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The U.S. and some thoughts » Social Aspects of Domestic Violence

The U.S. and some thoughts

October 31st, 2008 by wayva@stanford.edu Leave a reply »

This week, I attempted to find statistics on honor murders in the United States. I could not find any official statistics, or unofficial for that matter. I did, however, find a couple of stories that have received media attention. The FBI reported that “honor” was a factor in the shooting murder of two teenage girls in Texas by their father, who were seen as acting too western. Other homicides involved the stabbing of young girls by their parents or brothers. Although some websites have reported that honor murders are on the rise in the United States as a result of immigration from countries where honor murders are condoned, I could not find any official reports.

I also found another interesting article about the reporting on honor murders in the United States. The author was concerned about the public image of the Muslim world. Third World countries tend to be in the news only when something negative happens, like a natural disaster, famine, or social revolution. A quote from the article states that, “news stories about the Third World confirm Westerners’ sense that western democracies are the only civilized societies, which provide the basics of life for everyone, are stable, and governed fairly and honestly.” They included statistics about domestic violence in the U.S., many of which that we heard last week. One was domestic violence being the leader cause of injury to women in the U.S. and other similar statistics. One that I never realized before was that there are “nearly 3 times as many animal shelters in the United States as there are shelters for battered women.” I find this incredibly shocking.

http://www.soundvision.com/info/misc/honor.asp

On a related note, this article brought up some issues to me that I have been struggling with in recent weeks. I find myself a little uncomfortable with a lot of the discourse surrounding the issues we have discussed in this class in that they usually occur in developing countries and in tribal communities. A good point that the author articulated is that many of these issues happen in developed countries and the United States as well. Poverty seems to be the big influence with many of our discussions, however, in this past week with domestic violence it does not seem to matter as much as with something like maternal mortality. Often in my mind, I do associate developing countries with negative things, and that is because the only things I hear about them are negative. Additionally, we also often say that cultural norms are not an excuse for human rights violations, and I agree, however, I think a large amount of attention should be given to coinciding with cultural norms. And not just because if a program coincides with cultural norms it will be accepted faster by the community, but because there might actually be some value in cultural norms. Coming from an Indian reservation, I know of dozens of programs that were meant to improve the lives of Native peoples by imposing western viewpoints of what is right and proper on them that have really destroyed ways of life and contributed to the multitude of problems that plague Native communities today. The people in charge of these programs had nothing but the intention to better the conditions of the poor Native peoples they saw. But it rarely worked out that way. In many instances, we would have been better off if we had just been left alone. I understand that saving the lives of women is incredibly important, however, I often wonder if in fifty years the Ecuadorian people will praise or condemn the Jungle Mamas Project for their influence.

Please comment back to me because I am rather confused about the issues I wrote about and struggle with them a lot.

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3 comments

  1. njeffery@stanford.edu says:

    I had a lot of trouble with this week to, mostly because everything hits so close to home. I think you brought up a good point how people have such a negative outlook on developing countries. Unfortunately, a contributing factor to rates in developed countries is the disposition of many indigenous groups, which is very similar to a third world country. Minorities in the U.S. have rates of violence, rape, and suicide that rival other undeveloped nations.

    I agree with you culture should be used as reinforcement for something positive. I sympathize with you how “outsiders” come in, thinking they know everything and are going to change everything, and then fail and leave. This is not uncommon where I come from as well. So what I can say, is kudos to us for learning about things and then hopefully going home and making a difference!

  2. nkemjika@stanford.edu says:

    RE: “Third World countries tend to be in the news only when something negative happens, like a natural disaster, famine, or social revolution. A quote from the article states that, “news stories about the Third World confirm Westerners’ sense that western democracies are the only civilized societies, which provide the basics of life for everyone, are stable, and governed fairly and honestly.”

    I can’t tell you how glad I am that you decided to blog on this. This is something I struggle with this class and in many other international health classes is the perception of Third World countries by Americans. As a dual citizen of Nigeria and the US it really breaks my heart that 95% of the things that are put on TV regarding the non-Western world especially countries in Africa is negative. No denying there are problems but Africa is NOT a wasteland of AIDS, famine, and politically inspired wars being rescued by the benevolent actions of Western public health advocates. It makes me sad that this is what comes across and unless an individual takes the time to search otherwise, this is all they might get even from a world class Stanford education.

  3. kbarta@stanford.edu says:

    The question of imposing western ideals as solutions in developing countries is something we’ve discussed a bit in my section for this class, and something I struggle with as well. I am a little unsure of where to draw the line, however, as to where innovation ends and imposition begins. I am of the opinion that the most effective change comes from within a community, when the community wants it. With this in mind, if an outside organization comes with the intention of facilitating that process, by providing resources and training, as with the jungle mamas project, is that innovative and helpful, or is it imposing western medicine and ideals on a culture in which many methods of contraception introduced by the program (such as cycle beads or condoms) are not used?

    I think you raise some very important points in this post, and I encourage you to share your concerns in class. I’d be interested in what other people think about these issues.