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Domestic Violence
and the Patriarchy


Where does domestic violence begin? Why is it growing? What makes men do the things they do to the women and children in their lives? In response to these questions, I have heard several men say, "well, boys are raised by their mothers."

The statement implies that the abuse men inflict on the women and children in their lives was caused by the mothering they received from their own mothers. This idea was also propagated by Freud and his many followers in the fields of therapy, which lay all blame at the feet of the mother. This scapegoating myth, created by those who hold the power, against those who have none, needs to be responded to and put to rest. Were we women not so blinded to our enslavement under the laws of man, we would find such an outrageous statement laughable. It is one more example of blaming the victim (one generation removed) for the abuse she receives.

Domestic violence didn't just start a few years ago. It has been going on for eons of time, since the violent take-over by the patriarchy and the establishment of "Father God" in the annals of history. Before the crushing of the worship of the Great Mother twenty-five hundred years ago by the Levite priests, this was a world where people lived in harmony with each other and all living things, century after century after century; a world where our divinity was clearly realized and life was sacred. Throughout the cultures of the world the Mother was honored and recognized to be the Creator, as indeed She is!

Patriarchy is built upon violence. That is how it survives, using fear and torture and aggression; sexual, physical and verbal abuse against women and children, and other men. This is how we are kept in check. When a child is terrorized and violated, she/he is thrown off center, losing self esteem and power and natural wisdom. Instead, the child is filled with fear and shame; his trust in the universe having been stolen from him. The world becomes a frightening place for he is not protected by his mother. He feels abandoned.

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In the natural order of events, the mother animal is a fierce protector of her young, even to the death. In this unnatural world run by men, where a mother is forced to live with her tormentor, is economically enslaved with no where else to go, no one to turn to, she is powerless to protect her own child from her husband's abuse. She can't even protect herself. In fact, she dare not speak out to the child against her husband. It is taboo, no matter what he has done. She scarcely thinks of her mate as being bad.

Further, there is no chance in today's man's world for the little child to be with their own mother for an extended period of time, in a relaxed way, feeling good, and loved, and happy, should the mother have any nurturing left in her own being, living in a state of fear and anxiety as she does. Instead, the child is institutionalized from birth onward, rushed from day-care to day-care and then off to school, where there is little space for simply being a child. Often a child spends the remainder of the day in front of the television, separated from the natural world, separated from earth and wind and grass and trees, and other creatures, separated from the place where they might find connection and solace in their other-wise pain-filled world.

"Women are still the core of the family, the primary nurturers, care givers, and acculturizers for the children they bear. Their vital role as mothers, however is increasingly usurped by male-controlled symbolism, most perniciously at present in the fantasy world of television, to which the average American family exposes itself for more than seven hours a day. it is a cold, violence-ridden, spectator world almost guaranteed to induce alienation in place of cozy old-fashioned story-telling, when a child could nestle beside a reassuring adult presence and receive a real human response to questions and could grow into literacy by watching the storybook's pages as they were read.

Television is a sinister fantasy world indeed, where women are usually portrayed as helpless victims of male violence and sexual exploitation, and the socialization of an entire culture is turned over to a soulless medium whose only real purpose is to sell consumer products."[1]

Indeed, this male-created violent environment found on the screens of TV's, videos, video games and movies, and heard in music plays its part in leading to out-of-control behavior. The fearful, anxiety-ridden growing male child, with a guarded and aching heart, may become a pawn for the patriarchal system, identifying with his tormentor, taking on the values of a violence ridden culture that worships money and power over others, including the earth herself.

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The Bible is filled with violence toward women. The tenants of the patriarchy considered a woman to be a man's property to do with as he wished. She was demonized, she was less than human for was she not the cause of all the suffering in the world, according to their "creation story?" (Once again, the victim is the cause for it all.) Thus, a man had a right to do anything he wanted to, to her. After all, he had God in his corner.

Consider the Inquisition where for five centuries a Christian holy organization terrorized all of Europe, murdered nine million women, and tortured children as well. What was that about? I'll tell you. These women were clinging to the worship of the Goddess. They were remembering their heritage. They were the religious ones, the healers, the herbalists, the mid-wives, the ones connected to the earth. They dared to acknowledge their own inner connection to the Divine Source. And no man would allow that!

"Again and again European peasants paid with their lives for following the example of their ancestors and preferring the counsel of " wise women" to that of the priests." [2]

"Backed by its patriarchal religion, our society still clings to medieval ideas about women's sinfulness and need for punishment, and Freud and his followers did their part in making the mother "bad." As late at the eighteenth century the law gave a man permission to enslave his wife, rape her, beat her, starve her, rob her of all her possessions, and threaten to lock her up for life in a madhouse if she didn't behave; a threat easily and simply carried out, because a wife could be committed on only her husband's word." [3]

In contrast to these Christian laws, Cato the Censor wrote in pagan Rome in 300 B.C. that men who beat wives or children "lay sacrilegious hands on the most sacred things in the world." To strike a pregnant woman was a capitol crime; even to " disturb her mind" was illegal. Christian authorities, however, saw no harm in tormenting pregnant women. The earliest Christian laws in Iceland, A.D. 1119, recommended torture especially for pregnant women."[4]

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I don't see that things have changed all that much, even though there are laws to the contrary. Don't some husbands begin tormenting and abusing their wives once they are pregnant? I suspect the abuser is aware of the vulnerability of the woman he is living with; she is caught, economically, once pregnant, unless she has a parental home to flee to. He has gained some power over her.

In the mid-seventies, 70 percent of assault victims admitted to emergency rooms were wives who had been beaten by their husbands. In California one third of female homicide victims were wives murdered by violent husbands. There are a reported four million women beaten in our country each year. You can be assured a large number remains unrecorded. A woman is doubly trapped, for her mate's violence escalates if she tries to flee with her children. This has been tragically demonstrated by the violence against women right here in our own community, and as our law enforcement agents are reluctance to stop it, women and children are continuing to be abused and even killed. In effect, the patriarchal law continues to be supported.

I am speaking, of course, about the murder of a women in our community who again and again sought police protection for herself and her children from her abusive, out-of-control husband; call after call, violent episode after violent episode, and she received nothing in return. Many of her threats and beatings took place in front of her own terrorized children. (I suspect those children were violated by their father as well.)

When she fled to her mother's house, her husband followed and knocked her mother, (his mother-in-law), to the ground. He was a man who obviously felt free to do anything! When the mother wanted to press charges, after the police were called, the policemen responded, "Oh, that would be a hassle." In other words, "you don't want to do that."

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"One of the great problems for women socialized in the kind of morality that patriarchal religion dispenses is that their own natural morality has been concealed from them and from their husbands as well. One battered wife said, "Once, my husband actually tried to explain when I asked him why he was so hostile to me. He said women are no good by nature. He said man was made in the image of God-that's in the Bible-and God punished women. So every man should be like God and punish woman for being no good and sinful.

As long as these myths remain extant among the general population, persecution of women will continue. Sadism will masquerade as righteousness. As one woman said, a battering husband feels righteous when committing violence, not when refraining from violence. He uses religion to support his habit, not to break it."[5]

I remember the one slap I received from my first husband, the doctor. We had two small children at the time, and were visiting his parents. I was talking with he and his parents in the living room. I remember I was feeling good about myself and rather excited-I could never recall the subject matter-but something in my manner must have annoyed him. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and while I was bending over the sink, he came in and hit me; it was really a slap on my rear. Because his action was such a surprise to me, and particularly because I felt safe with his parents being there, I responded without CENSORING. I swung around to him and these words fell out of my mouth, "Don't you ever do that again." And, he didn't. In my memory that was the only time I ever "spoke up" to him.

As women, we need to awaken to our subjugation. We are so accustomed to being third class citizens, that we scarcely notice it. "The slaves have forgotten life before slavery."[6]

We are also so indoctrinated by religion to look to men as having the final word on how life is to be lived, that we discount our own intelligence. With just the smallest glance at the dreadful state of our entire earth, which came about solely under the leadership of men, (the words of wisdom and the cautioning voice of the Grandmother have not been allowed in this world), it should be abundantly clear that men are not the brightest of creatures, at least not the ones who have been directing the show. When money and greed enter the picture, intelligence and wisdom and compassion seem to fly out the window.

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Judges and lawyers gather information regarding the previous sexual behavior of women, and even young girls, in order to diminish the atrocity of rape. In other words, if the victimized woman has engaged in sex with one person, then it doesn't make that much difference if she is raped. Once the vagina has been entered, it doesn't matter if some other man forcibly thrusts himself upon her. Apparently her body is fair game for anyone if she is found to be "promiscuous." Otherwise, why would such history ever come into consideration in a court of law? What an outrageous violation of privacy and human rights for a victim of rape! In the ancient church laws found in the Bible, a victim of rape was stoned to death. Promiscuity is a description created by the ancient church fathers to discredit the freedom of sexual choice enjoyed by the followers of the Goddess.

Do we refer to men as promiscuous? Do we gather such information about a man? Generally a man isn't in court as a victim of rape, so the subject doesn't come up. If a man has been raped, do we check up to see how much sexual activity he engaged in before he was raped? I don't think so.

Actually, we hardly ever hear about a man being raped-although sadly, it happens. Not just in torture chambers, not just in jails by policeman and other inmates, but in military academies, in churches, in schools, in fraternities, in homes . . . truly, anyplace where evil men have some power and can get away with it, that is where it happens. They are a sorry lot, aren't they?

Let us talk about mothers. Mothers are not perfect people. It is very hard to be a wise and loving mother in a world that does not support motherhood; in a world where the young mother is often separated from her own mother as she gives birth, (more of the patriarchy's influence). During this very important time in her life, she would have the benefit of her mother's experience and help if we lived in a nurturing world. She has no help at all in that new role; instead, she goes home with her new baby to her impatient and abusive husband.

We live in a world that doesn't allow bonding to occur between the mother and child, the doctors whisk the baby out of the mother's body and away to the nursery. This bonding is vital for the mother as well as the child, for to be an effective mother she needs to be sensitively tuned in to her child's needs.

Mothers are sometimes cross, and stressed-out, and immature and thoughtless, and harsh, and blinded to their children's needs-all those things, and more. But, in spite of everything, mothers generally love their children; it goes with the territory. After all, if mothers stopped loving and caring for their children, the human race would quickly come to an end. And, most mothers want their children's lives to go well.

Unlike fathers, most mothers don't sexually abuse and violate their children. They generally don't sneak down to their child's bedroom in the middle of the night and assault them, as some fathers do. It would be a rare mother indeed who would hand her child over for sexual abuse by another adult or adults, as some fathers have. Most grandmothers don't fondle their grandchildren's genitals, or rape them, unlike some grandfathers. One out of three children has been sexually abused often by some man in their immediate family.

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Most mothers don't whip out their belt and beat their children with it. Generally, they don't terrorize the household, tormenting their family, beating, throwing, knocking anyone up against the wall they can get their hands on, displaying lewd behavior, screaming "you're going to do the fuck I want you to, bitch, or I'll kill you." Most mothers don't try to ridicule or shame their child, or destroy their child's self esteem, unlike some fathers. Hardly any mothers at all have been trained to torture other human beings, in this country or other countries. Hardly any mothers drop bombs on human beings, or lop off arms and legs and heads with a machete.

And, from Barbara Walker, "It was in the university library that I first became aware of the fathomless depths of hatred that Christian men could hold for women. I happened to pick off the shelf an obscure treatise that was on no one's reading list. This was my introduction to the church's medieval Inquisition, which no history teacher had ever mentioned. There were official transcripts of witch burnings and witch torturing, so horrible that if they had been luridly written, I would have dismissed them as the ravings of a dreadfully deformed mind. Alas, these were real. They were dry, matter-of-fact reports by ecclesiastical clerks who were on the scene, recording what happened without any emotional response. In itself, this was perhaps the most horrible part.

In a typical day of torture in Prossneck, Germany, in 1629, the head torturer tied a woman up and burned her hair off with flaming alcohol. Then strips of sulfur were laid under her arms and around her back and set afire. Then she was put up in strappado, a device for dislocating the shoulders; her hands were tied behind her back with a rope that jerked her up to the ceiling. She was left handing like that while the torturers went out for a bite to eat . . ." When they returned it all began again; whipping, burning, crushing body parts.

She continues, "I had discovered that righteous men were capable of what seemed to me unbelievable depravity, all in the name of their God, an accomplished torturer himself, if one listened to what was told about his hell. Still, hell was only a sick fancy, a nightmare of the ignorant. The Inquisition and its doing had been all too real, a literal hell on earth. What I found unthinkable had been actually done, not once, but millions of times over. There had been recommended ways of doing it, instruction books for the torturers, and official records of the proceedings, which never referred to the agony and terror of the victims.

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I thought the unspeakable martyrdom of 9 million women ought to have been remembered more clearly . . . the woman hatred that fueled those real martyrdoms ought to be comprehended and dealt with, instead of being buried out of sight. It occurred to me that something has been dreadfully wrong in the collective psyche of this male-dominated world for a long time, and that men should be called to account for it-though surely not by their God, who was obviously an accomplice.

Let it be said to the eternal shame of our species: not only have our major religions countenanced, approved, and even invented ever more refined tortures, but despite our vaunted "progress," such activities still exist. Political prisoners are routinely tortured, ("as well as native peoples the world over, their torturers trained in our very own School of the Americans," J. R.) . . . criminal organizations and some law enforcement organizations consider torture a legitimate tool in their repertoire of coercion. There is even an enormous and profitable body of torture pornography based on the assumption-apparently justifiable-that many men are sexually gratified by scenes of women or children enduring physical abuse (and yes, the inquisitors did torture children, whom they considered basically demonic).

Some have assumed that this taste for giving pain . . .is a natural if regrettable development of male aggressiveness. Other mammalian species, however, show that male aggressiveness tending to damage the female or the young is neither natural nor biologically sound. Such behavior would hardly conduce to preservation of the species. The majority of women have a natural morality that tells them it is good to give or receive comfort, and evil to give or receive pain. Whatever became of this simple, clear, natural feminine morality in the society that literally gave its blessing to the kind of horror I was reading about, where self-styled moral leaders had instruments of torture inscribed with the motto "Glory to God Almighty?"

I found early church fathers bitterly denouncing women for invoking the blessing of "the foul devil Venus" at weddings; for asking Minerva's protection when they walked the highway; for offering cakes to Ceres for her gift of grain or to Terra Mater for her gift of a child; for making pilgrimages to the old Goddess's sacred springs or for praying to Mother Moon in her megalithic stone circles. I found that the real reason for the church's hostility to women was its fear of the few surviving remnants of women's religions, wherein pre-Christian Europeans had frankly acknowledged a female principle of supreme divinity. In view of the profoundly injurious, death-centered manifestations of Christianity in history, it is realistic to regard this religion as anti-life. To torture and kill women, sacred vessels of human love and future generations is . . . sacrilegious."[7]

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Our connection and bonding to our mother shades the rest of life for each of us. This is our PRIMARY relationship. All other relationships, including our relationship to the world and how we feel in it, are built upon the foundation of this one, and it begins BEFORE birth. The effect for the child from being deprived of primary bonding and essential closeness to the mother creates FEAR in the cells themselves. How many addictions spring from this basic anxiety, how much rage, how many lives not truly lived? When there is fear, the heart closes. We become 'heartless.' There isn't much heart in this world, is there?

"Any mammal knows about motherhood from its very first breath. It is born hungry for the nourishment and comforting warmth of the mother's body, for the stimulation of the mother's touch. However weak, blind, helpless, or ignorant of the environment it may be, the infant mammal knows one fact with clarity: Mother alone means survival. Therefore the infant mammal cries, crawls, clutches, and clings to Mother alone; knows her by smell, touch, and sound; wants here constantly close; watches her every move whenever it can; and feels safe only in her presence. In a very real sense, Mother is life.

The impact of this single-minded, all-consuming need upon the young organism can hardly be overemphasized. Never in adult life, except perhaps under extreme duress or in moments of sexual coupling, will there again be such an intense focus of attention. In animals and humans alike, normal development of the intelligence, body awareness, social bonding, and successful mature sexuality are all rooted in the interaction between mother and infant. Here we have something that seems to fit the strict definition of an archetype far beyond the scope of any paternal image."[8]

"A resurrection of the feminine archetype that all women still keep somewhere deep inside themselves, even if they don't know it, may be the only ideological possibility for rehumanizing and reuniting the world that now sets generation against generation, nation against nation in endless cycles of pointless aggression. The final results of patriarchal ideologies have been so disastrous that almost any shift toward feminine imagery in the spiritual realm would be beneficial. Reinstatement of the Goddess in the hearts and minds of her earthly daughters-and sons as well-may turn out to be the only practical salvation from the final chaos with which man in his vast cultural imbalance now flirts.

Our culture's runaway masculinization might be seen as a collective lunacy. We now take for granted the prevalence of war, rape, and murder in our real world as well as in its model and reflection, our fantasy world of so-called entertainment. We have long since forgotten the collective mind set of past matriarchal societies, where such behaviors were as rare and restricted as cannibalism is for us."[9]

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"When women gather together and seriously exchange ideas, they often find themselves in agreement about male irrationality, not only on the individual level but also on the collective level of leadership or authority. A sharing of feminine insights can lead to the realization that "we are right not to accept the universe . . . as it has been presented to us by male authority, in terms corrupted by a greed-based civilization." Elizabeth Fisher speaks of a pressing need to "get at the causes, the oppressive principle growing out of the relation between man and woman which has mushroomed to be the greatest danger to the world's survival. The dominance hierarchy is the underlying problem."[10]

"After two thousand years of leading their world through rivers of blood, centuries of war, incessant exploitation, and spiritual dissimulation of the most shameless sort, the patriarchs may find that their loss of feminine understanding and creativity is their true original sin. By destroying the spirit of their Mothers they may have brought about the destruction of themselves."[11]

More and more courageous women and men are speaking out, denouncing the violence of men that occurs behind closed doors toward their women and children, and exposing the lack of accountability and protection for these women and children from other men, i.e. the arm of the law. Living in a police state is not where peace lies, however, it is vitally important that the human rights abuses be exposed and condemned, and changed.

When we all awaken and remember our spiritual heritage, for after all we are spirit made manifest in human form, and embrace the wisdom of the Mother, as Father God happily fades away, violence against women will end; violence against children will end and we will live once again in a peaceful world.

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[1] Barbara G. Walker, THE SKEPTICAL FEMINIST, Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1987, p.136

[2] Walker, p.165

[3] Marilyn French, BEYOND POWER; ON WOMEN, MEN, and MORALS, New.York, Simon and Schuster, 1985, p. 372.

[4] Matilda Joslyn Gage, WOMEN, CHURCH AND STATE, New York; Arno Press, 1972, p.223,332.

[5] Barbara Walker, p. 164

[6] Janie Rezner, A WAKE UP CALL FROM MOTHER GOD, unpublished, Mendocino, CA, l997, p.104

[7] Walker, p. 106,107

[8] Walker, pp. 113,114

[9] Walker, pp. 137,139

[10] Elizabeth Fisher, WOMAN'S CREATION; SEXUAL EVOLUTION AND THE SHAPING OF SOCIETY, New york; Doubleday & Co., 1979, pp 398-405

[11] Walker, p. 152