Breaking the Cycle: Cross-Culturally Defining Domestic Violence and its Costs

By Amber Thomas

            United States: She screams, “No!” as her boyfriend lights the match to set the car on fire with her beloved dog inside.  There is nothing she can do.  She is trapped.  If she fights back or attempts to save her beloved pet he will surely throw her into the fire.  This time it was because she left him, for the fifth time.  She asks herself why she has returned time and time again and the answer is always the same, “I love him.”  But why does love have to hurt?

Vietnam:  “I knew he would be boiling with anger when he came home as he has before.  Like the last time I came with the cut on my face.  This time, he accused me of lingering too long in the market.  He was so hot that he threw the scalding water on me from the thermos,” this is what she tells the nurse and the authorities.  They reply saying, “You should know not to talk back to him and you must cool him off and make peace in the home again.  Make sure that when he comes home everything is harmonious and this will not keep happening,” was the response and solution given to her.  After dressing her wounds they send her home, back to her husband and children.  She must endure.  She must return, but is there an end to the violence in sight?

Globally an average of 30% of women have experienced violence in a relationship.  By individual country those figures can jump to 54% in Vietnam and 67.9% in Peru.  The cost of these abuses including legal fees, medical support and time missed from work can amass to 83 billion dollars in the Britain and 8.3 billion dollars in the United States alone.  When comparing these numbers to GDP, domestic violence accounts for 24.9% of GDP in El Salvador alone.  These effects are not only felt monetarily through out the country but at the family level as well. In a study conducted in the US, a child that comes from a home with domestic violence can be stunted in growth and development.  This leads to the statement, “If not for you, then do it for your kids,” in regards to leaving the volatile situation.  However, it is not as simple as just leaving.  On average it takes the abused seven times of physically leaving before they leave for good.  However, how is a single mother suppose to support her children now that she has left her one-income family home and even more what happens to the abuser?  Do they go into another relationship and become violent again?  How can we break this never-ending cycle?

There are some trends seen with treatment for domestic violence.  Most of them come down to education and empowerment.  It can start with the women–educating them about domestic violence and empowering them to leave and find their own subsistence and educating the children so that they themselves do not become part of the cycle.  But what if we took it a step further?  Instead of just punishing the abusers and “throwing the to them wolves,” why not rehabilitate them, finding out what the root of the problem is to be able to combat it.  One organization in Peru is doing just that.  They have created small groups and offer individual counseling for those who are violent in their homes.  In the groups they combat the idea that men are superior to women and teach them ways in which to handle their anger.  Often the cultural idea is that women can be molded and taught how to act by men through force as seen in Vietnam.  The root does not solely lie within the violent actions itself, but within the cultural norms.

What we must do to combat domestic violence on a large scale is not simply empower women, but we must rehabilitate the men and combat the social views that put women below men in a ranking system.  This includes defining what domestic violence is and applying it cross-culturally.  The United Nations defines domestic violence as, “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including treats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” We must not only focus on the key players of domestic violence, but we must also educate the public because the more people talk about it and know what it is, the easier it will be recognized.  We must adopt a new idea about domestic violence in that there is “No pity, no shame, and no silence.” Considering the cost in income and, more important, human suffering, we cannot afford not to act!

Amber Thomas is a senior anthropology major pursuing a minor in Hispanic Studies at East Carolina University.


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Chien-Shiung Wu, The Focused Physician

Chien Shiung Wu was born in the Liuhe, Jiangsu province of China on May 29, 1912. She grew up in Taicang, China where her father was an advocate for girl’s education and founded a women’s school in China. In 1936, she graduated from the National Central University in Nanking China. After graduating she went to study physics at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1940, she received her Ph.D. and taught at both Smith College and Princeton University. In 1944, she was recruited by the U.S. government to work on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University. During this time, Chien helped developed a process of enriching uranium to be used as fuel. In 1956, Chien devised an experiment that helped disprove the Parity Law (a law of physics). This experiment is still thought to be one of the most important developments in atomic and nuclear physics. Despite her research and experiments, Chien was not awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. The honor went to her male colleagues instead.

“There is only one thing worse than coming home from the lab to a sink full of dirty dishes, and that is not going to the lab at all”

After the war, she continued to work at Columbia where she became the Dupin professor of physics in 1957. Chien continued to do research in atomic and nuclear physics, and the structure of hemoglobin. In 1975, Chien was awarded the National Medal of Science and became the first female president of the American Physical Society. Chien was also the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Princeton and she was the first woman to receive National Academy of Sciences Comstock Prize. She retired from teaching at Columbia in 1981. Chien is not only known for her work but she was also an advocate for women in science. Chien died on February 16, 1997 in New York.


Carolyn Walence

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Brazilian Women Are Being Bullied into Having C-Sections

I ran across this article a few weeks ago the idea of women being pressured into having unnecessary surgical procedures.  This article is definitely worth a read.



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Op-Ed: Rape is Not a Weapon of War: Rape is a Symptom of Misogyny

By Lindsay Cortwright

Jeanne was attacked by 10 militia members in her home, in a village, just outside of Burnia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They raped her, one after the other while her child cried in the background. When her husband found out about the attack, he abandoned her, leaving Jeanne physically and psychologically wounded and barely able to care for her child. The damage done to her vagina during the attack still causes her pain and urinary problems. She has no money, faces the daily threat of homelessness, and tells journalist Lauren Wolfe that she has no possibilities. Still, she doesn’t mind telling her story and reliving the pain – she says that she hopes to help find a solution to the violence and get help financially.

Stories like Jeanne’s draw attention to the fact that wartime rape is no longer just an expected side effect of war; it is being used as a weapon to decimate families, villages, communities, and ethnicities: to instill terror, exterminate, and intimidate the other side. While the DRC has recently captured the world’s attention for its ever-increasing violence, rape has been used as a weapon in other recent conflicts in Bangladesh, Yugoslavia, Armenia, and Rwanda. Still, the attention the problem is beginning to receive does absolutely nothing to help the women who are victimized and brutalized in these violent conflicts and it certainly doesn’t prevent it from happening.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the rate of civilian rape has increased 17-fold since the beginning of the conflict in 1998. You could argue that this is the direct result of years of war, trauma, and violence. You could argue that the men growing up in the war have been so traumatized by violence that they become the perpetrators of violence. You could argue that the chaos caused by the war has led to an increase in civilian crime. Yet, none of these reasons sufficiently explain the predicament of the Congolese women. As the increasing numbers of both victims and perpetrators in the Congo suggest, rape is not just a side effect of war: it is a side effect of culture.

            The extent of the brutality women of the DRC face on a daily basis defies shallow explanations. In the Congo, gang rape is the most common form of sexual violence, with the number of perpetrators averaging 4.5 men per victim. Women are raped with sticks, bayonets, and other tools, causing severe injury and trauma. After raping the women, some of the perpetrators are shooting the women in the vagina, sewing the vagina together with thorns, or padlocking their vaginas shut. There is no minimum age requirement for rape victims and children as young as 6 months old are being attacked.

            The women who survive the initial violence face trauma, depression, anxiety, insomnia and nightmares, memory loss, HIV/AIDS, STDs severe injury, and pregnancy in addition to shame, victim-blaming, self-loathing, divorce, beating, and social ostracism. They become victims of the military, of their police officers, of the UN Peacekeepers, and of their own husbands or neighbors. Most of these women have nowhere to turn. Congolese women are thought to be opportunistic and unreliable. Men are considered by both society and the law to be the “masters” of their wives and women cannot open a bank account, get a job, or buy and sell property without their husband’s permission. Women have extremely low literacy and education rates, no political status, and exist only to produce and care for children and work for the community. The problem is not the war; it is the community’s perception of women.

            Foreign aid has always been the American way but what can we do to help give these women a life when they don’t have the right to establish one? Foreign aid tends to target issues in a convenient way rather than according to the country’s needs. One military leader in the DRC told researchers, “It is inhumane to sell another’s pain.” Another pointed out that it was easy for us to send our doctors, medicines, blankets, and food while the same countries that offer help continue to provide the weapons that allow the conflict to continue, long after the war was supposedly ended.

            What the DRC needs is community leaders to rise up and advocate for the rights and education of women. Practically, they need condoms, birth control, sex education, and HIV/AIDS education and prevention. They need foreign countries to stop providing them with weapons. Women need a safe place to recover, receive health care – physical and psychological, learn how to read and write, and learn skills they need to survive on their own. The community needs mental health education and treatment, programs that teach men that masculinity does not equal dominance and violence, and the community needs to learn how to help themselves. Foreign aid is temporary, raising community leaders and giving them the skills they need to carry on is a long-term solution.

            One Congolese woman spoke up at the opening ceremony of City of Joy – a safe house designed to address the trauma and psychological aftermath of rape – about the plight of women in the DRC: “Do you see me as an animal? Because you are letting animals treat me like one. You, the government, if it was your children, would you stop it? You, you white people: if this violence was happening in your country, would you end it?” What will we do to end it?               

Lindsay Cortwright is a double major in  anthropology major and english and awomen’s studies minor attending East Carolina University.

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ACLU Files Additional Challenge to NC’s Amendment One

Amendment One is being challenged and there is a chance that marriage for same-sex couples will soon be legalized in North Carolina. I really hope that this happens, it breaks my heart that we are still having to fight for equality.

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“Ask Her When She’s Sober”

One of my favorite unorthodox websites to visit when I have a few moments to spare time is “cracked”. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the website, go take a look and I guarantee you will be hooked.

“5 Shockingly Outdated Problems Women in the Military Face”, posted earlier this year, highlighted the many ways that the military has remained true to their sexist roots. #1 on the list was the military’s attempts to deal with sexual assault. Here is an excerpt:
Unless you don’t pay any attention to the news and, we guess, skipped the previous entries, you probably already know that the military has a problem with sexual assault. “There were 500 women on a 5,000 man ship,” Noble says, describing one of her later opportunities for sea duty. “Two weeks into our six-and-a-half-month cruise we had our first sexual assault. I had to carry flashlights around because I didn’t want to be in the dark on the deck. I joked that when I came off the smoke deck I should be dusted for prints.”

But as nightmarish as that sounds (imagine going to work every day knowing that one of your co-workers might attack you, and also they’re all armed) what you may not know is that the military’s attempts to deal with it are some of their biggest displays of incompetence since that time they accidentally dropped two nuclear bombs on North Carolina. First, there’s the infamous “Ask Her When She’s Sober” campaign, which is nice advice, but implies that all the perpetrators need is a poster reminding them of proper sexual etiquette. But then the campaigns turned their attention to the real source of the problem: the victims.

Read more of the article here:”

What are your thoughts?   Cushundra Williams

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Another Dove Ad and Experiment: The Beauty Patch

Dove has a new ad about its experiment on the “beauty patch.” Supposedly they recruited a group of women and told them they were going to wear a patch that would enhance their perceptions of themselves and make them feel more beautiful. At the end of the experiment, the women were told that there was nothing in the patch; the changes they had experienced were all in their minds. You can see a brief synopsis on the video. My question for all of you: is this for real? I can’t imagine people thinking there could be a patch with some kind of drug that would make you see yourself as more beautiful. These women have been all over the interview shows today and I just got a strong feeling this was faked. What do you think? As with the other ad by Dove, it also left me with very mixed feelings. Holly Mathews

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Women/Feminists in the Workplace

I have always found it interesting that in theory women want to better our standing as a sex, but often struggle to work together to be able to do so.  There are sayings all over the internet about this.  One such popular one is, “Don’t try to understand women.  Women understand women and they don’t like women.”  That saying to me is tragic.  It says that we are perpetuating the problem in which we are fighting against.  I think it is important for women to bond together in all aspects especially in the workplace when often it is considered a “man’s world.”  Women often feel threatened by each other, instead of seeing another teammate.  This article takes an interesting approach in how to tackle this dilemma and how to strive in a boy’s world.  Amber Thomas

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Equal Pay Day, April 8

President Obama is pushing Congress to pass equal pay legislation. While gender discrimination in pay was banned by law in 1963, the sad reality is that women still earn on average 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. For Latina and African-American women, it is even less. The reasons are complex. The law will push for transparency in making public the wages and salaries paid to all employees in the same business or work place. That is a start. If you do not know what competitors are paid, it is hard to negotiate for higher salaries. The other issues are harder to tackle. Women disproportionately end up in part-time work without benefits and even when they have full-time jobs, are less likely to be promoted to positions that pay more. In addition, women often go into fields that are paid much less relative to others; occupations like teaching, social work, etc. But Obama’s plan is a first step to call attention again to this issue and the need to find solutions, especially as the percentage of single mothers continues to increase and more and more women are supporting themselves and their children. How much of an issue do you see this to be for your generation?  Holly Mathewsequal

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Are Women Easy Targets in Politics?

I’m sure most of you have heard about the recent scandal surrounding New Jersey governor Chris Christie. In case you haven’t, the scandal refers to the massive gridlock that happened last September when lanes were closed to the entrance of the George Washington Bridge. The scandal part of this revolves around the fact that there was no real reason for the lanes being closed, therefore, causing a lot avoidable frustration. The blame was immediately directed toward Chris Christie and now, in an attempt to shift that blame, he has attracted some criticism.

The blame was shifted toward Bridget Anne Kelly, who was a staff member to Chris Christie before he fired her. This, in itself, is not necessarily controversial, what is, however, is the way in which Christie has spoken of her and the almost slanderous portrayal of Kelly in the report against her. With phrases like “she seemed emotional” and citing her failed romantic relationships and circumstances regarding a sick relative, it is clear that her personal life was being used to make her seem unstable. Not only is this unprofessional but it also appears to be completely contradictory to the way many people who knew Kelly portrayed her. This, along with the fact that the named co-conspirator to Ms. Kelly in the bridge scandal, a man, did not have his personal life brought up in the report against him. The general consensus regarding this, is one that I share; this was out-rightly sexist and unacceptable.

So, does this mean that the personal lives of women and their emotional states are fair game in the political world? Or was this a fluke? I, unfortunately, am inclined to believe the latter. What do you think?—Jenna Raleigh

You can read more here:

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