Domestic Violence towards women is a problem in the United States that is usually over looked and almost always not noticed by Society today. Violence is defined by the Riverside Webster's Dictionary (p.755) as: 1. Physical force employed so as to damage or injure. 2. As an instance of violent action. If this is the case than why is it that so many women are beaten by loved ones each year and little or nothing is done to correct this violent and hostile situation? In this paper I will attempt to answer this question along will a slue of others which pl aque women in these war zones each day.
"The battered women is pictured by most people as a small, fragile, haggard person who might once have been pretty. She has several small children, no job skills, and is economically dependent on her husband. It is frequently assumed that she is poor and from a minority group. She is accustomed to living in violence, and her fearfulness and passivity are emphasized above all. Although some battered women do fit this description, research proves it to be false stereotype.''(Walker p.18) In fact most batte red women have highly lucrative jobs such as doctors or lawyers, Corporation executives and nurses. Most are heavy set women whose assets are controlled by there husbands and cannot defend themselves physically. Battered women are found in all racial, rel igious and ethical backgrounds as well as age groups and educational levels. ''Who are battered women? If you are a women, there is a 50 percent chance it could be you!''(Walker p.19)
Statistical data on battered women is difficult to find because most records are buried in medical records, domestic disturbance calls to the police or the records of social service agencies. During my research I found that characteristics in numerous c ategories for both the batterer and battered were the same. Here is a list of those categories that were the same or in a similar fashion the same for both individuals. Commonly shared characteristics between Battered and Batterer. 1. Has low self-esteem. 2. Believes all myths about battering relationships. 3. Is a traditionalist about the home, strongly believes in family unity and his or her roles in the family unit. As with the women all racial, religious, educational levels equally represent the men, cultures socioeconomic groups. "Batterers typically deny that they have a problem, although they are aware of it; and they become enraged if their women should reveal t he true situation." (Walker p.36)
"Researchers Eisenberg and Micklow found 90 percent of the batterers in their study had been in the military. Twenty five percent received dishonorable discharges." (Walker p.37) These are some alarming facts and characteristics about both the battered a nd the batterer. I was unable to collect any data on the cause for this percentage of violence by men of the military. Although it being a school of violence might have some weight on the effects of this violence on women. Some of the reasoning behind the se acts of physical and mental neglect may be societies acceptance of such violence. We as a society are always calling for more violence on television in the theater and on other individuals. We pay for these sorts of entertainment, ask the government to apply force on other nations and as the saying goes "sex and violence sell." It is glorified in all forms of the media.
Why do battered women stay with there significant others? The answer has many different angles; some stay for financial reasons others for the traditional reasons. The fact is that they stay, but when is enough? "After you live so many years, and you wak e up one day, and your body has just about had it, you say, 'My God, I just can't take another punch.' That's what happened to me. I just reached a point where I said, 'No more. Nothing is worth it.' I decided I would rather struggle and see if I couldn't make it, so I just up and left, and that's been it." (Langley and Levy p.111) This was the victim of spouse abuse for seventeen years. In another case a women from Maryland described her experience. "Being beaten up is the most degrading, humiliating, cr ushing kind of thing that could happen to a person." (Langley and Levy p.116) in most cases the women feel that they are the ones to blame for there battering and also apologize for being beaten. "A women's decision to stay or go to seek help or suffer in silence is often determined by the frequency of her beatings." (Langley and Levy p.122)
When women do come to the end of the line and have finally worked up enough courage to do it, to leave the one she loves so dear where does she go? Well I would like to tell you that she calls for help via the police or local athorities and receives the compassion and understanding that she so deserves and needs in this time of uncertainty and doubt. But, all too often she is meet with hostility and cynicism. "Usually, the police, attorneys, prosecutors, public defenders, and even judges feel they should not get involved in so called family problems." (Langley and Levy p.153)
One Detroit police officer is even quoted as saying, "there are no rewards for refereeing a family fight." (Langley and Levy p.153) One of the problems is the offense can be both criminal and civil matters. There are in fact only three states that have l aws that deal directly with spouse abuse, California, Hawaii, and Texas which make it an automatic felony for a husband to beat his wife. The system however does not work in the favor of the battered but rather in the favor of the batterer. "Assault is a crime in every state. Since wife beating is a form of assault, then wife beating is a crime in every state. In practice, however, wife beating is not treated as a crime but as a civil matter. Prosecutors deliberately look the other way even when a man adm its to wife beating." (Langley and Levy p.154)
When the judicial system fails to help the abused, the abused must turn elsewhere. Places such as crisis centers, church, or shelters. But in many places there are no such places or organizations to help the abused, then the abused must depend on communi ty help as well as family and friends to help. Mostly with support groups and just by giving the abused the compassion and support once sot by the abused in the judicial system.
One example of this disappointment in the system was found in the Detroit Free Press, in an article headlined " Emergency Number Still Has Kinks," reported: " near-breathless women, beaten by her husband, dialed 911 to ask for police assistance. 'Does he have a weapon?' the operator asked.
" She answered he did not. "Then I am sorry. We won't be able to help you,' the operator said to the dismayed women." (Langley and Levy p.160) This lack of confidence in the judicial system in return sends women a message of desperation, fear and frustration. Many women in turn take the law into there own hands, in a study done by the U.S Department of Justice between 1987 and 1991. "Approximate ly one in four attacks involved the use of a gun or knife, according to the study. Young, black and Hispanic women were especially vulnerable, as were poor single women with low education levels who lived in inner cities. The findings were drawn from more than 400,000 interviews." The Acting Bureau Director Lawrence A. Greenfeld stated that "the number of women attacked by spouses, former spouses, boyfriends, parents or children is more than 10 times higher than the number of males attacked by such people ." It is clear to me that all of us living in this great nation need to join hands in the fight against Domestic Violence in the home, not just against women but children and men as well. But for the purpose of this paper I would like to focus mainly on the women of the American household. We as a society should take action and compose social as well as political laws to rectify this situation. There are no set standards, in fact police officers are told to not arrest in cases of domestic violence calls. The reasoning is once again the civil matter of domestic violence being a "family problem".
In concluding this simply alarming and terrifyingly eye opening subject matter I would like to suggest five areas in which we as a society and human beings could help in altering the violence. Not just on women but on women, children and minorities as w ell. 1. The expression of violence is most commonly seen in the context of relationships 2. Current policies to address personal violence are outdated and superficial. 3. Violence does not effect everyone equally-it is ingrained in cultural expressions of power and inequality. 4. Prevention of violence entails on the positive in the context of the relationships, not just focusing on individual weaknesses or deviance. 5. Youth are important resources and are part of the solution. I strongly believe in these five seemingly simply and yet necessary areas. Not as a way of solving the domestic problems of society today but as a way of depleting the number of cases of domestic violence each year until a suitable set of guidelines or st andards can be developed.
- U.S Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics Box 6000 Rockville, Maryland 20850
- David A. Wolfe Christine Wekerle Katreena Scott Alternatives to Violence Empowering Youth to Develop Healthy Relationships Sage Publications 2455 Teller Road Thousand Oaks, California 91320
- Evan Stark, Ph.D., M.S.W. Anne Flitcraft, M.D. Women At Risk Domestic Violence and Women's Health Sage Publications 2455 Teller Road Thousand Oaks, California 91320
- Roger Langley Richard C. Levy Wife Beating: The Silent Crisis A Sunrise Book E.P. Dutton 201 Park Avenue South New York, N.Y. 10003
- Lenore E. Walker The Battered Women Harper & Row, Publishers New York, Hagerstown, San Francisco, London