Estonian men’s violence against their intimate partners

Kadri Soo

The article studies the violence perpetrated by 18-54-year-old Estonian men against their female partners or wives and the related risk factors. The empirical data are derived from the 2014 survey of Estonian men’s attitudes and behaviour. Of the 1137 men studied 12% state that they have used mental, physical and/or sexual violence against their women partners. Men’s violence is above all related to socio-cultural attitudes that support violence. Attitudes that explain and justify hitting women and reduce the responsibility of the man help violent men normalize their actions and lead to the repetition of episodes of violence. Men, who have themselves experienced abuse as children, are more likely to act violently in their relationships, support the man-breadwinner family model and gender inequality in sexual relationships. Alcohol use is a statistically important factor, but its impact on perpetrating violence is weaker than that of attitudes supporting violence. Men’s labour force participation status and the financial state of the household are not related to aggressive behaviours in a relationship. In conclusion, it can be said that men’s violence against women partners is primarily related to patriarchal values that legitimizes male dominance and privilege as well as double standards in sexual and family relationships (but also in the public sphere). Men who have adopted the described stance during their socialization as the image of the “real” man are very likely to expect submission and obedience from women and consider them people with fewer rights. Violence is a means of establishing power and control as well as an act securing masculinity that can be practiced by men with a very different socio-economic status. Alcohol use helps to demonstrate adherence to the norms of masculinity, but it is also a handy excuse to reduce men’s responsibility for acts of violence.