economics. In the last half of the 20th century, the focus moved to the functions of the family, using typologies to classify families. An interest in cross-cultural comparisons also led to a new look at previous perspectives in an attempt to internationalize family theory. Since that time, researchers have largely failed to advance any new theories about the family. It may be possible that the reason no one theory has come to explain families around the world in the 21st century is that the uniqueness of families and the ways they function cannot be collected into one understanding.

    The focus on family strengths brings into a more reasonable balance our understanding of how families succeed in the face of life's inherent difficulties. By concentrating only on a family's problems and failings, we ignore the fact that success requires a positive approach. The family strengths perspective is a positive and optimistic worldview or orientation toward life and families grounded in research conducted around the world. Family problems are not ignored but are seen as vehicles for testing our capacity as families and reaffirming our vital human connections with each other.

    Most research about families has focused primarily on the problems or weaknesses of families or the individuals within the family. Early research on family strengths began in the 1930s with Woodhouse's (1930) study of 250 successful families during the Great Depression, followed by Otto's work on strong families and family strengths in the early 1960s (Gabler & Otto, 1964; Otto, 1962, 1963).

    Not until the 1970s did family strengths research begin to gain momentum when Nick Stinnett began his work at Oklahoma State University in 1974 and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 1977. Stinnett, John DeFrain, and colleagues then began publishing a continuous series of articles and books (Casas, Stinnett, DeFrain, & Lee, 1984; DeFrain & Asay, 2007; DeFrain, DeFrain, & Lepard, 1994; DeFrain & Stinnett, 2002; Olson, DeFrain, & Skogrand, 2011; Stinnett & DeFrain, 1985; Stinnett & O'Donnell, 1996; Stinnett & Sauer, 1977; Xie, DeFrain, Meredith, & Combs, 1996). Family strengths conferences, beginning in 1978, proved to be a catalyst for research on strong families. The International Family Strengths Network (IFSN) began working on a series of family strengths conferences worldwide in the late 1990s and continues today. More than 35 conferences have been held in Africa, Asia, Australia, Latin America, and North America.

    Over the past four decades researchers at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, led by John DeFrain; the University of Alabama–Tuscaloosa, led by Nick Stinnett; the University of Minnesota–St. Paul, led by David H. Olson; and affiliated institutions in the United States and around the world have studied families from a strengths-based perspective. Researchers in 38 countries have found remarkable similarities from culture to culture when studying family strengths. When family members around the world talk about what makes their family strong, these are some traits they commonly talk about:

    • Appreciation and affection
    • Commitment
    • Positive communication
    • Enjoyable time together
    • Spiritual well-being and shared values
    • The ability to manage stress and crisis effectively

    Research on strong families has not only resulted in models to better understand the qualities of strong families; it helps us look more clearly at families in general and how we can successfully live in our own families.

    Propositions Derived from Family Strengths Research

    The study of family strengths from a global perspective cannot be reduced to a static set of ideas or rigorously testable hypotheses. The process of studying family strengths is more like the process of life in a family itself: a constantly growing and changing dialogue about the nature of strong marriages, intimate partners, and strong families. Our training as skeptical social and behavioral scientists teaches us to be cautious when talking about universals. Yet our studies of strong families in North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Oceania lead us to conclude there are remarkable similarities among families who feel good about their lives together and express pride and satisfaction in their ability to deal with life's challenges. These similarities are much more apparent than the differences from culture to culture.

    Over the past 40 years, researchers looking at couples and families from a strengths perspective have developed the following propositions (DeFrain & Stinnett, 2002):

    • Families, in all their remarkable diversity, are the basic foundation of human cultures.
    • Not all families are strong, but all families have strengths.
    • Function, not structure, is most important.
    • Strong marriages and intimate partners are the center of many strong families.
    • Strong families tend to produce great kids.
    • If you grew up in a strong family as a child, it will probably be easier for you to create a strong family of your own as an adult.
    • The relationship between money and family strengths is weak.
    • Strengths develop over time.
    • Strengths are often developed in response to challenges.
    • Strong families don't think much about their strengths, they just live them.
    • Strong families, like people, are not perfect.
    • When seeking to bring together groups, communities, and even nations, uniting around the cause of strengthening families can be a powerful strategy.
    • Human beings have the right and responsibility to feel safe, comfortable, happy, and loved.
    The International Family Strengths Model

    A positive and useful approach to conceptualizing families from a global perspective links family strengths, community strengths, and cultural strengths and demonstrates how families use these strengths to meet the many challenges they face (DeFrain & Asay, 2007). Researchers developed a conceptual model incorporating all three levels of strength in an analysis of the strengths and challenges of families in 18 countries. Understanding family strengths requires understanding the cultural contexts in which families live. People live within the context of their family, their extended family, the community, and the broader national culture that cannot be easily understood, labeled, or judged. Numerous external factors enmesh and influence families, sometimes proving helpful and useful to individual families but at other times proving harmful and demanding. Families from culture to culture live in a desperately confounding environment. To judge them without understanding the social context in which they live is unfair.

    In addition to the six major qualities of a strong family outlined earlier, a number of important community strengths were identified. Community strengths are infused in the immediate neighborhood or area in which the family lives. These strengths include the following:

    • A supportive social environment that genuinely values families and a general willingness and natural generosity infused in the community to help when families are in need
    • An effective educational delivery system
    • Religious communities for families seeking this kind of support
    • Family service programs developed by government and nongovernmental organizations for families who cannot find the help they need from their own extended family, friends, and neighbors
    • A safe, secure, and healthful environment

    In addition to family and community strengths, cultural strengths were identified. Cultural strengths cover a broader area than just a local community and have developed in social and historical context over time. Cultural strengths include the following:

    • A rich cultural history
    • Shared cultural meanings
    • A stable political process
    • A viable economy
    • An understanding of the global society

    Using two visual models, DeFrain and Asay (2007) envisioned the strong family as that where the three areas of strengths intersect. A family that possesses not only internal family strengths but enjoys support from the community and a positive and empowering heritage is, indeed, in an excellent position in the world.

    Obviously, the influences among the circles are reciprocal in that the influence of the family on the community and culture can be as significant as the influence that the community and culture have on the local family unit. From this examination of families around the world, families demonstrate the ability to take on different structures in different circumstances.

    The common trend of all families, however, is to accomplish tasks such as childbearing, providing for the basic needs of family members, establishing social support networks, and establishing family traditions. The way in which these tasks are realized ultimately influences the way society functions. Those living in areas of the world torn apart by war, famine, or harsh political conditions can still create and maintain strong families, though the task becomes much more difficult because of external stressors impinging upon the family. In difficult circumstances such as these, families search for a new state of equilibrium within the community and/or within their culture.

    Figure I.1 The Relationship of Family, Community, and Cultural Strengths: Concentric Circles
    Figure I.2 The Relationship of Family, Community, and Cultural Strengths: A Venn Diagram

    In this type of situation, the stability of the families is dependent almost solely on the strengths of the individual family and its immediate community. Even though there may be chaos in the larger environment, the family can continue to nurture each other and to function as an effective family, though their cultural heritage is being threatened. Using the model, this equilibrium is represented by the intersection of only family strengths and community strengths. When political order is reestablished, cultural strengths will again have a positive influence within the family. This illustrates the truly amazing ways that families all over the world are able to use their strengths to triumph over even the most horrendous conditions and insecure situations. Strengths also help families who live in relative prosperity and freedom to rise above complacency and the subtle erosion of the family. Certainly communities and cultural heritage contribute to the stability and support of families in all types of circumstances, but ultimately we believe that the individual internal strengths of families provide the basic foundation for what keeps the family from gradually eroding.

    Applying the Strengths Approach to Family Violence Worldwide

    Heise (1998) used an ecological model as a visual picture of family violence to illustrate the complexity of domestic violence and to show the overlap of perspectives present. The model focuses on the individual as the perpetrator of family violence and how the contextual factors of the relationship, the community, and society factor into partner abuse. According to the model, individual factors such as witnessing violence as a child and alcohol use, relationship factors such as marital conflict and the need for control, community factors such as poverty and isolation, and societal factors such as traditional gender roles and acceptance of violence all contribute to the likelihood that an individual will abuse his or her partner.

    An ecological model was also used by the World Health Organization in the World Report on Violence and Health (Krug et al., 2002) to illustrate the complexities faced by the female survivor of family violence. Individual risk factors include a lack of good reasoning skills on the woman's part; relationship risk factors, such as not having access to family or friends; community risk factors, such as lack of services for battered women; and societal risk factors, such as a disregard for the value of women. All these factors help us better understand how the violence continues and why the woman fails to escape the violent relationship.

    Although the previous attempts to illustrate how individuals and their close relationships connect to their community and culture within the context of family violence do give us valuable information about the perpetrators and risk factors for survivors, very little thought is given to factors that can help an individual and his or her family to rise above the challenges of family violence. Much of the literature presented on family violence around the world focuses on how control is maintained by the perpetrator through the persistent use of tactics such as threats, coercion, economic and verbal abuse, and isolating victims from support and help, in addition to violence. This literature points to the failures of the government or embedded social structures to recognize the abuse and therefore support effective interventions and changes. This failure to recognize abuse leads to little attention paid to the strengths that individuals and families possess and how these strengths can be used to stop abuse and help develop resiliency in those facing abuse.

    The focus of the following chapters about family violence in countries around the world is not only to draw attention to violence that occurs in individual countries, but to show how individuals and families, communities, and cultures use their strengths to overcome the challenges that family violence presents. We have used the international family strengths model to illustrate our findings. Through our analysis of the countries represented we discovered something new as we examined the stories of family violence and, along with family strengths, have included strengths of individuals that help them to personally overcome violence.

    Reading through the chapters, you will be amazed at the striking similarities about family violence that seem to affect every culture. At the same time, you will also notice the uniqueness in how violence is defined and addressed across cultures. In the epilogue, we have set out some conclusions about family violence from a global viewpoint using a strengths-based perspective. However, as you will see, the research is ongoing and continually evolving as we continue to learn more about violence in families across this vast world.

    Why We Want to Share This Story

    Each member of our research team had different reasons for wanting to create this book and help spread the message about family violence around the world and what we all can do to help prevent abuse and build strong families from a global perspective. Although we share a passion for ending violence within families, we also share a desire to strengthen families at all levels to become better equipped to deal with the challenges that arise within intimate relationships. We recognize that family violence is extremely complex and cannot be changed overnight. Here are our credentials and some personal reflections that reveal the reasons for our participation in this project.

    Sylvia M. Asay, PhD, is a professor and chair of family studies at the University of Nebraska, Kearney, where she has been teaching for 20 years. Her research has focused on the strengths of families in postcommunist countries, and she has published several articles that describe her qualitative approach to research. She recently conducted a research project in Romania and Moldova on family violence in the evangelical community and is working on phase two of the project to provide online family violence training to clergy in Eastern Europe. Asay has coauthored the books Strong Families Around the World: Strengths-Based Research and Practice (Routledge/Taylor & Francis) and Family Resource Management (Sage). She currently teaches marriage and family relationships, cross-cultural family patterns, and families in crisis from a family strengths perspective.

    As a professor, I have long been involved with educating students about the tremendous challenges of family violence. I have seen the consequences to students who have experienced this in their own homes and feel deeply for those who are struggling to make sense of their role and responsibility as they contemplate their future family life. I want to share with students the complexities of family violence around the world, but at the same time I want that message to be one of hope. I truly believe that change is possible and that the cycle of violence can be broken with each generation in every country around the world. By focusing on and building the strengths of individuals and families, by strengthening the resources and resolve of the community, and by drawing upon the strengths of the culture to shift from some of the negative messages that have emerged over time families can rise above this problem.

    John DeFrain, PhD, is a professor emeritus of family studies and extension family and community development specialist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where he has been a teacher, international researcher, and outreach specialist for 37 years. The focus of his professional career has been in better understanding how families learn to live happily together around the world. He cofounded the Parent Aide Support Service, a program in Lincoln, Nebraska, that served parents under severe stress for 25 years, and cofounded the National and International Symposium on Building Family Strengths, which has cooperated in creating more than 35 family strengths conferences nationally and internationally since 1978. He has coauthored more than 160 professional articles and 30 books, including Surviving and Transcending a Traumatic Childhood: The Dark Thread (Routledge/Taylor & Francis), Getting Connected, Staying Connected: Loving Each Other Day by Day (iUniverse), Marriages and Families: Intimacy, Diversity, and Strengths (7th ed.; McGraw-Hill), and Strong Families Around the World: Strengths-Based Research and Practice (Routledge/Taylor & Francis). DeFrain has extensive experience abroad, including research as a Fulbright Scholar in the South Pacific and work with colleges and universities in Australia, China, Czech Republic, Fiji, Greece, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, and Russia.

    My international work over the past 25 years has shown me quite clearly that people are people are people, and families are families are families. As human beings around the world we share many more similarities than differences. In every culture there are families in trouble and families with amazing strengths. And every culture in the world is struggling with family violence and how to deal with it effectively.

    I wanted to create this book so that we could help share good ideas with each other from country to country and gain energy from each other for the long struggle against family violence that lies ahead. In the long run I am optimistic about the direction the world is going because I have seen so many good things happen already over my long career.

    Marcee Metzger is executive director of Voices of Hope, formerly Rape/Spouse Abuse Crisis Center, and has been in this role since 1989. She has worked toward ending violence against women since 1976 in many roles, including crisis line staff, shelter worker, Spouse Abuse Services program director, University of Nebraska's Women's Resource Center director, and interpersonal violence victim advocate and president of Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition. She has served on numerous committees and created and provided training, education, and technical consultation to local, national, and international professionals responding to violence against women and children.

    I have been privileged to spend more than 35 years working to end violence against women and children. Most of these years were primarily focused on victim/survivor safety and raising awareness about the cultural and community norms that create an environment that perpetuates this violence. All this work was through the lens of a feminist philosophy and with an empowerment focus.

    When John approached Bob and me to assist in a seminar on family violence in collaboration with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Sociology in Shanghai, China, I was delighted. This created an opportunity to dialogue with two brilliant scholars on family violence. Their focus on perpetrator accountability, child abuse, and family strengths and my activist focus on domestic violence, victim safety, and women's rights provided for many spirited discussions. Learning from our colleagues in China fueled my desire to continue these dialogues worldwide.

    Sylvia and John's family strengths focus provided a framework to look at the complexity of family violence that matched well with Bob and my views focusing on the empowerment of individuals and a systems approach to create social change. Asking scholars, activists, and women who have risen above family violence from around the world to join us in this global dialogue has been exciting.

    I truly believe that it is the strengths of the individual, family, community, and culture that provide the most hope for ending violence against women and children worldwide. It is a privilege to expand our discussion globally. Asking scholars, community service providers, and the courageous women themselves to work together to tell a story about family violence from a strengths perspective created challenges and many opportunities for a greater understanding about the complexities of family violence and how it is being addressed in each country.

    I am hopeful that this book encourages continued dialogues through the lens of strengths and empowerment and that it will encourage the readers of these chapters to engage in working together to address the global problem of family violence.

    Bob Moyer, MBA, has been executive director of the Family Violence Council (FVC) since its inception in 1996. FVC coordinates efforts in Lancaster County, Nebraska, to stop violence against women and children. Moyer has been the chairperson of the Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition's men's domestic violence standards review committee since its inception. This committee establishes standards in Nebraska for intervention programs for domestic violence offenders, reviews programs to determine if they meet standards, and recommends to courts which programs meet standards. FVC maintains a large database on abuse cases and provides annual reports to the community on domestic violence and sexual assault. FVC also has developed guides and training modules for professionals seeking to improve practice. FVC has written or played a major part in writing more than $10 million in successful grants and has managed numerous grant-funded projects on behalf of its partners. Moyer has taught business writing at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, as adjunct faculty since 1988. He was a newspaper editor for more than 25 years, serving as managing editor and city editor of the Lincoln Journal newspaper.

    Knowing that you are not alone in experiencing travails and that there are stories of hope have been the cornerstones of a strong response to domestic abuse. Learning and understanding how people around the world have experienced abuse and how they have developed their own cultural strengths to stop the abuse has been my fascination in working on this book.

    We have learned that instead of being a few working to stop abuse, we are many.

    There is great hope in that.

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  • Epilogue: A Strengths-Based Conceptual Framework for Understanding Family Violence Worldwide

    Sylvia M.Asay, JohnDeFrain, MarceeMetzger, and BobMoyer

    Family violence is a core social issue in every country around the world. The historical and political bias in which events that occur outside the home are more significant than those occurring within the home and the idea that what happens inside the home is private and not public have helped mask the impact of family violence. Yet the world is slowly awakening and admitting that family violence is a major problem, and it is hard to conceive of how to construct strong nations without creating healthy, violence-free families.

    Our research team linked more than 50 people in 16 countries representing 17 cultures and every major geocultural area of the world. We worked over a 4-year period, studying the extent of family violence in each country and how each country responded to family violence. Quite predictably, we found many differences among the countries, as well as many situations unique to each country.

    But despite these differences, there is a striking commonality also. All the countries acknowledge that family violence exists in their country, that family violence is wrong, and that there is a need to respond in more effective ways to the problem.

    The Research Process

    The teams of researchers, domestic violence workers, and survivors in this book were asked to consider family violence from a strengths-based perspective. In essence, we asked them not only to look at what is going wrong in each country but to uncover solutions—to look at what is going right. They were also asked to consider family violence from the multiple perspectives of the individual involved in the violence, the family, the community, and the culture. In the language of the field of family studies, this is seen as taking an ecological perspective on family violence.

    We considered family violence to mean not only physical acts of violence, including sexual violence, but also abusive behaviors such as intimidation, coercion, threats, and isolating victims from friends, family members, and others that can provide support and help as well as preventing victims from receiving information that might be helpful. So, this includes emotional abuse and economic abuse where the abuser limits access to resources for victims. We also looked at the impact on children and how children may be used to coerce behaviors from adult victims or be physically harmed. These abusive tactics must be considered along with the violence because they go together as part of a collection of behaviors that allow abusers to dominate their victims by creating fear of the threat of harm as well as the actual use of violence.

    So, reports on the country-by-country level include not only community data but also case studies of women who found a way to rise above domestic abuse. This phase of the study took each team 1 to 2 years. The generalized findings regarding family violence from a global perspective with a strengths-based orientation were derived from qualitative analyses done by the research team in America. All 16 countries' research reports were reviewed and analyzed by the four American researchers/editors, and generalized findings were discussed and agreed upon by the American team. In an effort to further validate our general conclusions, these global findings were then returned to each of the 16 countries for review and modification where necessary by the home country research teams. The process of analysis took more than a year. From beginning to end, this book represents a 4-year effort.

    In order to preserve diverse approaches to family violence, the American researchers/editors purposely gave the research teams little guidance in how to do their job. Our guidelines were simple: look at family violence in your country from a strengths-based macro perspective, focusing on existing research, statistics, and opinions; and from a strengths-oriented micro perspective, focus on a woman (or women) who succeeded in building a new life. Initially, the American researchers/editors worried that we might end up with 16 cookiecutter reports on family violence around the world. But, as the reader quickly notices, each report has unique perspectives on the common problem of family violence.

    One note regarding the research, which shows the volatility of the subject: one of the first things the American researchers/editors learned was that for reasons of personal safety, it was difficult for the research teams in several countries to find women willing to tell their stories. Also, officials on various levels in all countries seem uncomfortable talking about family violence and seemed to want to minimize the problem. Fortunately, all of the teams, eventually, were successful in finding women to tell their stories. And though all countries had individuals and institutions bent on minimizing the problem, all countries also had people working to shine light on the problem in their efforts to make things better. For these and many other reasons, this project proved to be very challenging for all involved.

    What Have We Found?

    The teams in all 16 countries found that family violence is a serious problem in their culture and that the use of violence of any kind is not necessary or appropriate. However, the teams also reported that denial of the extent of the problem exists to a greater or lesser degree in all countries, including the unwillingness to acknowledge that the bulk of intimate-partner violence is committed by males and that the permission to use this violence unchecked has been rooted in beliefs about men's, women's, and children's roles in families.

    As a result, efforts to recognize and stop or at least reduce family violence run into deep and long-held cultural beliefs, including the notion that patriarchy makes a family strong. These traditional beliefs create and support hierarchical, male-dominant structures in business, politics, government, education, health organizations, religious institutions, and families, and these structures are commonly seen as ensuring a natural social order. However, considerable friction arises between opposing belief systems, pitting a belief in the traditional family system against the changing lives of women in so-called developed and developing economies, and the belief that the use of violence in families to enforce the rules of the hierarchy is simply wrong.

    This type of friction arises at all social levels—not only between individuals and among family members but also in communities and the broader, national culture. As a result, conflicts arise not just within a family but between families and their broader culture—or between community interests and cultural traditions. Cultural norms where women belong to men, such as in India, or where the supremacy of men is legitimized by religion, such as in Israel, as well as laws that favor patriarchy, such as in Botswana, are all examples of friction in society.

    A consistent issue unfolding in all countries, albeit in different ways, is the struggle to define the roles of men, women, and children around the world. In every country we studied, the research teams found that gender roles are changing steadily, generally leading to the formation of more equal relationships in which women's and children's roles are steadily becoming less subservient to men.

    These roles are changing worldwide for many reasons. Certainly, global improvements in communication that have led to increased culture sharing and more intertwined economies are leading to questions about historic assumptions regarding power dynamics not only in communities and cultures but in families. Within several of the chapters, there is evidence that definitions of family violence and abuse have broadened to provide for better agreement among organizations. In Australia, for example, The Partnerships Against Domestic Violence Statement of Principles was the product of the National Domestic Violence Summit led by the government to achieve a greater degree of understanding of the issues faced in their country. And discussions among nations are leading us toward more global agreement on these issues, as well.

    As countries improve communication and grow their economies, women gain greater access to birth control, marry at later ages, and have fewer children. As a result, increasing numbers of women can pursue higher education and a career, resulting in greater individual autonomy. In turn, power dynamics in families change, challenging historic entitlements, mostly held by men. As these power dynamics evolve, they come in conflict with traditional beliefs about the entitlement to use coercive, power-over control tactics by those in power. These beliefs are well established and lead to the use of violence.

    For example, in the South Korean context, the authors wrote about the “patriarchal thinking process … that incorrectly presumes that men control the family.” In Botswana, unwritten customary law does not recognize women as equal partners to men. The authors of the chapter on Moldova reported about the idea that most women agree with traditional gender roles in which the man is the head of the household who should not be questioned. As stated in the Kenya chapter, studies in sub-Saharan Africa find that women are more likely than men to condone wife beating as acceptable discipline. This causes family violence to continue and is a barrier to change. The Russian chapter reveals that men who do not predominate in the home are called “henpeckers,” an offensive term given to men who let their wives run the family.

    Several of the chapters spoke about the idea that the family is seen as a private institution and that violence is tolerable behind the closed doors of the home, including in China and in India, where the authors revealed that what happens in the home is “above public scrutiny.” The case study presented in the chapter on Mexico is not unlike other stories where the abused woman is reluctant to bring her concerns to officials because “I feel it is my problem, and no one can help me. And that's it, I stayed that way.”

    These changes impact not only families and the individuals in them but the broader community and culture. This creates areas of friction but, as we shall see, also opportunities.

    A Strengths-Based Conceptual Framework for Understanding Family Violence Worldwide

    As the reader will recall, at the beginning of this book we outlined our conceptual framework focusing on family strengths, community strengths, and cultural strengths. This model has roots dating back to 1974 and can be conceived in a figure showing three concentric circles (see the figures in the Introduction). The outside circle is the realm of cultural strengths. The middle circle represents community strengths, and the inner circle focuses on family strengths. Using this model, it was our assumption that individual strengths would emerge within family strengths as no one in the world stands completely alone and everyone in the world is a part of some kind of family. However, in our analysis, we discovered that individual strengths were strong predictors of the ability for a victim of family violence to rise above the situation and move forward from a position of strength. It became clear that developing individual strengths is critical in helping to end family violence and should be elevated to its own category.

    Cultural Strengths

    Around the world organizations are increasingly successful at developing strategies tapping into cultural strengths to improve safety for victims and to stop the violence. Our study delineates considerable cultural diversity in how these strategies unfold. However, all countries share the common focus on creating safety through social networks.

    All cultures establish rules about harm to others that include punishments. The key challenge regarding family violence has been to find a way to tap into those cultural beliefs related to family violence. Our study shows efforts occurring in all countries but at varying levels of success. On the local level, police and other persons in authority often are uncomfortable getting involved in so-called family matters. In small communities, everyone knows everyone, and walking into someone's personal affairs is not a popular thing to do. There are too many ways people can get even for the perceived intrusion. So, anything happening behind closed doors is left behind closed doors.

    Looking the other way, rather than acknowledging family violence and doing something about it, has developed into a kind of art form in many communities and cultures. But when laws of the land protecting all family members from violence are written on the national level, indicating a broad national consensus in the way the culture thinks about family violence, there is a chance that these laws over time will trickle down to the local level, and just maybe, something will be done to protect women and children.

    There appears to be a relationship between the culture's communication and economic growth and the pace of developing community and cultural support for improved safety within families. The more connected and intertwined countries become internationally, the greater the improvement. For example, laws and policies were enacted following global initiatives such as the Fifth Global Conference for Women in Beijing (1995), mentioned in the chapters for Mexico and Greece, and the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993), mentioned in the Australia and New Zealand chapters.

    This principle appears to be true within countries as well. So, areas in countries—either urban or rural—that are less advanced in terms of communications and economic growth appear more likely to cling to entitlement beliefs about the use of violence within families. In these culturally isolated areas, evolving cultural strengths and community strengths from outside are less likely to penetrate, and aid to victims is less likely to develop.

    This is somewhat surprising, as it might seem easier to create change and improve safety in less complex communities or rural areas. But we consistently find in the reports from our international teams that safety is compromised by the lack of communication with the outside world, and so social improvements to stop family violence are often blocked.

    To give the reader precise examples of how broad, healthy cultural shifts affect the level of family violence, a woman is likely to be better off if she is living in a society where men and women are seen as relatively equal in importance and value in the society. If she lives in a patriarchal, male-dominant society her challenges increase dramatically. Societies with severe economic problems, crime, alcohol and other drug abuse, an epidemic of HIV/AIDS, gangs, and other significant signs of disorder and breakdown also compound her difficulties. Societies in transition where there is dramatic out-migration from stable agricultural communities to relatively unstable urban settings lacking jobs, decent housing, and good schools are especially precarious environments. And even relatively stable societies stricken by the recent global economic crisis are also likely to see an increase in family violence as a result of the economic downturn.

    Strong, healthy societies, as we have seen, emphasize a rich cultural history, shared cultural meanings, a stable political process, a viable economy, and citizens with an understanding of the global society and how to live in this brave new world. Living in a healthy society is a huge advantage for its members, and they may become rather self-congratulatory attributing all their blessings to individual initiative.

    In troubled societies with political unrest and upheaval, we may never know if there is an increase in family violence since women have no infrastructure supports in place to study the problem, report offenses, or obtain services. Therefore, a completely accurate picture of family violence in such a society may prove impossible to gain. In many ways, a woman and family caught up in an unhealthy society may be like a leaf cast adrift on a roiled sea. In many societies around the world, the woman and her family face events totally beyond their control, and a good outcome for one's life in many ways is simply dependent on the luck of the draw: the society into which one is born or not born.

    Many Western cultures value the importance of the individual and the importance of personal initiative. When people are lucky enough to live in a stable and relatively prosperous society, it is easy to talk about personal responsibility and “pulling oneself up by one's own bootstraps.” For many years in the United States, for example, we have enjoyed telling ourselves that if you work hard, you can be anything you want. Today, with an African American president, we may be tempted to say this with even more confidence, but many observers, including President Barack Obama himself, would disagree. Clearly, there are still countless barriers to individual success that remain firmly in place in the United States, and surmounting these barriers remains out of the individual's realm of possibility.

    Living in a society in significant social disarray or grinding poverty is another matter altogether. War, economic meltdown, and other disasters can readily trump hard work and dedication. Cultural strengths, in sum, make a tremendous difference when the subject is family violence.

    Community Strengths

    On the community level, public agencies and organizations that recognize the problem of domestic violence and work together in a well-coordinated effort to face the problem are essential. Communities that see family violence as a threat to the public good, rather than a right of privacy given by default to powerful male family members, are important to successfully meeting these problems head-on. And public institutions and police forces reluctant to help and eager to look the other way are in strong contrast to communities that offer protection for citizens, not only when citizens are out and about but also when at home and behind closed doors.

    Some examples of concerted efforts by the community can be found in the chapters on India where Special Cells are created to work together on issues and in New Zealand where family courts are set up to address therapeutic jurisprudence specifically to help victims of domestic violence. In Botswana, the authors describe the kgotla, a traditional community court that informally handles issues of domestic violence, which is especially effective and empowering when the members are knowledgeable about the subject. In the chapter on China, the authors report about a concerted education effort that has been established in Taiwan by the Ministry of Education.

    Community strengths include ongoing research efforts focused on family violence, *antiviolence education and training programs to help prevent domestic abuse, and family shelters and support programs to protect victims and help them create a new life for themselves and their families. These specific types of efforts are likely to thrive in a healthy community, one that has the following:

    • A supportive social environment that genuinely values families
    • A general willingness and natural generosity infused in the community to help when families are in need
    • An effective educational delivery system
    • Religious communities for families seeking this kind of support
    • Family service programs developed by government and nongovernmental organizations for families who cannot find the help they need from their own extended family, friends, and neighbors
    • A safe, secure, and healthful environment

    In other words, a place in which people who live around you are looking out for you and you are looking out for them. A place where people pay attention to what is going on around them and are interested in the well-being of others. These are the same types of people who demand that community programs are set in place to meet the needs of those who cannot meet their own needs, and these types of people are willing to pay for such programs.

    As in the Kenya chapter, we see the contrast between the individual orientation of Western countries and the communitarian orientation of the African nations. The issues presented by domestic violence are based on community values and dictates rather than on the individual psychopathology that is often blamed for the violence.

    Family Strengths

    When trying to find ways to deal effectively with the global problem of family violence, useful work can be done on many levels, from the broad cultural level, to the local community level, to the family and individual level. We believe that all families have strengths, even though not every family is strong. A family torn by domestic violence clearly has serious problems that need attention. But even in the most troubled family there can be significant strengths demonstrated by family members. These strengths can be the foundation on which a new and better life can be built.

    Such strengths include an appreciation and affection for family members, which can still thrive among some family members, even when other family members are violent and abusive. Likewise, commitment, positive communication, enjoyable time together, a sense of spiritual well-being and shared values, and the ability to deal effectively with stress and crisis can be demonstrated by some family members while other family members are seriously abusive. We know this is true because even in the most troubled families—those shattered by alcohol and other drug abuse and by physical, emotional, and sexual abuse—there are likely to be rays of hope.

    This hope is demonstrated by family members who protect and nurture each other when confronted by a violent member of the family. Hope is demonstrated when family members find ways of reaching out to a supportive community, seeking a lifeline for a new beginning. Among the cases presented in the chapters, many offered examples of family members coming alongside victims with support and help. The case in the United States chapter reveals the woman's own words about her sister's support: “My youngest sister never stopped calling me.” Unfortunately, the cultural shame brought on the family in a situation like violence becomes a barrier for many women. Examples of this can be found within the cases in chapters on Greece, where parents of an abused woman “feared the gossip of neighbors,” or India, where it is believed that “Beti ka ghaar to sasural hi hai” (a daughter's place is in her matrimonial home) and the parents were afraid of the taunts they would receive from their caste community.

    Besides looking at strengths in the nuclear family, it is important to consider the strengths of the extended family and the role this larger family can play in helping a woman escape a desperate situation. Relying on the strengths of the broader family, members step in when necessary and help to rescue the woman from imminent danger. These kinds of support help the woman regain her self-esteem and resilience over time so that she will be able to stand on her own again.

    The best way to understand the International Family Strengths Model is to fill out a Family Strengths Inventory, assessing the strengths of your own family. The easiest way to do this is to visit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension website where the Family Strengths Inventory can be found, for free: When you arrive at the site, you will see the American Family Strengths Inventory (DeFrain & Stinnett, 2008). Print out a copy of the inventory. This particular inventory is written from an American cultural perspective, of course, so if you live in another culture, you will have to adapt questions (or ignore some questions) to fit your particular cultural assumptions and inclinations. We're simply suggesting you use the American inventory as a starting point because it is readily available, at no charge, online. (Many other countries, using the American Family Strengths Inventory as a starting point, have developed their own family strengths inventories.)

    Individual Strengths

    Looking at the strengths of individuals, our global team learned about women who had the ability to move ahead and use their own personal strengths, such as the ability to think through their options carefully and enlist people who could help them. In the Korean story, the woman was able to form a new family of sisterhood (a modern-day version of pumasi and iutsachon in Korean culture) among survivors of marital violence. We also learned of women who were able to critically assess what they needed to do. Women who rise above domestic violence also seem to be the kind of people who find a way to be optimistic about their future and look on the bright side of the situation as they make plans to move forward.

    One woman in the Canadian chapter was identified as proactive in making plans to keep herself and her children safe. Sometimes the movement for change begins with the woman herself, and sometimes it is the woman interacting with another supportive person. The case from the China chapter talks about the importance of “strong and constant support from outside” in being able to leave an abusive situation. Sometimes the woman bears the abuse stoically when it rains down on her, but when the perpetrator attacks her children she rises up to protect them and struggle for a better life. A story from New Zealand points this out. The woman stayed in the relationship for 14 years and left for the safety of her twin boys and their siblings, not for her own safety.

    We hear stories that demonstrate these principles regularly. And the stories from around the world collected in this research project make it very clear that individuals and families can use their strengths to great advantage as they link with supportive communities and cultural values that identify with the better angels of our world. However, this is just the beginning of our understanding of how strengths play a role in the ability of individuals to overcome the situations of family violence. We welcome other ideas and hope that readers will share those with us as we recognize great differences among cultures.

    Table E.1 illuminates the strengths at all levels necessary to move forward optimally when family violence is occurring. Just as with the International Family Strengths Model, we discovered that when one or more of the levels of strengths are not present, other strengths can compensate. For example, when a culture is slow to recognize the rights of women being abused and there are very few community strengths in place to help, a woman's individual strengths can still be developed and used to help her through the difficulties she faces. The journey will be more challenging for her, of course, but still possible to undertake.

    Table E.1 Individual, Family, Community, and Cultural Strengths: Tools for an Optimal Response to Family Violence
    Individual Strengths
    • Self-respect and grace under pressure
    • Survival skills (e.g., courage, resourcefulness, resilience, tenacity, planning for safety)
    • Strategic thinking (e.g., problem-solving skills, recognizing available resources, the ability to follow through)
    • Commitment to family
    • Being a loving parent (e.g., willingness to sacrifice for children and protect them)
    • Good ethical values and an understanding of social justice
    • Spiritual well-being (hope and a vision for change)
    Family Strengths
    • Appreciation and affection for each other
    • Commitment
    • Positive communication
    • Enjoyable time together
    • A sense of spiritual well-being and shared values
    • Appreciation and affection
    • The ability to manage stress and crisis effectively
    Community Strengths
    • A supportive social environment that values families
    • An effective educational delivery system
    • Religious communities for families seeking this kind of support
    • Family service programs and coordinated responses
    • A safe, secure, and healthful environment
    • Accountability for perpetrators
    Cultural Strengths
    • A rich cultural history that gives meaning, direction, and inspiration for dealing with life's challenges
    • Shared cultural meanings (e.g., symbols, folk wisdom) that build a sense of common identity among people
    • A stable political process
    • An understanding of society from a global context

    Likewise, if a woman is isolated and away from her family, she may not have the benefit of family strengths to see her through. Or, as we have seen in some family situations around the world, family strengths can even be perverted by the abuser to meet his needs and keep her in the tragic situation. Without family strengths, including the understanding and support of her family, she may need to rely on available community strengths to help her in getting away from the abuser. All areas of strengths are critical in helping women escape abuse, though many women are forced to make a change in their lives without all the available resources that would be useful to them in the process. They simply have no choice but to wait for the families, communities, and cultures to change for the better. They are left to rely on themselves and find allies where they can.

    The Dynamics of Change

    Our global research team has clearly demonstrated that change is a series of dynamics among cultures, communities, families, and individuals. Change begins with the individual when she dreams of a better world for herself and her children. And change comes when she has the courage and vision to reach out and seek help from other family members and friends who will support her in her journey. The process of change quickens if she is lucky enough to live in an immediate community that supports her in her quest and has a safe haven for her and her children, a shelter from danger. The process of change is enhanced if community members are skilled and know how to help her become better educated and find a decent-paying job. And change is legitimized when the broader culture on the national level values human rights and creates laws to support the woman and her children's growth in an egalitarian and supportive environment.

    The findings of our global study of family violence dovetail nicely with the pioneering work of Dr. Ellen Pence and her colleagues in Duluth, Minnesota (Pence & McDonnell, 2000; Shepard & Pence, 1999). For many years, most nongovernmental victim assistance programs in the United States have advocated a macro and micro change process initially articulated by Pence. The process looks toward moving away from tactics abusers believe they are entitled to use to a more equal family dynamic supported by the community and, more broadly, the culture. These changes include moving from the behaviors on the left toward the behaviors on the right:

    Intimidation Nonthreatening behaviors

    Emotional abuse Respect

    Isolation Trust and support

    Minimization, denial, and blaming Honesty and accountability

    Using children Responsible parenting

    Male privilege Shared responsibility

    Economic abuse Economic partnership

    Coercion and threats Negotiation and fairness

    This process is dynamic because it has to occur at both the macro level (community and culture) and micro level (family and individual) to stop violence. The process also generally moves from an entitled I formation of the family and world to a we formation that sees family members working together to maximize their strengths. The process seeks to create strong families as well as strong communities and cultures through improved communication and shared responsibility.

    The process is complementary to world events, where increasing communication capacity and more intertwined economies and cultures increasingly support the formation of stronger families. So, for instance, we see in the stories that isolation—the ability to keep information and resources away from victims so that they think they are unable to resist the power and control of the abuser—becomes increasingly difficult to maintain as people become aware of the violence and resources to stop it and as cultures and communities increasingly agree that the violence is wrong.

    Summary and Conclusion

    As the reader will recall, our research team linked more than 50 people in 16 countries, representing every major geocultural area of the world. The research teams included academic researchers, community service workers specializing in family violence, and women who had found a way to rise above their tragic situation and struggle toward a better world for themselves and their families. We worked over a 4-year period, studying the extent of family violence in each country and how each country responded to family violence.

    We looked at family violence from a systemic ecological perspective with four social levels: individual, family, community, and cultural. And we took a strengths-based perspective, not only trying to understand what was going wrong on all levels but, more important, looking to see what was going right: looking for strengths demonstrated by the women victimized by family violence as they struggle to rise above their situation; looking for strengths in the women's family members and close friends who support her in the process of change; looking for strengths in the women's immediate communities, which provide shelter and services to aid these women's growth; and looking for strengths in the women's national cultures, emphasizing equality over patriarchy, growth over stagnation.

    Here are some key findings that emerge from this study and ideas for successfully dealing with the global problem of family violence.

    The Nature of the Challenge
    • Family violence is a serious problem in every country around the world. The home is often idealized as a haven in a heartless world, a place of security and protection. And yet the home can be a very dangerous place in every culture and country. However, because of cultural, historical, environmental, and individual differences, the story unfolds in unique ways in each country, culture, and family.
    • Family violence includes physical violence, psychological violence, sexual violence, and economic violence. Many cultures are working to clearly define each of these forms of violence. Psychological or emotional violence is the most common form of family violence, followed by physical violence and sexual violence. Economic violence has not been studied as much as the other types of family violence, but studies in some countries indicate the value of looking at this issue in depth.
    • Family violence occurs in all social classes.
    • Family violence occurs among all age groups.
    • Family violence occurs among all ethnic groups.
    • Women are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators. Men are more likely to abuse women than women are likely to abuse men.
    • Women, however, are by no means perfect. Mothers are approximately twice as likely to abuse children as fathers. This can be explained by the fact that mothers spend much more time with children, on average, and that in a hierarchical system those above feel entitled to severely punish those below.
    • Abusive men are likely to abuse both their partner and the children.
    • Women are more likely than men to see domestic violence as a significant problem in their country.
    • Causes of family violence commonly cited include the following: a history of violence from generation to generation, alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse, and male dominance. Though alcohol and other drugs are commonly associated with family violence, they should not be used as an excuse to justify it. Many men who have not been drinking beat their partners.
    • Social change can lead to violence. Societies in transition may be likely incubators of family violence. Many observers believe that the global economic downturn has led to an increase in family violence. And in other ways, global economic change, such as the migration from rural to urban areas, can disrupt long-held family patterns. When a woman goes off to work in town, leaving a man unemployed at home, his resentment may spark violence. When a woman achieves a good education and increases her job prospects, her partner may become unsettled. When young people leave home for the bright lights and big city, the traditional extended family can become unsettled by the change in behavior of the younger generation. And family violence may be linked to the general disruption caused by the HIV/AIDS crisis in many countries.
    • Broadly speaking, the causes of family violence worldwide are quite similar. However, because of cultural, historical, and environmental differences the story unfolds in unique ways in each country, culture, and family.
    • Abuse and beliefs that support the use of abuse occur in all cultures because humans have an inherent we-they mentality that often objectifies people outside their particular in-group, making outsiders into objects rather than living, breathing human beings. This objectification then creates entitlements for the dominant group and justifies the use of abusive tactics against those in the less powerful group. This tribal outlook on the world, if you will, can be seen in relations between ethnic or cultural groups, political parties, religious groups, athletic teams, countries, and on and on. This tribal outlook gives us justification for hatred and violence against each other.
    • The most compelling example of family violence focuses on patriarchal beliefs, which set up a hierarchy with men on top and women and children below. By objectifying women and children in families and making them inferior to men, a patriarchal belief system gives justification for abusive behavior. Patriarchy and family violence often go hand in hand.
    • These patriarchal beliefs are deeply embedded in all cultures. Abusers rarely disclose their abuse, in part because they believe they are justified in using violence. As Judith Lewis Herman notes, “Victims ask us to feel their pain; abusers ask us to just ignore it” (Herman, 1997). As a result, a number of general statements can be made: family violence occurs behind closed doors; all cultures can be skillful at ignoring the problem of family violence; and good statistics on family violence are often impossible to find.
    • Besides patriarchy, other barriers to change include the following: socialization that emphasizes the woman's role as a mother and wife at the expense of her own happiness,
    • independence, and freedom; stigma and social prejudice toward divorce; pressure from family members to return to abusive situations; and a lack of effective community services to support women in their quest for change.
    • Children experience abuse in multiple ways, both directly and indirectly, and from multiple caretakers. Although the family may have just one true abuser, that abuser may cause other family members to perpetrate abuse for a variety of reasons. Also, the entitlement beliefs that justify an abuser's behavior toward adult family members may also exist regarding children. As a result, abusers are likely to abuse both their partner and the children; children who have witnessed violence between their parents are more likely to be abused or become abusers as adults than children who have not witnessed violence between their parents; and though men are more likely to abuse women than women are likely to abuse men, abused mothers may abuse their children.
    Finding Solutions
    • Different cultures will find different solutions. Traditional cultures will be more likely to try to keep the family together. More contemporary cultures in economically developed nations will be more likely to encourage women and children to seek a shelter and leave their partners.
    • Mediation has proven to be a useful tool, especially in traditional societies. One major difference among families around the world is that some cultures, especially contemporary Western cultures, tend to emphasize the individual, the I, while other cultures, being more traditional, tend to emphasize the we. The feminist movement has tended to focus on the individual rights of women and to argue that women in many ways have been oppressed in traditional, male-dominant cultures. In more traditional cultures where the cohesiveness of the family is seen as more important than the rights of the individual—especially the rights of women and children—the approach to dealing with family violence is likely to focus on mediation of a more peaceful situation in the family.

      The elders in the family or community are likely to intervene and help find a peaceful solution to the family's problems. Negotiation, reconciliation, and coexistence are emphasized, preserving the peace in the community. Devotion and politeness are encouraged in the discussions, and mediators are not allowed to be harsh or rude toward complainants.

      Dissolution of the marital relationship is discouraged, for this would have consequences that would reverberate in countless ways throughout the community. The solution to the problem is likely to include submission of the wife and children to the husband's will and perhaps the admonition that the husband not be so harsh in his behavior toward his subordinate family members.

    • Empowerment is key. Implementing strategies and education to help women develop individual strengths will empower them to rise above their circumstances and move forward in abusive situations.
    • There are ways to balance individual rights and the needs of the group. I-ness and we-ness can be overemphasized when talking about cultures. For example, sometimes Western contemporary cultures are stereotyped as being all I, and Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures are sometimes stereotyped as being all we.

      We believe, however, that no culture could function effectively long-term if it tried to be totally oriented toward individualism, toward individual rights. Likewise, no culture could function effectively long-term if it tried to be totally oriented toward the well-being of the group at the expense of the well-being of the individual. Most cultures find a workable balance between I-ness and we-ness, a point somewhere in between. Though cultures vary in regard to where precisely the balancing point is, they all find a balance and maintain this balance—sometimes a shaky balance at best—until change inside the culture and change outside the culture demand a new balance be found.

    • Challenging the power structure is dangerous. Because families and the broader culture in which they live are deeply embedded in patriarchy, revealing abuse and identifying abusers can be dangerous. While encouraging victims to leave abusive situations is necessary, their safety can be compromised without cultural changes that support victims' efforts to find a safe environment in which to live. Family violence does considerable damage to its victims, both physical and psychological, and though victims often fight back, they too often lose because they lack needed community resources. Women stay in violent relationships for many reasons, including fear, economic hardship or lack of financial autonomy, inadequate support services, the feeling that they have nowhere to go, and the belief that somehow they deserve what is happening to them. Social change can lead to violence, as those in power push back against the needed changes. When victims attempt to leave, their danger is likely to increase.
    • Holding perpetrators accountable is often poorly addressed. While there have been considerable efforts initiated to help victims of abuse, frequently strategies to hold perpetrators accountable draw less interest, including creating and implementing interventions. Little mention was made by our research teams about programs for perpetrators in the so-called developed countries, except the hope that they will be held accountable for their actions, including jail time. None of our research teams mentioned successful programs to rehabilitate perpetrators. The focus, rather, seems to be to stop the perpetrator from brutalizing the rest of the family and to protect the rest of the family from continuing harm.
    • Stopping family violence also requires changes in policy. Macro-level support from communities and cultures through changes in laws, policies, and procedures must occur to support efforts for change on the micro level of individuals and families. These measures to define family violence, delineate procedures for dealing with it, protect victims, increase the rights of women in families, develop systems of punishment for perpetrators, and increase the economic, political, and social status of women are spreading steadily around the world. Often, however, even when laws are passed or policies changed, implementation lags as many institutions in society resist change and continue to look the other way.
    • Violence against elders in families includes physical abuse, psychological abuse, material or financial abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. Data on the occurrence of elder abuse in many countries are still scarce. Many countries are aging steadily, yet the focus of most work toward stopping family violence has been on families of a child-rearing age. Abuse of elders is poorly understood, and services need to be tailored to meet the needs of older adults. The need for research in this area is considerable.
    • If you take a strengths-based perspective to family violence around the world, you look not for problems but for strengths. If you look only for problems, you will certainly find them, in abundance. However, if you take a more balanced perspective, looking for strengths as well as challenges, you will certainly find strengths in abundance, also.
    • Strengths are the foundation for growth: growth in individuals, families, communities, and cultures.
    • A great deal of progress has been made worldwide, and there is much more work to be done in all countries. Strengths can be seen in all the countries our global research team studied and on all levels, from the individual, family, and community levels to the broad cultural level.
    • The process of positive change around the world is accelerating. These changes are aided by advances in communication technologies, as good ideas transfer rapidly from one culture to another, one community to another, one family to another, one woman to another.
    • Because of advances in communication technologies, changes that took place over many years in some countries may occur quicker in other countries that are just beginning the process of change. The process of change tends to proceed slowly, unevenly, with many mistakes and blind alleys. Countries that are just beginning the process of change can readily benefit from the hard-earned experiences of other countries that started the journey decades ago.
    • The feminist movement around the world has played a significant role in shedding light on the subject of family violence. In those countries where feminists have been active in this regard, there has been considerable protest and denial from others, including some men, some women, governments, politicians, religious organizations, the media, and other groups.
    • The cycle of family violence can be broken. Intergenerational abuse, passed down from one generation to the next, is common. Children model the behavior of their parents and other adults in the family. However, most children exposed to abuse do not become abused or abusive adults. Why? Many adults explain that they made a personal choice to be different from their abusers and often sought help to break the cycle (Skogrand, DeFrain, DeFrain, & Jones, 2007).
    • By bringing together people working on all levels of society—from the local community to the national and global levels—coordinated, integrated, and holistic approaches to ending domestic violence can be created. Government, social and family service organizations, educational and religious institutions, health care facilities, and business all have important roles to play in the efforts.
    Final Thoughts

    As we live our lives day by day, the steady and humdrum pace of life often creates a sense that little is changing in the world. Because local, national, and international news tends to focus on what's wrong in the world, we learn each day from the media about horrifying cases of family violence in every corner of the globe. This steady drumbeat of tragedy makes it hard to believe at times that much has changed at all. Family violence without a doubt is a serious problem from a global perspective today. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in families is a major threat to family well-being.

    But we chose as a global team to focus on positive things that are happening around the world in regard to family violence, and the compelling, hopeful stories in this book show that change is, indeed, occurring—in every country we studied. Women are standing up for their rights and the rights of their children. And people everywhere are working together in the local community and on the national and international levels, giving us good reason to believe that over time family violence will steadily diminish from country to country.

    Major changes are happening on all levels, changes in the lives of women seeking a better world for themselves and their children, changes in how communities support these women in their quest, and changes on the national cultural level as new laws and policies are written. A global conversation has begun about how to create strong families and what is right and wrong in family situations. Knowing the horrors that some family members experience, it seems change cannot come fast enough—but change is coming.

    As women become better educated around the world, they are likely to find better-paying jobs, giving them more power in the family. If their partner refuses to stop his abusive behavior and won't treat all family members with respect and kindness, these women have the option of taking their children and leaving the relationship. And, as more and more shelters are organized worldwide by women's groups (with help from many men), there is a safe place to go until the woman and her family can find a good place to live on their own. From the national level help comes when laws and policies are rewritten to stress human rights, even behind closed doors in families.

    We are not naive about all this. The process of change from country to country will be a long and arduous journey. Similarly, the process of change for each woman and her family will also be quite difficult. But dramatic changes have happened in many corners of the world in the past four decades. Just look and listen—the stories are everywhere. And dramatic changes are virtually guaranteed for the future.

    Taking a broad perspective, it is easy to see that enormous change is actually occurring at a rapid pace, especially when thinking from a historical perspective. Family members are learning how to use their strengths to stop violence and abuse. And they can now share what they've learned readily with others.

    Our hope is that this book is a part of this magical and life-affirming process.

    DeFrain, J., & Stinnett, N. (2008). American family strengths inventory. Lincoln: University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension.
    Herman, J. L. (1997). Trauma and recovery (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: Basic Books.
    Pence, E. L., & McDonnell, C. (2000). Developing policies and protocols in Duluth, Minnesota. In J.Hanmer & C.Itzin (Eds.), Home truths about domestic violence: Feminist influences on policy and practice (pp. 249–268). London, UK: RoutledgeFalmer.
    Shepard, M. F., & Pence, E. L. (Eds.). (1999). Coordinating community response to domestic violence: Lessons from Duluth and beyond. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    Skogrand, L., DeFrain, N., DeFrain, J., Jones, J. E. (2007). Surviving and transcending a traumatic childhood: The dark thread. New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

    About the Contributors

    Sylvia M. Asay, PhD, is professor of family studies and chair of the Department of Family Studies and Interior Design, University of Nebraska, Kearney, Nebraska.

    Kerri Bird is a senior family worker at the Family Action Centre (FAC), the University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia.

    Valentina Bodrug-Lungu, PhD, is associate professor, State University of Moldova, Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

    Grace H. Chung, PhD, is an assistant professor in child & family studies, College of Human Ecology, Seoul National University, Republic of Korea.

    Penny Crofts is codirector of the Family Action Centre (FAC), the University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, Australia.

    Priscilla S. Daniels is associate professor, Department of Human Ecology, University of Western Cape, Bellville, Republic of South Africa.

    John DeFrain, PhD, is a professor emeritus of family studies and extension family and community development specialist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.

    E. Catherine Dickey, MEd (Hons), is a senior lecturer of integrated studies at the Manukau Institute of Technology, Manukau, Aotearoa/New Zealand.

    Rosario Esteinou, PhD, is professor and researcher in the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), Tlalpan, México.

    Barbara Fisher-Townsend, PhD, is a contract academic instructor in the Department of Sociology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick.

    Luisa Fernanda Habigzang, PhD, is a psychologist, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

    Jean Von Hohendorff is a psychology PhD student, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

    Catherine Holtmann, MA, is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at the University of New Brunswick. She is a graduate research assistant with the RAVE Project.

    Theodora Kaldi-Koulikidou is a retired administrator, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Modern Greek Language, Thessaloniki, Greece.

    Lina Kashyap, PhD, is professor and deputy director of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India.

    Silvia H. Koller is a professor, Psychology Institute—Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

    Shuhong Luo, MA, is a graduate student, Department of Educational Administration, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.

    Anne N. Lutomia is a doctoral student, education policy, organization, and leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana, Illinois.

    Tapologo Maundeni is an associate professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of Botswana.

    Lois R. Mberengwa is associate professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Botswana.

    Lucy Wandiri Mbirianjau is an MEd tutorial fellow, Department of Education Foundation, Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya.

    Steve McMullin, PhD, is on the faculty of Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

    Marcee Metzger is executive director of Voices of Hope, Lincoln, Nebraska.

    Kgomotso K. More is a lecturer in the Department of Educational Foundations–Counseling and Human Services at the University of Botswana.

    Bob Moyer, MBA, is executive director of the Family Violence Council, Lincoln, Nebraska.

    Nancy Nason-Clark, PhD, is professor and chair in the Department of Sociology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick. She is the principal investigator of the Lilly-funded RAVE Project.

    Jane Rose Njue is associate professor, certified family life educator, School of Family Consumer and Nutrition Science, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois.

    Busisiwe Nkosi, PhD, is senior researcher at the School of Public Health, University of Western Cape, Bellville, Republic of South Africa.

    Sun Wha Ok, PhD, is a professor in child & family studies, College of Human Ecology, Seoul National University, Republic of Korea.

    Trupti Panchal is assistant professor in the Centre for Equity for Women, Children, Families, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Deonar, Mumbai, India.

    Styliani Plevraki and her husband Konstantinos Plevrakis, an Orthodox priest, direct the Orthodox Ecclesiastical Foundation of the Evangelist Mark in Thermi Thessaloniki.

    Mihaela Robila, PhD, is professor of family studies, Queen's College, CUNY, Flushing, New York.

    Dorothy Rombo is assistant professor, certified family life educator, human development and family studies, University of Wisconsin–Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin.

    Leanne Schubert is a social work academic and researcher at the University of Newcastle, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Callaghan, NSW, Australia.

    Laura S. Smart is professor emeritus, School of Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences, Northern Illinois University, Certified Family Life.

    Cixin Wang, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow, Department of Behavioral Psychology, Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.

    Haiping Wang, MA, is a PhD candidate, Department of Child, Youth, and Family Studies, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.

    Yan Xia, PhD, is an associate professor, Department of Child, Youth, and Family Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska.

    Maha N. Younes, PhD, is professor and chair of the Department of Social Work at the University of Nebraska, Kearney, Nebraska.

    Xiaoyun Zhang, MA, is a PhD candidate, Department of Child, Youth, and Family Studies, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.

    Vladimir I. Zubkov is professor of sociology in the Department of Sociology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.

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