Domestic Violence

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Domestic Abuse Perpetrators

  1. Who most often commits domestic violence.
  2. There are studies showing women are actually more involved in the physical abuse of children. Is this true?
  3. Isn't it mainly working class people or lower class people who do this?
  4. Don't lesbian and gay people batter too?

Statistics and Facts

  1. Is domestic violence really a major problem for our society?
  2. Does battering happen more often in the US than in other places?
  3. How are children affected by battering?

Domestic Violence Information

  1. Is battering or domestic violence only physical?
  2. Haven't men always hit women?
  3. If someone is being battered, how does she get it to stop?
  4. What about women who antagonize a batterer? Aren’t they asking for it?
  5. There's something called battered women's syndrome. What is it?
  6. How does alcohol affect domestic violence or battering?
  7. If I or someone I know is being battered, how can I get help?
  8. What causes battering?
  9. Are there Federal Laws that respond to the problems of battering?

Who most often commits domestic violence?

Overwhelmingly, it's heterosexual men in relationships. However, if we refer just to the act of hitting or physically hurting another person, research statistics from the 1980's and early 1990's shows women are as likely or more likely than men to hit or physically harm a partner. But what is not well explained is many of these women who strike out are responding to a violent situation which has already been created by the male in the relationship.

We must also understand on average men are much larger and better trained to physically defend themselves than women are; and therefore do not have the same reaction to violence directed at them. This is a very important part of battering, which for a lot of men is hard to understand. It is certainly just as wrong for a woman to hit a man as for a man to hit a woman. It's simply wrong, and no one should have to tolerate being hit by another person.

However, in comparison, a man's reaction to a woman's violence is usually far less emotionally traumatic than a woman's reaction to a man's violent acts. The emotional reaction for men being hit by a woman is usually annoyance, anger and self-righteousness. The male might think, "She's got a lot of nerve, who does she think she is laying her hands on me".

In contrast, the reaction for women is far more traumatic, most often involving varying amounts of fear or terror. When a 180-lb man who's been trained to punch, punches a 130lb woman, she's going to feel a lot different than when the 130-lb woman punches the 180lb man. Both because of physical size, and because of mind-set; women are not trained to think they can defend themselves; men are trained to think they can.

To point out an important statistic for women: in 1994, domestic violence was the leading cause of injury to women. Causing more injuries than muggings, stranger rapes, and car accidents combined. There are no such figures like that for men.

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There are various articles and studies showing women are actually more involved than men in the physical abuse of children. Is this true?

There are a few studies that indicate women cause more physical injury to children, however all studies agree that serious injury is overwhelmingly caused by men. Studies concluding that women cause more physical injury to children have revealed that these numbers may be skewed because women are much more involved in childcare than men, and therefore have much more opportunity to strike a child.

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Isn't it mainly working class people or lower class people who do this?

No, its not mainly any particular group of people. Surveys have found domestic violence across all social, economic, racial, and ethnic lines; there are strong indications of consistency in amounts of battering in all areas of the world. In the news, however, we are more likely to see domestic violence arrests involving working class people. People of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to face criminal charges for their behavior because they don't have the buffers of professional lawyers more well to do people have.

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Don't lesbian and gay people batter too?

Yes. In fact, in recent years we’ve been finding much higher numbers than suspected in lesbian and gay relationships. There is a slightly different dynamic in these relationships than in heterosexual relationships. The lesbian and gay battering situations often involve the inability to deal with the frustration and burdens of living in a homophobic society.

There are also similar issues, present in heterosexual marriages, (children, money, things like that), but these issues become an even greater problem with gay couples because they don’t have as much support from family or friends during these rough times. In fact, some families don’t even know that their child is in a gay relationship.

These societal factors often times contribute along with more common factors like growing up in a violent home, self-hatred, and poor impulse control.

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Is domestic violence really a major problem for our society?

Statistics have suggested violence is perpetrated against women in almost half of all marriages. Statistics gathered from 1994 indicate domestic violence causes almost 100,000 days of hospitalization, 30,000 emergency room visits, 40,000 trips to the doctor every year, and 50% of all homeless women and their children are fleeing domestic violence. In the US, male partners beat almost 4 million women every year.

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Does battering happen more often in the US than in other places?

As far as we know, it doesn't. Domestic violence is not reported very well and is therefore hard to measure. But based on surveys from shelters and so forth, the US may have less battering than some other nations around the world. However, if all women in the US victimized in 1993 held hands, the line would stretch from New York City to beyond Las Angeles. So, it's a relative issue whether battering happens more in the US than in other places. It happens too much everywhere.

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How are children affected by battering?

A few things we know. In batterer’s groups we find over 50% of battering men came from homes where the male in the family was either very violent or controlling. In these homes, family members walked in fear of the male because of threats, or frequent violence directed at his mate, the children, or both. And even if no violence was directed at the children, they were witnesses to violence.

More than 3 million children witness acts of domestic violence every year. Also more than 1/2 of abused women who are mothers, beat their own children. Children of abused women are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide and 50% more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. So it's a pretty heavy load on children who either witness domestic violence or are immediate victims themselves.

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Is battering or domestic violence only physical?

For the most part, only the physical actions of domestic violence are actionable under law, which are the use of physical force, or the threat of force. However, in many battering relationships there will also be a system of control and intimidation in place, and oftentimes a great deal of manipulation by the batterer. Certainly there are many relationships between people that are dysfunctional in which one or both people are emotionally abusive to the other.

But if there's no battering (threat of violence or overwhelming control of that person's life) then we're simply talking about a bad relationship in which either party has the choice to remove themselves; and not one in which a person feels threatened of serious harm if they leave.

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Haven't men always hit women?

It's hard to measure whether anything like domestic violence has always taken place. We do know we are a part of a patriarchal, anti-woman system. Most major cultures in our world today, and over the past 3,500 years, have tolerated men beating women under specific conditions. We see evidence of men physically controlling women in the Bible and other places. Evidence of women's suppression is portrayed in the morays, folkways, and laws of societies throughout the Christian and Islamic eras.

There is a MYTH which seems to have begun due to this type of physical control. The MYTH was that "a man could not beat his wife with a stick wider than the length of his thumb" - What is inferred from this myth is that there should be a limit on how you could control your woman, but as long as you worked within the limit, it was okay.

Although there has been a long history of violence against women in most cultures, there are cultures in the Pacific Islands, Central Africa and other parts of the world where there hasn't been much violence against women. These less violent cultures are more egalitarian, and have less clearly defined male and female roles than other cultures.

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If someone is being battered, how does she get it to stop?

The hard facts are, she is not likely to get it to stop. A woman involved in a threatening, intimidating, or violent relationship, has to make a decision about whether she's going to seek help. It's easy to tell women, "call the police!" Since assault is against the law, she has the right to protection. If the abuser continues to harass her, the next steps would be to get a restraining order, and go to a shelter.

In most cities, there are shelters available for women and their children in retreat from a batterer. This sounds easy, and makes lots of sense. One problem however, is there are far more women and children who need shelter from batterers than is available. For instance, in Boston in 1990, for every two women and children given access to a shelter, 5 women and 8 children were turned away because there was no room.

Every month in the US, more than 50,000 women seek restraining or protection orders, but they don't always help. There are plenty of stories where police don't fully enforce restraining orders. Or, despite enforcement, the batterer is so enraged, that he continues to step over the line, trying to hurt her. While there are nearly 1,500 shelters for battered women in the US, probably twice that many are needed if everyone being battered sought shelter. We can tell women to seek help, however, it can be hard to do.We need to continue writing and promoting issues of battered women and the help they need.

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What about women who antagonize a batterer? Aren’t they asking for it?

No. These women are most likely responding to a battering cycle. Women in these relationships are getting hit, and don’t know when they’ll be hit again. The anxiety of not knowing when they’ll be hurt again, can sometimes cause them to do things to force the battering. This way, they know when the beating will happen. Most of the time, women learn once the battering has happened, there will be a brief period of time when they can feel safe; when it won't happen again.

So, people who see women "egging on the batterer" may say, "Don't they know any better? This guy just hit them yesterday, why are they in his face yelling at him? It seems to me they are asking for it?" Well, they're not really asking for it, what they would like is to not be hit ever again.These women are asking for peace, the chance to feel safe, and one of the ways they can get this is by getting the batterer to act out immediately.

Many batterers will say, "She is making me do this!. She is in my face making me angry and violent!" The thing to remember is everyone has the right over their own body. If a man doesn't like the way a woman is treating him, he can walk away. He can leave the situation, and in most cases, he is certainly physically capable to get out the door. He can do that. It doesn't matter that she's being emotionally abusive or whether she's being nice, doesn't matter. What matters is she has the right over her body and he has the right over his. If she violates his body, he can choose to call the police, and bring the authorities in rather than hitting back.

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What is the definition of battered women's syndrome. What is a battered woman?

Battered women's syndrome is similar to "learned helplessness". When a woman is in conditions that undermine her self-esteem, questions her judgment, and terrorizes her, she may be unable to take actions that seem to be in her power. She may behave with seeming illogic, or act out violently. Battered Women’s Syndrome is a hotly debated issue in the mental health community. Professionals question whether women should be labeled with a mental health diagnosis when they are simply responding "naturally" to outrageous conditions.

Battered women’s syndrome happens to many people in environments where there is constant fear, terror, and uncertainty about their well-being. In the case of battered women’s syndrome, a woman can develop a pattern of leaving the batterer and going back, again and again. People who are trying to help the battered woman (friends and family) can find themselves becoming very frustrated with the woman who does this.

A thing to remember about these women is the batterer has told her again and again that he loves her. This is her companion, best friend, and person she spends her life with. To face that she cannot be safe from that person is often a very hard thing to accept.

Some women may say, "Well, he only did it when he drank. He was acting that way because of some things I did or said. If I change things just a little bit he might stop. He just got laid off from his job and he was depressed, and that's why he's acting out this way. Once he gets a job he'll stop." There is always a "reason", and of course these are all excuses; it doesn't matter what the reason, he doesn’t have the right to put his hands on her. This is the key. It’s very hard sometimes for women who are caught up in these situations to be clear about that.

Many people aren’t aware how tough it is for women to leave men in this culture. If she doesn't have money, access to an automobile, a job, or child care, it can be very hard for a woman to separate from a man. It can become a woman’s attitude to keep taking the abuse to survive, and someday, things will be okay. This cultural piece combined with the other parts of battered women's syndrome can make it pretty hard for a woman to actually leave.

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How does alcohol affect domestic violence or battering?

It has some affect. Many people who are engaged in violence or are victims of violence, think alcohol is a large factor or a cause of the battering. Generally though, it’s not considered a cause of battering. We do know however, that alcohol is found to be involved in approximately 1/2 of the cases reported to the police. Either the victim or perpetrator has been drinking, or both. So certainly, there is some bearing on people's behavior when they have been drinking alcohol. But generally, it’s never the cause of the violence. Violence is really someone's decision that it's okay to hit another person, to strangle, restrain, or whatever the physical act.

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If I or someone I know is being battered, how can I get help?

To seek good, proper help, a great first step is to call a Shelter Hot-Line in your area. They can talk to you by telephone on how to get started in the right direction; as it pertains to your situation. The same is true if you yourself are the one who's doing the battering. If there is not a local number for Batterer's Services or Shelters in your community, then you should call the 24 hour Battered Women’s Hotline 1(800)500-1119. Most major and small cities have more than one Hot-Line and support groups. For folks in rural areas though, the National Hotline number can help you start the process of seeking help.

Most help involves women getting together in support groups that Battered Women's Hotlines provide. The groups are made up of women who have been through the process (broken free), and women who are still dealing with it. Together these women work to help each other. Certainly, individual counseling may be useful to help work on issues of co-dependency and related issues of trauma and/or post-traumatic stress as a result of being in this terrible situation.

Help Guide - Comprehensive information about physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as it pertains to children.

Consulting an attorney is often a good idea if you're confident a divorce is imminent or if you need legal advice.

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What causes battering?

There is a major piece to battering rooted in our culture. Most battering males have (developed) very rigid views of gender roles. They tend to be sexist in attitudes toward women (not all batterers, but most). This cultural issue seems to be the most consistent among batterers.

Society trains men to see women in certain disrespectful, objectified ways. As a result, many men see women as their possession. It was not long ago that women were considered property of men. And primarily, this attitude still lives in the US culture. It’s only been a handful of years since most states, for instance, changed laws regarding rape in marriage. Previously, laws stated a man could not be convicted of raping his wife. The implied issue was she was his.

Therefore, husbands could do what they wanted and wives were expected to cooperate. In most states these laws have been changed, but it's been a very short time since they have. There are still churches today (and most within the last 20 years) that perform ceremonies where the wife must take oath to love, honor and obey their husband.

Still today, the most common procedure when a person gets married is for women to take their husbands name. The logic being that it is simpler than hyphenating names, adding middle names, and so on. But this is really a remnant of a society where women went from their father's house to their husbands house. Women never belonged to themselves, but rather to their father or husband. And that's what her last name represented. Very much like African Slaves of both genders. African Slaves were given the name of their slave holder. And it’s been less than 80 years since women have the right to vote. Attitudes towards women certainly have an effect on people’s willingness to physically hurt them.

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Are there Federal Laws that respond to the problems of battering?

A domestic violence law came into effect a couple years back involving gun control. The law instates that men found guilty of domestic violence are prohibited from owning a gun. Both the armed forces and police forces are protesting this law because they are finding many of their recruits have been found guilty of domestic violence.

In the past, police departments were in strong support of the promotion and legislation of gun control involving domestic violence. Despite this, police departments are now in opposition, and are pressuring congress to change this new law. This law also provides funding for a national hotline. So, there is now a National Hotline available to everyone, even in rural communities where there wasn't this kind of service available in the past.

In addition to our attitudes towards women, and growing up in violent homes, basic things like the stresses of daily life, and alcohol can also contribute. Issues referred to as unresolved anger and rage have also been named as causes for the violence. Intermittent explosive disorder, which some people suffer from, can also include physical violence.

All of the above can be part of the make-up of someone who batters (PDF). Again, most consistently found in batterers is the misconception of women. Sexism permeates the culture, and reinforces women as objects to be used. Reminding us of this is important.

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