Surveying Public Awareness
More importantly, the available survey data suggest a shift in public consciousness of domestic violence. A 2001—2002 survey, funded by UNIFEM and conducted by a scholar-activist at the Moscow Humanities University, found widespread awareness that domestic violence was a national problem (Zabelina 2002). In contrast to earlier skepticism and confusion over the new terminology, 92 percent of the 1,528 respondents (both male and female) agreed that “violence in the family” existed in Russia (40). Awareness was not just in the capital city, but also in the central Russian cities of Tula and Dubna and the Republic of Komi. The survey also indicates more than a superficial understanding of domestic violence. Regarding the activists’ claim that domestic violence included economic violence—the deprivation of funds necessary for basic needs—approximately 40 percent agreed. City residents especially were likely to include as violence what activists call “verbal violence” (verbal’noe nasilie) (40). Most respondents also saw real consequences of violence for the women’s health (65% of the men, 80% of the women) and psychological trauma or stress (78% men, 92% women) (46).32
A second, slightly larger survey conducted a year later by researchers from the Moscow State University Women’s Committee (with funding from the Ford Foundation), similarly found that almost all married Russians (more than 90%) thought that physical violence was either a crime or a social evil (sotsial’noe zloi) that the state has a responsibility to respond to or to protect abused wives from (Gorshkova and Shurygina 2003, 36).33 Providing more evidence of the impact of foreign-funded domestic violence activism, people in the regions in the study where such activities have been the strongest, Moscow and the Republic of Karelia near Finland, are the least likely to justify domestic violence. Almost half of the respondents also hold the belief that a husband’s assault of his wife is a private matter, perhaps a reflection of continued skepticism regarding the criminal-legal system or of the correct understanding that the criminal procedure continues to classify most domestic violence cases as requiring private prosecution (chastnoe obvinenie), where the victim must bring charges herself.34 More troubling is that approximately one-third to one-half of the married respondents thought that wife battery could be justified: that wives might be responsible because they started the argument (47%), that sometimes wives need to be punished for bad behavior such as adultery or substance abuse (32%), or that some wives simply deserve to be beaten (38%) (36). But women, who are perhaps more likely to have taken in the awareness campaigns, were nearly half as likely as men to hold such views.35
Even these second findings allow for the possibility of change over time. In contrast to the one-third to one-half of Gorshkova and Shurygina’s (2003) respondents, a small-scale 1995 survey found that more than half of the respondents thought women were at least partially responsible for the domestic violence they suffered (Attwood 1997ХЗ6 There are also some remarkable differences in opinions among age groups. Younger husbands (34% and 25% of those between 18 and 24) are much less likely than older husbands (48% and 43% of those between 55 and 64) to think that there are some women who deserve to be beaten or that a battered woman should reflect on her culpability in her own battery (Gorshkova and Shurygina 2003, 38). Similarly, younger wives are less likely than older ones to excuse a husband who batters.37 At a 2002 discussion of domestic violence in St. Petersburg, Russian activists-scholars agreed that young women are less tolerant than older women.
In 2006, researchers involved in the first survey conducted a follow-up study, this time interviewing 450 people (half women, half men, all between 25 and 45) on the streets of Moscow, Samara, Dubna, and Tula (Zabelina et al. 2007). Although they used a different method (interviews versus questionnaires) with a somewhat different target population, the results provide some additional evidence of increasing awareness over time.38 In this third survey, twice as many men considered profanity and cursing to constitute violence in 2006 than five years earlier (65% as compared to 30%) (78). Smaller but significant increases were found for women and men on all questions about whether the various behaviors constituted violence, including the following: compelling a person to take drugs or alcohol, threats and intimidation, prohibitions about meeting family members and friends, refusal to give money for the purchase of daily necessities, and prohibition on getting a job (79—80). As these later respondents were answering face-to-face, the increases may be overstated as presumably people would be more likely to be politically correct in person than on an anonymous questionnaire. Yet, even this modification in talk (if not thought) reflects a notable increase in awareness in a country where jokes have often been made about beating wives constituting love.