Violence against women often goes unnoticed, writes Asha Hedayati in her new book. A conversation about structural dependencies on women.
taz: Ms. Hedayati, why did you call your book “The Silent Violence”?
Asha Hedayati: It’s very important to me to make it clear: it’s not about what’s on the surface the violence of the partner or ex-partner. But about the violence that is exercised by misogynistic myths, by patriarchal but also economic structures and by state institutions. We don’t even notice them at first. It is invisible, yet permeates everything – i.e. society, administration and justice. So violence works quiet.
They write: “The structures support violence against women and at the same time support violence against women the structures.” What does that mean?
The system benefits immensely from the mothers’ free care work and is the only way it can survive. During the corona pandemic, care professions were considered systemically important. At the same time, they are paid so precariously that women become economically dependent, which makes separation more difficult. The system also benefits from this. If women could leave so easily, men would no longer be able to be part of this economic system so easily.
In your book you also write about the economic dimensions of violence.
“The incredibly large structural resistance makes it difficult for women to separate”
Yes, the partner exercises economic violence, for example, by having control over the income and the account. Sometimes the partner only gets pocket money. Or he controls financial inputs and outputs. This sometimes goes so far that clients can no longer buy the clothes they would like to wear. This is also about denying women a self-determined, free life.
It is often said that a woman who experiences partner violence should simply separate. But it doesn’t seem to be that simple.
is a family law attorney and lecturer in family law and child and youth welfare law. Her book on the subject of violence against women is expected to be published by Rowohlt Verlag in autumn 2023.
I have been working as a lawyer for 10 years and have observed that the focus is always on the behavior of the woman and not on the behavior of the violent partner. The incredibly large structural resistance makes it difficult for women to separate. A concrete practical obstacle is the highly escalated housing market. How are these women supposed to find affordable housing? And then those affected are stuck in violent relationships because they cannot afford an apartment.
Surely this is particularly problematic for single parents?
Single parents are at massive risk of poverty, which is why it is so difficult for those affected to separate. 43 percent of single parents are low-income. When clients sit in front of me, they already know that in the event of a separation they will most likely end up in poor conditions. They then make the decision not only for themselves, but also for their children. They are also responsible for their lives. This makes it more stressful for those affected.
Why are those affected not adequately protected?
The very term “domestic violence” locates the problem in the private sphere. That’s part of the problem. In this way, violence and its consequences are trivialized. But if youth welfare offices or family courts do not take partner violence seriously, it has massive consequences for children and future generations. There are studies that show that children who witness intimate partner violence are more likely to become perpetrators or victims themselves in adolescence.
What is going wrong with institutions like the police or youth welfare offices?
Unfortunately, I often observe that in the police there is a reversal of perpetrator and victim. Women are retraumatized simply by being interviewed. I’ve had clients whose ex-partners stalked them. Then the police said that nothing had happened yet. Misogynistic prejudices are served and the image of a woman taking revenge is constructed. At the youth welfare office they recommend that women separate because partner violence is considered a threat to the welfare of the child. If the mother does not want to allow contact with the father for fear of revenge, the youth welfare office will again assume that she is endangering the child’s welfare.
You write that the current residence laws mean that migrant women are significantly less protected from intimate partner violence.
For me, this is one of the most stressful consulting situations. If a woman obtained a residence permit through marriage to a German man, she must remain in the partnership for at least three years in order not to be deported. Only then could she receive a residence permit that is independent of her husband. Before the end of these three years, she would either have to leave the country or submit a hardship application. Domestic violence would be a hardship case. The problem with this, however, is verifiability.
Is marriage still advisable for women in principle?
When starting a family, I can advise women to get married. In the event of a separation, there is the option of applying for separation maintenance. In addition, receive half of the pension rights acquired during the marriage. This results in economic security. But according to a study, marriage has a life-threatening effect on women. Many women fall back into gender roles that they don’t want to perform.
In the book’s conclusion you speak of the “deafening silence of men” on this topic. What do you ask of them?
Every woman knows at least one person in her environment who has been affected by violence, although many men say they do not know any perpetrators. I would like men to take responsibility, come to terms with their masculinity and initiate a radical redesign of masculinity. Even men who are convinced that they are feminist and progressive are strongly influenced by patriarchal structures: love and empathy are rewarded significantly less than power, dominance and control. These blind spots need to be addressed. This is best done in a healthy and loving relationship.