Resurrecting Victims of Family Violence: Lessons from the Past
To many people today, the term "family violence" naturally conjures up images of brutality against spouses and children that occurs within the family setting. However, in Heroes of Their Own Lives: The Politics and History of Family Violence, Linda Gordon challenges this perception by demonstrating that the term "family violence" is a dynamic concept that alters throughout history. According to Gordon, family violence "has been historically and politically constructed," dependent upon the prevalent perceptions of the times and the power struggle that occurs within the family in response to its environment (2-3).
Throughout the book, Gordon successfully illustrates how the changing perceptions of the times exerted an impact on the way social workers help families. For example, during the 19th century, the involvement of upper-class women influenced the child protection movement of its era. They were extremely sympathetic towards the plight of the children and wanted to alleviate their sufferings by providing a variety of assistance to both women and children (Gordon 32). However, during the Progressive Era, the replacement of upper-class women by professionals transformed the prevalent attitude towards families in crisis. The professionals, believing that they could prevent and rehabilitate the families, usually placed the blame on mother for their failure to take care of their children. Instead of providing them with economic assistance, they insisted that the parents controlled and disciplined their children by corporal punishment, if necessary (Gordon 74).
Gordon also reinforces her main thesis by comparing and contrasting the different periods in each section to illuminate the changes. For example, in her discussion on misbehavior, Gordon asserts how children were punished for different forms of misbehavior in different historical periods. During the 19th ce...