"APPROACHES AND STRATEGIES TOWARDS ENDING
Proceedings of the third meeting of the Interdisciplinary European Research Network on Conflict, Gender and Violence, in Stockholm, Aug. 23-26, 1998, with the support of the University of Uppsala and Riksbankens Jubileumsfonds
ABSTRACTS AND DISCUSSION NOTES
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN SWEDEN – CURRENT ISSUES
Department of Sociology, Uppsala University
‘Like, you know - rape’. On the importance of gender and heterosexuality to young people’s perception of rape
My presentation deals with the significance of gender and heterosexuality in relation to young people’s perception of rape. The main focus is on the relationship between what is regarded as "normal" (ideas about and experience of gender and heterosexuality) and what is regarded as "extreme" (ideas about and/or experience of rape).
The empirical material consists primarily of 16 interviews with Swedish fifteen-year-olds of both sexes, discussing what they regard as constituting rape. I interpret their perceptions of rape in the light of cultural norms about gender and heterosexuality. The main thesis is that what these young people understand, in principle, to be rape is negotiated and re-interpreted in the encounter with concrete examples. I discuss six "conditions" - how no is said, the significance of love, the effects of alcohol, notions of the whore, notions of the rapist as deviant, and the consequences of rape for girls who are raped - used by the young people as their tools for negotiation in the re-interpretation process. I present a model according to which the conditions comprise a "space for negotiation" between what the young people regard as rape and what they regard as "good sex". I argue that when they are related to cultural codes for heterosexual interaction, the conditions may be interpreted as expressions of deeply rooted rules regarding gender and heterosexuality. According to the findings, the conditions may also serve simultaneously to limit the space for action available to young women while extending this space for young men. I illustrate that when young people apply the conditions, they may affect the "extreme", shifting it in the direction of the "normal". In extension, I argue against regarding rape as a "deviation" from so-called "normal" heterosexual interaction, and for a conception of rape as belonging to a continuum of cultural codes for heterosexual interaction.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, THE SOCIAL SERVICES AND THE SO CALLED SABOTAGE OF CHILD CONTACT
Department of Sociology, Uppsala University
The paper discusses some of the gender specific consequences of the implementation of the Swedish law regarding child custody and child contact, especially in relation to male violence in intimate relationships. In the Swedish Family Law the "best interest of the child" is defined as a close contact with both of the parents. It is strongly emphasised that - in the best interest of the child - joint custody is to be preferred at separation and divorce. After changes to the law passed this spring it is now possible for the courts to award joint custody even if one parent is explicitly opposed, which was not possible before. A parent with single custody has, according to the Family Law, responsibility for the child's continued contact with the other parent. If the parent with single custody is "sabotaging" the contact, the court can award the other parent custody. Also if the parents have joint custody the one "sabotaging" can be deprived of the custody. In spite of the formally neutral wording of the paragraph aiming at "sabotage", it has gender specific consequences. As the statistics show, a majority of the parents with single custody are women and in cases of joint custody a majority of the children are living with the mother. It is almost always mothers who run the risk of being interpreted as sabotaging child contact, not fathers. With the recent changes to the law, the municipal social services will have an even more central role in the negotiations around child custody and child contact and in the implementation of the intentions of the law. In my study on the work of the social services in cases of conflicts concerning child custody where the man is violent towards the woman, I have interviewed battered divorced /separated women about their situation and their contacts with the social services. My preliminary findings are that many of the battered women strongly suspects that their children are physically and/or sexually abused by the father. Only a few women say that child contact "is working", in the sense that neither they themselves nor any child have been subjected to violence, threat or sexual abuse during or in connection to contact with the father. The Family Law itself puts the women in a paradoxical position. When they are in custody of a child, they are responsible for the welfare of the child. At the same time, they are responsible for the child's contact with the other parent. If it is the other parent - the father - that it is harmful to the child, their responsibilities obviously clash.
In many cases the interviewed women experience both themselves and their children as unprotected by the municipal social services. By not taking the women's reports of violence seriously, by minimizing the violence and the impact of it, by not having sufficient routines to guarantee the safety of the women and/or the children, or by sometimes not even trying to discover violence, the social services can be said to make continuing violence from the men possible. In some cases the women have experienced the social workers as actively involved in the men's ongoing abuse and harassment of the women.
The notion of "sabotage of child contact" seems to play a key role in the negotiations between the women and the social workers around child custody and child contact. Almost all of the women interviewed have at least some time been told by social workers that if they don't co-operate and if they sabotage the child's contact with the father, they risk being deprived of custody. To judge from the outcomes for the women interviewed, the strong emphasis on both parents " in the best interest of the child" seems, together with a lack of knowledge of violence in intimate relationships, to make it possible for an abusive man to have access to, and custody of, the child.
Discussion Themes (Notetaker: Carol Hagemann-White)
Gender-Unequal Action Space
The four Swedish presentations were discussed together. A first focus was on conceptualizing the gender-unequal action space and the strategies chosen within these spaces. It was seen as problematic to give primary attention to how girls (dealing with pressure or force) or mothers (dealing with threats to themselves and their children) can try to expand their options, as this implicitly shifts the burden of responsibility away from the abusive boy/man.
Us - Them Distinctions
A recurrent theme was the pattern of distinguishing between 'us' and 'them' to create illusions of safety: Rape happens to 'them' not to 'us', violent men who can be seen as determined by their culture belong to a foreign 'them', suggesting that among 'us' men don't kill women within the family; within the majority population, pathologizing individual men creates the same split. At the same time, individualistic and culturalist arguments have in common that they excuse men's violence because they 'can't help it'; in court it seems that only women are convicted of murder, while men who kill women are judged to have committed manslaughter. But since men have also learned to see themselves as being in control, it was suggested that intervention can make use of contradictions within masculinity.
Child Custody and Contact Rules
Strikingly similar trends, at least in Northern Europe, were observed in recent developments around child custody and contact rules. Mothers are expected to protect their children, yet at the same time they are pressed or forced to arrange (unsupervised) contact with abusive men. Social service and legal agencies seem to split off the known violence of a man towards his wife when regarding his role as a father. The discussion turned to the reasons for this compartmentalization, and to the possible sources of the recent strong trend to value biological fatherhood almost withoutregard to the actual behavior of the man.
Culture-based Ground Rules of Gender'
It was noted that social workers, themselves mostly women, are located within contradictions and forced to reduce complexity in order to act at all. Finally the discussion considered the contrasting expectations towards women as women and women as mothers (when they are blamed for not saying 'no' and when they are blamed for doing so), and how these double-binding norms might relate to the 'ground rules' of gender, and to culture. The importance was stressed of asking when, why and by whom the concept of culture is brought in.
VIOLENCE AGAINST ELDERLY WOMEN IN ROMANIA
Institute for Educational Sciences
1. The public image of old age is associated with dependency, sickness, loneliness, depression and social isolation.
Out of Romania's 22,608,000 inhabitants, 51% are women. Romanian women's life expectancy is among the lowest in Europe: 73.1 years in 1996, this means 10 years shorter than that of the Norwegian women (83.3 years) and 3 years shorter than among the Czech Republic's women. More than either elderly men or younger people of either sex, elderly women are vulnerable. In today's Romania. Their major risk factors are poverty, ill health, poor housing and social isolation; very often they face a combination of all these four aspects.
2. During the last 8 years of harsh transition from the 45 year-communist dictatorship to the new market economy, increasing violence against aging women has become another alarming threat to their daily existence.
This paper deals with various forms of violence committed against elderly women within and outside their family background.
3. Our interviews with 60 victims from urban and rural areas, revealed that their voices were mostly suppressed to silence, mainly due to their being financially dependant on the aggressor(s). But also because of the traditional prejudices concerning the status of woman as a second-hand citizen in Romania, as in all the Balkan region. References are made to the activity of the 1996-founded National Service for Criminality Prevention carrying out surveys on various cases of law infringement, where old women fell victims, too.
Discussion Themes (Notetaker: Renate Klein)
Impact of Culture Contact on the Agents of Violence
In the discussion, a need for more background information was addressed. After reference to observations in China and in Poland, it was debated whether former socialist countries in transition to a capitalist economy experience a real increase in violence against women (attributed to women's greater economic vulnerablity and to the introduction of pornography and related images in mass media), whether existing violence becomes more visible (less repression and silencing), or whether the agents and forms of violence change (e.g. from direct police violence to police indifference or collusion in husband's violence).
Consumption of pornography per se is probably not new but the influx of Western pornography may target new groups of consumers and/or model different ways of sexually abusing women. For instance, China seems to have had a tradition of pornography consumption by upper class men, whereas recent pornography imports from the West may be directed at, or bought by middle class or working class men. Class and culture seem to intersect here, and it is difficult to discern whether this form of culture contact gives rise to violence against women as a new phenomenon or to new forms of already existing abusive traditions.
Free Market' Economies and Violence against Women
Economic changes might influence violence against women in different ways. For one, the spread of free market' economies may influence the distribution of the agents of violence when the opportunity and power to enact violence shifts from dictatorial or state agents (e.g., secret police, army) to free market' agents (e.g., individualfamily members).
Moreover, the shift towards market economies has cost many women their jobs leaving them economically vulnerable. For instance, elderly women in Poland are dependent on male earners who may also be abusive.
Economic Motives for Violence againt Women; Perceptions of Alcohol
Traditionally, it has been common in Romania that a daughter would inherit at least some amount of money from her mother so that she would be able to take care of her aging mother. Violence against the daughters has been used by male family members to get at the daughter's share of the family assets. Despite this economic motive for violence against women, perceptions of alcohol as a „reason for" violence still are widespread in Romania and elsewhere internationally, possibly because violence and alcohol consumption co-occur frequently.
Actual Increase in Violence versus Increased Visibility of Violence
It is difficult to discern whether presently available estimates of the rates of violence against women represent an increase in gender violence over the years, or whether they simply made it more visible. One method to arrive at retrospective estimates may be retrospective interviews with older women. However, problems of silencing (e.g., violence is a taboo topic), definition (e.g., who defines what is violence), and informant-interviewer relationship (e.g., who would be listening to such disclosure?) are only some of the issue such retrospective estimates will have to grapple with.
Exclusion of Disenfranchised Groups from Feminist Agenda
Why has there been a lack of feminist research on violence against older women? To what extent have other women been excluded from the feminist agenda (e.g., poor women, disabled women)? Research agendas develop within specific cultural and historical contexts and tend to neglect disenfranchised groups. On the one hand, doing research tends to be the prerogative of members of relatively privileged groups who, for various reasons, are able to spend their time on research related activities. On the other hand, the exclusion of disenfranchised groups of women who are different' (e.g., old, foreigners, wrong morals) from the feminist agenda may also have to do with the us - them' split mentioned above.
Research Ethics and Methodology
How are research ethics and methodology related? For instance, how do we handle disclosure of abuse; how does safety of the informant figure in the research process; how do we handle questions of reliable testimony by victims of abuse?
Power, Heterosexuality, and Sexual Violence
Female perpetrators of violence have been a taboo topic for along time. How do female perpetrators figure in the feminist discourse on violence and power? It was suggested that the feminist discourse is about power over' and would thus be able to integrate violence by women against those they have power over (e.g., children, patients). Then again, the relationship between gender and power is more complicated than that. For instance, sexual abuse of patients seems to be done by men and there is evidence of sexual abuse of female nurses by male patients. That means, that power advantages based on gender can override power advantages based on professional role descriptions (e.g., nurse versus patient).
Perhaps a discourse on heterosexuality and power needs to complement that on gender and power, at least when it comes to sexual violence. For instance it was noted that it is heterosexual men who rape other men (not homosexual men; data from the U.K.). And it was noted that rapists use elderly women as "practice" targets and easy victims.
THE CONCEPT OF CONFLICT IN STUDIES OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Bo Wagner Sørensen
Institute of Anthropology
University of Copenhagen
„Conflict" is primarily a third that it is rather technical, external and seemingly neutral in the sense that it is disengaged from the emotional experiences of real life violence. We party and/or specialist term that is sometimes used to explain why certain others get beaten up. This may come as no surprise given the fact may thus speak of a distinction between experience-distant and experience-near concepts. The matter is one of degree, not polar opposition, and one sort of concept is not to be preferred as such over the other. It is important, however, to specify when we deal with local concepts, and when we deal with analytical ones, not least because only local concepts can be seen as emotionally invested and thus informing motivated action.
Female victims of violence in Greenland also did not talk about conflicts. Instead they talked about their husbands being jealous, being possessive, being mean, trying to be in control, trying to shut them up during discussions, etc. At the same time, however, one could argue from a third party (specialist) position or perspective even in these cases and point to the relevance of the concept of conflict. One could argue that there are underlying conflicts of interest, conflicts of gender perception, and conflicts of power, which all seem perfectly true, and which may be part of the reason why the women are beaten by their husbands.
Still, it seems to me that scholars sometimes apply the concept of conflict automatically in order to be able at all to explain interpersonal violence or why some men turn to violent means. There must be a reason, right? And the common sense idea that violence follows from conflict is inculcated in most of us. If interpersonal violence occurs, and especially if it occurs on a large scale in a specific community or society, we tend to be on the look-out for the underlying conflicts - often called factors - that may explain the violence.
On one hand, I think it's important not to isolate the phenomenon of violence and treat it as a matter of individual male deviation. It therefore seems reasonable to look into the relational aspects of wife beating and accordingly acknowledge the female party some agency instead of just treating her as a victim. This may be done by focusing on the concept of conflict which may also give us some clues about how and why 'a conflict' sometimes escalates into violence, sometimes not. On the other hand, I think that there is sufficient empirical evidence to support the view that many men beat their wives no matter how the wives behave, what they say, do, etc. As such the so-called conflict may not be a conflict that the woman or wife is involved in as a person or individual. It may rather be seen as a conflict that resides with the man in the first place, which subsequently involves her as a female belonging to the marked category 'wife'. The so-called conflict may thus be interpreted as a male 'crisis in representation'.
Hegemony and Discourse
Most of the discussion revolved around issues of how concept use is entwined with power (i.e., hegemony) and with discourse. For instance, what happens if we consider an instance of sexual harassment a "conflict" or perhaps a "conflict of interest"? What does conflict imply about the number of people involved and their relative power?
A recurring theme concerns the power to conceptualize an experience (e.g., as conflict or as violence or other). How does "conflict" figure within experience-near and experience distant concepts? For instance, is the distinction between overt and underlying conflict a third party interpretation rather than a conceptualization of the individuals experiencing the "conflict"? Accounts, justifications, and personal sense-making are mixed up. Power to conceptualize experience ties in with notions of hegemony. Whose concepts are we talking about (e.g., the expert's, the media's, the local culture's, the individual's). A hegemonial analysis could focus on who is using what kind of concepts under what conditions and for what purpose. For instance, who is "served" when a violent attack against a women is conceptualized as a "family conflict"? Which concepts allow us to consider the gains from violence that batterers talk about.
Interpretation of experience is no straightforward business. Individuals ("informants") themselves can provide multiple interpretations of their own experience that are then further interpreted by researchers interviewing informants. The notion of "experience-near" concepts becomes more multifaceted as well; does it related to emotions, to interpretations, to actions?
Besides the hegemonial question of who is allowed/able to use which concepts, concept use also influences mindsets and ways of thinking. Metaphoric splits (surface vs deep down; us versus them) are likely to influence our own analysis of concepts and experiences. They contribute to ongoing discourses and perhaps to intervention strategies as well, at least to our conceptualization of intervention strategies. With regard to battered women's response to the abuse they experience consider the different notions, and pragmatic implications, of concepts such as "conflict avoidance strategies", "conflict resolution strategies", and "survival strategies".
INTERSECTIONS OF CONFLICT; GENDER; CULTURE AND VIOLENCE
Community Response to Gender Violence: Model projects in Germany
Barbara Kavemann, Gesa Schirrmacher and Carol Hagemann-White
University of Osnabrueck/ Project WiBIG, Berlin
Discussion Themes (Notetaker: Sara Galvani)
Competition for Funds
Many questions concerned the issues whether the funding of WiBIG (i.e., the scientific evaluation of the Berlin Intervention Project) means that other feminist shelters will have to compete for funds or have their funds cut. There are, not entirely unfounded, fears that feminist projects will lose support in the process. It is very difficult and yet desirable to get agencies and institutions working together.
Actual Impact of Community Efforts
Will such community efforts actually reduce male violence or will they results in increases of reported violence because they raise awareness of violence and expectations for support and therefore encourage more women to come forward. The project could then be seen as ineffective in 'reducing men's violence'. The project is about sympathy and support from other agencies and about decreasing violence, but its first goal is to maximise the support women need. The 'dream' of ending violence is still there but at present it is about reaching people.
Implications of Link with Criminal Justice System
As the project is structured through the criminal justice system, is there a place for men to go on the programme w/o going through the criminal justice system? A decision has been made at present to put all men on batterer's programmes who go through the criminal justice system. Batterer' programmes should not offer a way out of prosecution.
A multi-agency approach is good practice but can also be dangerous. It is important to bear in mind the need for research and evaluation and to keep in mind 'in whose interests are we working'. For instance, who is controlling the decisions when they are based on consensus.
A problem in the U.K. is getting people to court in the first place. The number of convictions is very small, therefore the deterrent effect of prison/court system is called into question. In the context of WiBIG it is made explicit that these men will be sent to prison.
Reaction of feminists to multi-agency groups often depends on how they are treated by such groups.
Terminology and Balance of Power in Community Projects
Does changing terminology from 'male violence' to 'domestic violence' indicate a danger in compromising as it may mean sacrificing principles. It may be important to have two concurrent positions or an ongoing double strategy where democratic compromising groups work parallel with radical feminist groups. It was emphasized that we need to ACCEPT the fact that we need each other and we need to give each other space. This is not just about compromising, but also about professionalism, listening to others and finding a way to work together.
The balance of power within domestic violence forums is problematic. Other agencies need to understand the expertise and knowledge of people in the shelter system and place them central to future projects and forums. With regard to the public vs private split we need to accept that the feminist agenda isn't the only "public" voice and that there has to be mutual respect. Also, in order to get public funding it is necessary to be innovative and find new ways of working together, even if this is uncomfortable at times. To categorize all players involved into a "radical feminist vs compromisers" model is too simplistic.
THE NEW INTERVENTION PROJECTS IN AUSTRIA
Discussion Themes (Notetaker: Sara Galvani)
There are many questions around the evaluation of the project, which is currently being carried out. Figures on prosecution are not yet available. One issue concerns the policy of removing the batterers from their homes. When men are removed, where do they go? Information on alternative housing is available to them and to their families. The perpetrators are able to return to their home but the police will pick them up again and, eventually, arrest them and take them to prison. The amount of paperwork accompanying police action seems to be a crucial variable. For instance, in Canada, if police 'intervene' but take no action (e.g., arrest), they have to fill out more paperwork - apparently worked well, at least this does not discourage arrest on grounds that there is too much paperwork involved. Similar policies are in place in Duluth, USA.
Implications for Empowering the Victim of Violence
There was a discussion around the concept of "victim". In particular, when is intervention empowering and when is it not empowering? When to let go if a woman is not responding to the offers of advocates/service providers? A domestic violence intervention project in Hammersmith, London, runs a parallel programme for men who batter and their battered partners. There is liaison between the programmes and the women are informed of partners' progress or involvement in the programme. There is no confidentiality in the men's programme but women can confidentially feed back to the support group, which can then be tallied with the information that the men are giving.
"Public" Knowledge about Perpetrator
The Austrian project is pro-active at first and also follows up with phone calls if a woman stays with her partner. Project staff asked the women what the caller should do if the perpetrator picks up phone. Apparently, most women were happy for the perpetrator to know someone was monitoring them and ready to help. Project staff were surprised at this because their initial concern was that they might be putting the women at greater risk by calling her at home.
Empowerment, self-determination, and "help"
Again, there was discussion about allowing a woman to make a decision by not answering a letter or phone call and about the need to respect this decision. There was concern that constant contact may put women off contacting police/services again. The concept of helping is central to this, providing there is choice for the women. The Austrian project had to find a way of being an attractive service to women who would withdraw if offered a range of pragmatic options and find it too overwhelming. Issues of disempowerment, self-determination, support, and proactive 'help' have all got very mixed up. It is important to be careful about not having someone contact women initially or in terms of follow up because of 'human rights' arguments.
Danger Assessment and Safety Planning
"Danger assessment" concerns men we "don't know about" in terms of their potential to act violently and endanger their partners. We need to look at, and constantly review, their history and possibilities for abuse. There is a danger in using only measurement scales to assess /predict an individual's propensity to use violence (i.e., "resource driven danger assessment"). It is important to use experience also. Not all police calls to abuse are perpetrated by systematic abusers. There is a need to develop processes and systems with the woman, using her experience (i.e., "safety driven danger assessment).
MEDIATION ‘MUTUAL VIOLENCE’ AND POWER
Domestic violence Research Group
University of Bristol, UK
Since the 1980s there has been increasing emphasis in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand on the use of mediation to negotiate outcomes with regard to children and/or finance when (usually heterosexual) partners divorce or separate. It is seen as a generally positive way of reducing the adversarial aspects of separation and divorce. However, use of mediation in situations where there is a history of domestic violence may be problematic with regard to both women's and children's safety. This has led to a growing debate, in the UK, North America and Australia in particular, about the gendering of mediation and suitability of mediation in circumstances of domestic violence.
My interest in mediation stems from in-depth research into Domestic Violence and Child Contact Arrangements in England and Denmark (1996), and another large-scale survey regarding the UK mediators, Domestic Violence: a National Survey of Court Welfare and Family Mediation Practice (Hester, Pearson and Radford 1997). It was obvious from the earlier study that domestic violence does not stop on the separation of the partners. Not only may the period after separation be the most dangerous for women who have left violent men, but, violent and abusive men are highly likely to use negotiations and arrangements concerning custody and contact/access as a way of continuing their violent and abusive behaviour and attempts to control ex-partners. Another important area for consideration are the links between domestic violence and child abuse, that the domestic violence perpetrator may also be directly and/or indirectly abusing his/his partner’s children. Given the increasingly important role of mediation in relation to the process of separation and divorce, how mediators think about and deal with domestic violence issues thus becomes especially pertinent with regard to the safety of both women and children post-separation.
The paper focuses in particular on the perception of power held by mediators. From the national survey it was apparent that many of the UK mediators took a ‘gender neutral’ approach to power, seeing this as equally located in relation to men and women and may shift between parties. However, seeing power as constantly shifting, and unstable, not attached to the actions of anyone in particular easily leads to a totally de-gendered pluralising of power which merely masks the ‘asymmetries and domination’ implicit in situations of domestic violence. Some of the Danish mediators whom we interviewed in the Domestic Violence and Child Contact Arrangements in England and Denmark (1996) project could also be deemed to take a similar approach, albeit within a different context.
Discussion Themes (Notetaker: Sabine Klein-Schonnefeld)
A. Inquiring after further information
The professional background of mediators was described by Marianne Hester as follows:
In the UK the majority of mediators are social workers, about 6 % have a legal background,
about 10 % are counsellors.
In the UK anyone - regardless of professional backgrounds - can become a private mediator. The National Family Mediation Group offers a six-full-days-training. It is unknown if other organisations offer trainings as well.
In Denmark the majority of mediators have a „psycho"-professional background, are psychiatrists or psychologists.
Britta Mogensen added that the quality as well as the awareness and knowledge of gender specific problems, especially violence and abuse, differs a lot geographically in Denmark. E.g. mediators in Copenhagen tend to act in favour of women. After the fathers rights were legally strengthened in Denmark the sympathy of mediators structurally shifted towards women.
Mediation theory and a concept of (structurally gendered) power:
It depends on the individual mediator whether a concept of power plays any role in the mediation process. Usually power is mentioned but not as a gendered concept since the gender-equality-approach is a strong part of the common concept of mediation. The power-relationship is rather seen as a problem of the actual interaction between men and women during the mediation process - something which needs to be negotiated.
B. Changing the practice of mediation with respect to violence
It would be difficult to exclude - or modify - mediation when violence has been present in the relationship,
since mediation is legally forced on everybody, and
because (most) mediators believe that they can handle every problem.
It could be helpful if mediators were legally obliged to check on / ask the clients if violence had taken place, was enforced on them.
Similar results are found in research on how the medical profession handles the problem of violence. Analogous one could conclude that mediation is not wrong, but should not (legally) be forced on any case. To differentiate it might be necessary to intervene in the social work training in order to develop corresponding skills, and to know what is positive about mediation.
C. Research questions
To argue about the quality of research on mediation it is necessary to disclose the concept of power of the researcher and further to question the specific formation / creation of categories. It is important to differentiate / distinguish between structural power a person or group of individuals hold and individual power in a specific situation in which the same person or group might not be empowered.
It is equally important to attend carefully to what clients actually say, and not to impose the researchers concepts or expectations on them.
Describing her concept of power Marianne Hester refers to gendered power structures used by individuals to control and to maintain power positions to recreate, to re-establish gender relations including violence.
THE PERSISTENT MYTH OF MALE POWERLESSNESS: EXPERIENCES IN GENDER POLITICAL WORK
Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen
This presentation deals with the battered migrant women’s plight on leaving her batterer (Migrant woman are here understood as woman from countries outside the western world). Her encounter with the social welfare system and the police when asking for aid and support may turn out to be difficult as – in spite of the law – there are still individual social workers and police officers who deny a battered woman her rights. I argue that this is due to patriarchy collaborating with psychotherapy, the former presupposing the subordination of women, and the latter defining male violence as an expression of powerlessness, implying that battered women provoke the wife batterers and as such are accomplices in the violence they are exposed to.
Migrant women’s perception that wife batterers have sole responsibility for the battering clashes with the western psychotherapeutic perception of both parties being responsible. Usually migrant women neither neither can nor want to assume the responsibility implied in therapeutically oriented counselling or couples’ therapy. Nor do they regard male powerlessness as a relevant consideration. Inquisitorial questions like „why did he hit you" and „what did you do", seem to make no sense to migrant women.
While many Western women have internalized the psychotherapeutic idea of male powerlessness, making them ashamed for being batterers, migrant women seem to find these thoughts confusing. They are ashamed of being married to a wife batterer, not of being battered.
Both in feminist thinking on wife battering and in traditional psychotherapy men are seen as having a reason to batter their partners. However, the unanimity stops short here. While the reason in the first instance is considered a deliberate act of violence (violence in order to), the latter sees the reason for the violence as an act of powerlessness (violence because of), for which the batterer himself is not responsible. Migrant women seem to me to be in concordance with the former idea.
Discussion Themes (Notetaker: Sabine Klein-Schonnefeld)
A. Questioning if the everyday concept of „the powerlessness of violent men" is part of psychoanalytic theory and/or therapy
During the discussion Britta Mogensen repeats that she is not an expert on psychoanalysis herself. She observed the use of psychoanalytical language by authorities, social work, and police to „explain" and to justify and to minimize male violence, although research on male, or „family" violence does not recommend couple therapy (e.g. Dobash, Dobash).
Doubts are raised that concepts denying or minimalizing male responsibility in acts of violence are an element of psychoanalysis. Most certainly police reactions towards violent men have nothing to do with psychoanalysis. Equally the practice of social services - e.g. to offer couple-therapy to violent husbands and battered wives - cannot be based on psychoanalysis. Doubtless therapeutic language is used to justify such practices. Such strategies of legitimation of violence differ from one European country to another.
Language-problems, problematic translations might also play a rôle. In some Scandinavian countries, especially Denmark, use of therapeutic language is dominant among social workers and social control authorities such as the police. In Finland a „powerlessness of violent men" is understood as a description of a specific situation, t not as a generalized element of the mental status of men in their relations with women. In Finland the term describes that a man lost power, control, the ability to communicate with words in a specific situation.
Strategies of social control agencies towards violent men differ in Europe. In Finland, as in Germany, some groups like „men against violence" work with batterers successfully while such groups - men working with violent men - do not exist in Denmark.
All these factors and realities structure specific national approaches towards violent men.
B. The legal status of battered migrant women
In Austria migrants can receive a family visa which includes a work permit. After 5 years living in Austria on a family visa wives can apply for an husband-independent visa. In Germany wives can apply for an autonomous visa after 4 years, in Denmark after 3 years. The Danish as well as the German law includes a severity clause (Härteklausel): wives can apply for an independent residence permit if they can prove violence by the husband and family-visa-holder.
The practice of the law depends on different factors such as the awareness or the ignorance of social workers and migrant authorities with respect to:
their perception of the gender-power-difference,
their concept of so-called family-violence,
their perception of cultural and gendered differences.
C. The State`s responsibility
In the context of „family" violence and of migrant women as victims, the limits of a State`s responsibility are mentioned during the discussion. The main issue of governmental responsibility is the legal status of citizenship for migrant women and their children which has to be put in context with a gendered concept of power and a gendered concept of cultural differences (anti-racism), while it may be impossible to hold the state accountable to govern all the other various different realities of men, women, children, and cultures.
WHEN GENTLEMEN ARE GENTLE MEN TO LADIES; AND LADIES ARE NICE TO MEN: GENDER ATTRIBUTIONAL BIAS UNDER THREAT TO GENDER IDENTITY
Department of Psychology, University of Bialystok, Poland
The empirical study presented here is based on the consideration that the concept of attributíonal bias might provide explanations for some gender-relevant phenomena. Many studies find that, once people are separated into identifiable groups, they tend to exaggerate the differences between the groups, and to minimize differences within groups. Also, people are often biased in favor of their own group, and biased negatively toward groups perceived as being different from their own. Typically, when the outgroup does something negative, we attribute the behavior to some stable characteristic about members of that group: we make an internal/dispositional attribution. However, when our ingroup does something negative, we attribute it to some temporary situational force: we make an external/situational attribution. Conversely, when the ingroup does something positive, a dispositional attribution is made, and when the outgroup does something positive, a situational attribution is made. These types of attribution will lead to increased conflict between groups. Firstly, it means that in spite of any positive behavior on the part of the outgroup, a negative perception of them will be maintained. Second, when we are aware of others’ negative attributions about us or our group, it is often interpreted as aggression against us or our group. Because we typically respond to aggression with counteraggression, a fight or conflict is the likely result. Therefore, ingroup – outgroup biases may foster gender conflict.
The purpose of the study was to examine attributional bias made by women and men in causal explanation of a negative event happening to a member of the other gender. It was expected that it would be the higher tendency to make less favorable - dispositional (based on negative stereotypes) - attributions for negative behaviors performed by members of the outgroup in the threat-to-identity condition than in the no-threat-to-identity condition. Threat to identity (i.e. threat to positive image of the group) was defined here as an unfavorable evaluation of the ingroup made by members of the outgroup. Also, it was expected that men would present the higher tendency to make less favorable attributions than woman would.
Participants were college students (N = 121) women (N = 50) and men (N = 71) aged 19 - 20 years. Results revealed that men used gender stereotypes (to make unfair, dispositional attributions) only when they felt threatened by women. Otherwise (in particular when women were kind to them), they were generous, gentle and kind to women, even more than women to men are on such occasions. Women tended to avoid dispositional attributions to men, regardless of either being threatened by men or being flattered. Perhaps they accepted negative opinions by men due to accepting or justifying their own lower social status, therefore they do not take a straightforward defense strategy. In the threat conditions a tendency to use external (favorable) attributions was even stronger. It might be explained by holding positive male stereotypes by women (men are winners, not losers), therefore non-stereotypical behavior ought to be attributed to external causes. More favorable external attributions under the threat might be chosen by women as a way to appease men, to make peace with "angry", negative opinion deliverers, hoping to improve men’s attitudes toward women in future.
MOTIVES FOR CONFLICT-MANAGEMENT AND ABUSE
University of Maine
Over the last years I have become more and more interested in intersections of conflict, violence, and gender. More recently I have started to look at the meaning of men's and women's violence and conflict management in intimate heterosexual relationships.
The objectives of the research are to describe, analyze, and clarify the meaning of specific instances of violent and nonviolent behavior in intimate relationships and to provide an analysis of the role of gender in the construction of this meaning.
In one of our studies I am assessing observer perceptions of what, to give one example, "a man might get out of twisting his partner's arm". The responses to this kind of question yield an interesting array of outcomes associated with specific actions that give clues to potential underlying motives.
The behavior items I am using, such as "twisting partner's arm" come from the Conflict Tactics Scales and the Conflict Resolution Inventory. The CTS is an example of a commonly used survey instrument and the CRI is an example of a questionnaire based on an extensive body of observational research. The point of this approach is to explore the meaning of those behaviors that are commonly assessed in survey and observation research but for which motivational information is often lacking.
Discussion Themes (Notetaker: Carol Hagemann-White):
Interpretative Constructs and Gendered Reality
The discussion after both presentations centered on methodology. With respect to the work of A. Kwiatkowska it was questioned whether an experimental condition involving negative evaluations of the gender group should be conceptualized as a 'threat to gender identity', since membership of the individual in the gender group is not called into question. Discussion also focused on how to interpret the findings, in which women fit the model less well than men. Perhaps negative statements about the gender group create a 'threat situation' for men more than for women, or it may be that gender salience depends on context. Does the in-group vs. out-group concept apply to gender in a context which is, in itself gendered, or would negative feedback on the gender group that 'doesn't belong' (e.g. women at the male-dominated university), be experienced as normal?
A related issue was whether research of this type in social psychology, in making use of gender categories and stereotypes in the abstract, can overrate their salience in reality. A particular concern was that the methodology of parallel constructs for women and men must necessarily gloss over structural power imbalances. Assessments based on minimal information and grouping people by categories are a part of everyday reality; is it a realistic goal to reduce or eliminate these, or can the conditions be specified when the split between 'us' and 'them' becomes problematic?
Generalizability of Findings and Interpretations
For both presentations the question was raised what the results can tell us about the actual behavior of women and men - or do they aim rather at the study of cultural perceptions around conflict and violence; if the latter, are such studies eliciting individual perceptions or cultural scripts? It might be interesting to ask the same questions in different locations to find who deploys what explanations or excuses. This will not tell us what it means when people give such accounts; it was emphasized that a hermeneutic approach is able to consider context and interpret more complex levels of meaning.
Some discussants remarked on similarities between the responses of college students in both studies and the accounts of batterers and of rapists in hermeneutically oriented research: Men seem to find it normal to react aggressively to criticism of themselves or their group from women, and tend to account for violence in terms of the power and control it may confer. These are widely familiar cultural scripts; yet it was also noted that in the study of R. Klein, none of the men drew upon the myth of male powerlessness, and none of the respondents mentioned alcohol, although causal attribution of violence to alcohol has been a prominent cultural script. Possibly this shows the impact of shelter movement awareness-raising over many years. Recognizing and changing cultural scripts can also be a part of the effort to end violence.