History of Intimate Partner Violence Reform

The history of Intimate Partner Violence is complex because it is not as concrete as American history. However, the development and progression of IPV in society can be traced through legal landmarks and movements, especially the Battered Women’s Movement.

The social acceptance of wife beating can be traced back to 753BC; under the rule of Romulus, The Laws of Chastisement deemed wife beating legal so long as the rod or stick being used for physical discipline had a circumference no bigger than the girth of the base of the man’s right thumb, known as “The Rule of Thumb.” This continued to be the trend to the extent that the 14th Century Roman Catholic Church encouraged husbands to beat their wives out of concern for their spiritual well-being.

Things take a turn in 1871, when Alabama and Massachusetts made wife beating illegal. Come the turn of the century, wife beating becomes a relevant topic of discussion in America as it related to the temperance movement, the social purity movement and the women’s suffragist movement:

The legal development against domestic violence was slow because the legal system has always been very indecisive about domestic violence cases. The abuse committed by perpetrators was reluctantly criminalized to avoid legal processes. In the 1970’s, even if victims obtained protection or restraining orders, they were not enforced strictly and legal punishment was nothing compared to the actual offense. Fortunately, many states including New York have strengthen legislation pertaining to domestic violence and increased resources for all demographics.