Lydia Voigt and William E. Thornton
In Russia, as in most nations, domestic violence and its various forms such as spouse abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse are still believed by many to be private matters involving behaviors that are considered unfortunate but largely part of “normal” family life. Jokes about wife beating and the old adage “The one he beats is the one he loves,” applying both to wives and children, are commonplace. Victims of domestic violence generally have no choice but to keep their experiences to themselves because there may be no one to call for help. Police are frequently not responsive except in the most extreme cases, and there are relatively few professionals and organizations available to support victims or to address their needs.
Throughout the 1990s domestic violence received significant public attention in Russian society, resulting in a redefinition of the problem. Rather than treating it exclusively as a private matter, Russians increasingly view domestic violence as a public issue requiring official response.
However, complexity and confusion surround the topic and the public response to it. The enormity of social change taking place in Russian society makes it difficult to discern whether greater social awareness of the problem comes from an actual rise in the incidence of domestic violence, or whether it is simply the result of greater public attention to and media coverage of the problem, or pressure applied from international women's and human rights organizations. Social support of victims has been uneven. Even though there is evidence of growth in the number of shelters for battered