You’ve been charged with a domestic violence crime. You’re worried about your future, your relationships and your freedom. Will you have to go to jail? Will your significant other take you back? How can you avoid overly-harsh punishment or refute what you believe are baseless accusations against you?
While analyzing all these worries, it’s easy to feel isolated. The cultural taboo against domestic violence–especially alleged attacks on children–is profound in the United States. And understandably so. Even if you committed a “bad” act in a moment of passion or weakness, you (hopefully!) don’t wish for a more violent world. But obtaining compassion from friends and family–or even basic understanding–in the wake of DV charges can be hard.
You might find it useful to look outside of your situation and take a 20,000 foot view. How do other countries and cultures grapple with the challenges of domestic violence? What do they do (or fail to do) to protect and be sensitive to victims? What safeguards do they have in place (or not) to ensure fair treatment of the accused?
The diversity of perspectives might surprise you.
Before we dive into analysis, let’s start with a rather provocative question: Why is domestic violence considered such a serious offense in the first place?
To elaborate—if two partners get into a quarrel, and that quarrel happens to turn physical, what makes that action a criminal offense? To you, if you’re involved in that exchange, it might just seem like a really bad fight. Why does the law need to get involved? Keep those questions in mind as we take a look at the numbers—the statistics regarding domestic violence around the world.
A Bird’s-Eye View
Before we talk about rules and attitudes in specific countries, let’s take a look at a few global statistics compiled by the World Council of Churches and the World Health Organization (WHO):
〈 Women are five times more likely than men to be the victims of domestic violence.
〈 At least 1 in 3 women worldwide have been the victim of physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime—in the majority of cases committed by an intimate partner.
〈 Approximately 38 percent of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner, according to WHO. Other studies place the estimates between 40-70 percent.
What Increases the Risk for Domestic Violence?
According to WHO, domestic violence is more likely to occur in the following situations:
〈 When education is low;
〈 When poverty is high;
〈 When one or the other partner was exposed to domestic violence as a child;
〈 When alcohol abuse is involved; and
〈 When cultural attitudes towards gender are more permissive of abuse and/or when the laws do not prohibit it.
This last point deserves some attention because women tend to be victimized most in countries where domestic violence is considered culturally acceptable. These are the nations where women are most at risk.
Nations Having No Laws Against Domestic Violence
According to World Atlas, there are currently at least 45 nations worldwide that do not have specific laws to deal with domestic violence. Most of the nations on this list are in Africa and the Middle East—places like Iran, Qatar and the Sudan—where gender attitudes are slanted heavily against women. However, there are a few surprises on the list include Estonia, Morocco and Russia (more about Russia later).
Remarkably, many women in these nations have also accepted DV as a norm. UNICEF has found a surprising number of women in these countries believe hitting your significant other is okay—including 59 percent in Iraq, 70 percent in Niger and 89 percent in Mali.
As awareness of the challenge of intimate partner violence and abuse spreads, we see more signs of nations taking a hard line. Consider the following:
〈 More nations are adopting laws to address domestic violence. According to the World Council of Churches, in 2003, only 45 nations worldwide had laws on the books about DV; by 2006, that number had nearly doubled.
〈 Some nations with existing protections are now making their laws even stricter. As BBC News reported, a 2015 law in England and Wales expanded the existing definition of domestic abuse to include psychological abuse—specifically, “controlling or coercive behavior.” In 2017, Prime Minister Teresa May endorsed more legislation to give the law more teeth.
〈 Increased legal protection for women coincides with other types of social progress. “Strong laws matter,” claims the Washington Post. “Countries with greater domestic legal protections against gender violence have less gender-based inequality, greater levels of human development and lower female HIV rates.”
Places Moving in the Other Direction
In January of last year, as USA Today reports, the Russian parliament voted overwhelmingly to “decriminalize” domestic violence, making most instances of abuse “administrative” offenses rather than criminal ones.
A study conducted at the University of Michigan notes that, while most parts of the world are increasingly rejecting domestic violence, a few countries like Madagascar and Indonesia have actually become more tolerant of it in recent years. Even some nations with track records on gender equality are seeing spikes in allegations—for example, the Nordic countries of Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, according to the Washington Post.
Domestic violence obviously remains a serious issue around the world, but for those who have been charged with a crime–perhaps unfairly, perhaps with some basis–the experience of defending against such accusations feels overwhelming. If you need legal assistance protecting your rights, we are here to help. Please give us a call today to get insight and clarity on your path forward.