1. Violence and domestic violence

There is no universal agreement about the definition of violence. Definitions reflect societal values, which are subject to historical and cultural change. Furthermore, definitions are influenced by philosophical, juridical, sociological and criminological debates. Discussing violence means discussing a taboo – the taboo of exerting violence. So far, definitions describe acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and further, the threshold of state intervention to maintain social order. In European countries a tendency toward an increasing acceptance of non-physical forms of violence can be observed. For example, most stalking activities do not aim at the body of the target person but their psyche. Nevertheless, stalking is now subject to legal sanctions in some European countries.                      

Some theorists (e.g. von Trotha 2000, Sofsky 2001) characterize violence as being accessible to every single person, regardless of situation and finally without reason. This characterization assumes violence is highly unpredictable individual behaviour. Individuals behave differently even though they share same motivation or vice versa, act the same way out of different motivations. The circumstances in which the behaviour/action occurs are neither the grounds nor prerequisite, nor sufficient to cause the exertion of violence. This approach leads to the conclusion that there is no sense in violence prevention. Other theorists, on the other hand, assume that there are inhibiting or promoting circumstances that influence violent behaviour. Those circumstances are nonetheless not causes. Both, cause and circumstance are the basis for violence prevention.According to Foucault (1977) jurisdiction is a main aspect of crime prevention and particularly the awareness of penalization. The main function of punishment is prevention. Since punishment itself is kind of violence since it restricts the physical mobility of offenders (imprisonment) or, as in the United States, destroys lives (death penalty). Therefore it is necessary to differentiate between legal and illegal forms of violence. Whereas legal violence belongs to the state, illegal violence is exerted by individuals.

Gender bias of violence

Looking at individuals, violence might appear as unpredictable, reasonless and accessible to everyone. According to von Trotha, violence is nevertheless a matter of male youth, an “antithesis of female, childhood and old age”. This means, women do not have the same access to violence as men. This fact lead to assumptions, for example, that women do not exert violence or use non-physical forms of violence. Both assumptions are owed to female socialisation, which promotes the absence of violence since it is deemed discordant with motherhood. New research about youth gangs and in particular girl gangs shows, that this specific aspect of gender is eroding. Young women use physical violence in conflicts. Further, even though they might be a minority, an exception of the rule, women kill their children, batter them, batter their partners and commit other criminal offences. Nevertheless, there are at least eight times more men in prison than women. Women might be less violent and less criminal than men, women are also involved in violence and crime. So, the question is why and when women transgress gender biased borders of social order and become violent. Hopefully, this tool box offers one possible answer.

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

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