Women and the effects of domestic violence
Despite many publicized cases, society often overlooks domestic violence toward women. Statistical data on battered women is difficult to find. Most records are buried in medical records, domestic disturbance calls to police, or the records of social service agencies. Never-the-less, domestic violence is a serious issue, and people commonly ask the same two questions that over-simplify the problem: why are so many women beaten each year by the people they love yet they remain in the relationship and why is nothing being done to correct this type of violence. These questions are difficult to answer because the "battered woman" issue is clouded by stereotypes and incorrect assumptions about these issues.
One common misconception is that most people think of the battered woman as a small, meek person of a minority who has several children and who relies solely on her husband's income because she has no job skills. Some battered women do fit this description; however, research has proven that this stereotype is false. In fact, most battered women have highly lucrative jobs, and their assets are controlled by their husbands. Battered women are found in all races, religious, and ethical backgrounds, and age or education makes no difference.
In addition, most people don't realize that the characteristics for both the battered and the batterer are the same: low self-esteem, belief in the myths about battering relationships, and belief in family unity and his or her roles in the family. All racial, religious and educational levels also equally represent the men and women. Batterers will typically deny that they have a problem even if they are aware of it and will become angry if the women talks about the situation with anyone.
Another misunderstood issue is why women remain in abusive relationships. Women often stay for financial reasons or even for traditional reasons. Women often feel that the abuse is their fault, and they feel the need to apologize for it. The batterer usually tells the women that he is sorry and that he loves her, giving her false hopes of becoming better and telling her exactly what she wants to hear so that she will stay. Another impediment for the battered women is the sometimes callous judicial system.
When women finally find the courage to leave the batterer where do they go? Whom do they call? Some women may have a family member or friend's house to go to, but, all too often, they have nowhere to go where they will feel safe. Women call the police for help hoping for compassion and understanding, but often they find hostility instead. Police, attorneys, and even judges feel that they should not get involved in family disputes. This sends women a message of desperation, fear, and frustration. Women must turn elsewhere when the judicial system fails them. Many women take the law into their own hands. Women often choose some form of violence: shooting, stabbing, and even hiring someone else to do bodily damage to the batterer. A study done by the U.S. Department of Justice between 1987 and 1991 says, "approximately one in four attacks against batterers involved the use of a gun or knife." The findings were drawn from more than 400,000 interviews with battered women.
All of us can help in altering the violence by gaining more accurate knowledge of the dynamics of an abusive relationship. The act of violence is most commonly seen in many relationships, and current policies to address personal violence are outdated. Dismissing the stereotypes and and accurate assumptions about battered women are, what characteristics the battered and batterer share, and what changes need to occur in our judicial system to protect women is the first step in preventing domestic violence.