In our current society domestic violence is a widespread social problem with a disproportionately high rate of the violence perpetrated against women and children by men. Certain conditions exist within a society that allow for one group of people to be consistently violent to another group of people. We call those conditions the four pillars. They exist in relation to violence against women, gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, people of color, people with intellectual disabilities, undocumented immigrants and many other marginalized groups.

The four pillars are:

  1. The notion of hierarchy- This idea states that some people are inherently better than others, more logical, more intelligent, more moral, more, more, more. Because they are better they should have positions of power in society and be in the position to rule the lesser. This idea of one group being better than another is constantly reinforced in our culture through the media, our schools, customs, etc…
  2. The ability to force those at the bottom of the hierarchy (pyramid) to submit – Victims have to be conditioned as a group on some level to accept the domination, the right of the person at the top of the hierarchy to dominate, and their own inferior position. Again, this doesn’t happen without tremendous social support from the media, our schools, customs, etc…
  3. The objectification of those at the bottom of the hierarchy (pyramid) – Just as there is a cultural and social way to get those at the bottom of the hierarchy to submit to their inferior status there needs to be ways to make them into objects. In other words make people believe that they are not worthy, not normal, not good enough. So immigrants are branded as coming over the border to steal jobs, they are dirty and unreliable and ruining “our” economy. Gays are sinners who are somehow a flaw in God’s creation. They will seduce people who don’t want to be seduced; they are sick and need treatment or interventions to be changed etc. Women are manipulative, they take advantage of men, they are sexually unfaithful and cannot be trusted around any other man, they are irrational and overly emotional and dependent. The people at the top of the hierarchy are also taught to think of people at the bottom this way.
  4. The ability of those at the top of the hierarchy to use punishment , violence, or coercion without consequences –For centuries men have been allowed to batter their wives with no interference from the police or family or the church. All of that is beginning to change but very slowly and unevenly. The laws prohibiting “wife-beating” are enforced unevenly from city to city and even within cities and towns. It is now illegal to hit an adult partner in all fifty states and will often be punished on some level by the state. It is still common for the faith community and families and people in the mental health community to look the other way when this violence is occurring and not confront the abuser.

-Ellen Pence, “Theory Matters- Different Theories Produce Different Results” based on the work of Andrea Dworkin