Gender and violence

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The topic of this special issue of The Journal of Gender Research is gender and violence. The guest editors Margunn Bjørnholt and Solveig Laugerud wanted to tie those two fields closer together by focusing on violence, sexual assault and gender: What does gender mean in this context and (how) do we need to understand intimate violence and sexual assault as a gendered phenomena today? The six articles contributes to new and deeper knowledge about the relationship between violence and gender, and also provides new perspectives on gender and violence in Scandinavia.

DOI: 10.18261/issn.1891-1781


The importance of gender in Danish «gender-neutral» policy on intimate violence

By William Østerby Sørensen and Eva Bertelsen

In this article, we characterize the development towards a gender-neutral focus in Danish policy addressing intimate violence. The analytical focus is on whether and how gender and violence are understood as related. Five political action plans that the Danish state has issued in the field, from 2002 to 2019, will be analysed with a theoretical perspective informed by Carol Bacchi’s operationalization of Foucault’s concept of «problematization». The article shows how the dominant understanding of intimate violence as a problem has shifted from being represented as «men’s violence against women» to the gender-neutral «violence in intimate relationships». It is particularly noteworthy that the political introduction of a focus on male victimization challenges the gender-based understanding of equality, in relations to intimate violence, and causes a reconfiguration of the dominating representation of the relationship between gender and violence.

Keywords: intimate violence, violence in close relationships, violence against women, gender-neutrality, equality policy, gender-based

The problem of juridification: arguments for a different conversation about rape

By Anette Bringedal Houge

In this article, I start from the premise that rape as experience and rape as a legal term are different phenomena – the first being an embodied integrity violation, the latter a concept defined through legal veridiction – and the two only sometimes overlap. I problematize the juridification of rape that makes criminal law the political answer to sexual assault, and rape the property of the court. I argue that our legal frames of meeting, understanding and recognizing rape have some limitations which stirs the need for a different conversation about rape, where the victimʼs experience does not have to be weighed by legal and judicially appointed experts in order to be recognized and taken seriously.

Keywords: Rape, criminal justice, juridification, public debate, expert domination, recognition

Attitudes towards gender equality and violence against women

By Brita Gjerstad, Kathrine Skoland, Ragnhild Gjerstad-Sørensen, and Ingunn Studsrød

Partner violence is a global problem with major health, social and economic costs. Women are particularly vulnerable. Through analyses of a survey (N=1029) on attitudes towards gender equality and attitudes to violence in close relationships, we analyze i) how Norwegians assess different attitudes that trivialize and minimize violence in relationships, and ii) how variations in such attitudes can be explained by attitudes to gender equality. The findings show significant correlations between attitudes towards gender equality and attitudes towards violence. Respondents with negative attitudes towards gender equality tend to downplay and privatize violence against women. The study shows that men report more negative attitudes towards gender equality than women. Men with negative attitudes to gender equality are to a large extent the same men who are inclined to excuse violence and believe that violence should be kept in the family. We argue that this should be seen in the context of an individualization in society that holds individuals accountable for their choices. We question whether this responsibility will be greater for women living in a welfare state that supports gender equality and offers help to victims of violence.

Keywords: partner violence, attitudes, gender equality, blaming, survey, regression analysis

Men attending Family Counselling Offices: Working Alliances between Therapists and Clients

By Dagmara Bossy and Monika Marie Bergflødt

In the context of a polarized debate on gender, domestic violence and parenting, research on men and violence distinguishes between men who have conducted abuse and men who are victims of abuse. Public help services often offer help for one of the two categories. There is however a lack of studies challenging this polarity. Our article explores men’s meetings with a public support service that meets the whole family, and that has the potential to prevent or deal with domestic violence. This article is based on a qualitative study of the experiences of nine heterosexual men and their encounters with the family counseling services in Norway, in cases involving violence or custody. We pay special attention to men who have been accused of being violent, men who received help with their violent behavior and men who have experienced stressful custody cases. Using the theoretical framework of therapeutic alliance and Elias’s theory on civilized behavior, we find that the alliance between men and their therapists depends on whether they experience mutual trust. When feeling threatened, men seem to execute behaviors that may break the alliance. Being attentive to the child’s interests emerges as mediating the disagreements.

Keywords: Domestic violence, gender, parenthood, family counselling

Exposure to sexual violence among Sámi women in Sweden: the SámiHET 2021 study

By Jennie Brandén, Lena Maria Nilsson, Monica Burman, and Jon Petter Stoor

The issue of sexual violence has in recent years gained increased attention in Sápmi. Based on the population-based study «Sámi Health on Equal Terms» (SámiHET) 2021, this paper examines exposure to sexual violence among Sámi women and men in Sweden, compared to women and men in the Swedish population. The analysis shows that sexual violence against women constitutes a significant problem in the Sámi society, to at least the same extent as in the rest of Sweden. Sámi women report a significantly higher exposure to several forms of sexual violence compared to women in Sweden, including exposure to rape and attempted rape. The analysis also shows that Sámi women are more likely to seek healthcare and report to the police after sexual abuse, which nuances the image of a passive silence surrounding sexual violence in Sápmi. Drawing on Indigenous feminist perspectives, the article highlights how gendered and colonial power relations interact in terms of vulnerability to sexual violence in Sweden and that the position of being a Sámi woman increases exposure to sexual violence, while being a Sámi man does not. In sum, the results show that both gender and Sámi Indigeneity affect exposure to sexual violence, which points to the need to include Sámi perspectives in future research on, and political efforts against, sexual violence.

Keywords: SámiHET, sexual violence, gender-based violence, Indigenous feminism, Sámi, Indigenous peoples, Sápmi, 
the Arctic

Menʼs violence against women in gender equal Sweden —results from a prevalence study

By Sofia Strid, Hans Ekbrand, Jenny Westerstrand, and Astrid Carsbring

This paper examines menʼs violence against women in intimate relationships in Sweden. The aim is to describe womenʼs experiences of violence and relate it to womenʼs experiences twenty years ago. It uses a feminist violence perspective to examine womenʼs experiences of menʼs violence and its consequences. The data is based on a survey (n=6 611) which captures womenʼs collective experiences of physical violence, sexual violence and threats of violence. The results show, firstly, that womenʼs and girlsʼ experience of violence in gender-equal Sweden is extensive: 55% of the women in the study have been subjected to physical violence, sexual violence or threats of violence made by a man. Secondly, the results show that violence does not seem to decrease over time. On the contrary, over a twenty-year period, menʼs violence against women has increased, despite a political discourse and focus on the issue during these years. Thirdly, the results show that young girls are particularly exposed/subjected to menʼs and boysʼ violence, including sexual violence. Fourthly, the results show a correlation between different forms of violence and a pattern of exposure to violence and health. The results are discussed in relation to the first Swedish prevalence study on menʼs violence against women, Captured Queen (2001).

Keywords: menʼs violence against women, intimate relationships, physical violence, sexual violence, threats of violence, Sweden

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