New and Lingering Discourses
Media treatment of the second survey (Gorshkova and Shurygina 2003) illustrates the increased attention mixed with lingering nonfeminist views about domestic violence.39 Upon release, the survey received serious attention and genuine curiosity about the problem of domestic violence from two progressive newspapers and only one story that reported on the survey as validating the Russian myth that women are more likely to beat men. In the next year, four more articles included serious and balanced discussion of the survey results and of domestic violence, including one article from a more traditional newspaper that discussed the survey as part of a larger discussion about changes in the institution of the Russian family. Coverage even included a discussion of the problem and consequences of economic violence among the rich and the poor alike, that the family in Russia was like a war zone and that domestic violence was the leading cause of death for disabled young and middle-aged women.
Significant national attention, however, came to the survey only in 2006, when a popular women’s column in Komosmol’skaia Pravda presented some of the survey’s findings on the seriousness of domestic violence and included phone numbers for both autonomous and governmental crisis centers, but also played up the women-beat-men angle. The response was huge, with readers wanting to hear more about why women beat men. The article received so much feedback, from letters and on the internet, that the columnist followed up with a second story, this time allowing one of the survey’s researchers to put this women’s aggression in the context of men’s more serious and more common aggression against their wives. Fully transforming people’s understanding of violence and gender takes a long time.
reforming some policy
Considering the strength of local activism and this notable (if not complete) shift in public awareness, policy reform could come from domestic forces as well as directly from intervention. More so than for sexual assault, foreign human rights and rule-of-law advocates drew attention to Russia’s inadequate laws. Have foreign-funded activism and this kind of foreign attention led to meaningful legal reform?