Historically, battering has been shrouded in privacy as a legally acceptable form of social control within the family. Since churches originally possessed the power to define, demand, and sanction social control, many religious traditions, including Judeo-Christian tradition, support the submission of all family members to the control of the male head of household. These traditions also prescribe the responsibility of that male head of household for maintaining control and discipline by whatever means necessary, even through corporal punishment (Belknap 1992; Davidson 1977; Dobash and Dobash 1979; Gordon 1989; Gosselin 2000; Pleck 1983, 1987). Consequently, battering became a socially and legally acceptable form of social control.
Under Roman Civil Law, men had full property ownership of and control over their wives, children, and slaves. Ownership rights included the ability to buy, sell, punish, or impose a death sentence upon their property. Consequently, any harm committed against a wife was a crime against the male owner. During this era, women and children had no legal or human rights because they were simply property, and therefore, had no access to the courts to appeal excessive punishment and certainly no voice to claim the male head of household had committed a crime against himself or his