Because attitudes towards domestic violence differ between cultures

After more than six weeks of testimony in a libel trial, the fate of actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has now been decided in Depp’s favor. This high-profile process has been parodied, discussed, and remixed since it began on April 11, largely due to the fact that it was publicly broadcast and streamed live on YouTube.

Although the response has been polarized, the media and the general public have generally tended to side with Depp. TikTok’s hashtag #teamjohnnydepp has over 77 million views and videos teasing Heard’s emotional testimony flood Instagram’s trending page. Concerned viewers noted that regardless of whether Depp is believed to be guilty of domestic violence or a victim of it, the coverage of the trial highlights the issue and teases her.

Not since Americans sat hard in front of their televisions during the OJ Simpson trial in 1995, has a court case been followed so wildly. While few understand the intricacies of the legal system, even a novice might ascertain that the public appetite for the show has bordered on numbness and possibly harm. Domestic violence (DV) is a serious and very common crime in countries around the world. However, despite the seemingly united international consensus against it, the standards of guilt vary widely across countries and socio-ethnic groups.

What is Domestic Violence (DV)?

Traditionally, DV has been associated with physical violence that occurs between a husband and wife, but in recent decades it is now more commonly defined to include all acts of physical, sexual, economic and psychological violence that can be committed by a family member or from an intimate companion.

DV can take many forms such as assault, threats, stalking, neglect and / or economic deprivation. With the growing popularity of social media, technology can also be used to threaten, blackmail and stalk victims.

(Indian Express)

Experts largely attribute DV to the need to assert power and gain control and to manage feelings of stress and inadequacy. Lenore Walker, a sociologist who founded the Domestic Violence Institute, also points out the prevalence of cycles of abuse, in which the abuser experiences four stages of emotion. The first is when tension builds up, leading to abuse. The next is a calm phase where the offender can feel guilty and leads to a third phase where he can be kind and loving. Finally, when the victim may begin to feel a sense of normalcy and hope, tensions build, after which the abuse is likely to continue.

DV is one of the most underreported crimes in the world for both men and women, with a 2011 review article found that most victims do not report the crime. This could be because they were financially trapped in the deal or because they felt a sense of guilt or shame.

While women often promote DV, male violence is often more harmful. According to a U.S. Department of Justice crime analysis, more than 40% of adult women’s emergency room visits are caused by the violence of a male intimate partner. Additionally, according to a 1998 National Crime Victimization Survey in the United States, women experience violent domestic crime at a rate five times higher than men.

Who is the most vulnerable?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the most common factors in DV is the feeling that abuse, verbal or physical, is acceptable. Other factors include substance abuse, poverty, mental health problems, and addiction to the abuser.

Men who perpetrate violence are likely to believe that their victim deserves the abuse and that their inadequacy is the root cause. Social learning theory postulates that people who witnessed or experienced abuse in childhood are more likely to initiate it.

In developed nations, the DV rate is much higher in households with household incomes below $ 7,500. This is because financial insecurity creates stress and because financially vulnerable women are less able to leave abusive relationships.

Laws against DV also vary from country to country and while it is largely banned in developing countries, the same cannot be said of developing countries. In the UAE, for example, the Supreme Court upheld a man’s right to physically discipline his wife and her children as long as he leaves no physical marks behind.

(Indian Express)

Furthermore, DV is more acceptable in developing countries because attitudes support the practice. According to a UNICEF survey, the percentage of women aged 15 to 49 who think a husband is justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances is 90% in Afghanistan, 87% in Mali and 80%. in the Central African Republic.

According to Violence against women in families and relationships“Globally, wife beating is considered justified in some circumstances by the majority of the population in various countries, most commonly in situations of actual or suspected infidelity on the part of wives or their ‘disobedience’ to a husband or partner” .

(Indian Express)

In many places, so-called “honor killings” are also endorsed by a wide swath of society with a survey finding that 33.4 percent of teenagers in Amman, the capital of Jordan, approved the practice. Inappropriate clothing is also considered a cause for abuse in countries like Afghanistan, where over 60% of women believe a man is justified in beating his wife if he is wearing inappropriate clothing.

(Indian Express)

According to Human Rights Watch, customs such as bride price only exacerbate the abuse as women are therefore considered to be the property of their husbands. Forced and early marriages also contribute to the problem.

Furthermore, religion also plays an important factor. In The response to domestic violenceone group of authors argues that Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism have all traditionally supported male-dominated families and that “socially sanctioned violence against women has been persistent since ancient times.”

(Indian Express)

Of all the major religions, none calls for as much control over women’s rights as Islam. While some authors like Phyllis Chesler argue that Islam is linked to violence against women, others like Tahira Khan, professor at Aga Khan University, argue that it is the cultural inferiority of women in Islamic countries that leads to abuse, not the religion itself.

Data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) in India showed that women (52%) were also more likely than men (42%) to believe that a man is justified in beating his wife. The highest acceptance for DV was in Telangana at 84%, while the lowest was in Sikkim, at 17%.

Victim blame is also widespread, even in industrialized economies. A 2010 Eurobaramater poll found that 52% of respondents agreed with the statement that “provocative behavior by women” was the main cause of violence.

How does the media cover DV?

According to a study by Reproductive Health Journal, the mass media “reinforce existing inequalities and traditional roles and models of femininity and masculinity” with cultural products consumed by a young audience, “praise the subordination of women to men and sometimes even justify violence”. As such, mass media play a key role in defining “romantic relationships” and often perpetuate an ideal of love that supports unequal relationships.

The media often made fun of the DV as well. In 2011 the Family Guy episode highlighted abusive relationships from a comic perspective while, in Kasauti Zindagi Kayan Indian soap opera, a woman who has been slapped by her husband begs her family not to intervene on her behalf.

According to Anne O’Brien, a professor at Maynooth University, victims of DV are often portrayed in a way that justifies their abuse by mainstream news. She notes that the coverage usually questions what the woman may have done to provoke the abuse while the perpetrators are left off the hook because their actions are seen as out of character. She further argues that the international media provides a simplistic narrative of the abuse and “completely erases” the identity of women.

A University of Oxford report further states that DV’s media portrayal tends to provide “class and racial talk about abusers and their victims that frame domestic violence as the greatest product of the marginalized classes.” He also claims that after the 9/11 attacks, media coverage of Islamic nations justified “progressive” Western cultures with “backward” Eastern ones.

However, despite the inability of the media to adequately address this issue, its potential to positively influence narrative is profound. According to Journal of the economy of peace and security, exposure to the media can be a “positive source for changing social norms”. For example, it points to a study from Tamil Nadu that found that the introduction of cable television with programs featuring “urban attitudes” is associated with a 16% decrease in the acceptance of domestic violence by women and a decrease in 8.8% of their preference for having sons.

(Indian Express)

Likewise, following the highly publicized domestic violence trial of American football star OJ Simpson, then-US President Bill Clinton approved the creation of a national domestic violence telephone line that has reached record numbers in the past. weeks. However, the studies also found that while the number of DV-related journal articles increased during the main phase of the case and after the trial ended, the number began to decline again.

The impact of the media is perhaps best seen in cases that never go to court. In 2009, when Chris Brown punched his then-girlfriend Rihanna in the face, he was largely chastised on social media, despite the incident never being tried. Today, a person accused of DV can be “wiped out” online, his reputation eternally forged in the annals of social media.

This phenomenon was observed in 2015 when 20-year-old Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Turner was served only with a six-month sentence, but a report of Buzzfeed the publication of the victim’s statement was one of the most shared stories in the history of the site.

The outcome of the Depp Heard trial means that Heard is found guilty of defaming Depp in the eyes of the law. However, that doesn’t justify the vitriol and skepticism he faced during the trial. Perhaps the best lesson we can learn about reporting or commenting on domestic violence cases is that our judgment should be based on that of the law. Nobody wins when social media denigrates the alleged victim or harasser before a verdict is issued.