Every day approximately 4 women are killed by their intimate partners. One third of all the women murdered in the US, are murdered by their intimate partners. The numbers have never stopped troubling me.
With domestic homicides being nothing new to the states we live in and our nation and world as a whole, it’s troubling that so many people can’t see the problem that is right under our noses. The problem of male violence against women is so vast; one would think it’s unmistakable. Unfortunately, however, male violence against women seems to go largely unrecognized by most who have not experienced it themselves. It is most severely unnoticed by the general public when it is happening within the context of an intimate relationship. Isn’t that illogical? Is this not the ultimate betrayal of trust? Is this not terrorism in its absolute worst form – within the supposed comfort of your own home? Is this not the epitome of civil and human rights violations – robbing women and children of their right to autonomy? I hear and read about the countless women and children who have experienced violence at the hands of the person who was supposed to love them most, and I wonder, how is it that people can manage to look the other way?
Last week, I read that on July 25, 2011 in New Gloucester, Maine, a woman, with the help of her friend, tried leaving her husband with her four children. Her effort to leave resulted in the woman and her friend being shot to death by the woman’s husband, all in the presence of the children. These murders brought the number of homicides in Maine to a total of 17 since the beginning of the year; at least half of the homicides have been the result of domestic violence.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that:
The total estimated number of intimate partner homicide victims in 2007 was 2,340, including 1,640 females and 700 males. Females made up 70% of victims killed by an intimate partner in 2007, a proportion that has changed very little since 1993.*
Females were killed by intimate partners at twice the rate of males. In 2007 the rate of intimate partner homicide for females was 1.07 per 100,000 female residents compared to 0.47 per 100,000 male residents.*
*We must keep in mind that many of the women who commit violent acts against their male intimate partners do so as a response to being battered by these partners.
Although the numbers are often important, the stories of women tragically murdered by their spouses are most important. These women should not go forgotten and most certainly shouldn’t be recognized only as a statistic.
On July 23, 2011, a man committed suicide after the mass murder of his wife and four of her family members at his child’s birthday party in Grand Prairie, Texas. The perpetrator and his wife had separated in December 2010 after she sought the relief of a protection order. In her request for this relief, she disclosed to the courts that she had been enduring severe physical and emotional abuse for a number of years. She told the courts of multiple incidents where her husband drew his gun on her threatening her life — she mentioned that he had even fired the gun in the house with the children present. After he shot her the evening of the 23rd, he stood over her body saying “I told you so” and continued on to kill four of her family members before killing himself. This man had no criminal history and interviews from her family suggest that they never would have guessed he would have taken it this far.
Her story is not unfamiliar. Many abusers go undetected by family and the law as he did. The little information about her story that I was able to obtain, suggests that she tried to leave him more than once and further suggests that he had a strong hold on her as many abusers do.“Just leaving” him was difficult for her as it is for most victims of domestic violence. Stories like hers are everywhere.
What often troubles me even more than the statistics and the numbers are the cruel responses people have with regard to these kinds of tragedies. Much of the public still misunderstands the dynamics of domestic violence and this never ceases to remind me how much growing our society has yet to do. Insensitivity toward victims of domestic violence is all too common.
On July 17, 2011, a 19 year old woman from Mankato, MN was stabbed to death by her boyfriend. Articles suggest that the perpetrator stabbed his girlfriend after she told him she didn’t want to continue dating him. Friends of this woman disclosed to the police that the boyfriend had a history of concerning behaviors. They described a recent incident where they witnessed him, angrily, throwing her phone into the lake the week before her murder. They further disclosed that in April 2011 the victim’s boyfriend slashed the tires on her car after an argument. This naturally pointed the police toward her ex boyfriend as the primary suspect.
The perpetrator cooperated with police and almost immediately confessed to murdering her. He explained that he stabbed his girlfriend during an argument in the car and when she tried to get away, he chased after her, pinned her down to the ground, and continued to brutally stab her. He left her dying body on a median, on a closed road, where she laid for hours before construction workers found her.
With tragedies like this, it should be reasonable to assume that people would naturally find the perpetrators to be 100% at fault and find no reason to blame victims for what happens to them. Often, that’s not the case. People who posted comments under these news articles suggested that it was her fault for not breaking up with him in a public location; she put herself in the position to be seriously harmed and killed. It might be easy to dismiss these comments as people who have nothing better to do than to be angry all over the web, but really, this is a common thread found everywhere. Many people feel like women are responsible for what happens to them.
When in a violent relationship, a woman is, alarmingly, 75% more likely to be killed when she leaves her abuser. The when, where, and how she leaves her abuser doesn’t guarantee her safety. Many people are unaware of this lethality risk and are unaware of the resources available to victims to help them get support while in their relationships or to create a plan in order to get out safely.
Unfortunately, blaming the victim is a practice that is all too common. Rarely do I come by an article pertaining to domestic violence that someone, somewhere can’t find a reason to blame the woman. Too many people are quick to ask “What about her?” “What could she have done differently?” Furthermore, if this were a woman killed on the street by a stranger, or if the victim was their mother, sister, or friend would people be asking the same questions? My guess is no. What is going on here? Seldom are people asking “What about him?” “What about his repeated abusive behaviors?” Or more broadly, “Why are men the primary perpetrators of violence?”
Women are disproportionately, when compared to men, victims of these violent crimes. Any website with victims of crime statistics will tell you that 1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence. 1 in 12 women will be a victim of stalking. 1 in 5 women will experience an attempted or completed rape between the ages 18-25. Furthermore, 98% of rapes and sexual assaults and 95% of domestic violence is perpetrated by men. These numbers are alarming but often seem to be overlooked and, as a result, women continue to be blamed for what happens to them.
It feels rather concerning there are still so many people unaware – as I once was – as to how big of a problem this really is. Is there any one thing to blame for male violence? No. Do we need to assess this as an issue and take action now? Yes. However, this requires momentum to create change.
Men need to feel challenged to not desire control over women. Men need to become allies and take action by assessing their own values and capabilities to assist in this change. Men should challenge other men to promote non-violence and respect toward women.
The most popular music, movies, and TV shows often normalize and even find humor in violence which is undoubtedly aiding the public’s minimal understanding around this issue. Jackson Katz, a leading anti-sexist activist, challenges men everywhere to assess these issues. He wrote a fantastic blog about the topic regarding media influence and I highly encourage reading it.
I challenge readers to assess these very issues for themselves and also encourage you to challenge friends and family to do the same. We can create change if we work together!
If you’re a victim of domestic violence,
call the National Domestic Violence Hotline to seek resources near you.
1−800−799−SAFE(7233) TTY :1−800−787−3224