Ireland is a first world nation with many statistics reported on things from number of animals to number of women who have experienced violence in their lifetimes. According to a recent survey, one-fifth of women in Ireland say they have experienced domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime (O’Connor, 2017). However, it is hard to measure the actual level of violence against women that occurs. Most surveys rely on women to self report incidences or admit/talk about in a survey what they have experienced, which may be difficult for someone who has experienced trauma. In another survey where women were asked to most difficult part of the relationship when being involved in an abusive relationship they stated that the psychological factors were the worst (Heise, et al., 2002). This shows that violence against women goes beyond just the physical aspects: there are physiological and sociological aspects as well.
One step in the right direction for Ireland is the training required for doctors in Ireland. Doctors are required to take a two day long training course on gender related issues before being trained on violence against women (Garcia-Moreno, 2002). Although two days of training does not seem like a substantial amount, it still makes a difference. This will also provide the basis for conversation about the issue of violence against women.
Domestic and sexual violence are typically viewed as criminal cases rather than medical ones. Re-framing these incidences as forms of healthcare can offer a different perspective that can challenge our understanding of healthcare, illness, and medicine. This is because our current model of healthcare focuses on individual responsibility and fixing problems with one cause. Additionally, it challenges the idea that medicine should ignore or not look into the social and political issues that go into healthcare. An interesting perspective by Donald Joralemon is that theories- such as biomedical theories of medicine- are constructed by people based on their historical and political background and is determined by the “standards of evidence they acknowledge” (Joralemon, 1997). This is a great perspective because most people create and implement theories based on their experiences and perspectives. If biological theory was created only by men, then they may not consider women in its implementation. This is why it is important to define violence against women as a health issue, it changes the current models of health, illness, and medicine to incorporate a more diverse group of individuals that is more representative of the population.
Furthermore, defining violence against women as a medical issue challenges the biochemical and mechanical models of health. These models assume that all causes of illness have biological bases and domestic violence has psychological and sociological factors as well. Even more so, effects of violence can be passed on to future generations. A study conducted in 2013 of college students found that students that witnessed or were a part of violent relationships had aggressive relationships and found it difficult to have a healthy intimate relationship (Black, et al., 2010). This proves that our current model is incorrect, there are in fact other factors that impact illness that are not purely biological.
In conclusion, defining violence against women can challenge our current models of health, illness, and medicine. This is because it introduces the idea that illness is not just physical but could be physiological or sociological. Furthermore, it provides representation to a large portion of the population in our current model of healthcare- Donald Joralemon made the assumption that people who make theories and models that are typically implemented in society only base their theories on their experiences and perspectives. If this is true, then most of our healthcare models are not representative of women. Therefore, defining violence against women as a health issue helps to incorporate a woman’s perspective into our healthcare model- providing representation for over half of the population that is currently under-represented.
Black, David S., et al. “A Further Look at the Intergenerational Transmission of Violence: Witnessing Interparental Violence in Emerging Adulthood.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705927/.
Garcia-Moreno, C. “Dilemmas and Opportunities for an Appropriate Health-Service Response to Violence against Women.” Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, Elsevier, 26 Apr. 2002, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673602084179.
Heise, Lori L, et al. “Violence against Women: A Neglected Public Health Issue in Less Developed Countries.” Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, Elsevier, 4 July 2002, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0277953694903492.
Joralemon, Donald. “Recognizing Biological, Social, and Cultural Interconnections.” MSU Anthropology , 1997, anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2015/05/1.1-Joralemon.pdf.
O’Connor, Orla. “Data Holds Key to Tackling Violence against Women.” The Irish Times, The Irish Times, 24 Apr. 2017, www.irishtimes.com/opinion/data-holds-key-to-tackling-violence-against-women-1.3058508.