Domestic Violence Against Women
The statistics are shocking. Everyday women are being beaten, terrorized and murdered at the hands of their husbands, boyfriends and ex-husbands, “At least one woman is battered every 15 seconds” (FBI). To make matters worse, batterers often seek and gain custody of their children, even though the batterers often abuse their children as well as women. Our society has come a long way in understanding abuse and in addition the legal system has also improved its attitudes toward violence against women, but we still have a very long way to go.
The United States Surgeon General reports that domestic violence is the greatest single cause of injury among U.S. women, accounting for more emergency room visits than auto accidents, mugging and rape combined (Shupe). According to, The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics Report, 95% of all documented domestic assault crimes are committed by men against women; in 1996 there were 15,000 calls to law enforcement agencies in Sacramento County for domestic violence response (FBI). It is very difficult to know the exact number of victims of domestic violence, especially sexual assault and other incidents committed by the intimate offenders, due to the many occurrences not reported to the police. There are many factors that victims consider in their decision not to report it to the police, but the greatest reason is the fear that threats to kill you or your family will become reality. Other reasons include embarrassment, shame and hopes that his promises to change will come true this time. There is an assumption in our society that there is a clear relationship between anger and physical violent behavior. However, anger is a human emotion and studies have shown that physical violence or abuse is a learnt behavior and the perpetrator is more often than not, going to repeat this behavior. All human beings experience anger at one time or another. People get angry with their bosses, co-workers, neighbors and friends. Yet people don’t ordinarily kill or physically hurt others in order to get their way, and when they do, society holds them accountable. Physical violence as well as other forms of domestic abuse are measures that are taken by one person in order to force another person into compliance. The definition of Domestic Violence states a pattern of assault and coercive behavior. This includes physical, sexual, psychological and verbal attacks as well as coercion used against an intimate partner. At least one of the following statements must typically be true about the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator:
- The parties are married now or were formally married to one another.
- The parties are related by blood, marriage or adoption.
- The parties are currently or were formerly living together.
- The parties have now or used to have a dating or engagement relationship.
- The parties have minor children in common.
As a society we tend to close our eyes to this enormous problem that affects everyone. We use the excuse that it is none of our business and that we don’t want to get involved, that is until someone is murdered and then we are shocked and horrified. According to the FBI, 26% of all female homicides in 1995 were attributable to domestic violence (FBI). During 1996, there were 25 domestic violence related homicides in Sacramento County, accounting for 29% of all homicides. These killings usually take place when the female partner wants to leave the relationship. (Women who leave their batterers are at a 75% greater risk of being killed by the batterer than those who stay) (Stark). If she succeeds in leaving without being killed, she usually finds herself in a maze of legal and financial problems. If there are children involved in the relationship, custody problems are sure to follow.
It may be hard to believe an abusive partner can ever make good on his threat to take the children away from his victim. After all, he has a history of violent behavior and she almost never does. Unacceptably, a surprising number of battered women lose custody of their children. The actual number is not known and offenders appear to be more successful in gaining custody than non-offenders. Violent men often present themselves well in public. Since they are very much in control of their behavior, they usually don’t exhibit their anger outside the home. In fact they can appear to be very reasonable and respectable. This often makes it more difficult for women to disclose the violence. An estimated 70% of men who abuse their wives or female partners also abuse the children living in the home.
Additionally, emotional abuse of children by men who batter is even more likely because nearly all of these men’s children are exposed to domestic violence (Pagelow). This exposure often constitutes as a severe form of child abuse since the problems associated with witnessing abuse are now known to our society (Edelson). Although state laws include emotional abuse in their statutory definitions of child abuse and domestic violence, this type of abuse is difficult to substantiate and often ignored by child protection worker.
Parents may not even realize that their children can be affected even if they do not see the violence. For example, the children may be hiding in their bedrooms listening to repeated threats, blows and breaking objects. Obviously, they may be terrified their mother will be injured or killed, but they may also have divided loyalties between their parents, guilt about not being able to protect and help their mother, and anger at their mothers for not leaving (Saunders). There are short and long-term affects for both boys and girls. Children who witness violence in the home commonly display emotional and behavioral problems, anxiety, withdrawal, low self esteem, nightmares, self- blame, depression, poor school performance, aggression against peers, family members and property. Sadly, It is common for the children to feel that they are responsible for the abuse. According to the Journal of Juvenile Justice Digest (1989), a comparison of delinquent and nondelinquent youth found that history of family violence or abuse is the most significant difference between the two groups. Over 3 million American children witness acts of domestic violence each year. Children in violent homes are 74% more likely to commit assault against others and six times more likely to commit suicide.
You would assume that parental separation or divorce would stop the abuse to the children and their mothers. On contrary, physical abuse, harassment, threats and stalking continue at a very high rate after leaving the relationship. Abuse often escalates during custody hearings and property settlement. The abuser tries so desperately to continue his power and control over his victims.
Domestic Violence affects women and children of every culture, race, occupation, income levels and age groups (Novello). Although we have made progress in our society through education and awareness of domestic violence, it still remains a crisis. It continues to be the number one public health issue facing women and children today, but it is also a violation of their human right, which should never be tolerated.