A History Of Battering
Research indicates that wife beating began with the emergence of monogamous relationships. Women and children were regarded as the husbands’ property. They were confined to certain parts of the home and restricted from public activity.
Women were burned at the stake for refusing intercourse and having miscarriages, even though the miscarriage may have been caused by abuse. If a woman showed any signs of a will of her own, the husband was expected by the church and state to chastise her. During the Middle Ages women could be flogged, exiled for years, or killed if they committed adultery or any of numerous lesser offenses. The French Code of Chivalry specified that a husband of a scolding wife could knock her to the earth, strike her in the face with his fist, and break her nose so she would always be blemished and ashamed.
In the late 17th century, Peter the Great of Russia instituted reforms. He ordered that women could be invited to public gatherings. He also gave women the right to individual consent to marriage, along with the right to full ownership of property.
Laws were slowly being implemented to set limits on abuse, but not In 1824, the Mississippi Supreme Court was unsuccessful in keeping the right to chastise a wife from being written formally into law. English law changed enough to allow a wife to separate (not divorce) from her husband if the abuse got to the point of endangering her life.
English common law allowed a husband to give his wife a severe beating with whips and clubs. In 1856, a Protestant sect defended the practice of wife-beating as an “article of faith.” As civilization progressed, communities set limits on the beating of women and children. Blows, thumps, kicks, or punches were limited to the back because they did not leave any visible marks. Only when the attacks were public and beyond the limits set by the community was the husband rebuked.
Finally in 1874, the North Carolina Supreme Court nullified a husband’s right to chastise his wife “under any circumstances.” But the law included, “if no permanent injury has been inflicted, nor malice, cruelty, nor dangerous violence shown by the husband, it is then better to draw the curtains, shut out the public gaze, and leave the parties to forgive and forget.”
1967 The state of Maine opened one of the first shelters in the United States.
In February 1972, Women's Advocates (Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN) moved to a one bedroom apartment to offer minimal shelter services. In 1974, they expanded and purchased a house.
In 1971 Women's Advocates of Minneapolis/St. Paul was among the first groups to develop from a woman's consciousness raising group. The organization built on a collective, rather than a hierarchical model - all the way to the Board of Directors which included staff and ex-shelter residents. The group's first project, a legal information service in the County Legal Aid office, started in March 1972.
In 1977 in Minnesota, the first state funding bill for domestic violence services was drafted jointly by a state Senator and a Consortium of Battered Women. The first award of $50,000 was for community education.
In Minnesota, it was not until 1979 that any type of law was established with a penalty for beating a spouse.
In 1982, Self vs. Self, the California Supreme Court ruled that a woman could not sue her husband for damages resulting from abuse, because it would destroy the “peace and harmony” of the home.
In 1985 Tracey Thurman won her suit against a Connecticut police department for negligence and violation of her civil rights. Her husband received a 15-year sentence for attacking her, stabbing her and repeatedly kicking her in the head.
In 1992 The U.S. Surgeon General ranked abuse by husbands to be the leading cause of injuries to women aged 15 to 44.
In 1999 October was designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Activities were held in recognition of victims of domestic violence and the movement to stop domestic and family violence. Activities included: The Silent Witness Project, a national demonstration using mannequins in public places to represent the many who have died at the hands of abusive partners; Take Back The Night demonstrations; the popular project for children, "Hands Are Not For Hitting"; and The Clothes Line Project, a public arts demonstration in which t-shirts are hung out on clothes lines and decorated with statements about relationship abuse.