Historic Attitudes Towards Domestic Violence

While domestic violence is an evil our present-day culture endeavors to eliminate, American history has not always viewed it that way. The 1868 case of State v. Rhodes illustrates our country’s previous attitude towards spousal abuse.

In this North Carolina criminal case, a man was prosecuted for using a switch to hit his wife three times. The woman’s crime: she said something the defendant didn’t like—something the defendant couldn’t even remember by the time he was indicted.

The trial court found the man not guilty because it believed that men had a right to whip their wives with a switch, provided that the switch was no larger than the man’s thumb. The state appealed to the state’s supreme court.

The Supreme Court agreed with the general philosophy, believing that men should be allowed to impose “corrections” on their wives and if this case were allowed, the courts would be flooded with trifles. The court also believed that it had no place in the domestic arena absent some significant cruelty.

In its opinion the court held, “[w]e will not inflict upon society the greater evil of raising the curtain upon domestic privacy, to punish the lesser evil of trifling violence.”

Accordingly, the defendant was acquitted.

Clearly attitudes about domestic violence have changed. Nonetheless, it continues to thrive. If you are the victim of a domestic violence situation, then seek help from an attorney trained to deal with domestic violence situations.

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