5.2 Gender biased approach

Representatives of this model raise the issue of high prevalence of domestic violence and the vast majority of male offenders and female victims, low sanction rate and societal background of the perpetrator’s attitude toward their violent actions (e.g. Walker 1979, Sonkin/Martin/Walker 1985, Walker 1990, Godenzi 1996, Hageman-White 1997, Brückner 2002). In this gender biased approach, battering is viewed as part of broader societal norms and practices that subordinate and oppress women within institutions and individual relationships. Therefore, battering is a social problem and not an individual one. Men and women are ‘performing’ gender: violent behaviour is acquired and interweaved with presentations of masculinity and femininity for men and women respectively (Godenzi 1996). Further, men’s aggression is rarely negatively sanctioned. This weakness strengthens their attitude towards battering as a positive demonstration of virility. In this model, the position of women is described as a) victims and b) supporting a complementary structure, meaning men and women are mutually strengthening “the transgressing, uncontrolled and at the same time controlling behaviour of the man and the acquiescing, paralyzed behaviour of the woman” (Brückner 2002).
The gender biased approach is based on the cognitive-behavioural theory, stating that violent behaviour is acquired and encouraged by societal values and norms. Domestic violence is analysed as a complex combination of thought and attitudinal processes and overt behaviours that are acquired and serve particular psychosocial functions for the perpetrator, e.g. confirming his virility and male privileges.

From this approach, local and national intervention networks have been developed, where institutions such as the social welfare office, youth welfare office, bailiffs, police and prosecuting authorities pull together with women shelters, women helplines, health care providers and many others to combat domestic violence. It is assumed that when different members of the community coordinate their efforts to protect battered women and hold batterers accountable, these efforts are more successful. Coordination helps to ensure that the system works faster and better for victims, that victims are protected and receive the services they need, and that batterers are held accountable and cease their abusive behaviour.

Coordinated community response programs also often engage the entire community in efforts to change the social norms and attitudes that contribute to domestic violence. Even though the main focus is given to protection of the victim (mostly women), training programs for perpetrators have been developed, combining a cognitive behavioural approach with feminist analysis of gender bias of society.

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Funded by:and
European Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth.

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