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Already registered? Gender is not an easy conversation to have. It makes people uncomfortable, sometimes even irritable.
Because thinking of changing the status quo is always uncomfortable. Some people ask, "Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that? It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group.
It is only fair that the solution to the problem should acknowledge that. Some men feel threatened by the idea of feminism. This comes, I think, from the insecurity triggered by how boys are brought up, how their sense of self-worth is diminished if they are not "naturally" in charge as men. Other men might respond by saying, "Okay, this is interesting, but I don't think like that.
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I don't even think about gender. And that is part of the problem. And that many men do nothing to change it. If you are a man and you walk into a restaurant and the waiter greets just you, does it occur to you to ask the waiter, "Why have you not greeted her? Because gender can be uncomfortable, there are easy ways to close this conversation.
Some people will bring up evolutionary biology and apes, how female apes bow to male apes — that sort of thing. Some participants did condemn the use of violence, though this position was more common in the case of IPV. Most notably, across sex and age groups perpetrating IPV in front of children was consistently rejected, even when participants justified the primary act of violence against the mother:.
What he did is wrong, because he is beating his wife in the presence of her children. If he had disciplined her from the bedroom then he would have been right. Children are affected whenever you beat the mother in their presence, because these children will also treat their wives in the same way. Some participants also considered how girls who witnessed IPV might become more vulnerable to violence as wives and even fearful about marriage:.
Because they will get that same image and they will keep it in their mind. For example, I may decide never to marry in the future thinking the man is going to beat me. It is not right to beat your wife because she is a mature human being like you … she is not your daughter … I think it is just not good to beat your wife … because even if she had respect for you, she will gradually stop respecting you and in the end will even despise you.
Though beating children was occasionally described as ineffective, an absolute rejection of VAC seldom emerged in our data even among children , suggesting that social norms tolerating such violence are deeply entrenched. I feel bad [remembering when my father beat me]. Because even up to now, I still feel the pain. The canes that I was beaten on that day—that was supposed to be a joyful day. That Christmas was not good for me, and I remember this event whenever it is time for Christmas. In a good relationship a parent is supposed to teach the child how to conduct themselves, even outside the home.
Show them how to treat others including the elders and other people in society. But the stick will prove that you are stressing the point. This widely shared belief that parental violence to discipline is, at times, concomitant with good parenting exposes perhaps the most visible disconnect that emerged betweenperceptions of IPV and VAC. Just show me that love.
Analysis of the disclosure data and hypothetical discussions suggest four potential patterns whereby IPV and VAC become intertwined in families where violence occurs Fig. The most common example of intersecting IPV-VAC occurred when one family member most commonly a child, sometimes a mother experienced trauma associated with witnessing their father or husband perpetrate violence against another family member. I would feel bad, we all feel bad seeing our mother is beaten or being mistreated in such a way … I would hate the situation and hate myself as well.
Children and women also offered examples of how mothers suffer emotionally when witnessing their husbands beat their children, particularly when this violence was perceived as too extreme or otherwise unjustified:. When the father turned to the children, the mother cried so much … because here [earlier] she had endured the pain from his beating because she knew that the children were safe, but when he turned to the children she even put her hands on the head and wailed aloud … She was not crying because he had beaten her, but because he was beating her children … Most times we, the mothers, go through strong pain whenever something bad happens to our children.
You imagine, even the chicken and the goats react whenever you touch their young ones. Now how about us women? Such examples were shared by children and adults, however women most often articulated this potential loss of value and emotional connection:. You are not supposed to do it there, at least take her to the bedroom … talk about those issues from there and resolve them in the bedroom, without you despising her in the presence of her children.
Because even her children will not respect her as their mother, they will also despise her. They will disrespect her, and even disobey her whenever she asks them to do something.
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Even if the children are in the house [it is OK], as long as they do not get to understand what is going on. Because once the children hear your husband shouting at you, they will also start despising you. That means that the child despises you, and thinks that you are a nobody who is always shouted at or beaten. While men tended to highlight childhood experiences to justify their use of VAC e. For instance, one woman who had experienced severe beating as a child rejected physical discipline as a mother, essentially breaking the intergen-erational cycle:.
I never wanted to be beaten, yet I was over-beaten so much in my childhood, so I felt that pain and know that beating hurts. However, a time comes, you get used to the canes and no longer feel the pain … and you have this feeling that even if they beat me nothing will happen to me.
Out of this experience, I personally learned that beating is not disciplining.
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There is a seven year old child I saw in my neighborhood, when he saw his father beating his mother, he went inside the house, picked a bottle, he hit his father on the head. He felt bad seeing his father beating his mother. The consequences of such actions were mixed; occasionally triggering violence against the child:. Sometimes their mother annoys you, you grab and hold her in a way that causes pain and when your child … notices she runs to hold you or the mother while at the same time crying, and because of anger you end up kicking that child as well.
But it comes out of high anger. Generally, it is because of anger that children also are affected by our fights. Personal experiences also exposed how intra-couple conflicts could lead to displaced aggression against children. The reason children are beaten is because of the conditions at home. If I am the mother, at times I might have had misunderstandings with the father.
By the time you [the child] come back home I am already angry over what the father has done to me … Because you are still angry … when they reach you, you just start beating. Other narratives suggested a more protracted back-and-forth with the potential for either parent to manipulate or abuse their children in retaliation against the other. A father explained displaced aggression in more general terms:.
To our knowledge, this is the first qualitative study exploring community perceptions and experiences of intersecting IPV and VAC in sub-Saharan Africa. The analysis draws on perspectives of adults and children, perpetrators and survivors categories that at times overlap to deepen understanding of how and why IPV and VAC intersect within the family. We used participatory research techniques to meaningfully engage children, a valuable contribution given the gap in child-centered research methods to address violence Breen et al. Findings demonstrate that co-occurring violence is common in the study community, reflecting a constellation of intra-familial dynamics frequently resulting in poly-victimization physical and emotional of women and children.
Together these patterns illustrate how the consequences of violence extend beyond the incident itself, fundamentally affecting multiple family members and the trajectory of intra-familial relationships. This cycling of violence supports other work conceptualizing family violence as a process rather than an event Bidarra et al. While existing quantitative studies describe the scope of co-occurring IPV and VAC, the underlying patterns of intersecting violence remain poorly understood Bidarra et al.
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Our analysis offers several overarching insights that may have relevance beyond the study community, articulated from a feminist perspective largely absent in the empirical literature on intersecting IPV-VAC. Even the suggested coping strategies for women and children—prioritizing apology in the absence of guilt —reflect the extent to which they are expected to acquiesce to male or generational power and granted similar status within the family hierarchy. These critical linkages between gender inequality, the normalization of violence, and cycles of abuse within the family have been acknowledged in other recent research Fulu et al.
Perhaps most notably, while both forms of violence are highly normalized, tolerance for VAC as a form of discipline was more conclusive, frequently considered a fundamental parenting function and largely accepted by parents and children themselves despite at times acknowledging the emotional consequences.
This divergence perhaps reflects the differential power dynamics between couples—in which an aspiration for more equal power at times emerges—and between parents and children, where in any parent-child relationship, parents retain a legitimate role in guiding their children. Macro-level factors may also be at play; it is possible that social acceptability of VAW has lessened in response to the public discourse in Uganda around recent legislation and programming.
We also find nuanced examples of how IPV affects the way women are perceived and treated by their children, triggering shame and potentially compromising their role as mothers. In such cases, women are concurrently victimized by their husband and children. We also found examples of displaced aggression, where mothers reacted violently towards their children after experiencing abuse from their husbands. Thus within a highly constrained environment, women may violently express their powerlessness—or attempt to consolidate their own power—over children, who are perceived as subordinate within the hierarchy.
Some limitations of this study should be noted. Although our guides did not intentionally restrict discussions to specific forms of violence, conversations naturally gravitated towards physical, emotional, and at times economic violence. As such, our findings do not include reference to child sexual abuse or marital rape, though existing data indicates both forms of violence are relatively common in Uganda UBOS and ICF, ; ACPf, Relatedly, the vignette methodology inherently leads participants to consider certain scenarios, and may have limited the scope of discussion.
For ethical reasons we did not speak with more than one member of the same household, and therefore were unable to verify disclosure stories, though interviewers were trained to probe extensively for both factual and emotional details. As with all qualitative research, findings may not be generalized beyond the study community. Further exploration of the dynamics within non-violent families could complement the current analysis, elucidating ways in which families defy existing norms and adopt more equitable relationships across sex and age. Similarly, an exploration of family resilience in stopping cycles of violence or realizing aspirations for non-violent relationships is needed.
For instance, we found examples where reflecting on negative childhood experiences served as a motivation to reject violence, a dynamic that merits additional investigation. Finally while emerging evidence suggests that effectively reducing IPV can have positive impacts on children Wathen and MacMillan, ; Kyegombe et al. Reflecting on this disconnect may help bring to light the broader harms of any direct and indirect violence. Without this emphasis on transformational change, interventions risk being ineffective, or even reproducing gender and generational inequalities.
Thus creating space to re-imagine the family and foster more equitable and intimate relationships between partners—often emphasized in IPV prevention—may also help reduce VAC and prevent cycles of violence in the family. We are immensely grateful to all participants for sharing their experiences and thoughtful perspectives, to our team of research assistants Angel Mirembe, Agnes Nabachwa, Devin Faris, Hassan Muluusi, Katherine Hall, Irene Nakhayenze, and Mary Dudzinsky , and to Jeanne Ward as well as our peer reviewers for their many insightful contributions.
This research was supported by the Sexual Violence Research Initiative grant no. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the SAMRC. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Soc Sci Med.