POPULATION INFORMATION PROGRAM, JOHNS HOPKINSDOMESTIC VIOLENCE is a CRIMINAL act of assault, battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, or other act that injures or kills a family or household member by another who is or was residing in the same single dwelling unit.  See, e.g. F. S. 741.30(1)(a)(1994).  If there is no outcome, claims of who did what to whom are irrelevant for all legal purposes.  Hepburn slapping Tracy across the face in one isolated instance with no particular outcome, regardless of what you think of the behavior, is not what we mean legally by "domestic violence."

SPOUSAL ABUSE is not isolated acts of "conflict tactics" in a vacuum.  A battered spouse is one who may be controlled and terrorized by a combination of abusive tactics, both directly physical and not.  There is a pattern and a dynamic in the relationship in which one of the parties is the party abused, disadvantaged and injured -- 95% of the time, this is the woman. Counting numbers of slaps without looking at the entire relationship dynamic, does not tell us who is the abuser and who is the abused.

The Straus and Gelles Conflicts Tactics Scale is merely that: it is a research tool that counts certain behaviors that might be "conflicts tactics," but tallying up who moved how and when does not necessarily comport with the legal definition of domestic violence, or accurately yield any picture of what actually happened.  And the individual conflict behaviors arbitrarily listed therein in varying levels of "severity" neither bear any necessary relationship to who is injured, nor identify which of the parties is the party "abused."  Physical movements and contacts tracked and reported without reference to outcome are misleading, and nothing short of fraudulent when used to make the specious claim that "women are doing it too." Women are not battering their husbands in epidemic proportions.  Women are not regularly beating up their men, and leaving them crouched, huddled, injured and sobbing (or worse) on the kitchen floor.  Men are not fleeing their homes, children in tow. Men are not the spouses who live in terror.

"Who is that [on the phone]!" he demands.

She ignores him, hastily whispering "I gotta go now..."

"GIMME that phone!!" he shouts.  "Who was that!!"

"It was someone from work."

He dials call return.  It's not.  "You sniveling lying BITCH," he shrieks, and yanking the phone out, throws it into the wall.  "YOU TELL ME WHO THE F--- THAT WAS RIGHT NOW," he yells, advancing at her.  He picks up a little glass budvase her grandmother gave her and holds it high.

"Nooo, gimme that!" she whines.  "WHO THE F--- WAS ON THAT PHONE!!!"  She grabs his arm to save the vase, and he holds it out of her reach.  [She has started the violence, according who touched who first.]  Smash, the vase shatters into a thousand little shards. "You pig," she mutters, nearly inaudible.

"WHAT'D YOU SAY!!! SAY IT AGAIN, BITCH!!!" he screams.  She crouches at the floor, attempting to scoop up glass splinters. He grabs her by the upper arm, bringing her to her feet.  She wrenches her arm away, and as he reaches for her again, pushes his forearm away from her.  

[Conflict tactics scale: one grab for each, plus a push for her.]

"I WANNA KNOW WHO WAS ON THAT PHONE!" he yells, down, close into her face as she backs away.  "No one..."

"YOU STUPID LYING CUNT!!" he shouts, and shoves her with a force that flings her into the corner of the wall, hitting her head...

[Conflict Tactics Scale: two for two.  Nothing but a fair fight... so far...]

The indicia of SPOUSE ABUSE AND BATTERED WIFE SYNDROME are explained in the following POWER AND CONTROL PERSPECTIVE, adapted from the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, Duluth MN, copyright l990 New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (July l993.)  There are five areas of abuse that are utilized by the batterer to EXERCISE POWER AND CONTROL OVER THE VICTIM:

-- Psychological abuse: instilling or attempting to instill fear by intimidation, threats of harm to victim or others, threats of kidnapping, harassment, and destruction of pets and property.

-- Emotional abuse: Undermining a person's sense of self-worth by constant criticism, belittling, namecalling, silent treatments, subverting of parent-child relationships, making and breaking of promises, and so forth.

-- Economic abuse: Making, or attempting to make a person financially dependent, by, e.g. maintaining control over both parties' income, withholding money or access to same, keeping the person from outside activities, such as school, forbidding employment, harassment at the job, requiring justification for all money spent.

-- Sexual abuse: Coerced (unconsented-to) sexual contact, including marital/date rape, forced sex after beating, beating sexual parts of the body, bestiality, forced prostitution, unprotected sex, fondling, sodomy, sex with others, use of pornography.  Also undermining a person's sexuality by derogatory treatment, criticisms of desirability, unfounded accusations of infidelity.

-- Physical abuse: Inflicting or attempting to inflict physical injury or illness, e.g. by grabbing, pinching, shoving, slapping, hitting, hair-pulling, biting, arm-twisting, kicking, punching, hitting with objects, stabbing, shooting.  [Note here: the specious claims, using research primarily by Gelles, Straus, and Steinmetz, which attempt to portray women as battering their men as often as vice versa, do not take into account the realities of the abusive relationship, or that the conflict behaviors test when used in this manner -- to lie -- does not account for injury inflicted. E.g., a man who is substantially stronger than his wife can cause far greater damage with one "nonsevere" shove, than she can by waving a knife in the air while screaming "stay away from me!" But according to the Conflict Tactics Scale, the latter would be the conflict tactic of higher severity.  Nor do these measurements of movement indicate who is the abused party or victim in essence in the relationship -- the one being controlled.]  

Other kinds of physical abuse include withholding access to resources necessary to maintain health, e.g. medications, medical care, wheelchair, food or fluids, sleep, hygienic assistance, and forced alcohol or drug use, none of which is even alluded to by the purveyors of the "women are doing it just as much" nonsense.

The facts are:

Battering is about power and control. It often starts out with non-violent forms of abuse and control, and escalates, when the abuser still does not feel "enough" in control (of her, or his life or both), to physical violence.  But BEFORE THAT POINT, the relationship power dynamics are not equal.  Regardless of who first did what to whom physically, only one of them is the victim.  Because he gets rewarded (by "winning"), over time the abuser escalates the tactics employed to exact control.  Before any physical violence is ever employed, the power imbalance and the control were there.  The situation "creeps up" on the woman, who becomes inured to tighter and tighter controls and more and more abuse.  "Normal" becomes the in-between periods having an absence of physical abuse.  But the situation is NEVER normal.  If he hits once, he *WILL* do it again. And worse.

Battered women do not start out as passive "wimps."  Before he discovers the guaranteed success of the iron fist, there may be a control struggle in the relationship.  She may use passive aggressive tactics, or even some physical aggression earlier on, in an effort to regain a measure of control over her own life.  And when he feels his control of her (or other things in his life) slipping away, he escalates his choice of "weapon."

Battering is rarely an isolated event.  Two-thirds of beaten women report two or more episodes of same during the year, and half of these women are beaten five or more times, according to Straus, Gelles and Steinmentz, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: A SURVEY OF FAMILY VIOLENCE IN AMERICA: NY, NY; Doubleday, l980.

"Every gender bias commission in the United States echoed the finding...that there was 'a reluctance to acknowledge the criminality of domestic violence at every stage of the law enforcement and judicial process' due to a willingness to accept "still prevalent beliefs that violence against women can be acceptable.' " -- Judge C. S. Lederman, Report on Dade County, Family Law Commentator XIX (3) February l994; Report of the FL Sup. Ct. Gender Bias Commission (l990), p. 14.

It has been estimated that only ten (10) percent of all domestic violence incidents are reported to the police, Knoxville Journal 2/9/84.

Each year more than one million women seek medical treatment for injuries inflicted by husbands, ex-husbands, or boyfriends. [note]   The average length of a violent marriage is five years.  See Hughes, H. M. Impact of Spouse Abuse on Children of Battered Women, Violence Update 2 (12), 1-11.  

Ninety-three (93) percent of battered women are willing to forgive and forget the first beating suffered from their partners.  It also is common for women to blame themselves for provoking the behavior or starting the altercation -- such a perspective reinstalls for the victim in her own mind a sense of control and esteem -- if she did something to cause the problem, then it is within her power to fix it.  [This factor also makes many of the after-the-fact reports of who did what to whom, particularly as to research on "average" couples without substantial injuries, unreliable, because numbers alone do not offer anything about the truth or the context in which each reported "act" happened.  These are not boxing matches, watched by judges and carefully scored.]  In addition to physical injury, domestic violence involves immediate, long-standing psychological harm, which untreated, will permanently scar victims and their children.  See Judge Linda Dakis, Coordinated Professional Response: An Essential Need, Family Law Commentator XIX (3), 2/94; also see Flitcraft and Hughes, ibid.

Additional Resources: Monograph Series No. 7, National Clearinghouse on Domestic Violence, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, l991.  A woman is battered every 10-18 seconds in the United States.

Between 8 and 11 percent of pregnant women are abused by their partners.  Newberger, E. H., Barkan, S. E., Lieberman, E. S., et al., Abuse of Pregnant Women and Adverse Birth Outcome.  JOURNAL OF AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (JAMA) l992; 267:2370.

Informal studies in doctor's offices determined that if women's appointments were cancelled by men, 90% of the women were victims of domestic violence, according to Robert E. McAfee, MD, President American Medical Association, as reported to Judge L. Tepper, Family Law Commentator, ibid.

Statistically, more women are killed who LEAVE their batterers than are killed who stay. According to Barbara Hart, the risk increase is 75%.  See Hart, B. quoted in National Estimates and Facts Aout Domestic Violence, NCADV Voice, Winter l989., p. 12.  Also see gen. Hilberman, E. and K. Munson, Sixty Battered Women, Victimology: An International Journal II, pp 460-470 (l977-78). Also see gen. Woods, L., "Mediation: A Backlash to Women's Progress on Family Law Issues," Clearinghouse Review, July l984; Muldoon, J. "Dangerous Misconceptions About Alcohol Abuse and Domestic Violence," Community Intervention, Minneapolis: Community Intervention, Inc. (l985).  It currently is trendy to tout the statistic women are more often battered by boyfriends, and ex-husbands than by husbands as "evidence" that "marriage protects women from domestic violence."  A more reasonable interpretation of this correlation, however, is that it says something about the character of men who marry and maintain succesful marriages, versus men who do not: men women will not marry, as well as men women have left, are more likely to be abusive, and that's why they are represented more heavily in these populations..

Domestic violence and abuse are not just a list of incidents that have occurred over some period of time.  And not just a list of aggressive behaviors that can be added up to see who has won the fight. Dutton, M. A., The Dynamics of Domestic Violence: Understanding the Response from Battered Women, Fla. Bar J., Oct. l994; see Cantos, A. L., Neidig, P. H., and O'Leary, K. D., Injuries of Women and Men in a Treatment Program for Domestic Violence, 9 J. Fam. Violence 113-123 (l994).

"Understanding the seriousness of physical violence often requires determining the context in which the behavior ocurred, since the severity of physical aggression does not adequately predict seriousness of resultant injury in domestic violence situations."  Dutton, ibid.; also see Cantos, ibid.

"Studies show that abusive fathers are far more likely than nonabusive parents to fight for child custody, not pay child or spousal support, and kidnap children."  White, A. C., Family Law and Domestic Violence, Fla. Bar J., Oct. l994; see Hansen, M. and Harway, M. Battering and Family Therapy 175 (l993); Grief G. L. and Hegar, R., Parents Whose Children Are Abducted By The Other Praent: Implications for Treatment, 19 Am. J. Fam. Therapy 215, 221 (l991); Zorza, J. Protection for Battered Women and Children, 27 Clearing House Rev. 1437 (l994).

"Battered women seeking shelter report that their abusers destroyed an average of $10,000 in family property prior to separation -- including furniture, clothing, photographs, and toys.  It costs the average victim who must move a minimum of $5,000."  Ibid. See Hart, B.  Cost of Domestic Violence (l991), Penn. Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  Also see Zorza, ibid.

"[I]t is rare that the police arrive and see the actual crime being committed... law enforcement can make an arrest based on probable cause.  Even without the required `probable cause,' the decision frequently is made to arrest *both* parties with a somewhat cavalier attitude of letting the prosecutor or the court 'sort it out.'  Not only is this irresponsible (and illegal), but a tragic result often occurs.  Children have to be taken into the custody of the [state.]...  Also, it is common that mutual dismissals result, thus masking the true and dangerous abuse...  In the last year alone, [attorney Mason, being quoted, below] represented five cases in which the victim was arrested because she defended herself.  Curiously, in all five, the police reported seeing 'a slight scratch on the face or arm' of the spouse.  In all five cases the victim/defendant suffered clearly visible and substantial trauma including hematomas, lacerations, ripped clothing, and in one incident, a broken arm.  The police, however, were satisfied by arresting them both."  Mason, C., Spouse Abuse --The Other Victim, in Fla. Bar J., ibid

A CHILD WHO WITNESSED DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS MORE LIKELY TO GROW INTO A PERPETRATOR OR VICTIM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE THAN A CHILD WHO WAS HIMSELF ABUSED.  Hotaling, G. T. and Sugarman, D. B., An Analysis of Risk Markers in Husband to Wife Violence: The Current State of Knowledge, 1 Violence and Victims 101-124 (l986.)

"It's formally equal.  People are entitled to the same lack of protection whether they're 120-pound women or 220-pound male running backs...

"But...where there is no law, it's not that everyone is free and no one rules.  WHERE THERE IS NO LAW, THE STRONG RULE. So each household can become a tiny lawless realm, ruled by a strong and violent king." -- L. Hirshman, in Ms., Making Safety a Civil Right, Sept./Oct. l994 Lang Communications.

Note to Cathy Young and the rest of the ignorantii: do you go to a hospital emergency room every time you have an injury? as your sole method of seeking medical treatment?  RETURN TO TEXT


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