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Int J Health Serv. 1979;9(3):461-93.

Medicine and patriarchal violence: the social construction of a "private" event.

Abstract

Our objectives are to describe the pattern of abuse associated with battering and to evaluate the contribution of the medical system and of broader social forces to its emergence. A pilot study of 481 women who used the emergency service of a large metropolitan hospital in the U.S. shows that battering includes a history of self-abuse and psychosocial problems, as well as repeated and escalating physical injury. In addition, although the number of battered women using the service is 10 times higher than medical personnel identify, the pattern of abuse that constitutes battering emerges only after its initial effects are presented and in conjunction with specific medical intervnetions and referrals. Examination of intervention and referral patterns suggests a staging process by which battering is socially constructed. At first, the physical trauma associated with abuse is medicated symptomatically. But the patient's persistence, the failure of the cure, and the incongruity between her problems and available medical explanations lead the provider to label the abused woman in ways that suggest she is personally responsible for her victimization. Although secondary problems such as depression, drug abuse, suicide attempts, or alcoholism derive as much from the intervention strategy adopted as from physical assault or psychopathology, they are treated as the primary problems at psychiatric and social service referral points where family maintenance is often the therapeutic goal. One consequence of this referral strategy is the stabilization of "violent families" in ways that virtually insure women will be abused in systematic and arbitrary ways. The use of patriarchal logic by medical providers ostensibly responding to physical trauma has less to do with individual "sexism" than with the political and economic constraints under which medicine operates as part of an "extended patriarchy." Medicine's role in battering suggests that the services function to reconstitute the "private" world of patriarchal authority, with violence if necessary, against demands to socialize the labors of love.

PIP:

A pilot study of 481 women who used the emergency service of a large metropolitan hospital in the US shows that battering includes a history of self-abuse and psychosocial problems, as well as repeated and escalating physical injury. In addition, although the number of battered women using the service is 10 times higher than medical personnel identify, the pattern of abuse that constitutes battering emerges only after its initial effects are presented and in conjunction with specific medical interventions and referrals. In this paper, the pattern of abuse associated with battering is described and the contribution of the medical system and of broader social forces to its emergence is evaluated. In a series of reviews, final analysis showed an alignment process, what might be termed "the socialization of medical perception," which marks the medical construction of battering as social and which was observed, at various stages, in the medical histories of battered women.

PMID:
468440
DOI:
10.2190/KTLU-CCU7-BMNQ-V2KY
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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