In 1983 a book by Elizabeth Wilson was published entitled What Is to Be Done about Violence against Women? Published approximately a decade after the emergence of feminist-inspired campaigning on rape, domestic violence, pornography, prostitution and incest (all of which she discusses), it offered a hard-hitting analysis of the problem of violence against women and the route to a solution. Thirty-six years later it still makes salutary reading. Of course, some of the specific issues that Wilson discussed seem rather dated now, since laws have changed, some aspects of wider public tolerance of violence have changed, and there is contemporarily a much wider recognition of the problem of violence against women both culturally and in the policy domain. However, as Stanko (2007: 211) observed, ‘Women's choice not to engage in officialdom in much of what they experience at the hands of men continues to testify that there is much more continuity in the 30 plus years since I started studying violence’, with Mooney (2007) adding the question: why is violence against women a public anathema and a private common place all at the same time? Wilson's (1983) own agenda for change comprised three levels of action: social policy, the law, and ideology. It is evident that there have been many changes at each of these levels since Wilson's book was published, some of which have impacted upon gender relations in both the public and the private spheres. However, much also remains the same.
Violence against women is mundane, ordinary, and an everyday occurrence: ‘Just part of life’, as quoted some time ago by Genn (1988: 98). That such violence is also sexual is often disputed as Herberle (2014: 59) observes, ‘Modify violence with the term sexual and questions of consent, desire, identity, in relationship to gender, sex, and sexuality are invoked’. However, the salience of sex in all forms of violence cannot be denied even when terms are deployed to deny its sex-specific nature. Mackinnon (1989: 92) commented on this in the following way:
Battery as violence denies its sex-specific nature. I think that it is done sexually to women. Not only in where it is done – over half the incidents are in the bedroom, or in respect of the surrounding events – the precipitating sexual jealousy.