(Cite as: 35 Hous. L. Rev. 29)
© 1998 Houston Law Review; Kathleen Waits
Symposium: Domestic Violence and the Health Care System


Kathleen Waits

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Mary's Story
    1. Background and Methodology
    2. Mary's Story
  3. Lessons from Mary's Story
    1. Support Counts: You Can Make a Difference in the Victim's Life
    2. Lawyers and Other Professionals Matter
    3. Attitudes Need to Change More than the Law
    4. Process Counts
    5. Do With the Battered Woman, Not To Her
    6. Any "Solution" Not Based on Battered Women's Experiences Is Doomed to Failure
    7. Batterers as Rulemakers
    8. How Physical and Non-Physical Abuse Work Together: Why Do We See It as Torture When Argentinean Generals Do It, But Not When It's the Guy Next Door?
    9. Mary Did Not Display "Battered Women's Syndrome"; "Battered Women as Survivor" Is A Better Explanation of Mary's Responses
  4. Questions -- Skeptical and Otherwise -- About Mary's Story
    1. Is Mary a "Typical" Battered Woman?
    2. Is Russ a "Typical" Batterer?
    3. Haven't Things Changed a Lot: Would Mary's Story Happen Today?
    4. Isn't This Story Just About a Few Bad Apples?
    5. Why Should I Believe Mary's Story?
    6. Do You Hear What I Hear? The Danger of Telling Stories
  5. Conclusion: Why We Must Keep Telling Stories

APPENDIX A. What to Say (and Not to Say) to a Battered Woman

APPENDIX B. Methods of Coercion

APPENDIX C. Personalized Safety Plan

APPENDIX D. Power and Control Wheel

Author's Note


I. Introduction

The statistics are horrifying. Women are brutalized, terrorized, and murdered by intimate partners every day. [1] To make matters worse, battered women are often victimized a second time by police, prosecutors, lawyers, psychologists, and judges. [2] Batterers often seek and receive custody of children [3] even though they often abuse children as well as women. [4] While society and the legal system have improved their attitudes toward domestic violence, [5] we still have a long way to go.

And yet the statistics cannot tell the whole story. They are too abstract and impersonal. The sheer magnitude of the numbers can desensitize us. Domestic violence is so widespread, we can easily become numb to the human suffering behind the statistics.

Telling individual women's stories is one way to address this dilemma. Stories touch our feelings in a way that statistics cannot. [6] Stories can also spur us to action when statistics only depress us. [7]

And so, I have decided to tell the story of one woman, a woman I will call "Mary." [8]

After telling Mary's story, I discuss in Part III some lessons that can be learned from what she experienced. In Part IV, I then address some questions that might be raised by her story, including whether Mary's story is credible and whether Mary is a "typical" battered woman.

II. Mary's Story

A. Background and Methodology

Mary is an attractive, forty-year-old white woman. [9] She has lived her whole life in a mid-size southwestern city. She is a computer systems analyst and works for one of the major employers in her home town.

Mary and I talked for many hours on a number of occasions. What follows, while lengthy, does not purport to be her entire story. In particular, only major incidents of abuse by Mary's husband (now ex-husband) Russ are covered. [10]

I have put Mary's story in the first person for two reasons. First, storytelling is more effective and compelling that way; it makes it harder for the reader to distance herself from the narrator. Second, many of the phrases are direct quotes from Mary, and I wanted to preserve them as such.

I wrote the story based on my interviews with Mary. Therefore, most of the language is mine, not hers. However, Mary has read the entire story and made suggestions and corrections on both wording and content. The finished product is perhaps best viewed as Mary's story "as told to" Kathleen Waits.

The remaining parts of the Article are my work, and I bear sole responsibility for them. Mary has not read these parts of the Article. Based on discussions during our interviews, I suspect that Mary would agree with at least some of the lessons discussed in Part III, but I cannot vouch for that.

The footnotes in Mary's story are of two types. Some guide the reader to later sections of the article for lessons and questions that I think her story raises. Other footnotes provide citations to good discussions on issues that this Article will not address in depth. The interested reader can use the footnotes to follow up and learn more about issues such as abuse during pregnancy, battered women and child custody, and the relationship of alcoholism and domestic violence.

I would urge readers to initially read just the text of Mary's story and not to stop for the footnotes. That is the best way, I believe, to follow the events and feel the full impact of what happened to her. Then, readers can go back and check for the additional information contained in the footnotes.

B. Mary's Story

I was twenty-three years old when I started my relationship with Russ. He was thirty-five and also a computer analyst where I worked. The year was 1980. When I met Russ, my first marriage had recently failed and my son from that marriage, Richard, was three years old.

The end of my first marriage was very traumatic for me because I had been raised a strong Catholic. I felt as though I had failed. In retrospect, I think Russ sensed my vulnerability and took advantage of it. He acted the part of a "knight in shining armor." He wined me and dined me. I was very impressed.

Russ and I broke up a number of times while we were dating. I saw some of his anger and controlling behavior, and they frightened me. I even left the company where we both worked to get away from him. But he pursued me and won me back, and we were married in 1984. He was never physically violent during our courtship. [11]

I became pregnant soon after we were married. I had severe morning sickness during the first seven months of the pregnancy. I felt very weak. Also, while I was pregnant, Russ announced that he was quitting his job and was going to raise horses. He said this was something he had always dreamed about. Despite the fact that raising horses is rarely profitable, he made this incredibly important decision without consulting with me at all. [12] Going without Russ's salary scared me. I was pregnant and also had my son Richard to support.

Russ's first physical abuse occurred when I was pregnant. I have since learned that this is often the case. [13] He had quit his job. I tried to discuss with him my fears about our financial situation, especially with the baby coming. We argued. All of a sudden, he came at me like a rocket launcher. He pushed me against the wall and, holding me there, started to strangle me. He screamed, "You don't tell me what I need to do."

I was shocked. I slid down the wall and fell to the floor, crying. He stood over me and berated me, saying that I was crying because I was "weak."

I can still remember vividly what Russ looked like during this first attack. Words cannot describe it; it was so frightening. His face was distorted, inhuman, and filled with rage; his eyes bugged out. He did not look like the Russ I thought I knew; he seemed like a rabid dog.

I know there is this idea of the "cycle of violence" and that batterers express remorse after a battering episode. [14] I have heard of a "honeymoon" period following the abuse where the batterer is extra nice. [15] Well, that may happen in some cases, but it certainly did not happen in mine. [16] Russ never apologized for this incident or any of the more violent ones that came later. He did not even acknowledge what he had done or that there was anything wrong with it. He never promised, "Honey, it won't happen again." He would, however, sometimes give me gifts after a beating. But even these supposed "gifts" were selfish and controlling. After a severe beating in which he tore up my right arm and shoulder, he bought me a waterbed so I could sleep more comfortably. The purchase angered me because we could not afford it. When I asked him to take it back to the store, he blew up and said my bitching about my shoulder and inability to sleep on my right side was boring. He called me a whiner.

It occurred to me to leave him at this point, but I was much too ashamed to consider it seriously. I thought to myself, "Well, you've dug a hole for yourself -- now you have to live in it." I was much too ashamed and embarrassed to even think about calling the police. [17] If I had, everyone in our neighborhood would have known that we were not a perfect couple. I wanted to keep up appearances.

Though Russ never apologized for the violence, we did have many good times together, at least during the early years of our marriage. I am a very affectionate person, and he could be affectionate too.

During the pregnancy, I went to work at the second shift to make more money. This left Russ taking care of Richard, my son from my first marriage. I later learned that, while caring for Richard, Russ hit him with a paddle board. [18] After the beating, to intimidate Richard, Russ said mockingly, "Are you going to run to Mommy?" Richard did not reveal this to me until I had left Russ for good. He knew Russ would just beat him again if he told me. Richard figured one beating was better than two.

Naturally, the abuse from his stepfather has led to a lot of anger from Richard, now age twenty. However, the anger has not been directed toward me.

In 1985, I gave birth to our first child together, a daughter, Elizabeth. Russ was obviously disappointed that it was a girl. He pressured me to have another child right away. Because of the abuse and my fear of Russ, I was willing to do anything to appease him. So, I became pregnant when Elizabeth was just five months old, even though I was neither physically or emotionally ready for another child. Our son Daniel was born fourteen months after Elizabeth.

Getting back to the issue of Russ's abuse of me. After the choking incident when I was pregnant, Russ just had to give me "the look," and I would try to make peace. [19] I worked to keep the kids quiet; we all worked hard to keep from upsetting Russ. Everyone walked on eggshells. When the kids heard his truck coming, they would run and hide.

While I was pregnant with our second child, Daniel, Russ twisted my arm so violently that it permanently damaged my shoulder. I cannot even remember now what the fight was about. A doctor later told me he was shocked to see an injury like mine in a layperson. He told me the damage done to my shoulder was so severe that it was similar to what a he would expect from a professional baseball pitcher after years of throwing and stress.

The shoulder injury prevented me from full participation in athletics. This was devastating to me. I have always been a superb athlete and enjoyed doing physical things. Because of who I am, the shoulder injury was not just physically painful. It was a way of taking away my identity.

I did not initially seek medical help for the shoulder injury. I was ashamed and thought it was all my fault. Of course, Russ was always telling me that everything was my fault. I did not want anyone to know.

Russ also set up a number of rules for our house. [20] The children and I were to follow the rules "or else." For instance, I was not allowed to watch comedies such as "Cheers" and "M*A*S*H" on television. Instead, we always watched the blood-and-guts action shows that Russ liked. My sense of humor is an important part of who I am and an important part of my self-image. Once again, as with the shoulder injury, Russ was chipping away at the very core of my being.

There were always a lot of guns in our house. At one point, while in a face-to-face argument with my son Richard, who by then was about eleven or twelve, Russ shot a twelve-gauge shotgun straight up in the air, doing major damage to the ceiling and roof of our house. Obviously, this was a terrible act of intimidation and abuse. But, as I will discuss later, Russ did not see it this way, and the judge and custody evaluators did not take this incident seriously either.

As I now know is typical, I was subjected to an unending stream of degrading comments. [21] Russ was always saying things to me like, "Your thighs are fat. Your boobs are too small. No one else would want you. You're lucky to have me." I cannot express the horrible, demeaning, and damaging effects these comments had on me. After all, they were coming from someone I loved and who supposedly loved me. I thought they had to be true. I could not help but internalize them. I had always felt good about my body, but the constant stream of criticism tore away at that. At one point, Russ almost convinced me to have my breasts enlarged, an operation that would have been completely unnecessary.

The tearing away at my self-image and self-esteem is hard to describe. I like to draw an analogy to an artichoke. You can pull one leaf off an artichoke and it's no big deal. But you slowly pull away one leaf and then another and then another, and before long, you're down to the artichoke heart. It's not an artichoke anymore with the leaves gone. And, once the leaves are off, you can stab the artichoke in the heart, no problem. Russ really knew where the insults would hurt, and he tore away at me.

Still, I always kept up a good front. I was able to keep information about the abuse away from my family for a long time. The only exception was one sister who lives in Colorado (I have five brothers and two sisters; we are a very close and loving family [22] ). One time, when she and I were talking over the phone, she heard Russ's angry screaming in the background. She asked one of my brothers, who lives locally, to follow up with me. When he did, I sloughed it off and said, "I'm fine."

I think a lot of people saw the look of terror in the children's eyes when Russ was around. But they either thought nothing of it or did not do anything. In retrospect, I also think various people in my life knew about Russ's anger but did not allow themselves to see the abuse and did not come forward to help me.

My son Richard was not the only child who was abused. When Elizabeth was three, Russ's ten-year old son from a previous marriage (Russ Jr., known as Chip) molested her. Chip would stay with us for part of the summer. One day, when I was not there and Russ was supposedly in charge, Chip went into Elizabeth's bedroom, pulled the blanket over her head, pulled down her pants and started fondling her. When I returned home, Elizabeth was sitting on her bed crying. Unfortunately, it was not unusual for the kids to be crying when I got home after Russ had been caring for them.

When I asked Elizabeth what had happened, she told me what Chip had done. I went and told Russ. He immediately became a maniac and started hitting Chip and pounding him against the wall. I later learned that Russ's supposed anger toward Chip was just a show for my benefit. Years later when I had left Russ and Elizabeth finally felt safe, she told me what had really happened. After Chip had molested her, and before I came home, Elizabeth had told her father what Chip had done. Russ yelled at Elizabeth. That was the real reason she was crying when I got home. When Russ later talked about the incident, he referred to Elizabeth as a "manipulative bitch."

After Chip's molestation of Elizabeth, I never let him be alone in the house with her. Russ refused to send Chip home to his mother in Illinois. To Russ, what Chip had done to Elizabeth was no big deal, since it had happened in private. Interestingly, the next summer, when Chip was caught shoplifting, Russ was genuinely furious and did want to send him back to his mother. The shoplifting was a public event and a potential public embarrassment to Russ. People might find out about the shoplifting and think less of Russ.

Russ beat me severely for the first time in January 1989, right after the Super Bowl. We had had an argument three days before (I have forgotten over what) and he had not spoken to me since. This was a common way for him to punish me after a fight. Whenever he was giving me the "silent treatment," he would typically "make up" by having sex with me. It was rape or near-rape, really, since it did not matter whether or not I wanted to have sex. Russ did not care if I wanted to make up in that way. He would also punish me by staying out all night, presumably with other women.

Well, I had been sleeping on the couch for several nights. It was after the Super Bowl, and I thought he had passed out on our bed, drunk (Russ is an alcoholic [23] ). I wanted to get a good night's sleep, so, thinking he was asleep, I climbed into our bed. He immediately grabbed my hair very violently and started ripping off my clothes, trying to rape me. He twisted my breasts severely. The pain was excruciating. I screamed in pain but I fought back; I'm pretty strong.

Hearing my screams, Elizabeth (age four) came to the bedroom door and yelled, "Daddy stop!" He chased her out of the room. Meanwhile, I ran to the laundry room at the other end of the house, naked and crying hysterically. I closed the laundry room door behind me and tried to keep him out. Russ is 6'4" tall and weighs 240 pounds, so he easily pushed the door open. He shoved me against the wall and repeatedly beat my head against it. Finally, I slid down the wall, exhausted. As he had done before, he stood over me and called me names like "bitch" and "cunt." Then, satisfied that he had proven his power over me, he went back to bed and fell asleep.

One thing I remember vividly from this incident is seeing a hammer in the laundry room while Russ was beating me. I could have reached it. I remember thinking to myself, "Maybe I should use it on him." But I did not. In that split second, I thought of how Russ had told me many times that most women who tried to defend themselves were killed by the very weapon they had tried to use. I imagined that if I did not kill Russ with that hammer, he would use it to kill me. I thought to myself, "I'm getting beaten, but I'm not dead. And I sure as hell don't want to die and leave the kids with him."

After Russ had gone back to bed, I gathered up all three kids and went to my brother-in-law's house. He is the former husband of one of my sisters and like another brother to me. As I was leaving our house, Russ woke up and tried to keep me from taking the kids, but I managed to get away.

I was too ashamed to call the police. My brother-in-law said, "Don't go back." I replied, "I have to go back or else I'll be stuck with all the bills." What did I mean by that? Well, the IRS had ruled that Russ's horse raising scheme had been a hobby and not a business. So the IRS had disallowed all those expenses and we had been hit with a bill for back taxes of $20,000. I thought to myself, "If I don't go back, Russ will leave and I'll be stuck with paying back all the money we owe. But if I go back, he'll stay and help me pay it off." Ironically, in the end, I ended up paying it all back anyway.

I look back on it now and my thinking seems ridiculous. But people need to understand that battered women often do not think straight because of post- traumatic stress. [24] Who could or would think clearly under such circumstances? And I was also thinking that it would be disgraceful to be divorced a second time. [25] I knew that society would think I was unstable, probably a bad person, and certainly a bad mother.

There is another reason, in addition to post-traumatic stress, for why I found it hard to assess my situation clearly. Like most batterers, Russ had isolated me from my family and friends. [26] When they came over, he was very rude and would always play the television loudly. He acted as if they were not there or were a bother. I was always the peacemaker and did my best to make us look good. I would say, "He's had a bad day" or "He's really tired." But naturally, given his obnoxious behavior and my obvious discomfort, many of my friends stopped coming over.

I know that some batterers are always charming to everyone outside the family. [27] That was not really true of Russ. He was sometimes intimidating, condescending, and mean to my friends. He would often put me down in front of them. [28]

Actually, I was luckier than many battered women, as I continued to have contact with family and friends. [29] Plus, my family was always very supportive and never gave up on me. They did not blame me for the abuse or insist that I leave Russ before I was ready. I was even able to confide in one of my sisters about the abuse. I am also grateful to a good friend from work who asked me about the bruises on my arm. She had seen Russ be psychologically abusive to me and mean to other people. I told her the truth and she listened and believed me and cared and supported me. [30]

Still, even with the support I received, Russ had succeeded in isolating me. And it is hard to think clearly when you feel all alone with your problems. I now see how effective Russ's isolation techniques were.

Even after the January 1989 beating, I would not have considered myself an abused woman, [31] but going to my brother-in-law's house was important because it was my first time out. [32] It was also the first time I'd talked about the abuse with a man.

The laundry room beating marked the end of any good times between Russ and me. After this, it seemed he wanted to hurt me just about all the time.

I think battered women stay with their abusers out of both hope and fear. They hope the batterer will change; they fear what might happen if they leave. After this incident, hope was gone for me; fear was all that remained. How could I hope, when Russ showed no remorse and never apologized? He sometimes claimed to have "blacked out" during this and other incidents. I know he is an alcoholic, but his blackouts were just too convenient for my tastes.

After the Super Bowl beating, he never again made me cry. In order to survive, I shut out my emotions.

In terms of the health care system: shortly after Elizabeth was born, Russ complained to our family doctor about me. The doctor responded by putting both of us on thyroid medicine. This later led Russ to tell me that I was "crazy" because I was on this medicine; somehow his being on the medicine did not make him crazy. There were always two sets of rules, one for him and one for me. Whatever he did was fine; whatever I did was wrong.

It was the same way with money. Russ could spend money however he wanted and could buy whatever he wanted. His check was exclusively for him to spend. One of his favorites tricks was to get something he wanted (like a gun or rifle) and say to me, "Look what I bought for you."

My check was to take care of everything else in the house. If we were short of money, it was always my fault, never his fault for his extravagant, selfish purchases.

The doctor never asked me about domestic violence. At one point, I said to him, "Russ gets real angry with me." I wanted the doctor somehow to pick up on what I was saying and offer me help. Yet, I was also terrified that he would repeat to Russ whatever I said. I knew that Russ would respond violently to that, so I was very circumspect. The doctor's response was, "Is he manic- depressive?" I mumbled in response, "I don't know," and the doctor pretty much dropped the subject.

I think it was the doctor's job to make a diagnosis of Russ, not mine. Plus, he should have taken the time to earn my trust and to talk to me about the underlying facts, Russ's abuse, that were causing my medical problems. He should have assured me that he would keep what I told him confidential.

I also felt the doctor should have noticed that I was incredibly exhausted and depressed. True, I had three young children to care for and a demanding job; however, my exhaustion went way beyond what could be explained by those circumstances. If he had ever asked, "Why are you so exhausted?" in a way that indicated he really wanted to know the answer, I think I might have poured out my heart to him. [33]

Today, I have a doctor who starts every visit by sitting down and asking me, "How are things going, Mary? What is happening in your life? How are the kids doing?" And it is clear that he really cares about the answers. He is not looking at his watch or edging toward the door from the minute he comes in. And I think that, as a result, he can provide me with better medical care because he understands the context in which my medical problems are occurring.

The incident that caused me to leave for good happened in June 1990. It started on a Thursday night. I had long planned on going to a bridal shower on Friday evening. I had asked, and Russ had agreed, that he would look after the kids on Friday night. As far as I was concerned, it was all arranged. That Thursday night I reminded Russ, "You'll have the kids tomorrow night so I can go to the shower." He was furious and screamed in my face, "I made plans for tomorrow night. I made them before yours. You can't go. And don't hire a babysitter because we can't afford it." All that night, he kicked me while we were in bed together. He turned the lights on and off all night. I hardly got any sleep. (I have since learned that sleep deprivation is a common batterers' tactic [34] ).

I remember how relieved I was when he got up in the morning to take his shower to go to work. For those few minutes while he was in the shower, I could sleep and rest. Of course, it was not nearly long enough. It was clear that he was still enraged. As he left for work, he said to me, "No one deserves a beating more than you. You're going to get the worst beating of your life when I get home tonight."

That was it for me. I thought to myself, "It's time for this to be over." After Russ had gone to work, I grabbed some stuff for myself and my children. We left the house and went into hiding. This was also the point at which I finally called the local battered women's program, HomeSafe. Only after this June 1990 incident did I identify myself as an abused woman.

The first night the kids and I stayed at a friend's house. My oldest son, Richard, slept on the floor and the two little ones slept with me on a spare bed. After that I began networking with people I had met through Al-Anon. We moved to a different place every night. My counselor from HomeSafe advised me to stay on the move -- just like the North Vietnamese. Sometimes we stayed with people we knew; sometimes we met them for the first time at their door.

Just a few days after leaving, I sought and received an order of protection. The judge gave me what I wanted, but belittled me and minimized my safety concerns in the process. In my petition, I detailed Russ's "you're going to get a beating when I get home" threat. I also stated that the last severe beating had occurred in January 1989 (the Super Bowl/laundry room incident). The judge said, in a dismissive way, "It's been a year and a half since he last beat you. Is last week's threat really serious?"

After I'd gotten the order of protection, Russ was warned by our babysitter that I had some papers that were going to be served on him. He tried to hide from the sheriff and police. On Monday evening (three days after I'd fled), he trashed our house. I went by the house the next day and found the house destroyed. I then bought a camera and went back to the house and took pictures. After I took pictures, I started cleaning up the house. Later that evening (Tuesday) I saw that Russ had been to the house again. This time he wrote hateful messages on the walls and mirror in the master bath. He also tore up my underclothes and took all of my business suits and dresses (my Al- Anon friends helped me get spare clothes to wear to work). Russ urinated on the walls of the master bedroom and ejaculated on my pillow.

My big mistake was not taking pictures of the second incident. Later in the custody proceedings, Russ's lawyer ridiculed me and said that I had to be making it all up. The reason I didn't take pictures was because my children were with me. I cleaned up everything so they would not see it. I did have two witnesses with me to the urination/ejaculation incident, but the judge ignored them.

We stayed in hiding for three weeks, then we moved back into our house (after changing the locks). I had a girlfriend move in with me. I was too afraid to be alone. Plus, I wanted a witness for anything else Russ might do to me.

Soon after going into hiding, I hired the first of what would be several lawyers. Overall, I am very dissatisfied with how both the lawyers and the legal system handled my situation. I feel that my lawyers did not understand what I had experienced. They did not understand because they would not or could not listen to what I had to say. [35] They did not seem to care about what I wanted and why. Most had a predetermined outcome in mind and a predetermined approach of how they were going to accomplish that outcome. I could not get them to listen to me or to budge from their preconceptions.

I was always very up front with my lawyers about the abuse that had occurred. I also told them very clearly about my fears for myself and my children.

My first lawyer (I will call her Lawyer #1) was a woman and an experienced family lawyer. When I explained to her that I was very afraid of Russ, her response was completely egotistical: "Just let him come after me, and I'll kick his ass." Her focus was on what she was going to do, not what was best for me. She also said, "You're my client, we'll screw that bastard." This was not what I wanted. I wanted to be safe. I did not want to go "one on one" with Russ, and I did not want my lawyer to do that either. I felt that taking him on like this would increase the danger to me and my children. I felt that this lawyer just did not listen to me or take my concerns seriously. [36]

Lawyer #1 was also my first introduction to how people in the legal system -- people who should know better -- completely dismiss abuse of women and children. At one point, after I had told her my story, she said, "So he slapped you around and beat the kids. What's your point?" She acted as if these facts were irrelevant to the divorce and custody proceedings.

Russ's lawyer said to my lawyer, "Let's sit Russ and Mary together in the pretrial conference. That'll help work things out." I strongly objected to this. I told my lawyer that sitting next to Russ would be scary and intimidating for me. My lawyer responded, "Don't be gutless like they say you are." I also asked that Russ be searched for possible weapons, but my lawyer said that she would not ask for this. [37]

This lawyer talked tough, but she spent most of her time flirting with Russ's lawyer. She did not stand up to Russ. She was also just plain incompetent; she gave away a key issue to Russ and his lawyer. When we were negotiating over money, Russ and his lawyer wanted his payments to be labeled "house payments" instead of "child support." My lawyer said, "Fine, no problem." I was not happy about this, but my lawyer said to me, "money is money." I later learned, when Russ didn't make the payments, that there are special enforcement mechanisms that are available only for child support payments. [38] In this context, all money is not the same. So the lawyer's mistake deprived me and my children of valuable rights.

After I left Russ, he had no real interest in the kids. He did not care about seeing them, much less having custody. He only became interested when I insisted on supervised visitation. That was a challenge to his power and authority; plus, his ego could not tolerate the public embarrassment of being allowed only supervised visitation. That is when he demanded custody of Elizabeth and Daniel.

I sometimes wonder if I made a mistake in seeking supervised visitation. Not because the kids did not need it or deserve it, given his abuse of them. But maybe he would have left the kids and me alone if I had just "let sleeping dogs lie." I will never know. [39] Of course, if the legal system had responded properly and effectively to my request for supervised visitation, that would have made a big difference too.

While we were fighting over supervised visitation, my lawyer said, "We'll get psychological testing for both of you." She did not listen when I responded, "He'll pass the test with flying colors. He's very slick and impressive." [40]

When I sought supervised visitation, I was focused on the kids' safety. After I left him, I thought Russ would leave me alone. Boy was I wrong! I wish my lawyer would have alerted me to the continued danger that I would face. [41] I did not know -- and my lawyer never told me -- that separation often increases the danger to battered women. [42]

Lawyer #1 demanded and received a large up front retainer fee. Then she sent me to a psychologist, which cost even more money. This psychologist was very strange and later had a mental breakdown.

Other psychologists were not much better. My kids and I went through a bunch of them. One psychologist called me "an air head." [43] I confronted him about that, and he did not like how assertive I was.

Russ claimed that I was a lesbian and an alcoholic. Both of these accusations are completely false. I do not want to sound as if I believe that being a lesbian is bad; I do not. However, most judges are very homophobic, [44] especially in a fundamentalist-dominated city like mine. Accusing a woman of being a lesbian is, unfortunately, a very effective weapon in a custody battle and a very common one. Russ also claimed that he had really raised the kids, which was absurdly untrue.

Russ's tactics worked. The lawyers and psychologists, as well as the judge, all concentrated on me and what I had supposedly done wrong. They let Russ off the hook.

I am really angry that the legal system allows batterers to set the agenda through their wild accusations against victims. Russ played the game of "the best defense is a good offense" to perfection. The system allowed him to put the focus on me, instead of on his abuse of me and the children. My lawyers never fought effectively against this tactic.

Eventually, I fired Lawyer #1. From what I could tell, she was spending most of her time and energy flirting with Russ's lawyer, and I was very unhappy with her malpractice on the child support/house payments allocation. I then interviewed another female lawyer who had been recommended by HomeSafe, the local battered women's program. This lawyer told me about a specific psychologist in town who is often called as an expert witness in custody fights. The lawyer said, "We'll pay him off and he'll say what we want." I thought this was wrong and refused to hire this lawyer. This same psychologist ultimately testified for Russ in the custody hearing and is the one who referred to me as an "airhead." I do not know if Russ and his lawyer "paid him off," but I cannot help but wonder. I hired another female lawyer (Lawyer #2) instead.

Russ brought in the police to supervise the exchange of the children for visitation. He claimed that he called in the police because I was abusive. I have learned that batterers often claim that they are being abused.

Elizabeth did not want to visit with her dad, so I did not force her to go. This was later held against me as showing that I was uncooperative with Russ's rights as a father. [45] The judge tried to compare a visit with an abusive father with a trip to the dentist: a good mother will make her child go.

An important incident occurred when Russ came to a football game where my oldest son, Richard, was playing. Russ was not his father. It was my birthday, and obviously the game was an important event for my son and me.

Russ showed up, followed closely by my first husband, Chris, Richard's father. I was surprised to see Chris at the game, since he had shown only sporadic interest in Richard. I suspect Russ got Chris to come to the game as a further way to torture me. When Chris got out of his car, they shook hands and did not look at all surprised to see each other.

This was ironic, since the two of them had always hated each other. When I was living with Russ, he and Chris had fought over control of Richard. Russ had asserted his right to act as Richard's father, not out of love, but out of his need to dominate. Chris, even though he was not an involved father, had resisted somewhat. It is my guess that Russ used their mutual hatred of me to manipulate Chris. I think Chris was a willing pawn in Russ's mind games with me. [46]

When I retreated to my car after seeing Russ, he pointed at me in a taunting way. Chris went along. The two of them appeared to be having a good laugh at my expense. They were enjoying my fear and discomfort.

It was clear to me that Russ's only purpose in coming was to scare me. He had never shown any interest in Richard.

I had learned by now to always have my protective order with me. I showed it to the police who were working at the game. I asked them to order Russ to leave. The police responded that my protective order did not cover this situation because the game was a public event. I certainly was not going to stay there while Russ was there. So I had to leave the stadium without seeing the game.

This was an example of how Russ, like most batterers, always stayed right "on the line." That is, he did things that would intimidate me but would not get him in trouble with the authorities. [47]

Something I remember vividly from the football game incident was one police officer whose kindness and sensitivity meant a lot to me. The other officers, after determining that they could not or would not remove Russ from the game, just basically left. This police officer, however, came over to me and explained why the police thought they were unable to remove Russ from the game. He looked me in the eye and really talked to me. He dealt with me as a person. He was clearly empathetic and sympathetic with my fear and my anger that Russ was keeping me from attending Richard's game. I still think fondly of this officer, even though he did not do anything concrete to help me. It meant a lot that he talked to me and acknowledged the legitimacy of my fears and the unfairness of what was happening. [48]

Another person who helped me was a very good psychologist who had a reputation for understanding battered women and their children. My counselor at HomeSafe had recommended her. Unfortunately, at the time I was seeking help, this psychologist was feeling very burned out and could not accept me or my children as patients. However, she came and babysat for my children one night. Afterward, we spoke briefly. Even that short exchange was very meaningful to me. The psychologist validated my perceptions and concerns. She told me, "What you want for yourself and your kids is right."

This affirmation was important. All the discouragement I had received from my lawyers and other professionals had really taken its toll. When I first left Russ, I had felt strongly that I was right in my perceptions of Russ, myself, and my children. I thought the safety I wanted was reasonable and fair. But the lawyers and psychologists had been so disempowering. They did not listen. They undermined everything I thought and said. They did not take my safety concerns seriously. Consequently, my confidence in my own judgment had been stripped away. This psychologist, even in a very brief session, helped restore my faith in my abilities and judgment. [49]

The evening of the football game fiasco, I called my lawyer (Lawyer #2) to discuss what could be done. It was clear to me that she was very intoxicated. She did not respond at all to my outrage and to my safety concerns. I fired her shortly thereafter. I was tired of paying big retainers and getting nowhere.

I then went looking for a male lawyer. I want to acknowledge that I did not yet trust women. Russ had constantly belittled women, and so I did not really believe that women professionals could be competent. I also still bought into the idea that women were natural rivals with each other. In saying this, I do not mean to excuse what my first two lawyers did. I think I was more than justified in firing them. But I think I fired them much more quickly than I would have if they had been men.

Attorney #3, a man, represented me through the trial that eventually ended in my losing custody of my son Daniel. Attorney #3 sent me to a psychologist whose attitude reminded me of Lawyer #1. This psychologist, a woman, said "we'll get him," referring to Russ's psychologist. That is, the psychologist saw this as a personal battle with Russ's psychologist. The key was for her to "win"; she did not focus on the safety or well-being of my children and me. Perhaps because she was focused on herself and not me, ultimately she was charmed by Russ and came to believe his lies. She was so self-absorbed. I can still picture her tossing her hair flirtatiously as she made remarks that destroyed me and my children.

This psychologist had a very dismissive attitude. She never really believed my story of abuse. Because I was a professional and a strong person, I think she identified with me, but that identification hurt me. I think she did not want to confront the possibility that someone like her could ever be abused, or would stay in an abusive relationship. [50] The fact that I was a strong person seemed to make my story less credible to her. She virtually said to me, "Mary, you're a strong person. Because you're a strong person, I don't believe you'd put up with the abuse, if it was really as bad as you say. Therefore, you must be lying."

She did not understand domestic violence at all. Like the judge who reluctantly granted my protective order, she was puzzled and troubled by the fact that I was so scared by Russ's "you're going to get the beating of your life" threat. She focused on the fact that it had been a year and a half since the last severe physical incident when he made that threat. She even asked me at one point, "When he threatened to beat you [in June 1990], did he say it in a playful way?" She did not understand that physical violence is just one tool batterers use to control their victims. She did not understand the non-physical techniques (degradation, isolation, sleep deprivation) that Russ used. She did not understand that the physical violence does not have to be frequent or severe to be effective. [51]

Russ's psychologist -- the one who I had once been told was for sale -- really did a number on me, too. According to him, I was an "angry woman," and this was bad. He thought Russ should have custody of both children.

He completely bought Russ's lies about me. He suggested -- based on nothing other than Russ's statements and, perhaps, my assertiveness -- that I might indeed have lesbian tendencies. He criticized me for having "an agenda," which I suppose referred to the fact that I was doing my best to keep my children and myself safe. On the other hand, the fact that Russ had never paid a dime in child support was dismissed. His failure somehow did not indicate any lack of interest in the children's welfare.

The same denial/minimization occurred around Russ's sexual abuse of me, including the brutalizing of my breasts. The psychologists bought Russ's explanation that "Mary likes rough sex that way."

No one cared about Russ's ongoing intimidation of me either. During the divorce proceedings, Russ would leave angry messages on my answering machine, saying things like "I will get you." He would even threaten to kill me and make it look like a suicide. He would say, "I could do that without any problem. You know how good I am with guns." I told my family and friends over and over, "No matter how bad it gets, I'm telling you that I would never commit suicide. I would never leave my kids without a mother. If they find me dead and it looks like a suicide, don't you believe it. If that happens, make sure the police investigate Russ." I told the lawyers and psychologists about Russ's threats, but they did not take them seriously.

It also bothers me that psychologists will not investigate the true facts, yet they assert that they know the truth. [52] I repeatedly offered to put them in touch with other witnesses who would support my story. They declined, saying that was not their job. Yet, they would claim to know what actually happened. Apparently, they felt they were such experts that they knew who was telling the truth, Russ or me. Russ, with his charming batterer's demeanor, won every time.

Both the psychologists and the judge failed to understand how the abuse affected the children. [53] For instance, the children were scared to death of Russ. This is not surprising, given what they had seen him do to them and to me. As a result, they were very well-behaved when they were with him; they just wanted to avoid getting hurt more. Then when the kids were with me, in a comfortable, safe environment, they were often out of control. It just makes sense. They needed some place where they could safely express the trauma and stress they were experiencing. Yet, the psychologists, and ultimately the judge, held it against me that the kids did not always behave well when they were with me. They thought that Russ was a good parent because the kids were so well-behaved when they were with him. They thought I was a bad parent because the kids misbehaved when I was in charge. The psychologists and the judge never looked at the causes of the kids' problems. They never held Russ responsible for the behavior that was causing the kids to feel out of control in the first place.

Most fundamentally, the psychologists and judge bought the idea that Russ's abuse of me was irrelevant to child custody issues. They did not see any reason why the abuse should keep Russ from having full custody of the children. My own psychologist said, "So he's abused you. But he loves those kids." Even when I reminded her that the kids, especially Elizabeth, had seen the abuse, the psychologist responded, "She's young, she'll get over it."

I never got supervised visitation. At my insistence, my lawyer put a request for supervised visitation in my divorce petition. But he never fought for it or seemed to understand why the children and I needed it. In trying to discourage me from even asking for supervised visitation, he said, "Don't do that. It'll make the judge mad." [54]

From what I have said, it should not surprise you to learn that both psychologists opposed supervised visitation. They both thought Russ was a good parent and that supervised visitation was unnecessary for both me and the kids.

Overall, I found the lawyers and psychologists very self-promoting and egotistical. It seemed as if everyone was having a good time, playing the game of litigation and psychology. All the while, my life was on the line. My children and I did not matter. I also felt like the lawyers and psychologists were running a cash register business at my expense. They were a lot more interested in my money than my welfare. The first two years of my divorce proceedings cost me more than twenty-five thousand dollars.

As incredible as it might sound, the judge who heard my custody case had an outstanding protective order against him by his ex-wife. I also sensed very strongly that the judge did not like me. For these reasons, I told my lawyer I wanted to seek the judge's recusal. My lawyer dismissed me, saying, "You'll just get someone worse."

At the custody hearing, Russ denied everything. He said he had never done anything to me physically. My psychologist did testify that he had admitted the laundry room beating to her in a private session. However, Russ had obviously minimized the severity of that beating. His admission did not change my psychologist's opinion that Russ was a good father. Russ also denied yelling at Elizabeth after his son Chip had molested her. Besides, he said, the molestation had never been proven.

He testified that he had been the primary caretaker of the children. The key evidence supporting this allegation was that he had usually taken the kids to and from the babysitter's house. It did not seem to matter that the babysitter was close to his workplace and far away from mine. This piece of evidence alone seemed to outweigh the fact that I did practically everything else for the kids.

Russ's testimony was so slick and manipulative. He laughed at the right times and misted up with tears at the right times. He acted the part of the "good ol' boy." That goes a long way where I live; I could tell the judge really liked him. Russ referred to Elizabeth and Daniel, by now ages 5 and 4, as "my babies" and talked about how much he loved them. He said things like, "They mean the world to me" and "I can't live without them." He made a particular point of saying, "I'm so close to Daniel." Russ came across as intelligent and very stable, as someone who really had his act together.

Russ's most outrageous testimony was reserved for the shotgun incident with my son Richard. He said that the gun went off by "accident." He also testified, "It was an old gun," as if that somehow made a difference. He probably would have denied this incident too, but I had photographs of the damage done to the ceiling and roof. My lawyer tried to discredit Russ's testimony, but Russ never budged. And it is clear that the judge never saw through Russ's lies and manipulations.

I testified to the abuse of the children and me. I am sure I did not seem as calm or collected as Russ. Given what I had been through, and given the fact that I was fighting for my children's lives and my own, I think that is understandable. I cried at one point, but overall I was very matter-of-fact, even low-key in my testimony. That is just the kind of person I am. I am not going to be emotional in front of strangers or in a formal setting like a courtroom. I also think it came across in my testimony that I am a strong person with good self-esteem.

I feel that the judge held against me that I was strong and matter-of-fact. I think that, in his mind, I did not portray the proper image of a "real" victim of domestic violence. [55] Yet, at the same time, my crying and emotionalism hurt me, too. The judge seemed bored and annoyed when I started to cry. He asked, "How much longer is this going to take? Are we almost done here?" He had never said that during Russ's testimony. Indeed, throughout the trial, the judge seemed biased against my attorney and me. He often interrupted my attorney to ask, "How much longer is this going to take," but never interrupted Russ's attorney or asked him to hurry up.

I think it also probably hurt me that I was a professional. The judge did not seem to believe that a woman of my education and achievement would take the abuse I described.

I tried to offer testimony from other people whom Russ had abused. Shortly before the custody trial, I had learned that Russ abused his first wife. The judge refused to hear this testimony. I later learned that this was a typical pattern for this judge when hearing cases where women were claiming domestic violence.

Both psychologists' testimony damaged my case. Russ's psychologist said I had "drug addict tendencies," picking up on Russ's false accusation of alcoholism. He said that Russ had been very active in raising the kids and that I was an angry woman who would not cooperate fairly with Russ's rights as a father if I were given custody of Daniel. I thought my lawyer did a good job of cross-examining Russ's psychologist.

The worst damage was done by my psychologist. She testified that I was feigning the abuse. She also made a big deal about a phone conversation we had had. I was suffering from an allergy attack and had the sniffles. During the conversation, we laughed. She later testified that I had quickly gone from crying to laughing. As a result, she said, she questioned my stability. Of course, she had never said anything to me about this, nor had she asked why I was sniffling. She just assumed she knew it all.

My psychologist testified that I should have custody of Elizabeth but was wishy-washy about Daniel. She testified that he would do okay with either Russ or me. She also criticized me for just giving "lip service" on providing Russ with visitation. Along with the judge, she is the person I most blame for my losing custody of Daniel.

I must emphasize again how everything I did was scrutinized with a microscope and everything Russ did was excused. I had entered into evidence pictures of how Russ had totally destroyed our house after being served with the protective order. The Judge's response: "But he was hurt." Just like Russ had two sets of rules -- one for himself and one for me -- the court seemed to have completely different rules for batterers and victims.

Similarly, the judge completely bought Russ's explanation about the shotgun business. The fact that it had been an old 12-gauge shotgun made it okay. [56] And the judge believed that the gun had gone off by accident. Even if that were true, I will never understand why the judge did not ask himself, "What was a grown man doing face to face with an 11-year old with a shotgun in his hand, even if it was pointing straight up?" Why did this not count as child endangerment? Why did it not reflect badly on Russ's fitness as a parent?

I do not know how I could have gotten through this period without the support of my family and HomeSafe. I am also very lucky that my priest was supportive and understanding. [57]

The judge ordered that Russ be given custody of our son Daniel, then age four. The judge said that Russ was a good parent. He agreed with the psychologists that I would be a bad custodial parent because I was angry and could not get along with Russ with regard to visitation. The judge said that he was unable to determine my "sexual deviancy," thus giving credence to Russ's false claims that I was a lesbian.

To make matters worse, the judge told me that I was getting custody of Elizabeth for a six-month probationary period. I will never forget his warning from the bench: "If you do one thing to disrupt visitation, I'll take your daughter and give your ex-husband custody of her too."

As if losing Daniel weren't bad enough, the lawyer who accompanied me to the final hearing made it worse. My own lawyer was not there; he sent one of his associates instead. After hearing that I had lost custody of my son, I broke down in tears. The associate angrily took me into the court conference room and said, "Shut the fuck up. You'll lose the other kid."

The night that I lost custody of Daniel was the worst night of my life. I came very close to going back to Russ, just to protect my son. When I got home that night, there was a message on my phone from Russ. It said, "Well, this isn't exactly the way I wanted it, but I'm willing to take you back." He said it like he would be doing me a big favor.

I called my counselor from HomeSafe and told her I was thinking about returning to Russ. I had absolutely no positive feelings toward him and no delusions about what it would be like. The idea of taking more abuse from him made me sick, but I could not stand the idea of him abusing Daniel either. If I went back, I thought maybe I could protect Daniel, if not myself.

The counselor told me, "Mary, you've saved two of your three kids [meaning Richard and Elizabeth]. If you go back, everyone loses." I knew she was right, but it was still a horrible feeling, like I was sacrificing Daniel for the sake of myself and the other two children. I mean, if a parent saves two of her three children from a burning house, does she feel good about rescuing two, or terrible that she could not rescue all three? I cannot tell you how angry I am that the legal system required me to make that choice.

Needless to say, during that probationary period, Russ was in abuser's heaven. He could do anything he wanted. If I expressed any upset or disagreement, I knew it would be held against me and I might lose Elizabeth too. During this period, Russ would not return the kids as scheduled following visitation, so I had to get someone to go with me to his house and retrieve the children.

I did not appeal the custody decision because by this point, I had no money left to pay the lawyer. It was certainly clear that the lawyer would not pursue the appeal without more up-front money.

I probably never would have gotten Daniel back, except that Russ's live-in girlfriend (with whom he is still living) contacted the children's psychologist to report that he was abusing Daniel. This was four or five months after Russ had gained custody of Daniel. I think the girlfriend made her revelation partly because I had told her that Russ was planning to seek full custody of Elizabeth, too. Russ was not really taking care of the kids; the girlfriend was. When she learned that he would be going after Elizabeth too, she said, "WHAT???!!!" I think she cared about the children and knew that Russ's having custody would be harmful and dangerous for them, plus, I doubt she was interested in being the caretaker for both kids.

After learning about Russ's abuse of Daniel, I immediately went to my lawyer (Lawyer #3), demanding an immediate petition for a change of custody. He said we could not seek a modification of custody because it was too soon. He said, "Let the ink dry on the judge's custody order." That was the last straw and I fired him.

I got a new lawyer and a new psychologist. I recorded a telephone conversation with Russ's girlfriend about the abuse of Daniel. Russ's girlfriend was subpoenaed, and because of the recording, I knew -- and Russ knew -- that the abuse of Daniel would come out. Even if Russ intimidated her into changing her testimony, I think he knew that the tape was credible.

Faced with a situation he could not win, Russ folded. He agreed to a modification and I regained custody of Daniel. I grabbed at the chance to get custody back, even though I had to agree that Russ could have unsupervised visitation with the children. I knew Russ would never agree to supervised visitation. I did not want, and could not pay for, another long, drawn-out battle in court. Besides, based on what I had seen, I did not want to risk what a judge might do.

As far as I am concerned, Russ agreed to the change of custody to save face. No one in authority ever held him accountable for his abuse. People in authority, like the judge and the psychologists, always supported him and held a good opinion of him. Russ wanted to maintain his good image at all costs. By giving up custody of Daniel without a fight, he could avoid the public humiliation of being outed as an abuser.

He portrayed the custody change to the children as a sacrifice he was making because he loved them so much. "This is what's best for you," he said. Once again, he took no responsibility for doing anything wrong in abusing Daniel. He showed no remorse.

Even after I had custody of both kids, Russ continued to engage in repeated violations of my protective order through phone harassment and stalking. Additionally, his son, Chip, was there unsupervised when the kids visited Russ. Apparently, though, Chip did not abuse either child further.

Finally, in March 1996, about four years after returning Daniel to me, Russ lost visitation. He had put the children in the back of his pick up truck. He was driving fast and hit a bump. Elizabeth flew out and Daniel was dragged behind the truck. Elizabeth scraped her side, hit her head, and hurt her back. She had to have her back manipulated by the doctor and had to take muscle relaxants. Daniel did not want to admit the incident had even occurred, but he did limp for a few days. Because he had directly endangered the children, the judge took away visitation (this was a different judge from the one who had given Russ custody of Daniel).

Eliminating visitation was a proper result, and I am glad about it. Still, I cannot help but feel a little bitter that no one ever really cared about my safety and its affect on our children. In the court's eyes, Russ only became a bad father and a bad person when he injured the children personally and individually. He was never a bad father or a bad person because he had abused their mother. My word about his abuse of the children never counted. The court listened only after I had concrete, outside proof, such as their injuries from being thrown from the pickup truck.

Russ has never paid a dime in child support since I left him. He owes more than twenty-five thousand dollars. I could pursue various state and even federal legal action against Russ, but so far I have not. I have the paperwork all ready to file against him any time I need to. But I consider this my "ace in the hole" against him. I am sure he knows that if he does anything really harmful to me or the kids, I am in a position to have him jailed for willful non-support. This keeps him away from us, and that is a lot more important to me than the money. However, on two separate occasions, he has spent a month in jail for non-payment of child support. Another time, he was arrested for criminal violation of my order of protection; however, he posted bail immediately. Though he was found guilty on two counts, he received a suspended sentence.

In the course of one of the trials for criminal non-support, I learned an amazing story about my original custody judge. God knows why, but apparently the judge finally "got it" about Russ. I have it on good authority that the original judge said to an attorney who had been appointed to represent the children, "This case is like Sleeping with the Enemy [the Julia Roberts movie about domestic violence]. This guy is crazy. There should be an automatic protective order for the children." He also said to the new custody judge, "This guy [Russ] is a ticking bomb."

It has taken me a long time to come back emotionally from the trauma of what Russ did to me and the children. As a child and young woman, I was a happy and light-hearted person. The years of abuse by Russ and then the legal system turned me into someone very different. For many years, I rarely smiled or laughed. I was often short-tempered, especially at work. I walked around with my head down, burdened by my fears, just doing my best to get through the day.

As I said, it reached the point where Russ could no longer make me cry. But you do not just turn off your emotions toward one person; you turn them off for everything. Several years after I left Russ, one of my brothers died. I could not cry at his funeral. Slowly my ability to feel is coming back; recently I have been able to cry again, at least sometimes. But I will never be the jovial person I once was. Russ's abuse robbed me of many moments of both joy and sorrow that I should have experienced.

My children and I have a pretty good life. I am now forty years old. I recently bought a new house and we are settling in pretty well. For the past five years, I have had a new man in my life, Ken. He is wonderful, kind, and gentle with me and the kids.

However, Russ still affects our lives. He lives in a nearby county, so I am still afraid of what he might do to me or the children. Wherever I go, I always want to face the door so I can see him if he should come in. I'll never be free until one of us -- Russ or me -- is dead.

Elizabeth, now twelve, has not seen Russ since he lost visitation. She understands the kind of person he is and she does not want to have anything to do with him. All things considered, she is pretty well adjusted. Still, it hurts. We were shopping at K-mart this year shortly before Father's Day. The checkout clerk said cheerfully to Elizabeth, "What are you getting your Dad for Father's Day?" Elizabeth responded bitterly, "The same thing that he's gotten for me the last two Christmases and my last two birthdays: nothing." (Russ did, however, give both children a twenty dollar gift certificate for Christmas this past year.) The clerk responded quietly, "Oh, I guess your dad is like my son's father."

I worry that, because of Russ, Elizabeth will find it hard to trust people, especially men. I have made it a point to have good, kind, and gentle men around my children, not just Ken but also my brothers, men I work with, etc. And I do not allow gender bashing in my house or on the sports teams I coach. I do not allow boys to say bad things about girls, and I do not allow the girls to put down all boys either.

Still, Elizabeth is wary of what men might do in intimate relationships. When I have talked with Elizabeth about the possibility that Ken and I might get married, she says, "Mom, I'm worried that he'll turn out to be like Dad." I encourage her to look at how Ken treats people and how it is so different from Russ. But I understand her fear.

It's even harder on Daniel, now eleven. Of all my children, I worry about him the most. Daniel goes back and forth about Russ. He still wants to have a relationship with his father. That is only natural for a boy approaching adolescence, I guess. Besides, Russ had custody of him; that led to a certain closeness, even if Russ did abuse him. Though there's no visitation, Daniel and Russ continue to talk on the phone and Russ continues to manipulate him.

I know Daniel is holding in a lot of anger and confusion. I worry what that is doing to him. Sometimes he lets the anger go, and that is very scary, especially now that he is getting bigger. It will not be long until he will be bigger, probably much bigger, than I am. I worry whether or not I will be able to control him.

At times Daniel completely denies the abuse. Other times, he says, "I hated Dad when he did that." Daniel is mad at me for having Russ's visitation terminated. He also blames himself, not Russ, for the pickup truck injuries that led to the termination; he says, "I asked Dad to go fast." I do not know how much Russ has encouraged Daniel to blame himself, but I certainly know that Russ takes no responsibility for endangering his children.

Sometimes, Daniel defends Russ to me. Sometimes he will even say, "I'm just like my Dad and I want to be just like my Dad." When he does that, I reply, "I disagree," and try to point out the many ways that Daniel is caring and kind. It is a tightrope. I do not want to put Russ down so much that Daniel feels he must protect him. If you put the father down too much, the son can start to feel like he is no good too. On the other hand, I cannot let Daniel romanticize Russ.

Daniel does not remember Russ's physical abuse of me. He was too young. Sometimes Daniel indicates that he believes Russ and not me about the abuse. This hurts me so much, and scares me too. I try not to disparage Russ. Instead, I tell Daniel, "Keep an open mind. See whether things really support your dad's story or mine." I hope he comes to see his father realistically before it is too late.

As I mentioned, Russ continues to manipulate Daniel. He has said to Daniel, "Take money from your mother, lie to her about where you're going, and run away and come live with me." When Daniel told this to the children's psychologist, she was very firm, "Parents shouldn't teach their children to lie and steal."

Russ does other things to hurt and control Daniel. For instance, Daniel recently tried to call Russ from our home phone. He kept getting a busy signal despite repeated tries. When I called Russ from my office to see what was going on, I got right through. Russ then told me, as casual as could be, that he was blocking calls from our home phone number. How could a supposedly loving father do that to his child?

Recently, Daniel snuck out on the babysitter and met his father. I know Russ had arranged the meeting, showing his disregard for the legal order against visitation. I grounded Daniel for that incident.

I allow Daniel to call Russ sometimes. I think cutting off all communication against Daniel's wishes would make matters worse. I do record the conversations sometimes. I know Russ is always trying to get to me through what he tells Daniel. For instance, Daniel once said to me out of the blue, "Even if you and Ken get married, I'll never call him Dad." Well, I had never suggested that to Daniel. I am sure Russ told Daniel, "You know, if your mother marries Ken, you'll have to call him Dad." Interestingly, Daniel has said he thinks Ken and I should get married. He thinks it would be best if we all lived under one roof.

I cannot help but feel that Daniel's problems are tied to the years that Russ had custody of him. Those were such important, impressionable years when Russ had him and abused him.

To make matters even worse, Daniel has had such horrible experiences with therapists that he does not trust any of them. The therapist he sees now is someone I trust, and I make him go, but I understand his mistrust of therapy. The kids were so poked and prodded and mistreated during the custody battle; that is not something that magically goes away. This therapist has gained Daniel's trust somewhat, but progress is still hard.

I also worry about Richard, the child of my first marriage. He experienced so much abuse from Russ, as well as seeing the abuse of me when he was at a very impressionable age. Like Elizabeth, he finds it hard to trust Ken. Some time ago, he said to me, "I don't think you should marry Ken while Elizabeth and Daniel are still at home." He knows firsthand what stepfathers can do. Richard and I both realize that he has shown some abusive tendencies. Between the role modeling and the anger that Richard feels, I guess this is understandable. I worry that he might become an abuser. I hope he will continue to work hard to see that does not happen.

People do not always understand the impact on our society of children who have witnessed and experienced abuse. [58] Sometimes I meet people whose attitude seems to be, "Gee, it's terrible what happened to Mary's children, but it really doesn't affect me." I tell them, "Your children are playing next to my children. If my child has behavioral problems because some judge gave him to his abusive father, you'd better believe it affects your children."

Besides my job and my kids, HomeSafe is a big part of my life. I am on the Board of Directors. I volunteer on the twenty-four-hour crisis line at least one night every month. I think there have been times when I have really helped a woman by listening to her and saying "I've been there myself." People at work also know about my experience as an abused woman and sometimes seek me out for advice.

My kids are very supportive of my HomeSafe work. On nights when I am on the crisis line, they understand it is important. They like to hear my stories about women I have helped on the crisis line.

The children really came through during a recent period when a battered woman stayed at our house for six weeks. She was someone I worked with. Other people at work had learned about the abuse and came to talk to me. They asked me to talk to her, even though I did not know her well. I said, "I'm not going to force myself on her. She's already got someone doing that at home; I'm not going to add to her burden. [59] But tell her that I would be happy to talk to her if she would like to talk to me." Just a few hours later, she came to talk. She desperately needed to leave her abuser, and I said, "Why don't you come stay at my house?" She accepted and I called my kids and told them about her situation. Daniel could not have been sweeter or more supportive. He said, "Tell her everything will be okay. Tell her we've been through all this." He even offered to let her stay in his room.

From my work at HomeSafe, I know now how lucky I am compared to most battered women. In addition to supportive family, friends, and clergy, I had a good job and some money. In contrast, most battered women I have met through HomeSafe are trying to escape their batterers without any money or support from family or friends. Indeed, their family and friends have either encouraged them to stay in the relationship, have blamed them for the abuse, or have commanded them to leave before the women were ready. I also hear terrible stories about clergy telling women that "Marriage is sacred," or "This wouldn't be happening to you if you were right with the Lord," or "You must forgive him and reconcile your marriage." Additionally, I talk to women who might leave their abuser if they could be sure that they and their children would still have a roof over their heads and food on the table.

I give many speeches in the community about my experience as a battered woman. I share my story so people will understand that domestic violence happens to all kinds of women. I want them to know that there is still a lot we need to do to change the system. It is bad enough to be abused by someone who says he loves you; unfortunately, women today, like me, are often abused a second and third time by lawyers, psychologists, and judges.

I am public about the abuse for another, more selfish reason. I figure if I put myself in the spotlight, more people -- domestic violence workers, police, friends -- will be watching my back. If anything happens to me or my children, they will go looking for Russ.

I agreed to share my story with Professor Waits for the same reason that I speak in the community. If just one person reading this story comes away with a better understanding of abuse, it will be worth it. I am not going to go down quietly. I feel that Russ and the legal system took away my children, my money, and my life. They will not take away my voice.

III. Lessons from Mary's Story

The reader may now want to take several deep breaths or even put down this Article for a while. If I have done my job as a storyteller, reading Mary's story should have been draining. It is hard -- and it should be hard -- to hear battered women's stories. [60] Of course hearing these stories, even from women like Mary who have partly escaped their batterers, does not hold a candle to actually living through them.

One of the strengths of narrative is that the reader can reach his or her own conclusions. The moral of an absorbing story will be different for different people. Below I've shared some of the lessons from Mary's story that are most important to me.

A. Support Counts: You Can Make a Difference in the Victim's Life

One of the most important elements of Mary's story is the support she received from her family, friends, and priest. As she herself noted, such support is all too rare for battered women. [61]

I am convinced that the loving support Mary received was an important reason why she escaped Russ as (relatively) quickly and successfully as she did. In saying this, I do not want to take away from Mary's own personal strength and resolve. She deserves all the credit in the world. I also do not want to minimize the importance of her relative financial security and independence. Women with limited access to money often have a harder time escaping abuse. [62]

But I must still insist, as Mary herself does, that emotional support matters. After all, Mary returned to Russ only once before leaving for good. We know that most women return many more times before making their final escape. [63]

Friends, family, and others must offer the right kind of support. Often, even well-meaning people say things and have attitudes that are very damaging, unhelpful and victim-blaming. [64] They may focus on what the battered woman did before a violent incident occurred, [65] as if that mattered. They may focus on what is "wrong" with her. [66] Even if the battered woman has some real problems, and even if they pre-dated the abuse, they do not explain or justify it. Further, even if she were to deal with whatever her other faults might be, that would not stop the battering. Those who care about battered women must understand that their behavior is never the cause of the violence, though it may be the excuse. [67] Thus, the importance of the phrase and attitude, "You don't deserve this." Because the batterer never takes responsibility for his actions [68] and invariably blames the victim for what has happened, women need to hear this over and over again. Certainly, Mary heard it from her family, friends, and priest, in both words and deeds.

Even people who do not blame the victim can hurt her by insisting that she leave the batterer now. It is appropriate to express fear and concern for the safety of the battered woman and her children. But an insistence that she leave or take other action when she is not ready is both dangerous and unhelpful.

In Appendix A, I have collected some "do's" and "don'ts" that supporters of battered women may find helpful. I must emphasize that attitude is more important than phraseology. After all, Mary's former brother-in-law said, "Don't go back." But he said it as a suggestion, not an order. He was advising her, not commanding her. He did not imply that she was nuts or masochistic if she went back to Russ. He clearly communicated, "I'll be here for you next time. Even if you do go back, you're welcome to return to my house."

Mary's friend who noticed and commented on her bruised arm also did her a great service. She did not insist that Mary talk about it; however, she did not pretend that she did not notice. Even if the victim is not yet ready to discuss the abuse, such comments leave a door open. They also communicate, contrary to what the abuser is always saying, that others do care about the battered woman and that others will help her. [69]

When faced with someone else's problems, many people respond with, "What can I do? What difference can I make?" Here, the answer is clear: you might make a big difference, if you will. [70]

B. Lawyers and Other Professionals Matter

Friends and family sometimes downplay their ability to make a difference. So do professionals. In some circles, it can even be considered fashionable and sophisticated to throw your hands up and say, "These people's problems are so bad, it doesn't really matter what lawyers, judges, and psychologists do. He'll continue to abuse her, and she'll continue to take it. It's a sad situation, but it's basically hopeless."

Mary's story shows how important lawyers, psychologists, and judges are. Most of them, sadly, harmed Mary and her children. A few -- like the one psychologist she spoke to briefly, the lawyer who handled Daniel's return to Mary, and the judge who finally took away Russ's visitation -- helped her a lot.

It does not have to be this way. Other battered women I have interviewed have had somewhat better experiences. [71] Still, Mary's story is sadly common. [72] For example, I asked Laura Lawyer, who works in Mary's city, about the psychologists who do custody evaluation work there. This woman, who is universally regarded as one of the best family lawyers in town, said, "In this city [of more than half a million people], there isn't a single psychologist who has the right credentials, who actually does custody evaluation work, and who really "gets it' about domestic violence and children. Some who understand the issues don't have the credentials or don't do the work. Those that do, don't really understand. Some have their hearts in the right places, and some are trying. But a lot of them are awful."

It should not really surprise us that professionals do so badly. They can be sexist and victim-blaming, just like anyone else. [73] And many that might do better are still ignorant about domestic violence. [74] The media and other social institutions must take some of the blame, but the professions themselves are responsible, too. Lawyers and doctors continue to receive little or no training about domestic violence. [75] When training is offered, it is generally in specialized courses, where the trainers are often preaching to the choir. Professionals who represent respectable, educated, affluent clients or patients are especially resistant to learning about domestic violence. [76]

C. Attitudes Need to Change More than the Law

Domestic violence law is certainly far better than it has been in the past. We have seen progress in the legislative, [77] judicial, [78] and executive [79] arenas. Positive legislative reform is on-going, though there is a backlash as well, driven primarily by the Fathers' Rights movement. [80]

Changes in the law are important. With better law, good people (judges, police, etc.) can do more and bad ones are limited in the harm they can cause. Law can also have an educational effect. A judge or police officer who initially resists laws and policies that are appropriate for domestic violence cases may ultimately come to see their value.

Mary's story shows, however, that the primary problem is not with the law but with the human beings who interpret and administer it. The legal system betrayed Mary, but not because it lacked the power to act differently. The judges, psychologists, and lawyers could have protected Mary and her children. They could have understood woman battering, or made a point of educating themselves about it. They could have let go of their stereotypes about what batterers and their victims "look like" and how they act. They could have reexamined their values, under which abuse of Mom is irrelevant to Dad's fitness as a parent. The list continues indefinitely.

Mary's custody judge easily had the power to find that full custody with Mary was in the children's "best interest" [81] and that Russ's visitation had to be supervised. [82] The judge could have warned Russ, not Mary, that he had to be on his best behavior or he would lose even supervised visitation. The judge could have ordered Russ to undergo batterers' counseling as a precondition for even supervised visitation. [83]

My point is simple: this did not have to happen. Without in any way ignoring or bending the law, Mary, the children -- and Russ -- could have been dealt with appropriately. Mary and her children, especially Daniel, may pay for the system's sexism, ignorance, and indifference for a lifetime. And, as Mary says, society pays too when the aftermath of abuse spills out, as it often will, beyond the family.

D. Process Counts

The next lesson has to do not with what happened to Mary but with how she was treated. Dr. Anne Flitcraft, probably the leading medical crusader for domestic violence, put it best: "Process counts." [84] Dr. Flitcraft recognizes that battered women will continue to encounter difficult and hostile situations. [85] Even the most competent and caring helpers cannot always make it "all better" for the victim and her children. Despite this, Dr. Flitcraft insists that it still matters how we treat battered women, even when we can offer them little concrete help. [86]

In Mary's story, this lesson comes across loud and clear in how she was treated by the one sympathetic police officer and the one understanding psychologist. In both instances, these people were of little or no practical help to her. Yet, they did help. They helped by caring about her and acknowledging the validity of her perceptions and fears. [87] Their help gave her the strength to carry on and fight for herself and her children. In short, they empowered her.

Compare this to how the lawyers, psychologists, and judges treated Mary. Their manner was cold, condescending, and downright mean. Even with someone as strong as Mary, they caused her to doubt herself. They were disempowering, even when they gave her substantive help. This happened with her protective order judge, who gave her the order but treated her dismissively. It is a tribute to Mary that she remained resolute enough to resist the double abuse she suffered from both Russ and these "helpers."

Other battered women are not so lucky. As one domestic violence advocate expressed it to me, "The tolerance level for what the system dishes out to victims varies from woman to woman." [88] Some, like Mary, push through it, although not without horrific damage to themselves and their kids. [89] Others give up and return to their batterers discouraged and disempowered. [90]

The depression, guilt, and low self-esteem observed in some battered women are often by-products of the ineffective, disempowering responses from the people to whom victims turn for help. [91] For such women, battered by the system, as well as their partners, it will be harder to escape again, [92] although many do. [93] They reasonably fear the unsympathetic and ignorant attitudes they know they will encounter. [94] Still worse, some women may internalize the demeaning attitudes of others. [95] When this happens, outsiders have played right into the batterer's hands. They have aided and abetted him in blaming the victim, in isolating her, and in impeding her escape. [96]

"Process counts" is an especially hard lesson for lawyers, I think. By training and perhaps predisposition, they are likely to be "bottom line" oriented. [97] Many lawyers pay no attention to how they deliver news, good or bad, to clients. [98] They seem to think process doesn't matter, just results. They assume clients feel the same way.

When I emphasize process, I am not saying that lawyers and other helpers should not be straight with battered women. Because most systems remain unresponsive to domestic violence, [99] even the best lawyer will often have to deliver horrible, scary, dangerous news to victims: "the psychologist is going to recommend that the batterer get custody"; "this judge will not order supervised visitation"; "your ex-husband will not serve any time in jail for his violation of the protective order"; etc. The victim deserves to "hear it like it is" not just as a matter of respect and decency, but to assist her in planning to maximize her own safety and that of her children. [100] Still, how you tell it matters.

E. Do With the Battered Woman, Not To Her

Dr. Flitcraft advises helpers in dealing with women such as Mary to "[d]o with [the battered woman], not to her." [101] What this means is that helpers must work with the battered woman as she makes decisions about her safety and legal options. [102] Outsiders, no matter how knowledgeable or well-meaning, must not impose their will or their ego on her life. [103] They can and should counsel as well as listen, but the battered woman and her needs and desires must be at the forefront. [104]

Obviously, many of Mary's supposed helpers failed on this score. The egocentricity of her lawyers and psychologists is appalling, unprofessional, and, frankly, incompetent. To satisfy their egos, Mary's lawyers talked tough, which scared her. Yet in the end, they did not fight for her when she wanted zealous representation on issues like the pretrial conference and supervised visitation. Ego convinced them that whatever they wanted was best for Mary. This is inappropriate and unethical with any client, [105] but when the client is a battered woman, it is also dangerous. [106] The fact that Mary was treated with such disdain shows how powerful sexism, victim-blaming, and ignorance still are among professionals, both male and female. [107]

Of course we all have egos; I am not suggesting that we can or should do away with them. Nor am I suggesting that lawyers and other professionals cannot exercise their independent judgment in advising and evaluating the situations faced by their battered clients. But the helpers' egos must be kept in their proper place; they should not dominate. The helpers must see the battered woman as the full-fledged human being she is, as someone who deserves to be listened to and taken seriously. Helpers can express their egos by attending to the battered woman and her needs, not riding roughshod over her.

In one area in particular, the helpers should have been more assertive with Mary. They should have addressed safety planning with Mary after she left Russ. As Mary indicated, she had no idea that she might be in danger; she was focused on her kids, not herself. Like many people, she did not know that the most serious abuse often occurs after a woman has left her batterer. [108]

A good lawyer or psychologist would have counseled Mary about safety planning. [109] Without scaring her, he or she could have said, "Listen, I've had a lot of experience with these kinds of cases. I must tell you that often men come after women who've left them. Let's talk about ways you and the children can be safer." Then, the lawyer and Mary could have worked through a safety plan, using questions like those in Appendix C. [110]

Failing to work with the battered woman can be disastrous in many ways. First and foremost, it can endanger her. [111] Battered women are not psychic, but they know their batterers well. They have a good idea of what they need for their safety. [112] Outsiders can err by either pushing too hard or not hard enough. They can compromise the victim's safety either by not taking her demands for protection seriously, or by pushing her to take steps that she thinks are dangerous or premature. [113]

Ego also prevents helpers from seeing the situation accurately. [114] I agree with Mary that her psychologist's ego, first expressed as "we'll kick their ass," naturally succumbed to Russ's charm. When helpers' ego-needs are paramount, helpers are "easy pickings" for batterers. [115]

F. Any "Solution" Not Based on Battered Women's Experiences
Is Doomed to Failure

We cannot know what to do about domestic violence unless we listen to survivors' stories. In them are the keys to solutions. Battered women and formerly battered women are telling us what works and what does not. People with professional training can help, but only if their actions and recommendations are based on what battered women and formerly battered women say. [116]

Women like Mary tell us that mediation, joint custody, and couples counseling can be terrible for battered women, [117] yet certain professionals continue to advocate for these things in domestic violence cases. [118] Their arguments, however, are from the viewpoint of the mediator or the system, not the battered woman and her children. [119] Women's safety concerns are either not addressed or minimized. [120]

Proponents of mediation in domestic violence cases express a near-magical belief in mediation and mediators. They believe that the mediator can tell when mediation is not appropriate or when it should be stopped [121] (another example of the helper's ego surfacing). Sadly, the only expertise that seems to count is the mediator's. Battered women's expertise does not seem to matter. [122]

Sometimes, it seems that battered women's voices are getting more and more lost. The field has become professionalized, [123] semi-respectable, [124] and partially funded. [125] There has been a parallel tendency to turn the focus away from the victims and toward the professionals. [126]

I do not want to be misunderstood here. I have absolutely no nostalgia for the "good old days" when shelters did not exist or led threadbare existences, and when a professor who wanted to teach Domestic Violence would have been laughed off campus. I have been doing domestic violence work far too long for such foolishness. I relish the voice, the power, and even the respectability that our movement has achieved. But people who really care about battered women must remain ever vigilant against those whose solutions come from their own professional experience and not from victims' lives.

G. Batterers as Rulemakers

The next several sections will examine some ways in which Mary's story illuminates recurring issues in woman abuse.

One telltale sign of abuse that has been largely ignored is what can be called "batterers as rulemakers." [127] In Mary's house, Russ set up many arbitrary, unfair rules, such as what television programs they would watch. This is typical of batterers. [128]

Barbara J. Hart, a leading national expert on domestic violence, notes that "[a]ll [of the batterer's] rules are not equal. Batterers create a hierarchy of rules with a concomitant hierarchy of enforcement measures [i.e., punishment for disobedience of rules]." [129] Hart goes on:

The four rules invariably most important to batterers are the following:
1. You cannot leave this relationship unless I am through with you.
2. You may not tell anyone about my violence or coercive controls.
3. I am entitled to your obedience, service, affection, loyalty, fidelity, and undivided attention.
4. I get to decide which of the other rules are critical. [130]

The reader may be objecting, "But every family needs rules. The alternative is chaos. Children especially need the discipline and predictability that comes from having household rules." Or the reader may be saying, "Hey, my dad expected that dinner would be on the table every night at six and got sort of grumpy when it wasn't. But I didn't consider this part of some battering pattern, and neither did my mom."

As a mother and wife, I absolutely agree that families need rules. Nothing is sadder than a house where "anything goes" and there are no rules; everyone is unhappy, especially the children. [131] Nor do I think that every rule, even if somewhat imposed by one family member over others, is abusive.

But rules are different in a batterer's house. They are never negotiated; they are always imposed. [132] And rulemaking is a one-way street: the batterer sets rules for other family members, while he does exactly as he pleases. [133] Russ ordered Mary not to watch comedies on television, just as he announced that he was quitting his job. Mary knew that even suggesting alternatives might result in violence. But Russ could be away for days at a time, and Mary was not to question his actions.

The rules in a batterer's house are not just for his comfort and enjoyment. They are an integral part of his plan to control and isolate his partner. [134] As Mary said, the rule about no comedies on television meant she could not exercise her sense of humor, an important part of her self-image. Batterer's rules also control matters such as whether and when she can leave the house, and how she can spend money. [135] Many rules reinforce the victim's isolation, such as rules about not having any of her friends over or going out with other people after work. [136] Even "little" rules, like "don't play the radio when I'm gone" and "keep the curtain in the kitchen down" are part of an overall pattern of isolation. [137] She might hear something that made her feel good while listening to the radio, or she might hear a description of domestic violence and recognize herself and start planning her escape. Looking out at the world from her kitchen window (or having someone else look in and see what was going on) might decrease her isolation.

In the functional family, rules are negotiated and renegotiated. [138] One partner may give in to the other, but both partners engage in some give and take. The rules may not fulfill everyone's needs, but they do not destroy family members' self-esteem either. [139] In functional families, people are basically satisfied with the rules. [140]

Second, the batterer's list of rules is ridiculously long and ever expanding and changing. [141] While his partner and children are struggling to comply with his existing demands, new and often contradictory rules are added. [142] This again is in marked contrast with the non-abusive "dinner at six" dad. We have all known non-abusive families where one member (usually, but not always, the father) must be catered to, but his demands are limited and stable. Further, the demanding but non-abusive family member is capable of being satisfied. "Just feed him on time and he's a happy man" is not something an abused wife would say.

Finally, there is the punishment imposed for non-compliance with rules. [143] The non-abusive man does not beat or rape his wife or children if dinner is not on the table at six. He may pout for a while, or whine, he may even occasionally yell. His reaction may be unhealthy, but the other family members do not live in terror of what will happen if the rules are not met.

Identification protocols for battered women should include questions about rulemaking. [144] Something like this would be good: "Every household has rules under which it operates. Tell me about the ones in your house. What are the rules? How are they established? What happens when they're not met?" With a sympathetic ear and a little prodding, a battered woman may quickly identify a long list of onerous and changing rules, imposed by the abuser and ruthlessly enforced by him. [145] If she is still in the relationship, or just getting out, she may describe the rules matter-of-factly, and may consider them normal. [146] One advantage of asking about the rules is that she may talk about them much more readily and with less shame than about the violence she has experienced. [147]

H. How Physical and Non-Physical Abuse Work Together:
Why Do We See It as Torture When Argentinean Generals Do It,
But Not When It's the Guy Next Door?

People are still very ignorant about domestic violence and how it works. If you talk to people and read news reports, the emphasis is always on physical violence. [148] Mary encountered this ignorance when the psychologists, judges, and lawyers minimized her danger because the last severe beating occurred a year and a half before Mary left Russ for good.

Yet, as Mary and other battered women tell their stories, it is clear that the batterer's focus is always on power and control. [149] Physical violence is only one tool he uses to achieve power and control. [150] This point is made most graphically in the "Power and Control" wheel in Power and Control Wheel Appendix D .

Many batterers use physical violence only "as needed" to obtain and retain control. [151] One battered woman, who had experienced relatively little physical violence told me, "Just a little of that stuff goes a long way." [152] It's the credible threat of violence, combined with other coercive techniques that makes for a batterer. [153]

In other settings, we are well aware of how torturers combine physical and mental abuse to get and keep power over their victims. [154] Appendix B is one of my favorite charts, adapted from Ann Jones's book Next Time, She'll Be Dead. [155] In the left-hand column are non-physical torture methods that Amnesty International has recognized and catalogued. [156] Totalitarian regimes often use these techniques against political prisoners. [157] In the right-hand column are battered women's descriptions of how their batterers used these same techniques to control them. [158] I have added some examples from Mary's story to what appears in Jones's book.

Those who work with battered women must understand the interplay of physical and non-physical abuse. When seen in context, a "slap" is not just a "slap"; it is a warning that the victim must comply with the batterer's demands "or else." Repeated phone calls to her at work are not just a sign of a little insecurity. They are part of an overall scheme of isolation and control. Busting up the furniture at home, or throwing the cat against the wall are not unfortunate temper tantrums; they say, "you could be next." [159]

We should recognize domestic violence as the human rights violation it is. [160] We should draw analogies between domestic violence and torture, [161] to kidnappers and hostages. [162]

I sometimes think those of us involved in domestic violence focus too heavily on the most violent cases, especially homicides. Of course, cases of extreme violence are important and it is proper to give them a high priority. Plus, the drama of severe injury and death may get the attention of people who would not be touched or spurred to action by Mary's story. [163] But if society is to understand abuse, we must tell the truth. The truth is that many battered women suffer limited, though repeated, physical abuse. [164]

Without an understanding of the power and control dynamics, women like Mary will continue to hear judges, psychologists, and lawyers say, "Okay, he hit her a few times, but it really wasn't that bad. It's ridiculous for her to be so afraid when the last physical violence was more than a year ago. And it's clearly no reason for him not to see or have custody of the kids." [165] And abused women will still be asked ludicrous questions like, "Did he have a playful voice when he warned you that he was going to beat you that night?"

I. Mary Did Not Display "Battered Women's Syndrome";
"Battered Women as Survivor" Is A Better Explanation
of Mary's Responses

Mary's story shows, once again, that "Battered Women's Syndrome," [166] at least as it is classically stated, fails to describe most battered women's experience with abuse. [167]

First and foremost, Mary never experienced the "cycle of violence." [168] Russ was never contrite or loving after a severe beating. He never apologized, and, except for a few presents, acted as if he had done nothing wrong. We now know that the loving and contrite phase is absent in many abusive relationships. [169] In others, it may occur after the first severe battering, but then disappear. [170] Yet some experts in the field continue to push the cycle of violence as an essential element of violent intimate relationships. [171]

Nor did Mary exhibit "learned helplessness." [172] Mary did, however, experience certain elements of post-traumatic stress, such as depression and anxiety. But, like most battered women, Mary's helpseeking efforts increased as the violence escalated. [173] Unlike the dogs in the famous shock experiment, [174] she did not become passive; she did not give up. As one friend of mine in the movement says, "If you buy learned helplessness, then you can't explain all the battered women who escape. If learned helplessness were right, battered women would all stay until they were dead." [175]

There is now ample literature criticizing Battered Women's Syndrome. [176] Yet Battered Women's Syndrome still holds sway in popular publications [177] and legal writings. [178] This may be due to the way "learned helplessness" dovetails into our society's image of women as weak creatures and natural victims. [179] Alternatively, the cause may be Lenore Walker's proficiency in self-promotion. [180]

Yet, there are other, much better theories already out there. The best of these theories recognizes that battered women, like other trauma victims, do not all react the same way. [181] The best theories further emphasize that abuse does not occur in a vacuum. [182] Different women's responses may turn on their own backgrounds, [183] but especially on the response of people from whom they seek help. [184] The indifference, condemnation, and blame they may experience from others (viz. police, judges, lawyers, psychologists) will inevitably influence victims' future actions. [185]

Mary's responses fit well under the "battered woman as a survivor" theory of Edward Gondolf and Ellen Fisher. [186] Gondolf and Fisher suggest that, instead of the psychological paralysis of "learned helplessness," battered women cope valiantly. [187] They deal with their tragic and traumatic circumstances as best they can. [188] Emphasizing context, Gondolf and Fisher point out that women return to their batterers because "help sources" like family, friends, police, social service agencies, and the judiciary are ineffective. [189] They dispute the "learned helplessness" image of a woman cowering in the corner, accepting the blows, and doing nothing. Instead, their research indicates that most victims make repeated and increasing attempts to seek help and escape. [190]

As suggested by the "survivor" theory, Mary made repeated helpseeking attempts. She tried to broach the subject with her doctor. She left Russ, albeit briefly, after the laundry room incident. She continued to seek support from family and friends, even when she did not reveal the abuse. Unlike women who give up when faced with an unspeakably hostile system, Mary continued to fight against Russ's abuse of her and the children. However, even she acknowledges that she came very close to going back to Russ after he won custody of Daniel. It would not have been "learned helplessness" if she had returned. It would have been an understandable, even reasonable, response to the utter failure of the lawyers, judges, and psychologists to act responsibly in the face of Russ's violence.

No theory can fully describe the richness and variety of battered women's responses. [191] But the "survivor" theory describes many women, including Mary, much better than Battered Women's Syndrome.

IV. Questions -- Skeptical and Otherwise -- About Mary's Story

Before closing, I want to briefly address certain questions that I suspect many readers may have about Mary's story and the lessons I have drawn from it. Some of these questions may come from doubters. Such people may be either skeptical in general, or particularly skeptical about my feminist-based lessons. Other questions may come from people who are just learning about the issues.

A. Is Mary a "Typical" Battered Woman?

This is an easy one. There is no such thing as a "typical" battered woman. [192] They come from all socioeconomic, racial and religious backgrounds. [193] Some had happy childhoods, some did not. [194] Some, like Mary, work outside the home, others do not. [195] Some are women who subscribe to traditional gender roles; others have strong feminist beliefs. [196] Some are straight, some are lesbians, some are bisexual. [197] They are, in short, a cross-section of all women.

Equally important, battered women do not react to the abuse -- and society's condemnation of it -- uniformly. [198] Some keep fighting, some go underground to protect themselves and their children, and some give up and return to the batterer. [199] Some have their self-esteem destroyed; [200] others, once safe, quickly rebound. [201]

Of course, there may be some recurring behavioral response patterns. Post-traumatic stress is real. [202] Feelings of depression and self-blame are real. [203]

It is appropriate to devise sensible programs and policies to deal with domestic violence. But in doing so, we should never lose sight of the individual victims and their individual responses. We must stop talking about them and thinking about them as "these women." When we think of them in this matter, we make two mistakes. First, we push them away. When we say "these women," we are saying, "Not me, not anyone I would know." Second, when we say "these women," we are implying that they are all alike, when they are not. [204]

B. Is Russ a "Typical" Batterer?

This is a more difficult question to answer. [205] Batterers do show a lot of commonalities. [206] In particular, they use similar techniques of power and control. [207] Sometimes the stories of how batterers behave seem so similar that victims and advocates may ask themselves, "Do these guys go to some secret batterers' school that we don't know about?"

But, it is not so surprising that we should see the same methods used to maintain power and control over and over. Men are trained in our society to dominate other men, as well as women and children. [208] Further, as the Amnesty International chart shows, [209] torturers throughout history have used similar techniques without going to torturers' school. [210] Human psychology is not that tough. The ways to dominate and brainwash another person are relatively straightforward. They are not hard to figure out, even without attending an official batterers' school. [211]

Additionally, because batterers have an intimate relationship with their victims, power and control are easier. [212] When you are close with someone, you know their soft spots. Every spouse knows how to hurt the other, how to "go for the jugular." This intimacy makes degradation simpler. Loving and caring people simply choose not to say destructive, hurtful things to each other, or at least not too often. Batterers are not necessarily clever; they are just willing to use methods we all have at our disposal.

But, despite their similarities, batterers are not all alike either. [213] They differ in how far they are willing to go to hurt and destroy their victims. [214] When the victim flees, many will pursue her, [215] but others will just move on to another victim. [216] Many will fight for custody of the children, but some will not. [217] They also differ in their inclination to change. [218] A few will work long and hard on their destructive tendencies; they will take responsibility for their past misdeeds and make some real changes. [219] Most, sadly, will not. [220] And, of course, someone like Russ has never been given any incentive to change. Why should he change when he has never been held responsible for his abuse of Mary and the children?

C. Haven't Things Changed a Lot: Would Mary's Story Happen Today?

Some readers may wonder whether Mary's story is "old news." She left Russ more than seven years ago. She lost custody of Daniel more than five years ago. Isn't it all different now?

Society has made miraculous progress on domestic violence over the past several decades. [221] However, there has also been some backlash. [222]

Still, it is slow going. Without question, every element of Mary's story -- the lawyers, the psychologists, the judge -- could happen today and is happening today. [223] Mary herself continues to work on domestic violence issues because she continues to see women suffer in the same system she did. When I talk to women's advocates around the country, they tell me the system may be better here and there, but it still has a long way to go. [224] After all, O.J. Simpson still has custody of his children, [225] although he has been found by clear and convincing evidence to have murdered their mother. [226]

D. Isn't This Story Just About a Few Bad Apples?

Another response to the horrors of Mary's story is to consider the lawyers, psychologists, and judge individual villains. We do this a lot in America. We think all evil comes from individual wrongdoing, not society-wide failures. [227]

Neither Mary nor I excuse the individual ignorance, indifference, and ego of the individual players in her story. But, more is involved here than a few bad apples. "Bad apples" implies that overall, people in these positions understand domestic violence and are doing right by battered women and their children. It further implies that people like these are roundly condemned by their peers.

Sadly, this is not the case. Mary's custody judge is still on the bench, and all the other villains in this story are still working and still highly regarded in the community. [228] Mary's psychologist speaks badly about Mary and HomeSafe, the local domestic violence program. My research reveals no indication that any of the people who wronged Mary have learned from their experience.

E. Why Should I Believe Mary's Story?

This is a legitimate question, and I do not have a slam dunk answer. I did confirm with HomeSafe's Executive Director that Mary's custody judge had an outstanding protective order against him at the time of the custody hearing. Otherwise, I have not confirmed her story.

My best response is, "If you'd heard her tell it, you'd believe it." Or, "If you'd heard as many different battered women tell their stories as I have, you'd start to believe them." I can say that I have heard Mary tell parts of her story to different people, and I think nearly all of them believed her. In American society, we have images of vengeful women inventing or exaggerating abuse, but generally the opposite is true. [229] Mary did not dramatize the abuse; if anything, she understated it.

All I ask for is open-mindedness. I do not ask the reader to accept everything Mary or other women say as the gospel truth, but at least consider the possibility that much -- if not all -- of it is true. Similarly, consider the possibility that there are men who put on a superb show in public, but terrorize their families in private. If people will just listen and dig deeper, I think they will usually find evidence to support abuse allegations. There certainly was plenty of evidence in Mary's case. It came from family, co-workers, even photographs of a destroyed house. All of this evidence supported her claims. The people who did not believe her just did not want to, or did not understand domestic violence.

F. Do You Hear What I Hear? The Danger of Telling Stories

One danger of telling stories is that people will respond based on their own preconceptions of the narrated situation. [230] I fear some readers will focus on questions such as, "Why didn't Mary leave earlier?" or "The key is Russ's drinking. Why didn't you put more emphasis on his alcoholism?" [231]

Obviously, those are not the morals I take away from Mary's story. But, both Mary and I understand we cannot control the reader's response. We think, though, that there are enough people with an open mind and a good will who will say, "Oh, now I understand domestic violence a little better. And, I know a little more how far we still have to go."

V. Conclusion: Why We Must Keep Telling Stories

We must keep telling stories because a battered woman might hear a story similar to her own life and seek help. She might hear, for the first time, she does not deserve the abuse. She might hear she has a chance for a better life for her children and herself. A victim who has received good treatment from the legal system told me, "I want to give women hope." [232] Hope is the reason these stories must be told.

We must keep telling stories because a victim who was not ready to listen yesterday may be ready today, or tomorrow. A battered woman might read about a woman being killed and for the first time say to herself, " That could be me. I need to get out now." Of course, other battered women have been killed, but she was not yet ready to make the connection. [233] Such stories would not have worked for Mary, even after the laundry room beating. But they were important to her a year later when she came to self-identify as an abused woman and left Russ.

Additionally, other people -- students, lawyers, judges, doctors, psychologists -- might resist a battered woman's story at one time but be receptive the next. Why is this? There are many reasons, but people often open their minds after domestic violence touches them personally. [234] For many people, once they hear a story from someone they know and care about, they become more willing to listen to other women's stories. [235] I have seen this happen over and over again. We can never be sure when it will all "click" for a given person. After all, it ultimately "clicked" even for Mary's custody judge. [236]

We can only keep trying. Mary, and many other courageous women like her, will not be silenced. They will keep telling their stories till everyone hears.

What to Say (and Not to Say) to a Battered Woman

5 Things to Say to a Victim Reluctant to Leave a Violent Situation
or Returning to a Violent Situation

  1. I am afraid for your safety.
  2. I am afraid for the safety of your children.
  3. It will only get worse.
  4. I am here for you when you are ready to leave.
  5. You deserve better than this.

Source: Sarah Buel, Materials: Domestic Violence Intervention Services, received at the Prosecuting Batterers Without a Witness Workshop, Tulsa, Okla. (Feb. 1994).

Things to Say (and Not to Say) To a Woman Who's Confided in You
about Domestic Violence, or Who You Suspect is a Victim


  1. You seem upset. What's troubling you?
  2. I believe you.
  3. I wish I could tell you that this is rare. Many other women have experienced this too.
  4. I care about your well-being and I'm concerned for your safety.
  5. You're a brave person.
  6. If you need me, I am here.
  7. I won't tell anyone unless you want me to.
  8. Tell me about the first time it happened.
  9. It's important that you are safe. Do you have a place to go if you need to leave?
  10. In 95% of the cases, if he hits you once, he will hit you again.
  11. You need more help than I can give you.


  1. What did you do to provoke him?
  2. Here's what you should do next.
  3. Why don't you and your husband get some counseling.
  4. Let's bring your husband in to work this out.
  5. I can't believe that!
  6. If I were you I wouldn't stay a minute longer.
  7. Why don't you go home and work this out?

Source: Jewish Women International, Resource Guide on Domestic Violence, reprinted in Your Words Have Weight, Lilith, Winter 1996, at 39.

Methods of Coercion





Deprives victim of all social support for the ability to resist.


Develops an intense concern with self.


Makes victim dependent upon interrogator

From other battered women: He moved me away from my friends. He didn't want to go anywhere unless he was with me. He would eavesdrop.


From Mary's story: Russ's rude treatment of family and friends made them stop coming or come less often. Russ would determine when and if Mary could go out (as in final, attendance-at-shower incident).



Fixes attention upon immediate predicament; fosters introspection.


Eliminates stimuli competing with those controlled by captor.


Frustrates all actions not consistent with compliance.

From other battered women: I was always scared he'd blow up. I had to dress up for him. Give him sex whenever he wanted. I had to control the children so they wouldn't bother him. It was like walking on eggshells.


From Mary's story: Same words re walking on eggshells. Watched "blood and guts" TV programs as Russ's requirements. Was to be available for sex to "make up" after fight.



Weakens mental and physical ability to resist.

From other battered women: He wouldn't let me sleep. He started fights at night. He wouldn't let me see a doctor.


From Mary's story: "All that night, he kicked me while we were in bed together. He turned the lights on and off all night. I got hardly any sleep."



Cultivates anxiety and despair.

From other battered women: He threatened to kill the cat. He said he'd take the kids. He said he'd have me committed. He said he'd burn down the house. He said he'd find me if I left.


From Mary's story: Russ said she'd "get the beating of her life" that night. After she left, he said he'd "get her" and make her death look like a suicide.



Provides positive motivation for compliance.

From other battered women: He took me on vacation. He bought me jewelry. He allowed me sex only when we "made up." Once in a while he really listened to me and seemed to care.


From Mary's story: Gifts following severe attacks. Some good times, at least in the beginning, when Russ was genuinely affectionate toward her.



Suggests futility of resistance.

From other battered women: He beat me up. He had me followed. He called me deluded.


From Mary's story: Beatings, stalking, called her "crazy" because of thyroid medication.



Makes cost of resistance appear more damaging to self-esteem than capitulation.


Reduces prison to "animal" concerns.

From other battered women: He told me I'm too fat. He'd call me names and touch me inappropriately in public. He put me down intellectually and sexually and said I was ugly.


From Mary's story: "Your thighs are fat. Your boobs hang down. No one else would want you. You're lucky to have me." Nearly convinces her to have her breasts enlarged.



Develops habits of compliance.

From other battered women: The bacon had to be cooked to a particular doneness. I couldn't leave a cup on the bathroom basin.


From Mary's story: Mary was not allowed to watch television comedies like "Cheers" or "M*A*S*H."

Source: Amnesty International, Report on Torture (1973), as adapted by Women's Shelter of Northampton, Mass., in Ann Jones, Next Time, She'll Be Dead 90-91 (1994).

Personalized Safety Plan

Suggestions for increasing safety in the relationship

  • I will have important phone numbers available to my children and myself (see below).
  • I can tell ____________ and ____________ about the violence and ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from my home.
  • If I leave my home, I can go (list four places): ____________ , ____________ , ____________ , ____________ .
  • I can leave extra money, car keys, clothes, and copies of documents with: ____________ .
  • If I leave, I will take (see checklist below):
  • To ensure safety and independence, I can: keep change for phone calls with me at all times; open my own savings account; rehearse my escape route with a support person; and review safety plan on ____________ (date).
  • I will teach my children how and when to call 911 and the Fire Department.
  • I will use my judgment and intuition. If the situation is very serious, I will give my partner what he needs to calm him down. I will protect myself and my children until we are out of danger.

Suggestions for increasing safety when the relationship is over

  • I can: change the locks; install steel/metal doors, a security system, smoke detectors, and an outside lighting system.
  • I will consider carefully which people I invite to help secure my safety.
  • I will inform ___________ and ___________ that my partner no longer lives with me and ask them to call the police if my partner is observed near my home or my children.
  • I will tell people who take care of my children the names of those who have permission to pick them up. The people who have permission are: ____________ , ____________.
  • I can tell ____________ at work about my situation and ask ____________ to screen my calls.
  • I can avoid stores, banks, and ________________________ (other places) that I used when living with my battering partner.
  • I can obtain a protective order from:________________________ .
  • I can keep it on or near me at all times as well as leave a copy with:____________ .
  • If I feel down and ready to return to a potentially abusive situation, I can call ____________ for support or attend workshops and support groups to gain support and strengthen my relationships with other people.

Important Phone Numbers

  • Police: ____________
  • Hotline: ____________
  • Friends: ____________
  • Shelter: ____________

Checklist of Items to Take

  • Identification
  • Birth certificates for me and my children
  • Social Security cards
  • School and medical records
  • Money, bankbooks, credit cards
  • Keys -- house/car/office
  • Driver's license and registration
  • Medications
  • Change of clothes
  • Welfare identification
  • Passport(s), Green Card(s), work permit
  • Divorce papers
  • Lease/rental agreement, house deed
  • Mortgage payment book, current unpaid bills
  • Insurance papers
  • Address book
  • Pictures, jewelry, items of sentimental value
  • Children's favorite toys and/or blankets

Source: When Violence Hits Home, booklet written by "You Have the Power ... Know How to Use It" Committee, Nashville, Tenn.

Power and Control Wheel

Using Intimidation

Making her afraid by using looks, actions, or gestures. Smashing things. Destroying her property. Abusing pets. Displaying weapons.

Using Emotional Abuse

Putting her down. Making her feel bad about herself. Calling her names. Making her think she's crazy. Playing mind games. Humiliating her. Making her feel guilty.

Using Isolation

Controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, and where she goes. Limiting her outside involvement. Using jealousy to justify actions.

Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming

Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously. Saying the abuse didn't happen. Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior. Saying she caused the abuse.

Using Children

Making her feel guilty about the children. Using the children to relay messages. Using visitation to harass her. Threatening to take the children away.

Using Male Privilege

Treating her like a servant. Making all the big decisions. Acting like the "Master of the Castle". Being the one to define men's and women's roles.

Using Economic Abuse

Preventing her from getting or keeping a job. Making her ask for money. Giving her an allowance. Taking her money. Not letting her know about or have access to family income.

Using Coercion and Threats

Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her. Threatening to "out" her. Threatening to leave her, to commit suicide, to report her to Welfare authorities. Making her do illegal things.

From the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.

Author's Note

Kathleen Waits

Associate Professor, University of Tulsa College of Law; e-mail: . A.B., Cornell University, 1972; J.D., Harvard University, 1975. Member of District of Columbia, Illinois, Florida, and New York bars. Member, Advisory Committee for ABA Commission on Domestic Violence, "Educating to End Domestic Violence" (the Advisory Committee was composed of about 25 legal academics, clinicians and practitioners in the domestic violence field; the Commission received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to report on ways of improving law school instruction on domestic violence, and produced the report, Deborah Goelman & Roberta Valente, When Will They Ever Learn: Educating to End Domestic Violence: A Law School Report (1997)). Former Board Member, Equinox (social service agency, including shelters for battered women and teenagers), Albany, New York; former President, Sexual and Physical Abuse Resource Center, Gainesville, Florida (battered women's shelter); former Treasurer, Refuge Information Network of Florida (statewide coalition of organizations serving battered women).

The copyright holders, Kathleen Waits and the Houston Law Review, hereby grant permission for copies of this article to be made for any non-profit educational use, provided that: (1)copies are distributed at or below cost; (2)the author and journal are identified; and (3)proper notice of copyright is affixed to each copy. This permission extends, but is not limited to, classroom use at universities, including law schools, and non-profit Continuing Legal Education or other non-profit education and training.

I'd like to thank Pam Anthony, University of Tulsa College of Law, Class of 1998, for her research assistance.

This article is dedicated to the FIVERS, feminist intimate violence e-mail discussion group. I have learned more than I can say from its members. To subscribe to FIVERS, send an expression of interest to the list manager, Richard Blum, at . Before acceptance on the list, potential list members are asked to fill out a brief questionnaire.

Words can never express the gratitude and admiration I feel toward "Mary." Her generosity in sharing her story with me can never be repaid. The courage that she and other battered women show every day amazes me. More than anything we academics can ever write, their deeds and perseverance put the lie to "learned helplessness."


[1] See Sayoko Blodgett-Ford, Note, Do Battered Women Have A Right to Bear Arms?, 11 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 509, 526 & n.98 (1993) (stating that "[e] stimates of the number of families that will experience some form of domestic violence range from eleven to fifty-two percent"); see also Ronet Bachman & Linda E. Saltzman, U.S. Dep't of Justice, Violence Against Women 3 (1995) (reporting that annually an average of one million women suffer from violence by an intimate partner). See generally Lewis Okun, Woman Abuse 37-39 (1986) (providing estimates of the overall incidence and prevalence of domestic violence); Mildred Daley Pagelow, Family Violence 42-46 (1984) (discussing estimates of violence within marriages); Robert T. Sigler, Domestic Violence in Context 12 (1989) (discussing the prevalence of spousal abuse).

[2] See generally Ann Jones, Next Time, She'll Be Dead 31-48 (1994) (relating many stories of the mistreatment of abused women by the legal system). The book also chronicles the ways in which the media minimizes domestic violence and perpetuates myths about it. See id. at 129-36, 228-29.

I use Next Time, She'll Be Dead as the first reading in my course in Domestic Violence. It is a strongly feminist, angry, even sarcastic book. Many students react negatively to its tone and resist the connections it makes between domestic violence and other forms of oppression, such as pornography and sexual harassment. Other students dislike Jones's liberal/radical politics. Still, the book grabs their attention; the real stories shake them up. By the end of the course, many students come to accept the validity of at least some of Jones's points; they certainly understand her anger and frustration. After reading cases and other materials and hearing guest speakers who've experienced many of the systemic abuses Jones describes, many students have been, in some small way, radicalized.

[3] See Joan Zorza, Protecting the Children in Custody Disputes When One Parent Abuses the Other, 29 Clearinghouse Rev. 1113, 1117, 1119 (1996) [hereinafter Zorza, Protecting the Children] (noting that batterers are more likely than non-batterers to seek custody and that fathers who actually seek custody win sole or joint custody 70% of the time). Zorza's article is an excellent introduction to child custody in domestic violence cases; indeed, I would recommend anything written by this engaging, "down-to-earth," and prolific author.

For an earlier, comprehensive review of the subject, see generally Naomi R. Cahn, Civil Images of Battered Women: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody Decisions, 44 Vand. L. Rev. 1041 (1991).

[4] See Zorza, Protecting the Children, supra note 3 , at 1115 (noting that over half of men who batter their women partners also beat their children, that batterers often commit child sexual abuse and child abductions, that children may be injured when they get caught in the crossfire of violence directed at their mothers, and that adolescent and teen sons are frequently injured when they try to intervene on behalf of their mothers).

This is to say nothing of the psychological damage done to children when their mothers are abused. See id. at 1115-17 (discussing potential psychological injuries to children living in abusive homes, such as post- traumatic stress disorder).

[5] See generally Developments in the Law: Legal Responses to Domestic Violence, 106 Harv. L. Rev. 1498, 1505-51 (1993) (discussing both the traditional mechanisms of response to domestic violence and new state and federal responses).

[6] The same problem arises with other monstrous tragedies, such as the Holocaust. Steven Spielberg faced this dilemma in Schindler's List: how to make the audience really feel the unspeakable horror. Spielberg solved the dilemma with the girl in the red coat (anyone who has seen the movie knows what I am talking about). See Schindler's List (Universal Pictures 1993). Somehow, seeing thousands of people killed is less affecting than knowing that one, identified person has been murdered.

[7] See generally Jane C. Murphy, Lawyering for Social Change: The Power of the Narrative in Domestic Violence Law Reform, 21 Hofstra L. Rev. 1243, 1268- 92 (1993) (discussing the power and effectiveness of having domestic violence victims tell their stories to the Governor and legislators in Maryland -- the stories had a profound impact on state policy).

There are a number of other authors who have discussed the importance of narrative in domestic violence reform and who have changed the legal debate about domestic violence through storytelling. See generally Leslie G. Espinoza, Legal Narratives, Therapeutic Narratives: The Invisibility and Omnipresence of Race and Gender, 95 Mich. L. Rev. 901 (1997) (recounting, from the lawyer's viewpoint, the interaction between an abused woman and her lawyers and describing how a victim's narrative changes over time); Scott H. Hughes, Elizabeth's Story: Exploring Power Imbalances in Divorce Mediation, 8 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 553 (1995) (providing a poignant story of how mediation failed a seemingly "strong" battered woman); Christine A. Littleton, Women's Experience and the Problem of Transition: Perspectives on Male Battering of Women, 1989 U. Chi. Legal F. 23 (examining the experience of battered women by assuming that the women's descriptions of their experiences are accurate, reasonable, and potentially understandable given the conditions under which they live); Martha R. Mahoney, Legal Images of Battered Women: Redefining the Issue of Separation, 90 Mich. L. Rev. 1 (1991) (relating narratives from victims of domestic violence to accomplish a translation between women's lives and the law); Martha Minow, Words and the Door to the Land of Change: Law, Language, and Family Violence, 43 Vand. L. Rev. 1665, 1687-95 (1990) (discussing a project for judges in which fictional settings were created to discuss family violence in order to determine whether storytelling could help stop domestic violence or strengthen those in a position to stop domestic violence).

Also, Beth Sipe and Evelyn J. Hall, in I Am Not Your Victim, provide a book-length narrative of the abuse that Sipe endured over a 16-year marriage that ultimately resulted in her killing her abuser. Following Sipe's story are several superb commentaries on domestic violence and the way the system responds (or fails to respond) to it. See Beth Sipe & Evelyn J. Hall, I Am Not Your Victim (1996).

[8] All names, including the name of the domestic violence program that served "Mary," have been changed, as well as some other identifying details.

[9] For discussion of issues associated with battered women of color, see generally Linda L. Ammons, Mules, Madonnas, Babies, Bathwater, Racial Imagery and Stereotypes: The African-American Woman and the Battered Woman Syndrome, 1995 Wis. L. Rev. 1003 (discussing the impact of race on African-American domestic abuse victims seeking assistance from the legal system); Jenny Rivera, Domestic Violence Against Latinas by Latino Males: An Analysis of Race, National Origin, and Gender Differentials, 14 B.C. Third World L.J. 231 (1994) (explaining the domestic violence issues that Latinas face within the Latino community).

[10] In addition to talking with Mary, I held single, lengthy interviews with two other battered women, whom I refer to as Ellen and Diana. Like Mary, these women have been involved in custody and visitation battles with their abusers. Ellen's and Diana's stories were also compelling, but I did not have time to interview them more extensively. I have included parts of their stories in places where I felt their experiences illuminated Mary's story and the lessons I have drawn from it.

I also interviewed two female lawyers who are experienced in domestic violence cases. One of them, whom I call Laura Lawyer, practices in the city where Mary lives, but had nothing to do with Mary's case. The other, referred to as Amy Attorney, is Diana's lawyer.

[11] See Blodgett-Ford, supra note 1 , at 528 (indicating that batterers are typically kind and attentive during courtship).

[12] Refer to Part III.G infra (discussing the role of batterers as rulemakers who impose many arbitrary and unfair rules to control their partners).

[13] See Catherine F. Klein & Leslye E. Orloff, Providing Legal Protection For Battered Women: An Analysis of State Statutes and Case Law, 21 Hofstra L. Rev. 801, 827 (1993) (noting that "37% of all obstetrical patients across race, class, and educational lines are physically abused while pregnant" and that abuse "often begins or escalates during pregnancy").

Pregnancy as a trigger for battering is one aspect of domestic violence that Lenore Walker got right in her book, The Battered Woman. See Lenore E. Walker, The Battered Woman 105-06 (1979) [hereinafter Walker, Battered Woman] (discussing the physical abuse frequently suffered during pregnancy when abusers become frustrated as their female partner begins to pay more attention to the child instead of the abuser). But see Part III.I infra (critiquing Walker's "battered woman's syndrome").

[14] See Walker, Battered Woman, supra note 13 , at 55-70 (describing the battering cycle which is comprised of three phases -- the tension-building phase; the explosion or acute battering incident; and the calm, loving respite); see also Lenore E. Walker, Terrifying Love 42-47 (1989) [hereinafter Walker, Terrifying Love] (same).

[15] See Walker, Battered Woman, supra note 13 , at 65-66 (noting that the third phase of the battering cycle is characterized by extremely loving, kind, and contrite behavior by the batterer).

[16] See Shelby A.D. Moore, Battered Woman Syndrome: Selling the Shadow to Support the Substance, 38 How. L.J. 297, 319-20 (1995) (critiquing Walker's conclusion that a three-part "cycle of violence" is an ever-present part of a battering relationship). In contrast to Walker's insistence on the "honeymoon" phase of the cycle, Moore cites the empirical research of P. Emerson Dobash and Russel P. Dobash, which suggests that "there is weak support for the existence of an apology after the first beating, [but] there is virtually no empirical support that it continues with subsequent acts and becomes part of the violent event." Id. at 321. The Dobashes also found that many men made no attempt to apologize until the victim made efforts to leave them. See id.

The Dobashes' findings and Moore's critique are consistent with Mary's experience and that of many other battered women I have met: the contrition phase, if it ever exists, is often not present if the relationship continues for any length of time.

[17] See Linda G. Mills, Intuition and Insight: A New Job Description for the Battered Woman's Prosecutor and Other More Modest Proposals, 7 UCLA Women's L.J. 183, 186 (1997) (discussing the author's personal experiences as a victim, in which she did not call the police, as well as the experience of many victims she has encountered who also did not involve the police).

Battered women's decisions not to call the police may be quite reasonable. Given how poorly many police respond to domestic violence, see Donna M. Welch, Comment, Mandatory Arrest of Domestic Abusers: Panacea or Perpetuation of the Problem of Abuse?, 43 DePaul L. Rev. 1133, 1144-45 (1994) (noting law enforcement's traditionally poor response to domestic violence situations), a woman may legitimately fear that her situation will be worsened, not improved, by calling the police.

[18] See Zorza, Protecting the Children, supra note 3 , at 1115 (indicating that many men who batter their female intimate partners also beat their children).

[19] See Karla Fischer et al., The Culture of Battering and the Role of Mediation in Domestic Violence Cases, 46 SMU L. Rev. 2117, 2120 (1993). Fischer and her co-authors note:

In battering relationships [the understood signals from the battered to the battered] become an extension of the pattern of domination itself, whether it be a nose scratch signal devised specifically for a mediation session, a drawn line gesture used repeatedly over the course of the relationship, or perhaps a fleeting facial change. A gesture that seems innocent to an observer is instantly transformed into a threatening symbol to the victim of abuse. It is a threat that carries weight because similar threats with their corresponding consequences have been carried out before, perhaps many times.

Id. (footnotes omitted).

There are many excellent law review articles on battered women. But I think the one by Fischer and her co-authors captures better than any other I've read what really happens in battering relationships. It includes extensive narratives from battered women. The Culture of Battering would be an excellent introduction for someone new to the subject.

[20] Refer to Part III.G infra (discussing the role of batterers as rulemakers).

[21] Refer to Part III.H infra (explaining batterers' use of both physical and non-physical methods of coercion and control).

[22] Battered women come from every conceivable background. Some had happy childhoods, some unhappy; some come from abusive families, some do not. See Zorza, Protecting the Children, supra note 3 , at 1114 (noting that there is no profile of a battered woman and whether a woman will be battered depends on whether her partner is abusive, not on any characteristic unique to her).

Sadly, some people are so committed to victim-blaming that they refuse to believe that a battered woman might come from a happy, functional family. Ellen told me that she has often talks to people who insist that she must have had an unhappy childhood, or else she would not have been abused as an adult.

[23] Batterers often abuse alcohol and drugs, but their substance abuse does not cause battering. See Ann Jones & Susan Schechter, When Love Goes Wrong 55- 57 (1992) (noting that drugs and alcohol make abuse worse, but are not its cause, and that most batterers continue to abuse even after becoming sober); see also Theresa M. Zubretsky & Karla M. Digirolamo, The False Connection Between Adult Domestic Violence and Alcohol, in Helping Battered Women 222, 223-24 (Albert R. Roberts ed., 1996) (discussing the myths surrounding alcoholism and domestic violence, including the fact that the majority of batterers are not alcoholic and the majority of alcoholics are not abusers; even among domestic violence perpetrators who are alcoholics, the majority of physically abusive incidents happen when they are not drunk; getting treatment for alcohol addiction does not stop the violence; and women often experience escalating abuse during their partner's recovery).

When Love Goes Wrong is a superb self-help book for women in abusive relationships. I would also recommend it to anyone who knows a current or formerly battered woman and who wants to understand better what she is experiencing.

[24] See Jones, supra note 2 , at 87-88 (explaining that many battered women suffer from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder).

[25] Women stay in and return to abusive relationships for various reasons. Some go back because they think that would be best for the kids; some for economic survival reasons; some out of fear; some because they still have positive feelings about the batterer. See M.J. Willoughby, Comment, Rendering Each Woman Her Due: Can a Battered Woman Claim Self-Defense When She Kills Her Sleeping Batterer?, 38 U. Kan. L. Rev. 169, 186 (1989) (noting many of the reasons why battered women cannot and do not leave).

[26] See Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2132 (noting that abusers often maintain control over battered women through social isolation because "limiting victims' interactions with other people enhances the batterers' domination over the family by both cutting off potential sources of support and by making the boundary between the family culture of battering and the outside world more defined").

[27] See Margi Laird McCue, Domestic Violence 108 (1995) (noting that batterers often do not come across as abusive individuals to the outside world, but maintain images as friendly and devoted family men).

[28] Just as battered women are not all alike, neither are batterers. Some batterers are charming and non-violent outside of the house, some are not. Some put their partner down in front of others, some do not. See Donald G. Dutton & Susan K. Golant, The Batterer: A Psychological Profile 22-23 (1995) (asserting that all batterers are not all alike and some may choose to verbally abuse their partners in addition to the physical abuse).

[29] Refer to supra note 26 and accompanying text (describing how batterers often isolate abused women from social contact).

[30] Refer to Part III.A infra (discussing the importance of support from a domestic violence victim's friends and family).

[31] It is common for battered women not to identify themselves as such, even when they have been seriously abused. See Kathleen Waits, Battered Women and Family Lawyers: The Need for an Identification Protocol, 58 Alb. L. Rev. 1027, 1053-54 & n.134 (1995).

[32] Battered women typically leave several times before leaving for good. See Larry L. Tifft, Battering of Women 80 (1993). Lack of economic alternatives are an important reason women return to batterers. See Klein & Orloff, supra note 13 , at 991 & n.1212.

Some battered women, along with their children, end up homeless because they refuse to return to the batterer but then cannot find adequate long-term housing for themselves and their children. See Gretchen P. Mullins, The Battered Woman and Homelessness, 3 J.L. & Pol'y 237, 244 (1994) (noting that "[i]n the last decade, almost one-half of all homeless women were refugees of domestic violence"); Joan Zorza, Woman Battering: A Major Cause of Homelessness, 25 Clearinghouse Rev. 420, 421-22 (1991) [hereinafter Zorza, Woman Battering] (stating that battered women and their children compose a significant proportion of the occupants of homeless shelters and that many women are forced to return to their abusers due to a lack of housing).

[33] See generally Evan Stark & Anne Flitcraft, Women at Risk 213 (1996) (noting that health care professionals have traditionally failed to recognize the effects of domestic violence in many of their female patients even though research indicates that identification of abuse is not very difficult). See also James T.R. Jones, Battered Spouses' Damage Actions Against Non-Reporting Physicians, 45 DePaul L. Rev. 191, 196-98 (1996) (supplying an excellent discussion of both the good and harm that doctors can do in responding to their battered women patients). Unfortunately, Jones recommends that states pass laws requiring physicians to report suspected abuse of their adult women patients. See generally id. Such a law would be both disempowering to battered women and dangerous, since the doctor really cannot assess whether such a report will enhance her safety or destroy it.

[34] Refer to Appendix B infra (noting that batterers, like political torturers, often use sleep deprivation to control their victims).

[35] See Waits, supra note 31 , at 1049 (noting that lawyers are highly judgmental and notoriously poor listeners).

[36] Refer to Part III.E infra (noting that helpers must work with the battered woman to help her deal with problems and that they must not impose their solutions on her).

[37] Refer to Part III.D infra (explaining that process counts in dealing with battered women).

[38] See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. § 1738B (1994) (providing for full faith and credit for child support orders); 18 U.S.C. § 228 (1994) (making willful failure to pay child support where the child lives in another state a federal offense).

[39] Battered women, encouraged by our victim-blaming society, often torture themselves with "what ifs," about both themselves and their children. See generally, Espinoza, supra note 7 , at 915-16 (noting that when battered women and children speak out about the abuse, society distorts their stories to make them "willing victims, liars, provocateurs, and crazies").

[40] Batterers are often charming and manipulative. See Lisa Marie De Sanctis, Bridging the Gap Between The Rules of Evidence and Justice for Victims of Domestic Violence, 8 Yale J.L. & Feminism 359, 372 (1996).

Because batterers often are charming and well versed in manipulation tactics, they can make excellent witnesses who actually help jurors draw on their "belief in a just world." For example, batterers [when they are defendants in criminal cases] often testify in a calm and collected manner that the victim was injured due to her drug or alcohol use, or that she became hysterical and needed to be restrained. Jurors may also rely on a defendant's position in society to deny the possibility that he committed the crime. For example, a juror may find it completely inconceivable that a religious person or a city councilperson could batter his partner. Even if the batterer does not testify, he will likely appear well-groomed and poised at the trial. Unless the defendant is drooling and unkempt, jurors may not be able to overcome their "belief in a just world" to evaluate the evidence fairly.


As Mary's story illustrates, many judges, psychologists and lawyers also want to believe in a just world and allow themselves to be fooled by batterers.

[41] Refer to Appendix B infra (listing common methods of coercion that batterers use).

[42] See Mahoney, supra note 7 , at 61-65. Mahoney's article, the definitive discussion on how leaving the batterer can increase the victim's risk, coined the term "separation assault" to describe those attacks that occur because a woman has decided to or has attempted to flee her batterer. See id. at 65. Like the Fischer article, supra note 19 , Mahoney's article is on my short list of "must read" law review articles.

When I talk to students and community groups about separation assault, I point out that they already know that leaving is dangerous. I ask them to think back over domestic violence homicides they have known about, including the O.J. Simpson case (assuming they believe Simpson committed the crime). It is almost always "his estranged wife," "his ex-wife," or "his former girlfriend" that is killed.

[43] Author's note: I did not know Mary then, but I think it is very unlikely she would ever come across as an air head. Perhaps preoccupied or burdened, but definitely not flighty.

[44] Ward v. Ward, No. 95-4184, 1996 WL 491692 (Fla. App. Dist. Ct. 1996), is a notorious case involving battering and homophobia. The appellate court affirmed a trial court ruling changing primary custody of an eleven-year-old girl from her lesbian mother, Mary Ward, to her father, John Ward, and his new wife Rita. See id. at *1. This occurred despite the fact that John Ward had served 8 1/2 years in prison for the second degree murder of his first wife. See id.

The appellate court claimed that the trial court did not focus on the mother's lesbianism. See id. Apparently, though, the trial court had stated that it wanted the eleven-year-old, C.W., to have the chance to live in "a non-lesbian world." See Kathryn Kendell, The Custody Challenge: Debunking Myths About Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children, Fam. Advoc., Summer 1997, at 21, 25.

The appellate court said that the father "has not been charged with or convicted of any criminal offense since being released from prison. He has also maintained stable employment." Ward, 1996 WL 491692, at *1. These statements hint at misunderstandings about domestic violence, since batterers are often not arrested and are often employed. See McCue, supra note 27 , at 108 (noting that many batterers do not have criminal records and appear to be normal citizens outside their own homes). The appellate court discussed the eleven-year-old daughter's conduct as follows:

C.W.'s problematic behavior exhibited itself on numerous occasions while she was visiting with [her father and his new wife Rita]. During one visit, C.W. asked Rita if Rita had "ever been in love with a woman." On another visit, in reference to a particular part of the female anatomy, C.W. told Rita "I bet my daddy F's you there." On another occasion, when Rita had purchased a back massager, C.W. informed her that "You won't need my daddy if you have that, will you?" At another time, while playing with a doll at [their] home, C.W. undressed the doll and placed her fingers between the doll's legs. When Rita told her that such behavior "wasn't nice for little girls to do," C.W. responded, "I'm not nice." And, [her father] testified that, when he explained to C.W. that he did not allow her to watch R-rated movies, "[C.W.] said she done seen all this and that her mama...and [her female partner] sleep together. They do...some of the things that's in the movies." [Her farther] also testified that C.W. was withdrawn, did not use appropriate bathroom hygiene, did not have good table manners, did not keep her hair clean, and preferred to wear men's cologne.

Ward, 1996 WL 491692, at *2 (fourth, fifth, and seventh alterations in original) (emphasis added). The lesbian mother denied that her daughter had watched R-rated movies or was aware of the sexual relationship between her and her partner. See id.

Mary Ward immediately asked the appellate court to reconsider its ruling, but died of a heart attack soon after. See Kendell, supra note 44 , at 26.

Certainly elements of C.W.'s behavior, if indeed Rita Ward reported it accurately, raise concerns. Perhaps Mary Ward wasn't a very good mother, though having a daughter who prefers men's cologne doesn't raise any red flags for me. But I cannot support the court's minimization of the father's crime, combined with its obvious homophobia.

[45] See generally Zorza, Protecting the Children, supra note 3 , at 1122 (opining that "friendly parent" provisions, which "favor awarding custody to the parent who will foster the better relationship between the child and the other parent," are dangerous for battered women and their children). Zorza could be describing Mary's situation: "Friendly parent provisions actually encourage abusers to continue to use the children as pawns in custody fights because even false allegations that a father was denied access to the children frequently result in the abuser's winning custody." Id.

[46] Batterers often manipulate others, including family and friends, in order to coerce and degrade their victim. See De Sanctis, supra note 40 , at 372 (noting that batterers are often charming and manipulative); Joan Zorza, Recognizing and Protecting the Privacy and Confidentiality Needs of Battered Women, 29 Fam. L.Q. 273, 304 (1995) (explaining that abusers "frequently deny, minimize, lie...and manipulate others, including the courts, to further control and punish their victims").

[47] See generally Peter Finn, Statutory Authority in the Use and Enforcement of Civil Protection Orders Against Domestic Abuse, 23 Fam. L.Q. 43, 44-45 (1989) (noting that "[c]ivil protection orders provide the only remedy for abuse that is not yet criminal (e.g., intimidation or harassment)"; however, protection orders are limited and often suffer from a "lack of clarity and limitations of scope").

[48] Refer to Part III.D infra (discussing how "process counts" and that it is important to treat battered women with sympathy and understanding even if we cannot offer much concrete help).

[49] Refer to Part III.B infra (discussing the importance of professionals, such as lawyers, judges, and psychologists, in helping abused women).

[50] See Waits, supra note 31 , at 1035-36 (noting that female lawyers and law students often fail to address battering issues in affluent, educated clients because they do not want to believe that women like themselves could be domestic violence victims).

[51] Refer to Part III.H infra (describing how physical and non-physical abuse work together).

[52] According to Laura Lawyer, who practices in Mary's city, some custody evaluators will talk with outside sources to verify or disprove the abuse. Others will not. As Mary says, the real problem is that psychologists who will not look to outside information testify as if they somehow could know the facts just by talking to the couple and their children. Given what we know about the charm and persuasiveness of batterers, this is absurd.

[53] See generally Margaret Martin Barry, The District of Columbia's Joint Custody Presumption: Misplaced Blame and Simplistic Solutions, 46 Cath. U. L. Rev. 767, 799 (1997) (stating that children who witness domestic violence are often harmed psychologically).

[54] Refer to Part III.B infra and Part III.D infra (explaining that lawyers and other professionals matter and that process counts).

[55] This is a very serious problem for abuse victims. With some judges and professionals, a battered woman just cannot win. No matter how she presents herself, she will not be believed. If she is very angry, then she is "hysterical" or an "avenging bitch." See, e.g., Myrna S. Raeder, The Double-Edged Sword: Admissibility of Battered Woman Syndrome By and Against Batterers in Cases Implicating Domestic Violence, 67 U. Colo. L. Rev. 789, 794 (1996) (stating that abuse survivors are often perceived as vengeful and dishonest by juries). If she does not appear angry at all, then the abuse must not have happened, or at least it was not as bad as she says. See, e.g., id. at 807 (reporting that victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder may appear unanimated or unemotional during their testimony and this often affects their perceived credibility as a witness). If she is white and affluent, like Mary, then she is not believed because domestic violence does not happen to women like that. See, e.g., Waits, supra note 31 , at 1035 (observing that women lawyers often avoid discovering the domestic violence among their affluent, white clients because these women do not satisfy their image of a battered woman). If she is poor, a minority, or an immigrant, then "it's just a natural way of life for 'those people'." See, e.g., Melanie Frager Griffith, Battered Woman Syndrome: A Tool for Batterers?, 64 Fordham L. Rev. 141, 161 (1995) (stating that many believe that spousal abuse only occurs among the lower socio-economic class). If she is "strong," then the authorities say, "A woman like that wouldn't put up with abuse" or "she's such a bitch; she must have provoked him." See, e.g., id. (reporting that battered women are sometimes seen as masochistic or the initiator of the attack). If she is "weak" (i.e., depressed), then "she must like it." See, e.g., Naomi Cahn & Joan Meier, Domestic Violence and Feminist Jurisprudence: Towards a New Agenda, 4 B.U. Pub. Int. L. J. 339, 344 (1995) (arguing that stereotypes, such as the notion that battered women are passive and weak, fuel society's distrust of battered women's claims).

[56] Author's note: as is typical of the Southwest, guns are commonplace in Mary's city. Nationally, many people have guns in their homes. See Mark Josephson, Fourth Amendment -- Must Police Knock and Announce Themselves Before Kicking in the Door of a House?, 86 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 1229, 1256 n.249 (1996) (citing statistics from the Bureau of Justice which state that 49% of Americans have guns at home).

[57] For a superb discussion of theological and pastoral issues raised by domestic violence, see generally Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, The Role of Religious Institutions in Responding to the Domestic Violence Crisis, 58 Alb. L. Rev. 1149, 1160-63 (1995) (discussing some of the responses of the various religious communities to the problem of domestic violence); see also Marie M. Fortune, Keeping the Faith 75-76 (1987) (citing most ministers' lack of training in domestic violence issues as one reason why a woman may be reluctant to confide or seek support from a member of the clergy). Reverend Fortune is the Executive Director of the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, the leading organization dealing with appropriate religious responses to domestic violence. The Center's Web site is For a discussion of domestic violence in the Jewish community, see Beverly Horsburgh, Lifting the Veil of Secrecy: Domestic Violence in the Jewish Community, 18 Harv. Women's L.J. 171, 171-78 (1995) (explaining the difficulty a Jewish woman faces in accusing a Jewish man of spousal abuse).

[58] See Zorza, Woman Battering, supra note 32 , at 420 (discussing how domestic abuse has severe psychological effects on children even when they are not themselves the victims of abuse).

[59] Note that Mary felt that, as a non-intimate, she should not force herself on another battered woman. Rather, she should be available and caring. Refer to Part III.E infra (explaining that outsiders should not impose their will on the battered woman).

[60] I find that I cannot read battered women's stories for more than about one hour at a time, if that. I am filled with admiration for people who work with victims day after day without becoming burnt out or overwhelmed with rage at how our society treats domestic violence victims.

[61] See Joan Zorza, Mandatory Arrest for Domestic Violence: Why It May Prove the Best First Step in Curbing Repeat Abuse, Crim. Just., Fall 1995, at 2, 2 (noting that in the United States, women must rely on law enforcement, judges, and domestic violence advocates to intervene in abusive situations since friends, relatives, and neighbors do not always lend automatic support). In some cultures, abuse rarely happens since the friends, relatives, and neighbors automatically support the victim at the first sign of abuse. See id. (noting that in these cultures the abuser realizes he has nothing to gain from the violence because the victim reaps all the sympathy and support).

[62] Refer to note 28 supra and accompanying text (citing sources arguing that a lack of economic alternatives is the primary reason women return to batterers). Battered women in the paid labor force also suffer from financial abuse and control. See Walker, Battered Woman, supra note 14 , 132-38 (discussing the stories of several financially independent women subjected to financial abuse and control by their partners). Batterers will often force the victim to turn over all her money to him, or to account for every penny spent. See generally Walker, Battered Woman, supra note 14 , at 127-144 (discussing the variety of techniques batterers use to economically control their partners including making them justify every expenditure and taking control of funds the partner earns or otherwise receives). Mary experienced some of this; Russ would hound her about even the smallest expenditure. However, unlike some battered women, Mary was always a signatory on the family checking account. And, unlike some women who quit work (or are fired) because of the abuse, Mary always maintained a paid job of her own.

[63] Refer to note 28 supra (noting that women often return to a batterer repeatedly before leaving for good).

[64] See Marjory D. Fields, Practical Ideas for Judges in Domestic Violence Cases, Judges' J., Summer 1996, at 32, 32 (noting that domestic abuse victims are often subject to the same victim-blaming attitudes as rape victims).

[65] See id. (explaining that battered women are often asked what they did to provoke the batterer).

[66] See id. (stating that battered women are often treated as though they caused the violence).

[67] See Elizabeth Topliffe, Why Civil Protection Orders are Effective Remedies for Domestic Violence but Mutual Protective Orders are Not, Note, 67 Ind. L.J. 1039, 1060 (1992) (explaining that the batterer often rationalizes his behavior by blaming his victim).

[68] See id.

[69] Refer to Part III.E infra (discussing how family members and friends should offer support).

[70] I'm not implying that support will guarantee success. The suggested words and attitude are not magic. Sometimes, even with support and love, the battering continues and escalates. Even the best battered women's shelters have had clients killed. But it is important to be able say, "I did something in the face of evil." Further, it is a helper's best chance of aiding the victim toward greater safety.

Perseverance also pays off. Family and friends must continue to offer support, as much as they can, no matter how unreceptive the battered woman appears to be or how many times she returns to the batterer. Mary herself puts it this way, "What if you had a child who couldn't swim but who insisted upon jumping into the deep end of the pool over and over. Would you help her a few times and then give up? Would you say, "Sorry, that's it, I've thrown you a lifeline X times, but no more'? Of course not, you'd throw your child the lifeline as many times as it took. We need to do that for battered women too."

[71] Ellen, for instance, got the restraining order she wanted from a judge she considered, on the whole, sympathetic. Unlike Mary's protective order judge, Ellen's listened to her and believed her.

Diana has had the best experience of all, though still far from ideal. She said, "My lawyer's been great." I spoke to the lawyer, whom I call Amy Attorney. It was clear to me that Amy is an ardent and knowledgeable advocate for Diana and other battered woman. And Amy, unlike the lawyers Mary had, is not driven just by money. She is handling the case pro bono. Although Diana is well-educated and has held important, good-paying jobs, she left her batterer and traveled to a new state with virtually no money. As is common, he retained the family home and all the family money. According to her lawyer, Diana and her children have been living in abject poverty.

Diana lives in a place where the local judges are fairly knowledgeable about abuse and, on the whole, take it seriously. Although the custody and visitation issues had not yet been decided when this Article went to press, Diana's lawyer is confident that Diana will maintain sole custody of her children. However, the batterer will be allowed visitation (almost certainly supervised visitation, since Diana had amassed strong evidence that her husband had abused the children as well as her). "Unless he kills the mother, he's going to get supervised visitation," said Amy Attorney. Attorney was shocked when I told her how often abuse of the mother is viewed as irrelevant to custody, since this is not true where she practices.

It's worth noting that Diana lives in a very progressive college town in a liberal northeastern state. Amy Attorney, while pleased with the responsiveness of the local judiciary, cautioned, "This community is by no means typical, even in this state. It's very different in [the mid-size city near her law practice]."

[72] See Waits, supra note 31 , at 1036-38 (arguing that both male and female lawyers fail to serve battering victims adequately for several reasons including fear of retaliation by batterers, identification with the batterer or the victim, or assumptions of incompetence on the subject); cf. Jones, supra note 33 , at 197-98 (contending that many physicians fail to diagnose abuse because of their bias against violence victims).

[73] See Waits, supra note 31 , at 1035 (concluding that acceptance of domestic abuse and victim-blaming may prevent lawyers from effectively representing clients who have been identified as battering victims).

[74] See Report of the Maine Commission on Gender, Justice, and the Courts, 49 Me. L. Rev. 135, 160 (1997) (stating that lawyers and judges often fail to appreciate the complex dynamics of domestic violence).

[75] See Jones, supra note 33 , at 197 (stating that physicians often fail to diagnose abuse because they do not recognize it); Waits, supra note 31 , at 1038 (arguing that lawyers' lack of training may lead them to neglect domestic violence questions).

[76] See, e.g., Waits, supra note 31 , at 1035-36 (positing that female lawyers resist because they identify with these battered women; male lawyers may also resist because they identify with the batterer).

[77] See, e.g., 18 U.S.C.A. § 922(d)(9) (West Supp. 1997) (stating that a person "convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" cannot purchase or own a gun). This provision, the so-called "Lautenberg amendment" (for Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.)) is especially noteworthy because it does not exempt law enforcement, military personnel, or other people who must carry guns as part of their official duties. See Guy Gugliotta, Gun Ban Exemption Ricochets in the Struggle, Wash. Post, June 10, 1997, at A15. Every gun law passed for the past 30 years has included an "official use" exemption. See id.

Because the law was passed literally in the "dark of night" in September 1997 as part of the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, no one claims to know exactly how the traditional exemption for law enforcement personnel was omitted. See id. Congressman Robert L. Barr, Jr. (R-GA), a pro-gun conservative, is trying to repeal the retroactive element of the ban for all convictions. See id. Under his proposed amendment, the ban would be effective only for convictions (for all batterers, whether law enforcement officers or not) that came after September30, 1996. See id. Amazingly, some accuse Congressman Barr of being responsible for the omission of the "official use" exemption in the 1996 bill, claiming that he was trying to defeat the Lautenberg amendment by making it unpalatable. See id. Congressman Barr denies doing this. See id. In any event, the strategy failed and domestic violence advocates and their supporters now oppose any attempt to weaken the Lautenberg amendment. See id.

Positive legislative developments at the state level include statutes that ban mediation in divorce or child custody cases when domestic violence is an issue, see, for example, Alaska Stat. § 25.20.080(f) (Michie 1996); Minn. Stat. Ann. § 310.01 (West 1993), and statutes that make strong statements about the inappropriateness of awarding custody to batterers, see, for example, N.D. Cent. Code. § 14-09-06.2(1)(j) (1991).

[78] See, e.g., People v. Humphrey, 921 P.2d 1, 10 (Cal. 1996) (holding that in manslaughter prosecution where a domestic violence victim killed her abuser, expert testimony about how battered women respond to abuse is admissible not only on the question of whether a defendant actually believed that it was necessary to kill in self-defense, but also on the question of the reasonableness of that belief); Heck v. Reed, 529 N.W.2d 155, 163 (N.D. 1995) (concluding that a North Dakota law containing a statutory presumption against awarding custody to a perpetrator of domestic violence can be rebutted only by "compelling circumstances").

[79] Several governors, most notably Governor Richard Celeste of Ohio, have issued pardons to battered women who were serving long prison sentences for killing their abusers in self-defense. See Linda L. Ammons, Discretionary Justice: A Legal and Policy Analysis of a Governor's Use of the Clemency Power in the Cases of Incarcerated Battered Women, 3 J.L. & Pol'y 1, 2-3 (1994) (noting Governor Celeste's grant of leniency to 28 women incarcerated for crimes committed in connection with domestic violence). Professor Ammons served as Executive Assistant to Governor Celeste from 1988-1991 and was primarily responsible for implementing the Ohio clemency project. See id. at 3 n.3; see also Christine Noelle Becker, Comment, Clemency For Killers? Pardoning Battered Women Who Strike Back, 29 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 297, 306-07 (1995) (stating that Governor Celeste granted clemency to 27 women in December 1990 and that Governor William Donald Schaefer of Maryland pardoned eight women in February 1991).

[80] See, e.g., Trish Wilson, Will Paternal Paranoia Triumph? The Organization of Angry Dads, On the Issues, Winter 1997 (Dec. 20, 1996) (reporting that the movement for "fathers' rights" has "wormed [its] way into mailing lists and newsgroups devoted to domestic violence, rape, and family law in order to derail legitimate discussion" and that one group's newsletter, Men's and Father's Activism Report, has urged "support of phone harassment of the National Domestic Violence Hotline").

[81] Best interests of the child is the overarching standard for custody everywhere. See generally Linda D. Elrod, Family Law in the Fifty States, 1994-95: Case Digests, 29 Fam. L.Q. 775, 809-13 (1996) (collecting cases applying the best interest standard in various contexts and states).

[82] See generally Robert B. Straus, Supervised Visitation and Family Violence, 29 Fam. L.Q. 229, 230 (1995) (noting that visits must be supervised when "a child's contact with a parent presents an ongoing risk"); see also Mara Youdelman, The Post-Separation Family Violence Relief Act: Its Impact On Custody and Visitation Cases Involving Domestic Violence, 13 Prob. L.J. 189, 190 (1996) (suggesting that courts should seek to protect both the abused parents and their children when crafting custody and visitation orders).

[83] See Christopher L. Griffith & Marna S. Tucker, A Cry For Help: The Need for a Judicial Response to the Threat of Domestic Violence, Judges' J., Spring 1997, at 22, 24-25 (citing a laundry list of remedies family court judges should consider in domestic violence cases, for both temporary custody and visitation orders and orders after a full hearing and noting a wide range of options available in most states, including ordering batterer to complete batterer's program and supervised visitation). Judges are typically given broad discretion to "order such other relief as the court deems proper for protection." Id.

[84] Anne H. Flitcraft, Presentation at the Family Violence and the Health Care System Symposium, Houston, Tex. (Feb. 6, 1997); see also Anne H. Flitcraft, Clinical Violence Intervention: Lessons from Battered Women, 6 J. Health Care for the Poor & Underserved 187, 187-97 (1995) [hereinafter Flitcraft, Clinical Violence Intervention] (discussing how doctors can improve their approach to battered women patients).

[85] See Flitcraft, Clinical Violence Intervention, supra note 84 , at 194-95.

[86] See Stark & Flitcraft, supra note 33 , at 174-80 (explaining that the helper's method in dealing with the battered woman can support or detract from the therapeutic goals of autonomy and empowerment).

[87] I am not saying that helpers must always go along with the battered woman's perceptions. For instance, a victim may minimize the danger she is facing. If so, the helper should, with kindness and concern, point out the threats she sees. It is really like being a true friend to someone. A friend must sometimes help someone face hard truths. But the process is caring and constructive, not cold and destructive.

[88] E-mail correspondence on July 28, 1997 with Lynda Harper, Executive Director of The Rural Womyn Zone, Yuma, Co. (on file with author).

[89] See Edward W. Gondolf & Ellen R. Fisher, Battered Women As Survivors 20 (1988) (observing that many women push on despite severe psychological impairment).

[90] See id. at 22 (stating that some shelter women view surviving on one's own as more frightening than returning to a violent man).

[91] See id. at 21-23 (observing that battered women's "symptoms" are caused in part by unresponsive community systems from which she seeks help). The "survivor" theory of battered women is discussed further in Part III.I infra .

[92] See Stark & Flitcraft, supra note 33 , at 165 (warning that dysfunctional interventions reinforce the woman's sense of helplessness); Mahoney, supra note 7 , at 65-66 (warning of retaliation attacks upon return to the batterer).

[93] See Ola W. Barnett & Alyce D. LaViolette, It Could Happen to Anyone 137 (1993) (reporting a study that found that 74.2% of 512 women living in a shelter had left at least once before).

[94] See Gondolf & Fisher, supra note 89 , at 23 (stating that battered women are met with tentative responses from helpers and do-nothing attitudes from the general public).

[95] See Stark & Flitcraft, supra note 33 , at 165 (warning that dysfunctional interventions reinforce the derogatory comments of the batterer).

[96] See Waits, supra note 31 , at 1042-43 (explaining that when lawyers fail to ask women clients about domestic violence, they aid the batterers' tactics of isolation and victim blaming).

[97] See id. at 1048-49 & n.109 (stating that lawyers' personalities and training lead them to be judgmental and focused on winning or losing).

[98] Cf. Richard H. Lucas & K. Byron McCoy, The Winning Edge 170 (1993) (stating that poor communication skills lie at the root of most problems in the legal profession).

[99] See Gondolf & Fisher, supra note 89 , at 22-23 (stating that unresponsive community systems are themselves to blame for battered women's symptoms).

[100] See, e.g., Barbara J. Hart, Safety Planning for Children: Strategizing for Unsupervised Visits with Batterers, (visited Mar. 7, 1998) (discussing how to make unsupervised visits for children safer, even though judges should not be ordering them). The Web site from MINCAVA (Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse), is superb; it includes Barbara Hart's collected works,, as well as many other valuable resource and links.

[101] Flitcraft, Clinical Violence Intervention, supra note 84 , at 195 (stating that by doing with the battered woman, you will help her gain control, build her own sense of accomplishment, and recover her self-esteem, features that are necessary not only to her safety, but to her recovery).

[102] See Stark & Flitcraft, supra note 33 , at 208 (recommending that therapists review patients' risks and available options).

[103] See id. at 175 (warning that when helpers force women to make the "right" decision, they reinforce the batterers' assertions that the women are helpless).

[104] See id. at 176 (noting that the victim's need may strain the helper's "deeply embedded beliefs about the proper role of therapy").

[105] See 2 Geoffrey C. Hazard, Jr. & W. William Hodes, The Law of Lawyering app. 1, at 584 (1989) (stating that the client, according to Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.2, has the authority to determine the purposes to be served by the legal representative).

[106] See Sarah Buel, Presentation at the State Bar of Texas Professional Development Program: Representing Domestic Violence Victims and Offenders: Recommendations to Avoid Liability and Increase Safety (Apr. 28, 1997) in State Bar of Texas Professional Development -- Representing the Battered Woman: Effective Strategies for Civil Cases and Criminal Defense 30 [hereinafter Buel Presentation] (reporting that women who leave batterers are at a 75% greater risk of being murdered than those who stay with their batterers) (copy on file with the Houston Law Review).

[107] See Waits, supra note 31 , at 1033-34 (explaining that family lawyers of both sexes often believe the myths that battered women enjoy being beaten or that they could leave the relationship if they wanted).

[108] See generally Mahoney, supra note 7 (explaining that the physical attacks on a battered woman may become more violent after separation as a means of retaliation by the batterer).

[109] Cf. Hazard & Hodes, supra note 105 , at app. 1 at 635 (stating that a lawyer should advise a client on moral and social aspects of the client's situation).

[110] When first discussing a safety plan with a battered woman, a shorter plan, like the one in Appendix C , may be less likely to overwhelm her. A very extensive safety plan can be found on the Nashville, Tennessee Police Department Website. See The Nashville Police Department, Domestic Violence (visited Jan. 17, 1998) .

Yet another safety plan is contained in The Impact of Domestic Violence on Your Legal Practice. American Bar Ass'n Comm'n on Domestic Violence, The Impact of Domestic Violence on Your Legal Practice 2-11 to 2-16 (Deborah M. Goelman et al. eds., 1996). The book consists of a series of short chapters discussing domestic violence in a wide variety of legal contexts, including torts, tax, and sports law, as well as family and criminal law. Directed toward practitioners, the book is filled with helpful checklists and resources; I strongly recommend this book. It can be ordered from the ABA Service Center by calling (312) 988-5522 and requesting Product Code 5480001. It is required in my Domestic Violence course; the students really like it, finding it very practical and to-the-point.

[111] Refer to note 42 supra and accompanying text (discussing how the incidence of violence increases when a battered woman leaves her batterer).

[112] See Flitcraft, Clinical Violence Intervention, supra note 84 , at 193 (supporting a conclusion that "the severity of the injury does not predict immediate danger" by contrasting two of her patients: one patient, after requiring two dozen sutures to close a leg wound, assured her that "[a]fter he finally does me good, it's all right for about a month"; while another woman in the next cubicle, despite having only a minor soft tissue injury to the shoulder, cried, "I'm scared. He's got the kids and a gun and he says 'This is it.' ").

[113] This happened in Mary's story when the protective order judge and Mary's own psychologist minimized her fear based on the passage of time between the last severe beating and the final threat that made Mary leave.

[114] Refer to note 104 supra and accompanying text (stating that the helper's training and education may conflict with the woman's needs).

[115] Refer to note 87 supra and accompanying text (stating that a helper's lack of understanding can detract from the therapeutic goals of autonomy and empowerment).

[116] For an example of an appropriate attitude from one of the leading experts in the field, see Lee H. Bowker, Bowker's Response: On the Advantages of a Multidisciplinary Approach to Battered Woman Syndrome in the Courts, Domestic Violence Report, Aug./Sept. 1997, at 85. Dr. Bowker says, "I consider myself to be essentially a secretary to these [abused] women, amassing their personal expertise and transmitting it to other battered women who can use it to improve their positions." See id. at 86. He recounts that:

Before I had much contact with battered women, I believed that physical and sexual abuse were more important than psychological/cultural abuse. I still have letters from many battered women in my files in which the women take me to task for this assumption. Women have informed me on numerous occasions that the psychological (meaning verbal) abuse was far more painful than their bruises.... I can not [sic] ignore these communications. For some women, physical and sexual elements are secondary to psychological abuse. For others, economic and social factors figure heavily in the control equation. I can not [sic] prejudge a battered woman's experience of control and abuse. My job, both as a researcher and as an expert witness, is to draw out these experiences in the phenomenological richness of their complexity and uniqueness.

Id. at 85-86. Refer also to Part III.H infra (discussing the importance of non- physical as well as physical methods of abuse, control, and coercion).

[117] See Buel Presentation, supra note 106 ("Mediation, couples counseling, joint custody -- NEVER, NEVER, NEVER to all three."); see also Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2141-42 (discussing how "the theory and practice of mediation pose serious problems" for battered women). But see Douglas D. Knowlton & Tara Lea Muhlhauser, Mediation in the Presence of Domestic Violence: Is It the Light at the End of the Tunnel or is a Train on the Track?, 70 N.D. L. Rev. 255, 262-65 (1994) (discussing the appropriateness of mediation in domestic abuse situations).

[118] See Knowlton & Muhlhauser, supra note 117 , at 266-67 (presenting the case for mediation in certain family abuse situations).

[119] See id. (arguing that a mediator's training helps prepare them to handle family abuse situations).

[120] See id. (focusing on how to protect women during a mediation, but discounting how the process itself presents a threat to the woman).

[121] See id. (presenting Knowlton's "pro" position on mediation in domestic violence). Knowlton concedes that victims of domestic violence may be hesitant or fearful of confronting their abuser, but then says:

However, there are procedures in mediation designed to protect the safety of the victim and reduce the anxiety associated with this process.... [A] type of "shuttle diplomacy" might be used....Mediation cannot be judged separately from the quality of the mediators who provide the service. Often, criticism leveled at mediation as a process is really directed at "poor" mediation.... Well-trained mediators can and frequently do develop processes and establish guidelines that empower and enlighten the victims in domestic disputes. Such mediators balance power.... If the mediators cannot ensure such an environment, they will not proceed with the mediation process.... [T]o summarily dismiss mediation as an inappropriate process simply is another blow in our attempts to extricate our children from a system that continues to undermine their real needs and interests.

Id. (emphasis added). Note how Knowlton assumes that mediators can tell when power is imbalanced and can, with a few simple techniques, empower victims who may have been abused and disempowered for years. See id. at 267. He assumes that mediators will know when they are unable to ensure a safe environment. See id. But cf. Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2120 (stating that a scratch of the batterer's nose or an imperceptible change in his facial expression may threaten the victim). Knowlton's faith in mediators is all the more unjustified because it seemingly ignores the impact of on-going threats from the abuser to the victim. These are almost always present when the victim is seeking a divorce from the batterer. See Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2120. Knowlton does not seem to understand that a battered woman may well "make nice" during mediation, never giving a hint that something is wrong, because the abuser has told her she had better not cause trouble in the mediation, "or else." Like Mary, the victim may have had years of practice covering up her terror; even a superb, sensitive, knowledgeable mediator often could not pick up any clues. Wise mediators acknowledge their own inability to remedy the kind of severe power imbalance that is inherent in a relationship where one party has abused the other. Finally, note Knowlton's focus on the children; he does not seem especially concerned with the safety and well-being of battered women seeking divorce, nor does he understand the close connection between maternal and child safety. See Knowlton & Muhlhauser, supra note 117 , at 264-65 (mentioning the concern that child and domestic abuse often go hand in hand, but not elaborating on that issue).

In response, Muhlhauser notes that "mediated resolutions frequently favor shared custodial arrangements, including liberal visitation[,]" which are a disaster for battered women and their children. Id. at 268.

[122] Frankly, I do not think anyone should take arguments in favor of mediation in abuse cases seriously until they hear a survivor of domestic violence say, "My case was mediated and I'm so glad it was. Mediation worked well for me and my children and I recommend it to other abused women." I am still waiting for even one battered woman to make this statement.

[123] See Diane Winters, Battered Women at the Forefront, NCADV Voice (Nat'l Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Washington, D.C.), Spring 1992, at 1, 1-2 (stating that the battered women's movement was originally led by formerly battered women, but now shelter directors and boards are rarely people that identify as battered or formerly battered women, and people with college degrees and "dress for success" appearances are viewed as most qualified for staff positions).

[124] See Deborah Goelman & Roberta Valente, American Bar Ass'n Comm'n on Domestic Violence, When Will They Ever Learn? Educating to End Domestic Violence: A Law School Report, at A-7 to A-20 (1997) (listing more than 50 schools that offer some kind of course or clinic on domestic violence). Being an academic in the field is probably not a terrific career choice, but at least some people at some institutions are getting tenured positions by focusing their scholarship on domestic violence.

[125] See 42 U.S.C. § 10401 (stating that the purposes of the Violence Against Women Act are to assist the states in their awareness, prevention, and assistance programs about family violence, and to provide for technical assistance and training relating to family violence programs); see also 42 U.S.C. § 10409 (authorizing yearly amounts of $50,000,000 to $72,500,000 for fiscal years 1996 to 2000 for funding of programs, both governmental and non- governmental, to work against domestic violence).

[126] See Winters, supra note 123 , at 1-2.

[127] See Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2126 (describing the two roles within the family suffering from domestic violence as that of the rule-maker/rule-enforcer, who is the batterer, and the one who must follow the rules); Barbara J. Hart, Rule Making and Enforcement/Rule Compliance and Resistance, in I Am Not Your Victim, supra note 7 , at 258-60 (discussing briefly the crucial role of rulemaking by batterers in the dynamics of domestic violence and tying these ideas to Beth Sipe's story of abuse).

[128] See Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2126-32 (containing a superb discussion of rulemaking by batterers). A few examples, taken from victims' narratives:

He has this macho male ego thing like, I am King Kong and no one is going to [control me]. If you don't do this then I'm going to beat you type of attitude. I'm the ruler, you go by my rules, if you don't, you know, you have to pay the consequences....
... This domination can be all encompassing: as one of the batterers...was fond of stating, "[y]ou're going to dance to my the kind of wife I want you to be." Charlotte Fedders'[s] [the wife of a high ranking government official] account of the escalating rules imposed by her husband over the course of their seventeen year, extremely violent marriage is particularly illuminating about the range of control that abusers can exert. Her husband insisted that no one (including guests and their toddler children) wear shoes in the house, that the furniture be in the same indentations in the carpet, that the vacuum marks in the carpet be parallel, and that any sand that spilled from the children's sandbox during their play be removed from the surrounding grass. Charlotte was not allowed to write checks from their joint checking account. Any real or perceived infraction of these rules could result in her husband beating her, or at the very least, the expression of his irritation that was frequently a harbinger to a beating....
... One abuser...formalized [the rules] into a written document, where he set forth a list of conditions that his victim was to agree to in exchange for cessation of his violence. These conditions were: 1) the children were to keep their rooms clean without being told; 2) the children could not argue with each other; 3) he was to have absolute freedom to come and go as he wished, and could have a girlfriend if he wanted one; 4) she would perform oral sex on him anytime he requested; and 5) she would have anal sex with him. He enforced this document shortly after she "agreed" to it and continued to sexually assault her until his death.

Id. at 2126-27 (footnotes omitted) (first, fourth, and fifth alterations in original).

[129] Hart, supra note 127 , at 259.

[130] Id.

[131] Because "rules" have such a horrible connotation for battered women, some victims may have a hard time establishing appropriate rules for their children after the mother leaves the batterer. Ellen told me she is grateful to her children's psychologist for encouraging her to establish firmer limits for her children once she had escaped the abuser. The psychologist helped Ellen understand the difference between necessary, helpful, empowering "rulemaking" and the abusive rulemaking that she and the children had experienced at the hands of her ex-husband.

[132] See Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2126.

[133] See id. at 2126-27 (stating that battered women have frequently reported that abusers are extremely controlling of the daily activities of all the members of the family and set the rules according to their own whims).

[134] See id. at 2126-32 (describing a systematic pattern of control and domination of the abused through a batterer's use of rules); see also Griffith & Tucker, supra note 83 , at 23 (stating that domestic violence is about power and control and that batterers believe they have the right to make and enforce rules).

[135] See Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2121-22 (noting that abusers frequently restrict the abused spouses' access to money and destroy their personal property in order to gain control and instill fear).

[136] See, e.g., Griffith & Tucker, supra note 83 , at 23 (stating that isolation is part of a pattern of assaultive and controlling behavior).

[137] These were among the rules laid down to Sarah Buel by her former batterer. Sarah Buel, Presentation at the Family Violence and the Health Care System Symposium, Houston, Tex. (Feb. 6, 1997). Interestingly, Buel presented these rules as merely arbitrary. She left before I could suggest to her that they were not arbitrary but furthered her isolation.

[138] Compare Nancy E. Dowd, Work and Family: Restructuring the Workplace, 32 Ariz. L. Rev. 431, 491 (1990) (stating that a functional family recognizes individual rights within the family), with Mary Ann Dutton, Understanding Women's Responses to Domestic Violence: A Redefinition of Battered Woman Syndrome, 21 Hofstra L. Rev. 1191, 1227-28 (1993) (emphasizing that a battered woman will comply with a batterer's demands in order to stop the violence).

[139] Compare Dowd, supra note 138 , at 490 (defining a functional family as a support network with one of its main purposes being to act as the root of self- esteem), with Griffith & Tucker, supra note 83 , at 23 (stating that rules enforced by a batterer exert power and control over the victim and becomes part of a pattern of assaultive and controlling behavior including humiliation).

[140] See Dowd, supra note 138 , at 491 (stressing that in a functional family there must be a recognition of individual rights).

[141] See, e.g., Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2126-28 (giving examples of batterers' rules and the violence resulting from any real or perceived infraction of these rules).

[142] Ellen told me that most of the time her batterer wanted to be left alone when he entered the house; the children were not to hug him. But then sometimes, without warning, he would be angry because the children did not rush to greet him upon his arrival. Needless to say, it was very tense for her and the children whenever he approached the house. They did not know what to do; worse, they knew there was a good chance that, whatever they did, he would get angry and yell at them for being wrong. So the rule was, "You are never to hug me when I enter the house except when I want you to, and you'll never know when I want you to."

[143] See Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2131 (explaining that an abuser will use physical violence as punishment for failure to comply with the abuser's rules).

[144] In my earlier article, Battered Women and Family Lawyers: The Need for an Identification Protocol, I discussed a protocol for identifying battered women, but I did not include questions on "batterer as rulemaker." See generally, Waits, supra note 31 . When I wrote the article, only two years ago, I was not aware of the importance of the "batterer as rulemaker." This is a field where, thanks largely to battered women's stories, our knowledge keeps expanding.

[145] See, e.g., Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2127 (listing one woman's account of the escalating rules imposed by her abuser to exert control during the course of their marriage).

[146] See id. at 2129-30 (discussing how abused women will internalize the rules and begin to self-censor).

[147] See id. at 2139-41 (stating that women begin to feel shame and embarrassment as a result of the battery and attempt to minimize the violence by focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship).

[148] See Evan Stark, Re-Presenting Woman Battering: From Battered Woman Syndrome to Coercive Control, 58 Alb. L. Rev. 973, 983 (1995) (stating that existing surveys completely neglect nonviolent tactics of coercion and control); see also Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2121 (noting that physical abuse is the prevailing stereotype of domestic violence).

[149] See Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2120, 2137-38 (rejecting conflict as the cause of abuse and suggesting that the conflict tends to only be an expression of an attempt to control as exemplified in cases in which the violence occurs "out of the blue"); see also Griffith & Tucker, supra note 83 , at 23 (stating that domestic violence is about power and control).

[150] See Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2131-32 (stating that batterers use physical violence, among other methods, to maintain control over their victims).

[151] For instance, Ellen's batterer did not resort to physical violence very often. And the violence was relatively mild, compared to what many women experience. Ellen's batterer's violence consisted of grabbing her, although severely enough to leave bruises. He did not use more physical violence because he did not need to. According to Karla Fischer and her co-authors' research:

[T]he violence does not need to be a constant presence for the victims to feel threatened that it could erupt at any point, nor does the explosion always have to be physical. Violence need only symbolize the threat of future abuse in order to keep the victim in fear and control her behavior. For example, [one expert] has called property abuse "symbolic violence." The following accounts...explain how this could be so:
When I came back to the apartment, he had smashed every single piece of furniture in the bedroom. On the wall there was the red dress that I had worn to my office Christmas party the week before. It was stuck to the wall with a butcher knife through the heart.
I saw him standing out in the street with an ax handle over his shoulder, yelling for me to come out, and luckily I was at a house with people and a telephone to get help. So he trashed my car. There was glass all over the street from my car windows that he busted out. And he was walking... with the ax handle in his hand.... [When I saw the damage] I just fell on my car, I never cried so hard in my life. I could not believe it... there was glass clear over in this extra yard. And, it wasn't that it was a good car or anything. It was just the fact that it could have been my head.

Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2128-29 (fourth, fifth, and sixth alterations in original) (footnotes omitted).

Fischer and her co-authors comment: "In fact, physical abuse may only be utilized by abusers who are too unsophisticated to be able to control their victims with verbal or sexual violence." Id. at 2129; see also Stark, supra note 148 , at 986. Stark notes:

[T]he clinical profile revealed by battered women reflects the fact that they have been subjected to an ongoing strategy of intimidation, isolation, and control that extends to all areas of a woman's life, including sexuality; material necessities; relations with family, children, and friends; and work. Sporadic, even severe, violence makes this strategy of control effective. But the unique profile of "the battered woman" arises as much from the deprivation of liberty implied by coercion and control as it does from violence-induced trauma.

Id. (footnote omitted).

[152] Interview with Ellen.

[153] I am inclined to agree with Susan McGee, Executive Director the Domestic Violence Project, Inc./SafeHouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that someone is a batterer only if he presents a credible threat of violence. Otherwise, he may be a jerk, but he is not an abuser. He does not have to actually hit his partner, but a believable threat must be there.

This distinction helped me reach a satisfactory resolution of a question that had long troubled me. When Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) in "The Honeymooners" bellows to his wife Alice (Audrey Meadows), "Someday, pow right in the kisser, you're going to the moon," is he an abuser or not? Based on my reading of the show and of Ralph's character, I would tentatively say no. Ralph is certainly a jerk, and there is an assertion of male privilege in his statement. But, as portrayed in the show, I think he presents no credible threat of violence to Alice. It is clear that he has never actually hit her, but that is not the point. The key is that, based on his character and their relationship, she knows he is just blowing smoke; she has no fear that he might actually become violent (though, with all the threatening he does, I sometimes wonder if Ralph might someday become a batterer). Further, their relationship is, overall, a pretty equal one. There is a portrayal of real love and caring that seems to go both ways.

Note that my conclusion is not based on the fact that Alice is portrayed as a "tough cookie" who sometimes talks back to Ralph. Many battered women are, like Mary, "sassy" and many continue to fight back against their batterers.

[154] See Rhonda Copelon, Recognizing the Egregious in the Everyday: Domestic Violence as Torture, 25 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 291, 308-19 (1994) (describing ways that torturers exert control over a victim by using physical and mental abuse as pathways to the mind and spirit).

[155] Refer to Appendix B infra.

[156] Refer to Appendix B infra.

[157] See Copelon, supra note 154 , at 306-09, 319-20 (describing historical periods in which torture has been used as a tool of absolutism and explaining that the evolving international definition of torture reflects increasing recognition of the inseparability of the physical and mental elements of torture).

[158] Refer to Appendix B infra.

[159] See Jones, supra note 2 , at 89 (describing how batterers use occasional physical violence, in conjunction with non-physical abuse, to control women).

[160] See Copelon, supra note 154 , at 292.

[161] See id. at 308-19 (exploring the similar techniques used by torturers and batterers).

[162] See Dee L.R. Graham et al., Loving to Survive 21-24 (1994) (comparing battered women's responses to that of kidnapping victims).

[163] In my opinion, the whole domestic violence movement has been helped far more than it has been hurt by the O.J. Simpson case. There are certain events that occur -- Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas was another example -- where nothing is ever quite the same in society afterward. Whatever one's view of the verdicts in the criminal and civil cases, sensitivity to domestic violence has been heightened. In particular, the whole nation now knows that a batterer may show a charming public personality.

[164] See Jones, supra note 2 , at 93 (observing that, in fact, battery can occur "without physical violence").

[165] See, e.g., id. at 30-31 (discussing how judges frequently underestimate the danger to women and that a large percentage of batterers win custody of their children).

[166] See generally Walker, Terrifying Love, supra note 14 (identifying the theory that Walker calls "Battered Woman Syndrome").

[167] See Gondolf & Fisher, supra note 89 , at 17-22 (arguing that a survivor theory is more credible than a theory of learned helplessness).

[168] See Walker, Terrifying Love, supra note 14 , at 42-47 (explaining the "cycle of violence").

[169] See Gondolf & Fisher, supra note 89 , at 95 (noting that sporadic batterers were the only type that appeared to conform to the cycle of violence).

[170] Refer to note 166 supra (disputing universality of "cycle of violence").

[171] Refer to notes 176-77 infra (discussing the on-going support for Battered Women's Syndrome).

[172] See Jan Berliner Statman, The Battered Woman's Survival Guide 27 (1990) (defining learned helplessness as a part of the Battered Woman Syndrome and a behavior modification tactic that occurs when expected responses do not follow certain behavior and the battered woman consciously or unconsciously alters her behavior in order to elicit the desired response).

[173] See Gondolf & Fisher, supra note 89 , at 20-21 (discussing the reflexive approach to helpseeking).

[174] See Raeder, supra note 55 , at 798 & n.43 (distinguishing "learned helplessness" in animals and citing Martin E.P. Seligman et al., Alleviation of Learned Helplessness in the Dog, 73 J. Abnormal Psychol. 256 (1968)). According to Raeder, Seligman himself later stated that human beings did not respond in the same helpless fashion as dogs. See id. at 798.

[175] Interview with G. Kristian Miccio, former Visiting Assistant Professor and Director of Family Violence Litigation Clinic, Albany Law School, in Albany, N.Y. According to another authority:

Battered women's actions in killing their abusers contradict not only Walker's theory that battered women possess no control over their environment, but also the results from her study of abused women: the women saw themselves as having great control over what happened to them. Dr. Walker rationalized that this was because they manipulated their environment in order to avoid a beating. From her perspective, the women did not realize they were being controlled.
Dr. Walker's argument ignores an important factor: battered women who believe they have control over their environment do not fit Dr. Walker's model of learned helplessness. These women analyze what is necessary to control the batterers' behavior, develop a plan -- which may include leaving the batterer -- and attempt to carry it out. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they are not.

Moore, supra note 16 , at 318 (footnotes omitted).

[176] Refer to notes 165-74 supra and accompanying text (analyzing the failure of Battered Woman's Syndrome to describe the majority of abused women).

[177] See, e.g., Lou Brown et al., Stop Domestic Violence 42-51 (1997) (presenting Walker's cycle of violence and "learned helplessness" as what happens in a violent-relationship). This well-meaning book, with Nicole Brown Simpson's father as one of the co-authors, is written for a lay audience. It contains some useful information for battered women and people interested in addressing domestic violence. But I fear that a battered woman may not see herself in what the authors have written because she did not experience the cycle or because she sees herself as a strong woman, not a helpless one.

[178] See, e.g., State v. Smith, 481 S.E.2d 747, 752 & n.5 (W. Va. 1996) (upholding the trial court's exclusion of an expert based on his conclusion that a battered woman who killed her abuser "did not meet the test [sic] book profile of a Battered Wife Syndrome Case").

[179] See Kristian Miccio, In the Name of Mothers and Children: Deconstructing the Myth of the Passive Battered Mother and the "Protected Child" in Child Neglect Proceedings, 58 Alb. L. Rev. 1087, 1100 (1995) (stating: "Walker has identified [with Battered Women's Syndrome] the quintessential passive woman -- reactive, unassertive, self-deprecating and depressed. This is merely a variation on the theme of the good woman as passive woman." (footnote omitted)). Miccio goes on to state:

In countless cases that the Albany Law School Family Violence Clinic or the Center for Battered Women's Legal Services has handled, [Miccio worked at both places] we have heard women recount how they had disposed of weapons, refused to reveal where children were hidden, or stepped in between an assailant and her children. These acts are examples of strategic and not-so- subtle forms of resistance intended to protect and to exercise a means of control with a limited context.

Id. at 1100 n.82.

[180] For instance, Dr. Walker has her own public relations firm. See Griffith, supra note 55 , at 146 (indicating that a public relations firm released a statement on Dr. Walker's behalf after she was criticized for agreeing to testify for the defendant in the O.J. Simpson case). Needless to say, those who disagree with Walker's Battered Women's Syndrome (academics, shelter workers, and other battered women's advocates) typically do not have public relations firms representing them.

The criticism of Dr. Walker has been particularly intense since she worked on the criminal defense team for O.J. Simpson, even though she was never called to testify for him. See id. at 142 n.5, 145 (quoting Sheryl McCarthy, O.J. on Trial: One More Sellout in the O.J. Case?, N.Y. Newsday, Jan. 27, 1995, at A4, who reported that some advocates for battered women attribute Dr. Walker's decision to testify for O.J. to the fact that she is "a greedy publicity seeker and promoter of false information...[who] has exploited battered women to advance her own career" (alterations in original)). Griffith also noted in her article that:

Dr. Walker's critics are not convinced that her motives for agreeing to testify as an expert on behalf of O.J. Simpson are purely objective. Some believe that by agreeing to testify for a defendant-batterer she is nothing more than a "domestic violence profiteer." "She's playing both sides....This woman was betraying not only my daughter, but all the women in this country who consider her an authority on this complex issue." (quoting the mother of a murder victim describing her view of Lenore Walker, who appeared as an expert for the man accused of murdering her daughter).

Id. at 146 n.29 (citations omitted) (alteration in original).

I can no longer defend Dr. Walker as an individual, but I continue to defend her groundbreaking work in listening to battered women and trying -- albeit imperfectly -- to capture their reality. See Waits, supra note 31 , at 1054 n.137 (declaring that "Walker listened carefully to her battered women patients and took a first stab at a woman-centered, overarching theory").

[181] See Dutton, supra note 138 , at 1195-96 (discussing the diversity of battered women's reactions). On battered women's diverse psychological reactions, See id. at 1225-26. Dutton's writings are especially rich because they are informed by her extensive work with battered women. Refer also to Part IV.A infra (declaring that there is no such thing as a "typical" battered woman).

[182] See id. 1231-40 (discussing the context of battered women's responses).

[183] See id. at 1220 (citing the example of a woman who never considered calling the police after a beating because as a child, she had observed that the police were completely disinterested and ineffective when her battered mother called them for help).

[184] See id. (noting that battered women are "helped" along in tolerating abuse by health and mental health professionals, law enforcement personnel, and legal professionals).

[185] See id.

[186] See Gondolf & Fisher, supra note 89 , at 11-25 (analyzing the "battered woman as a survivor" theory).

[187] See id. at 16 (discussing how the survivor theory is superior to "learned helplessness").

[188] See id. at 17 (describing different ways battered women deal with escalating abuse).

[189] See id. (discussing the helpseeking progression for most battered women and identifying the help sources -- family, friends, police, legal assistance, and shelters -- most women seek).

[190] See id. Gondolf and Fisher explain the Survivor Hypothesis as follows:

1. Severe abuse prompts innovative coping strategies from battered women and efforts to seek help. Previous abuse and neglect by help sources lead women to try other help sources and strategies to lessen the abuse. The battered woman, in this light, is a "survivor."
2. The survivor may experience anxiety or uncertainty over the prospects of leaving the batterer. The lack of options, know-how, and finances raise fears about trying to escape the batterer. The battered woman may therefore attempt to change the batterer instead of attempting to leave.
3. The survivor actively seeks help from a variety of informal and formal help sources. There is most often inadequate or piecemeal helpgiving that leaves the woman little alternative but to return to the batterer. The helpseeking continues, however.
4. The failure of help sources to intervene in a comprehensive and decisive fashion allows abuse to continue and escalate. The inadequacy of help sources may be attributed to a kind of learned helplessness experienced in many community services. Service providers feel too overwhelmed and limited in their resources to be effective and therefore do not try as hard as they might.
5. Battered women as survivors of abuse need, most of all, access to resources that would enable them to escape the batterer. Community services need to be coordinated to assure the needed allocation of resources and integrated to assure long-term comprehensive intervention.

Id. at 12. In a similar vein, Professor Fischer and her colleagues speak of the ways in which battered women directly resist and rebel against the abuser. See Fischer et al., supra note 19 , at 2133-37. The women do not "give in" all the time. See id. at 2133. Instead, they will sometimes confront or challenge his authority, even though such confrontations are invariably met with violence. See id. Mary did this in her continued efforts to see her family and friends despite Russ's isolation of her. This is exemplified by her decision to go to the shower that led to the final confrontation between her and Russ.

For an attempt to reconcile the survivor theory with Battered Women's Syndrome, see generally A. Renee Callahan, Will the "Real" Battered Woman Please Stand Up?: In Search of a Realistic Legal Definition of Battered Woman Syndrome, 3 Am. U. J. Gender & L. 117 (1994) (attempting to reconcile the Survivor Theory with Battered Woman's Syndrome).

[191] Even an emphasis on battered women as survivors rather than victims has its pluses and minuses. See Margaret Martin Barry, Protective Order Enforcement: Another Pirouette, 6 Hastings Women's L.J. 339, 341 n.4 (1995). Barry explains that the advantage of the term is that it "forces acknowledgement of the struggle that women in abusive situations undertake to preserve important relationships within the confines of a hostile social structure. The strength is there, shockingly at times, to persevere...." Id. On the other hand, as Barry says, the term survivor "imposes bravado on women who want their lack of power in the face of constant assault acknowledged. Survivor may not describe how those who have experienced domestic violence feel about where they are or have been. It also requires a resilience of them that is not expected from other victims of crime who are viewed with sympathy." Id. On balance, Barry prefers "survivor" to "victim" because "passivity is often dangerous, given the distance that must be travelled [sic] in countering the societal tolerance of domestic violence and the limitations of the most responsive social structures, in the face of domestic abuse." Id. (citing Elizabeth M. Schneider, Particularity and Generality: Challenges of Feminist Theory and Practice in Work on Woman-Abuse, 67 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 520, 529-66 (1992)).

[192] See Lewis Okun, Woman Abuse 42-65 (1986) (citing statistics showing that battered women come from every conceivable background).

[193] See id. at 44-49.

[194] See id. at 59-63 (showing that family backgrounds sometimes play a role in becoming a battered woman).

[195] See id. at 47.

[196] See Mahoney, supra note 7 , at 29-30 & n.119 (stating that Lenore Walker's distinction between existent "coercion" and "strong, assertive women" fails to account for the existence of battered women).

[197] See Cahn & Meier, supra note 55 , at 359 (discussing battering theory in non-heterosexual relationships).

[198] See Raeder, supra note 55 , at 801 (stating that the experience of battered women encompasses psychological reactions that are not limited to one profile).

[199] See Dutton, supra note 138 , at 1227-31 (reviewing the contemporary literature and the differing methods of coping they suggest).

[200] See id. at 1218-19 (explaining how violence changes the way people view themselves and others).

[201] See id. at 1225-26 (discussing how battered women in a particular counseling program were given the standard Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory ("MMPI") test and how some of the personality types that emerged were considered completely normal).

[202] See Joan S. Meier, Notes from the Underground: Integrating Psychological and Legal Perspectives on Domestic Violence in Theory and Practice, 21 Hofstra L. Rev. 1295, 1312-14 (1993) (discussing the various phases of post-traumatic stress for a battered woman).

[203] See generally Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery 51-73 (1992) (discussing how trauma, including trauma involving battered women and sexual assault victims, causes disconnection in victims).

An excellent discussion of how the observable reactions of battered women can be explained without resorting to the "learned helplessness" theory is provided in Gondolf & Fisher, supra note 89 , at 21-22. Symptoms such as low self-esteem, guilt, self-blame, depression, vulnerability, and futility "may represent traumatic shock from the abuse, a sense of commitment to the batterer, or separation anxiety amidst an unresponsive community." Id. at 21.

[204] Refer to notes 192-97 supra and accompanying text (explaining that there is no such thing as a typical battered woman).

[205] See Cahn & Meier, supra note 55 , at 355 (noting a lack of adequate theory about men who batter).

[206] See Holly Maguigan, Battered Women and Self-Defense: Myths and Misconceptions in Current Reform Proposals, 140 U. Pa. L. Rev. 379, 424 (1991) (noting that batterers often display violent tendencies and this common behavior tips-off many women that deadly force is about to be used on them).

[207] See Donna M. Welch, Mandatory Arrest of Domestic Abusers: Panacea or Perpetuation of the Problem of Abuse?, 43 DePaul L. Rev. 1133, 1138 (1994) (stating that clinicians typically describe batterers as men with an excessive need of control who do not allow their wives to make independent decisions).

[208] See Jennifer Baker Fleming, Stopping Wife Abuse 287-96 (1979) (analyzing the profile of a batterer and stating that society equates strength with masculinity and that a man's own weakness leads to his need to control); see also Susan Schechter, Women and Male Violence 258 (1982) (stating that male domination leads to woman abuse); Daniel Jay Sonkin & William Fazio, Domestic Violence Expert Testimony in the Prosecution of Male Batterers, in Domestic Violence on Trial 218, 225 (Daniel Jay Sonkin ed., 1987) (reporting how some experts believe men batter as a result of a need to control). For an example of how this learned dominance gives men an advantage in higher education, see Lani Guinier et al., Becoming Gentlemen: Women's Experiences at One Ivy League Law School, 143 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1, 2-6 (1994) (arguing that gendered stratification in law school favors men over women in class and employment opportunities).

[209] Refer to Appendix B infra.

[210] Cf. Adrien Katherine Wing, A Critical Race Feminist Conceptualization of Violence: South African and Palestinian Women, 60 Alb. L. Rev. 943, 964 (1997) (discussing how some Palestinian men used classic torture techniques learned while prisoners when they beat their wives).

[211] Frankly, our whole society might be regarded as a kind of batterers' school, given sexism and our emphasis on the use of power for domination.

[212] See Elizabeth M. Schneider, Particularity and Generality: Challenges of Feminist Theory and Practice in Work on Woman Abuse, 67 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 520, 544 (1992) (stating that some have theorized that the assertion of male power and control in all intimate relationships is the root of relational violence in general).

[213] See Raeder, supra note 55 , at 153-54 (listing three types of batterers: (1) men who are violent solely in relationships with women, (2) antisocial psychopathic batterers who are violent inside and outside the home, and (3) sociopathic batterers who are often violent inside and outside the house, were abused as children, and have criminal records).

[214] See Victoria L. Lutz & William R. Slye, Where Criminal Mischief is Not a Crime, N.Y. L.J., Oct. 31, 1997, at 1 (reporting that under New York law, husbands can lawfully destroy their wives' property because a husband has an equity interest in that property); see also State v. Engle, 684 N.E.2d 1311, 1313 (Ohio Com. Pl. 1997) (discussing the effects of a pattern of abuse that included the wife's nose being bitten and the death of two of her children).

[215] See Willoughby, supra note 25 , at 186 (stating that a batterer can be relentless in pursuit of "his woman").

[216] See Klein & Orloff, supra note 13 , at 1129 (stating that after a death or separation, a batterer often moves on to another victim).

[217] See Developments in the Law, supra note 5 , at 1602-03 (stating that some batterers use mediation to enhance their chances of gaining custody and perpetuate further abuse on the woman); Linda R. Keenan, Note, Domestic Violence and Custody Litigation: The Need for Statutory Reform, 13 Hofstra L. Rev. 407, 411-12 (1985) (stating that the historic inability to bring a custody suit due to economic concerns is still relevant in today's system). Refer also to note 31 supra (detailing how Russ was uninterested in custody until Mary sought supervised visitation which threatened his power and public image as a "good guy").

[218] The most thorough review of batterers' programs to date is currently being done by Professor Edward W. Gondolf of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and several co-researchers. The preliminary findings are located at The Web site specifically indicates that the information is not to be cited without written permission from the researchers. I have received permission from Professor Gondolf for the following description.

Professor Gondolf and his colleagues have found that batterers vary significantly in their response to even quality batterers' intervention programs. They summarize their findings as follows:

The "model" batterer programs appear to contribute to the cessation of assault at least in the short-term. The majority of women indicate their "quality of life" has improved and that they feel "very safe." A portion of batterers, however, appear to be resistant and unresponsive to intervention. They reassault soon after program intake, repeatedly reassault, and/or cause significant distress and fear in their partners.

Not surprisingly, Gondolf and his colleagues found "those cases with the least mental and substance use problems, attending the most counseling sessions, and receiving additional services [had] the lowest reassault rates and better quality of life for the women."

The researchers also found that dropout rates from all the programs they studied were quite high, ranging from about 1/3 to nearly 1/2, with most of the dropouts occurring early in the program. The men that dropped out were, not surprisingly, more likely to reassault their partners than those that stayed for at least three months of a program.

It should also be emphasized that the programs studied by Gondolf were all at least three months long and had direct linkages to local battered women's shelters. Sadly, many batterers' programs are even shorter than three months and have no relationship with battered women's programs. Some of these programs even encourage couples counseling or promote ideas such as "it takes two to tango," i.e., blaming the victim for the batterer's violence.

[219] See Kathleen Waits, The Criminal Justice System's Response to Battering: Understanding the Problem, Forging the Solutions, 60 Wash. L. Rev. 267, 291 & n.129-31 (1985) (explaining how batterers often love their families and thus can change their behavior). This article, now more than 10 years old, presents an outdated picture of both battered women and batterers. Some batterers -- especially in the beginning of the abuse -- may love their families, and certainly most say that they do. But a batterer's version of "love" is unrecognizable to most non-abusive people. In particular, a batterer's sense of entitlement, his belief that all his wishes should be satisfied, and his complete disregard for his partner's desires, has nothing to do with the give-and-take that is essential to real love.

[220] See id. at 321-27 (providing a policy from which prosecutors should work to encourage change while noting that even state pressure may not invoke change).

[221] See Cheryl Hanna, No Right to Choose: Mandated Victim Participation in Domestic Violence Prosecutions, 109 Harv. L. Rev. 1849, 1893 (1996) (explaining how the criminal justice system has contributed to this great progress).

[222] See Clare Dalton, Domestic Violence, Domestic Torts, and Divorce: Constraints and Possibilities, 31 New Eng. L. Rev. 319, 366 (1997) (discussing how increased public attention and sympathy given to victims of domestic violence has spurred a "backlash" in response to a fear that victims will gain an unfair advantage); see also Developments in the Law, supra note 5 , at 1616 (recognizing remaining deficiencies in the system despite strong improvements).

[223] See, e.g., John Marzulli, Home Violence Swells, Rise in Homicide, Rape & Assault, Daily News (N.Y.), Dec. 30, 1997, at 10, available in LEXIS, Nexis Library (quoting the head of the Citizens Crime Commission for the proposition that "[t]he legal system is still not geared to treat domestic violence with the same level of seriousness" as other violent acts).

[224] See Keenan, supra note 217 , at 411 (stating that despite specific laws, violence against women continues at alarming rates).

[225] See Greg Hernandez & Jeff Kass, Custody Case Report Cited Children's Bond to Simpson, L.A. Times, Mar. 18, 1997, at A3 (detailing the impact the psychologists' report played on the court's decision to grant custody to Simpson).

[226] The jury in Simpson's civil case found, by an 11-1 vote, that punitive damages should be awarded against him. See William Booth & William Claiborn, Simpson Plaintiffs Awarded $25 Million, Wash. Post, Feb.11, 1997, at A1 (reporting jury members' post-trial statements). The actual punitive damage award of $25 million, was agreed to by a 10-2 vote. See id; see also Heller v. Pillsbury Madison & Sutro, 58 Cal. Rptr. 2d 336, 350 (Cal. Ct. App. 1996) (noting that punitive damages in California tort actions will only be awarded when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been "guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice").

[227] See, e.g., Catherine A. MacKinnon, Sexual Harassment of Working Women, 171-73 (1979) (explaining how recognition of individual wrong, rather than societal failure, prevents bringing an end to sexual harassment).

[228] Mary did tell me that her female psychologist -- the one who thought that she was feigning abuse -- was not allowed to testify by one of the local judges who is considered excellent on domestic violence cases.

[229] See Waits, supra note 31 , at 1058-59 (stating that while there is a lack of knowledge regarding the typicality of false reports, women rarely make them due to the ensuing scrutiny, systematic skepticism, and counter productivity of false claims).

[230] See Seymour Chatman, Story and Discourse 28-29 (1978) (stating that the audience of a narrative will respond to a narrative interpretation by filling in gaps of the story with an undaunted inferential capacity); see also Roland Barthes, Image -- Music -- Text 142 (Stephen Heath trans., 1977) (stating that as soon as a fact is narrated, a disconnection occurs which results in the loss of the author's voice).

[231] Refer to note 23 supra (providing materials and discussion on the relationship of alcoholism and domestic violence).

[232] Conversation with Diana.

[233] This is precisely what happened in State v. Ciskie, 751 P.2d 1165 (Wash. 1988). The victim, who had been brutally raped by her abuser several times over a period of many months, finally called the police after reading a front-page newspaper article about a woman being killed by her batterer. See id. at 1166-68. She testified, "I just started reading it [the newspaper article] and I said to myself, "[I]f you don't do something right now, your kids are going to be reading your name in the paper. Just like this." Id. at 1168 (second alteration in original).

[234] See Paul Brest & Ann Vandenberg, Politics, Feminism, and the Constitution: The Anti-Pornography Movement in Minneapolis, 39 Stan. L. Rev. 607, 624-42 (1987) (reporting how pornography victims' stories, like battered women's stories, opened people's mind toward pending legislation).

[235] Sometimes all it takes is hearing a story from someone who is "like you" or like your sister, mother, etc. Educated people sometimes become sensitized after listening to the stories of educated women like Mary. It is sad that people often dismiss stories from women who are different from them, whether it is by class, race, religious, or sexual orientation. But advocates must deal with this reality and have many different women tell their stories. Note also, that telling the story can lead to solidarity across women's rights movements. See Jones, supra note 2 , at 8 (explaining the similarities between rape victims and battered women and how that similarity has led to further progress).

[236] The reader will recall that Mary's custody judge finally realized that Russ was a "ticking bomb."


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