The list of celebrity batterers from the sports world alone is a long one, which includes the notorious O.J. Simpson, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, baseball star Daryl Strawberry, former University of Alabama basketball coach Wimp Sanderson, former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson (cited by ex-wife Robin Givens and subsequently convicted of raping Miss Black Rhode Island), California Angels pitcher Donnie Moore (who shot and wounded his estranged wife, Tonya, before killing himself in 1989), and Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Blenda Gay (stabbed to death in 1976 by his battered wife, Roxanne, who said she acted in self-defense). The list of entertainers named as batterers is also lengthy and star-studded. Tina Turner reported in her autobiography that husband Ike abused her for years. Ali McGraw described the violent assaults of Steve McQueen. Sheila Ryan sued her then-husband James Cann in 1980, alleging that he had beaten her. Madonna accused Sean Penn, and Daryl Hannah named Jackson Browne. Tommy Lee was accused of kicking Pamela Anderson while she held their son. These scandalous incidents make major news for the newspapers and tabloid television, but battering continues to be commonplace in the everyday world. It is thought by many as “no big deal” or “a family matter”. Nicole Brown Simpson told a police dispatcher, “He’s going nuts”. That 911 call was played and replayed on television and radio. For the first time, Americans were in the midst of a terrifying incident called “domestic violence” and they could hear for themselves the terror that millions of American women live with every day.
The roots of domestic violence, also referred to as “intimate partner violence,” lie in the soil of the patriarchal family. The belief that wives are the possessions of a male “head of household” who should control the behavior of all other family members is deeply embedded in social traditions. Women’s disadvantaged position in the work force and their continued responsibility for child raising reinforce their economic dependence on their husbands and partners, thereby making it difficult for women to leave abusive relationships. For years, domestic violence eluded the criminal justice system because police were reluctant to interfere in family life. Fortunately the criminal justice system is now more effective in dealing with domestic violence by educating police on domestic violence situations and changing the laws to ensure that women get the protection they need from law enforcement agencies. There are a network of shelters and “safe houses” for women who are fleeing abusive relationships. However, these shelters can only temporarily house a small fraction of those who need them. Domestic violence is more openly discussed than it has been in past years, and victims today are more likely to know where to turn for help. But despite these advances, battering alone is now the single leading cause of injury to women in the United States. A million women every year visit physicians and hospital emergency rooms for treatment of battering injuries. The American Medical Association reports that 38% of obstetric patients are battered during pregnancy, and studies name battering during pregnancy a cause of birth defects and infant mortality. Millions of women live with such consequences of male violence, but it is not surprising that many choose another way out. Battering is cited as a contributing factor in a quarter of all suicide attempts by women. At least 50% of homeless women and children in the United States are in flight from male violence. In 1998, the NCVS estimated approximately one million domestic violence crimes, which were committed by current or former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends and 85% of the crimes were committed by males. Domestic violence rates have been declining at a rate of 4% per year for males and 1% for females. Of the 1,830 murders by intimate partners in 1998, females were three out of four victims.
To find an explanation for the high rate of violence against women or in some cases men, we have to take a closer look. For writing purposes, I will state the male as the abuser and the female as the victim, although in some domestic violence cases it can be vice versa. Many people still believe that batterers are somehow different from ordinary men; they are insane with short fuses, lose control, and blow up. But in fact, the batterer is in control and of the person he batters. After all, control is one of the purposes of battering. A man of any age can threaten, intimidate, abuse, and batter a woman to make her do what he wants. He experiences power because he gets his own way. The batterer who says he “loses control” of his temper with “his” woman will be perfectly calm when the police arrive. So clearly he does know what he is doing. He is making rational choices on the basis of what he can get away with. The cycle of domestic violence demonstrates the complex dynamics of power and control. There are three phases in the cycle of violence; tension building phase, followed by the acute explosion, and finally the honeymoon phase. During the tension building phase minor battering may occur along with verbal abuse. This phase also know as “walking on egg shells.” Women anticipate that violence is going to happen and they try to calm down the batterer or women may increase the situation to get the battering over with. Eventually the tension phase evolves into the acute explosion, when the abuse happens and the victim has minimal control over the violent situation. Last in the cycle comes the honeymoon phase, this is the stage when the batterer is remorseful and promises that battering will never happen again. The honeymoon phase is similar to the courtship period in that the batterer is very loving, nurturing, and attentive to the victims needs. Victims are often persuaded during this phase in hopes that the batterer will revert to the person with whom she initially fell in love with and remain hopeful that the abuse will just end.
To gain power and control, the abuser uses different abuse techniques:
- Economic abuse – keeps her from getting a job, makes her ask for money, gives her an allowance, and takes her money.
- Emotional abuse – puts her down, makes her feel bad about herself, calls her names, and makes her think she is crazy (mind games).
- Sexual abuse – makes her do sexual things against her will, physically attacks her sexual body parts, and treats her like a sex object.
- Using the children – makes her feel guilty about the children, uses the children to give messages to her, threatens to take the children, and uses visitation as a way to harass her.
- Threats – makes and/or carries out threats to do something to hurt her.
- Male privileges – treats her like a servant, makes all the “big” decisions, and acts like the master of the castle.
- Intimidation – puts her in fear by using looks, actions, gestures, loud voices, smashing objects, and destroys her property.
- Isolation – controls what she does, who she talks to, who she sees, and where she goes.
There are several characteristics that fit a general profile of a batterer. He does not see women as people, but rather as objects. He may have come from a family, which involved neglect, disapproval, and was over authoritarian. He has low self-esteem, feels powerless, ineffective in the world, inability to trust others, blames his violence on circumstances such as stress, or his partner’s behavior. Ultimately, he is in complete denial of his actions and behavior. All too often, the blame is put upon the victim. “Why do they stay in violent relationships?” “They must have really low self esteem to stay in the marriage.” A woman’s reasons for staying are more complex than a statement about her strength of character. Women stay for several factors; the frequency of violent episodes determines the likelihood of women continuing the relationship, women that hold more traditional values such as for better or worse, they do not want to deprive the children of their father, there is a mix of good times, love and hope along with the manipulation intimidation, and fear, and the most undeniable reason why battered women stay is she fears that if she attempts to leave the violence will escalate. Unfortunately, this fear is all too real and women have been beaten beyond recognition and even murdered as a result of trying to escape violence.
Throughout this research paper I have spoken of battered women, but female to male domestic violence is also widespread. Why do we not hear about female to male domestic violence? For several reasons, males in general are reluctant to report that they have been the victims of any assault. After all, men are supposed to be tough and able to take care of themselves. They are worried what people would think of them and a man not been able to solve his own problems feels he is weak. Confessing to being hit by another man is easy compared to admitting to being battered by a woman. Some men swallow their pride and call the police when they have been abused by their wives. Police officers should handle domestic violence calls the same way, regardless of the gender of the victim.
In conclusion, domestic violence is rampant in the U.S. and around the world. While the exact numbers on domestic violence differ, because this is such an under-reported crime there are statistics on which most experts agree. Physical abuse by male partners is the single most common source of injury among women ages fifteen to forty four, more common than auto accidents, muggings, and rape by a stranger combined. In the U.S., medical costs from domestic violence total at least $3 to $5 billion annually. At least another $100 million can be added to the cost to businesses in lost wages, sick leave, and absenteeism. Women of all cultures, races, occupations, income levels, and ages are battered, by husbands, common-law husbands, or boyfriends. Professional men (doctors, lawyers, business executives), who are well respected in their jobs and their communities have been counseled for battering.