Family Violence: An Ancient Enemy
Among ancient people, intimate partner violence occurred for reasons similar to many rationalizations that modern humans provide: jealousy, anger, food, mating privileges and so forth. The most obvious reasoning that intimate partner violence occurred among ancient humans is the physiological rule: that is to say, the larger an animal, or more physically imposing partner/group member would have been more likely to use force or inflict violence upon another smaller one (essentially bullying). After all, which smaller ancient individual dare challenge the larger attacker?
Tuning in to any nature channel, such as National Geographic, we can see the physiological rule of violence play out in the animal kingdom as day-to-day business: the silverback gorilla, or the alpha wolf imposing their wills and sizes upon others. Here, too, intra-group violence occurs for many of those same reasons given by modern humans: challenge to mating privileges, territorial disputes, food, threats to immediate family, etc.
But rules are meant to be broken, often by those we least expect.
This physiological rule is also countered by nature itself, an opposing force of smaller size, such as we find in the snake – whose various venoms can easily subdue or kill a being one-hundred times its size. This is natures answer to predation (bullying). An even smaller, similar situation is provided us by the ignorant mosquito – who, in conjunction with the many viruses and diseases it carries, such as malaria – kills billions without any thought of malevolence.
In humans, we have developed two of the most potent forces against the physiological rule. The first is the brain itself – the most advanced brain we have known among creatures of the Earth. The second force being the social group itself: the norms of civilization. We primarily came to understand that it was wrong to obtain things we wanted, whether for psychological satisfaction, or biological urges, through unjustified force. We have the greatest treasure of higher intellect and greater reasoning ability over all the creatures in the animal kingdom, though like them, we have not been able to irradicate intimate partner violence (family violence) from our cultures.
Families are the cornerstone to any great society. Currently, however, there exists a sad social problem of violence within families. One fairly recent study of families shared that 74% of children younger than five were hit or slapped by their parents (n1). A 2004 study of sexual abuse of children showed a drastic decline in reported cases toward the end of last century, though the remaining 89,500 cases occurring every year, is 89,500 cases too many involving this type of violence (n2).
In 2005, the National Crime Victim Survey (NCVS) produced a number of reported instances of intimate partner violence at 690,100 cases (in America), (n3). Of those figures, 16.2% of the victims were males. Obviously, males committed the remaining 83.8% of instances – another likely example of the physiological rule of violence at play in modern humans.
Can it be anymore obvious- that no matter how we define family violence, wether as emotional, physical, sexual, or instrumental – modern humanity relies too heavily upon it. Violence is outdated software, so to speak, as it is assumed we have moved beyond instinctive reactions and drives as primary motivators in behavior. Humans can develop machines to analyze planetary bodies in deep space; we can construct telescopes to see millions of years into the prehistory of our universe; we cure disease, yet we cannot seem to irradicate the most ancient of our behaviors which is violence among families.
If there’s nothing else you do in life, if you reject voting, if you do not volunteer in your community, or do not give to any charities, or fail to pay sufficient taxes, there is one thing you should honestly do to create a better world and that is to reject violence. This can be taught by example – through the power of diplomacy, leadership, and empathy. By failing to perpetuate violence, we can finally evolve into the civilization I see we can become. Reject violence, that is our first step for a better tomorrow.
Lean more about family violence at teachyoung.org, or through researching any of the references below.
1. Gallup Organization. Disciplining Children In America: A Gallup Report. Princeton, NJ. (1995)
2. Catalano, S. Criminal Investigation, 2004. Washington, D.C. (2005)