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Chapter Two – History of Violence in the Family
CHAPTER TWO introduces the student to the history of violence against women and children
that has led to the current crisis of family violence. Here, family violence is situated within legal
and social boundaries that alternatively accept and condemn the violence. Included is the recent
legal and social movement that forms the basis for current law.
Students are introduced to the three major categories of family violence: Child abuse, intimate
partner violence, and elder violence. Each is defined and explained. Forms of family violence
are outlined in a way that should be discussed. Since legal definitions of family provide the
basis for the criminal justice response, students are introduced to the major categories of
relationships that are recognized by law as ―family‖.
Instructor Notes for Chapter Two
1. Show a film or film clip on the historical perspective of violence against women.
Videos are available online at Films for the Humanities & Sciences. Visit their website for
current selections of films for rent and sale at www.films.com. Women Make Movies is another
source for suitable films. Their website is www.wmm.com. Films on violence issues from
Intermedia, Inc. are more recent and cover diversity issues. Visit their website for current titles
A good choice for this block of instruction would be the film entitled A Jury of Her Peers. This
classic film is a based on the 1917 Susan Glaspall short story of the same name. The story takes
place on a desolate American farm in the early 1900’s, where a farmer is found murdered in his
sleep and his wife is jailed as the prime suspect.
An excellent choice for this block is the made-for-TV movie A cry for help: The Tracy Thurman
Story. Tracey Thurman was a real-life Connecticut housewife who, throughout her marriage,
suffered horrendous abuse at the hands of her husband. The beatings culminate in a single bloody
night when Buck Thurman stabs his estranged wife 13 times. She survives–barely–and Buck is
arrested. Having failed to get proper protection from the local police force, Tracey successfully
sued the officers in 1989. The long-range result was the Thurman Law, which called for
mandatory arrests in wife-beating cases in Connecticut and several other states. Nancy McKeon,
who plays Tracey Thurman in A Cry for Help, starred in the film in the hope that it would
prevent Buck Thurman’s early release from prison. A Cry For Help: The Tracy Thurman Story
first aired on October 2, 1989; Thurman was released in 1991. While rare, the film can be
3. Assign an internet project.
Ask each student to go onto the Internet and locate one site relating to intimate partner violence.
Alternatively, the student may be required to log on to one of the Internet sites that are listed in
Chapter 14 of the text. They should report to the class what was found on the site.
4. Assign a research project.
Assign students to research their state domestic law to identify the legally recognized
relationships within your state that have been defined as ―domestic.‖ Discussion should confirm
student understanding on the importance of the criminal justice definition.
Supplemental Reading Suggestion:
Maxwell, C., Garner, J., & Fagan, J. (2003). The preventive effects of arrest on intimate partner
violence: Research, policy, and theory. Domestic Violence Report, 9(1), 9-10.
Bradley v. State, 1 Walker 156 (Miss S. Ct. 1824).
Bradwell v. Illinois, 83 U.S. 130 (U.S. S. Ct. 1873).
Fulgham v. State, 46 ALA 146-47 143 (S. Ct. Ala 1871).
Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (U.S. S. Ct. 1967).
State v. Oliver, 70 N. C. 44 (N.C. S. Ct. 1874).
State vs. Jessie Black, 60 N.C. 266 (N.C. S. Ct. 1864).
Thurman v. City of Torrington, 595 F. Supp. 1531 (U.S. Dist. 1984).
Chapter Two Outline
Man Tries to Burn Down House
EXAMPLES OF FAMILY VIOLENCE
EARLY SOCIAL–LEGAL HISTORY
The Ancient World of Greece
The Roman Empire
British Common Law
MARITAL RELATIONS IN EARLY AMERICA
The Next 100 Years
African American Families
Native American Families
One Hundred Years of Secrecy
WHAT IS FAMILY VIOLENCE TODAY?
Intimate Partner Violence
FORMS OF INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE
LEGAL FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS
DEFINITIONS OF COMMON TERMS
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW
Man tries to burn house down
Charles had been drinking heavily and had an argument with his ex-girlfriend. He threatened to
burn her house down. A short time later he set fire to some cardboard boxes on the porch causing
charring to the wood before she could put it out. Charles then tried to light a door on fire with a
lighter before running to his truck. Charles started up his truck and starting ramming the vehicle
owned by his ex-girlfriend. The ex-girlfriend indicated that she feared for her life.
Question: Is there any indication that this scenario represented an intimate partner violence
situation? Explain your answer.
Answer: The domestic relationship is “ex-girlfriend” and may constitute a substantial dating
relationship. The purpose of including this category is to make students aware that the
relationships differ from state to state; therefore they must investigate the legal definition of
domestic relationship from a specific state perspective.
This would be a good time to introduce your students to the civil statutes that govern family law
in your state, either in your library or through an online search.
Questions for Review
1. Discuss the historical foundation regarding the domination of men over women.
ANSWER: Domination of men over women and children has a strong historical foundation.
Some experts suggest that this inequality of the sexes is the foundation for the assumption of
male superiority and the foundation for intimate partner violence. By providing husbands with
the right to punish wayward wives, the system gives a rationale to male brutality against women.
Others advise that the social order was just that, an order to life’s relations for purposes of
2. What is the law of Romulus?
ANSWER: Under the laws of Romulus, the wife could not divorce her husband. He was granted
rights of divorce when the woman had used drugs or magic, and for adultery. Other reasons were
stipulated as acceptable motives for the male seeking divorce, but he would forfeit part of his
estate for doing so.
3. Discuss the order in which men and women were viewed the same under British Law.
ANSWER: Under common law, women and children were no longer viewed as property, but the
results were the same. The order was based on the belief that when two are joined in marriage,
they become one, socially and legally. The rights of the woman are then subordinate to those of
the male, unlike the woman who remained single.
4. What did Napoleon Bonaparte do to influence French Law?
ANSWER: In the early nineteenth century Napoleon Bonaparte formalized the civil code in
France, subjugating women as legal minors for their entire lives. Under the Napoleonic Code
wives could be beaten, punched, and permanently disfigured for minor disobedience or for
5. Describe and discuss Puritan Law.
ANSWER: As early as 1599, Puritan ministers in England spoke out against wife beating.
Bringing this objection to America, the Puritans were the first to prohibit intimate partner
violence through legislation. Puritan laws provided penalties for wife beating, consisting of fines,
whipping, or both. Since wife beating was considered a social problem that involved the
community, enforcement included ―holy watching‖ by neighbors. The Puritan state also
intervened to discipline disobedient wives in behalf of husbands.
6. Why is the Supreme Court of Mississippi significant?
ANSWER: In 1824 the Supreme Court of Mississippi upheld the husband’s right of
chastisement in cases of ―great emergency,‖ saying that husbands should not be subjected to
―vexatious‖ prosecutions for assault and battery. This period of non-protection for victims of
intimate partner violence lasted from the late 1770s to the 1850s. During this period the option
of abused wives to seek warrants to secure the good behavior of their husbands declined in
significance. Complaints of breach of the peace changed by the end of the nineteenth century
and could only involve disturbances in public places, not inside homes.
7. What was the first national study of intimate partner violence?
ANSWER: The first national study of intimate partner violence, Behind Closed Doors, reported
that spouses strike partners in one out of every six households. That now-famous study on family
violence found that there was little difference in the rate of violence between husbands and
8. What was the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment and why was it important?
ANSWER: The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment is important on a number of levels;
first of all, it was the first scientifically controlled test of the effects of arrest for any crime.
Secondly, the authors considered the three most common approaches used by police in
responding to domestic violence and evaluated them to see which was most effective in reducing
repeat offending. Third, it was instrumental in the enactment of mandatory arrest procedures in
cases of domestic violence. The results of the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment
helped to change police response to domestic violence nationwide and shaped current response
to intimate partner violence in America.
The findings of the study to assess the effects of various police responses, including arrest,
suggested that the arrest of the perpetrator produced the least amount of repeat violence for the
same victims within a six-month period. Subsequent intimate partner violence was reduced by
nearly 50 percent when the suspect was arrested, as opposed to other interventions, such as
ordering one of the parties out of the residence or counseling the couple.
9. What are the three major categories of family violence?
ANSWER: They are intimate partner violence, child abuse, and abuse against older adults.
10. Name at least five forms of intimate partner violence.
ANSWER: Beating; pulling hair; shoving; striking; pulling; punching; slapping; kicking;
hitting; choking; biting; pointing weapons; throwing things; threatening; harassing; sexual abuse;
Fill-in the Blank Questions
1. Most _________________ cultures were matriarchal, family membership and descent were
traced through the mother’s side.
ANS: Native American
2. In 1873 the Court decided in _____________________ that the laws of Illinois did not
abridge any of the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States by legislating what
offices and positions should be filled by men only.
ANS: Bradwell v. Illinois
3. In 1882 _____________ became the first state to pass a law that made wife beating a crime,
punishable by 40 lashes or a year in jail.
4. States created innovative laws to allow the practice of battering. The __________, a rule that
that meant a husband could only be criminally prosecuted for injuring his wife if those injuries
were severe enough to require stitches, was overturned in 1864 but continued as an informal
determining factor used by police as to whether or not to make an arrest in cases of intimate
ANS: The stitch rule
5. The ______________, allowed police to ―interfere‖ with a husband’s actions toward his wife
only after permanent injury had been inflicted on her.
ANS: Curtain rule
6. Contributing to the use of police as a primary response to intimate partner violence was the
success of _________________ brought against police departments for the failure to provide
equal protection to victims of intimate partner violence.
ANS: Civil suits
7. ___________________________________ conducted a study on mandatory arrest laws and
ANS: The National Center on Women and Family Law
8. Family violence today grouped into three major categories: ______________,
__________________, and ___________________.
ANS: Intimate partner violence, child abuse, and elder abuse
9. __________ is now commonly used interchangeably with intimate partner violence to refer to
the pattern of violent and coercive behavior used to gain control in an intimate relationship.
10. Elder abuse may involve physical, sexual, or emotional/psychological violence and neglect,
abandonment, or financial exploitation. Most researchers agree on two general categories of
elder abuse: ____________ and _____________.
ANS: Domestic and institutional
Multiple Choice Questions
Identify the letter of the choice that best completes the statement or answers the question.
____ 1. The majority of victims that suffer from family violence are
a. men c. children
b. women d. all of these
____ 2. The contemporary field of violence is the study of a
a. psychological problem c. social problem
b. historical problem d. philosophical problem
____ 3. Laws on violence differ from
a. country to country c. religion to religion
b. society to society d. societies to homes
____ 4. What do experts suggest the inequality of the sexes is a foundation for?
a. Intimate partner violence c. More physical abuse and violence
b. Male superiority d. None of these
____ 5. Referring back to history, what was recognized as the most common and enduring
a. Matriarchy c. Patriarchy
b. Hierarchy d. Monarchy
____ 6. The earliest known body of law is
a. The Code of Hammurabi c. the Solomon Code
b. Draconian Law d. Roman Law
____ 7. Originally in Rome, the husband or father had the right to kill their wife/daughter if
a. got caught cheating c. committed adultery
b. attempted to divorce d. did not submit to rules
____ 8. What was believed to have been accepted under English law?
a. Women could divorce their husbands c. Physical force
b. Having more than one wife d. Both B and C
____ 9. The earliest case of intimate partner violence was heard in
a. British Court c. French Court
b. Roman Court d. None of these
____ 10. Olympe de Gouges was known for
a. The Declaration of Rights of Men c. The Civil Code of Law
b. her accomplishments regarding French
d. The Declaration of Rights of Women
Indicate whether the sentence or statement is true or false.
____ 1. Family violence is a crime. The victims are from every walk of life, rich and poor,
of every race, and religion. The majority of victims are women, but men are
terrorized in their homes as well.
____ 2. In the past, violence against intimates has never been tolerated as an accepted
social conduct and alternatively condemned as deviant behavior.
____ 3. Punishment of errant wives was in the best interest of the husband under the
system of patriarchy.
____ 4. The first written laws appeared in Rome around 621 B.C.
____ 5. In Ancient Rome, The most important duties for a city-dwelling woman were to
bear children—preferably male—and to run the household.
____ 6. The British immigrants reestablished their customs of inheritance by the eldest
son, called primogeniture.
____ 7. During the 1850s, the option of abused wives to seek warrants to secure the good
behavior of their husbands declined in significance.
____ 8. Early colonial statutes made it a criminal act to marry outside one’s race or to
conduct such a marriage ceremony.
Internet Based Exercises
1. Have you ever wondered what the domestic violence laws were in your state? Here is an
online source of information that provides a drop-down box for you to find your state. Compare
your state with one or more to find the differences (if any). Go to http://www.womenslaw.org/
2. Do you know what domestic violence is? Go to this national site for information and
definitions: http://www.ndvh.org/educate/what_is_dv.html. Write a short essay explaining your
3. The Department for Health and Human Services maintains an excellent Web site on different
forms of family violence. Go to http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/dvp/IPV/ and get the facts on a topic
of interest to you. Prepare an oral report to give in class.
4. Do an Internet search and locate the warning signs for domestic violence. Prepare a list of at
least 10 red flags.