Domestic Violence:. The Benefits of Assistance
F GLOBAL NORMS and foreign intervention to help monitor, blame, and shame a government for its failure to address gender violence are not sufficient, perhaps more intrusive interventions could promote increased awareness and reform of policy and practice. Development agencies and large charitable foundations may join human rights advocates and transnational feminist networks, providing financial support to domestic violence activism and supporting public awareness campaigns. States and non-state actors can offer to train police, prosecutors, judges, social workers, and healthcare personnel. Do these foreign investments in local gender violence politics—in this case, domestic violence politics—boost the process of blame and shame to promote more effective domestic activism, increased public awareness, and significant state reform? If so, why and how?
The examination of the politics of domestic violence in post-Soviet Russia shows such assistance is much more effective than the process of blaming and shaming by itself. When donors intervened to promote a greater awareness of domestic violence in Russia, there were notable shifts in the public knowledge and understanding of the problem. In localities where donors invested in changing state behavior, law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors altered their practice. When there was sustained and funded pressure for domestic violence reform, Russian authorities created state crisis centers, passed regional legislation, and created local and national working groups on the problem. Although there
was no new national domestic violence law, activists were able to translate the global norm into Russian vernacular, suggesting the possibility for more meaningful reform in the future. While some (Western) feminist observers have been particularly concerned about the impact of this kind of targeted funded intervention (e. g., Ghodsee 2004; Hemment 2004a; Kay 2004; Rivkin-Fish 2004), at least when local interest already exists and activists are able to translate the global norms, assistance can promote feminist social change without too much of a backlash. In Russia, funding supplemented transnational feminist networks and human rights advocacy. Reform also was fostered by the Soviet legacy of state parafeminism.
In this analysis, I use the term “domestic violence” with some trepidation. As Ann Jones has argued, “’[d]omestic violence’ is one of those gray phrases, beloved of bureaucracy. . . a euphemistic abstraction that keeps us at a dispassionate distance, far removed from the repugnant spectacle of human beings in pain” (Jones 2000, 80). Not as evocative as “wife beating” or “wife torture,” the term “domestic violence” also conceals the gendered power—the power of the men who intimidate, batter, and rape the women they profess to love and of the states that condone such abuse—that activists denounce. But “domestic violence” is the term transnational feminists, human rights advocates, and local activists most often use these days, giving it the most currency.
globalizing norms, enlisting donors