History of Domestic Violence

The Code of Hammurabi (1800 B.C.) decreed that a wife must be submissive to her husband and a man can punish any member of his household for any disobedience.


1500's Marital Exemption for Rape

Medieval Canon law allowed a wife to be punished publicly sometimes with iron muzzles, or scold bridles, with spikes which depressed the tongue.

In Renaissance France limited the discipline of wives and children to physical abuse that did not result in death but added, "the man who is not master of his wife is not worthy of being a man."

Ever heard of the ‘rule of thumb’? In the 1700's, England passed a law that allowed a man to "chastise his wife with a whip or rattan no bigger than his thumb, in order to enforce domestic discipline.”

1721 First court transcript documenting lesbian violence between partners. Defendant sentenced to death.

1845 Equal Inheritance Rights: Law passed in Sweden giving women and men equal inheritance rights

1868 Treaty of 1868 between General Sherman and the Navajo nation, requiring Navajos to select male leaders, destroying traditional relationships in the Nation.

1871 Legal Right of Men to Beat Their Wives Rescinded in Alabama: Alabama first state to rescind legal right of men to beat their wives. Massachusetts follows shortly. 

1882 Wife Beating Made a Crime in Maryland: first state to make wife beating a crime, punishable by 40 lashes or a year in jail.


Throughout the years many art forms covered the topic of domestic violence, reflecting a major social issue in our world. These are a few that are worth mentioning.


  • The Burning Bed (1984)

  • Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)

  • When No One Would Listen (1992)

  • What's Love Got to Do With It? (1993)

  • Once Were Warriors (1994)

  • Domestic Violence (2001)

  • Enough (2002)


  • Alejandra Adorno Menduina, Stand Up for Women's Rights Now

  • A Long Walk Home:Arts, Activism, Advocacy

  • Candi Castleberry Singleton, Dignity and Respect Quilt Campaign

  • Charlotte Farhan, Art to End the Silence on Rape

  • Comics with a Cause

  • Ewa Grochowska, Freedom4Ewa Pottery

  • Graffiti to Combat Violence Against Women

  • Hey Baby! Art Opposing Sexual Violence

  • Hilom

  • Wall of Memories:Las Desaparecidas de Cuidad Juarez

  • Merna Thomas, Shout Art Loud

  • Nizhegorodsky Women's Crisis Centre, Art Therapy for Victims and Witnesses of Violence

  • Priya's Shakti

  • Saint Hoax, Happy Never After

  • Stop al Femminicidio

  • Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Stop Telling Women to Smile

In 1910, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that a wife had no cause for action on an assault and battery charge against her husband.

1969 California adopts a no-fault divorce law.

1971 Women's Advocates: First identified shelter opens in England, Chiswick Women's Aid. Haven House and Women's Advocates start first shelters for battered women.

1972 First hotline for battered women in St. Paul, Minnesota

1976 First legal center for battered women funded by Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago.
Nebraska becomes the first state to abolish the marital rape exemption. 
Pennsylvania becomes the first state to create a statute providing for orders of protection for victims of domestic violence

In 1977, the California Penal Code stated that wives must have more injuries to charge husbands with criminal assault and battery than a person would need for usual charges of battery.

1979 First congressional hearings on the issue of domestic violence are held. 

1980 Spousal Abuse A Separate Offense in 10 states

Now women can obtain protection orders. BUT in almost half of our country the police do not have the power to enforce these orders, nor is there any penalty for the person who violates them.


  • The Crystals - "He Hit Me (It felt Like a Kiss)"
  • Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan - "Stone Cold Dead In the Market"
  • Miranda Lambert - "Gunpowder & Lead"
  • Cheap Trick - "The House Is Rockin' (With Domestic Problems)"
  • Pink Floyd - "Don't Leave Me Now"
  • Insane Clown Posse - "Hall Of Illusions"
  • Pearl Jam - "Rear-view Mirror"
  • Green Day - "Pulling Teeth"
  • Eminem - "96 Bonnie & Clyde", "Kim", "Love the Way you Lie"

    YouTube Video

  • YouTube Video