Ethical issues raised by abuse between domestic partners fall into categories of treatment and prevention. Treatment includes breaking the silence that surrounds domestic violence; holding abusers legally accountable for their actions and requiring them to cease their violence; listening to victims; helping victims recognize their strengths and believe they are worthy to live in safety; and helping victims navigate through social, economic, legal, and religious barriers to safety (NiCarthy). The balance between active intervention to keep women from being hurt or killed, and respecting their need to decide how and when to end an abusive relationship, is difficult to find.

Nuancing the caricature of completely violent man and wholly submissive victimized woman is also essential in prevention, treatment, and ethical analysis. Unpacking the complicated dynamics of love, anger, and violence in particular relationships may reduce incidences of violence in those relationships. Some men are battered by women, and abuse occurs in same-sex relationships. Yet it is vital to remember the context of unequal power within which men and women learn to love, fight, attack, and seek safety. No woman will be safe until social, political, and economic institutions ensure her access to the material resources she needs to support herself and her children.

Laws alone are not enough, in the United States or any other country, to prevent abuse. In Bangladesh, a nation with very strong laws against battering, violence against women continues to rise sharply (Venis and Horton). Prevention includes challenging the prevailing social norms of sexism and patriarchy, the cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity, and the assumption that violence is a legitimate way of resolving conflict between people or groups of people. Broad economic and educational empowerment of women is ultimately the only way to end violence against women.


SEE ALSO: Family and Family Medicine; Feminism; Harm; Human Rights; Sexual Ethics; Women, Historical and Cross-Cultural Perspectives; and other Abuse, Interpersonal subentries

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