Saturday, January 21, 2012

Battered Women

Walker's interviews with battered women are disturbing. Some of the incidents are graphic; some are detestable; and all are difficult to imagine. Yet, it happens. Statistics show that hundreds of women kill their batterers every year in self-defense. But there are many more incidents that are never reported.

What role do our social institutions play in preventing a woman from reporting these brutal attacks? Let's begin with law enforcement. It is clear that some domestic disturbance calls are not handled by the police as it should be. They do not seem to want to get involved in these kinds of disputes. They visit the home, talk to the couple and, unless the wife wishes to file charges, they leave.

More often than not, the wife will not file charges. She is so fearful of the consequences that she will instead make excuses for her husband if there is any hint of locking him away. Such was the case of Tracey Thurman, a Connecticut housewife, who was brutally stabbed and beaten by her husband, and left a quadriplegic.

She filed a lawsuit against the Connecticut Police Department and, as a result, the Thurman Law was enacted. This law requires police to treat a domestic disturbance call with the same care and seriousness that any other violent crime is treated.

However, society's apathy towards the battered woman extends far beyond our social institutions. It really begins in the family unit. Dr. Susan Forward authored a book entitled "Men Who Hate Women and The Women Who Love Them." In it, she clarifies through interviews with batterers, the reasoning behind this monstrous behavior. She describes the batterer as a "misogynist" or woman-hater.

Lenore Walker outlines the "Cycle Theory of Violence" in her book. This theory explains the three phases of battery.

Phase One is the "Tension Building Stage" and begins with "minor incidents" in which the battered woman assumes blame and re-adjusts her thinking to avoid any future confrontations. The battered woman justified the batterer's actions by internalizing her own actions and how she may have prevented the incident.

Phase Two is the "Acute Battering Incident," which is described as "all out rage" on the part of the batterer. Since he felt he was able to get away with Phase One or that it was readily accepted by his partner, the batterer feels he has permission to escalate his attacks. These attacks tend to be more brutal over a shorter period of time. It is during this stage that the psychological damage to the woman is ore severe. It leaves her helpless, hopeless, and terrified.

Phase Three is "Kindness and Contrite Loving Behavior" which manifests itself by the batterer by asking forgiveness and promising that it will never happen again. The batterer overextends himself by doing anything he can to make up for the pain he caused.

A woman usually forgives the batterer because, in the case of an isolated incident, she re-adjusts her own mindset so that she does not set him off again. She accepts his gifts and his promises. All is forgiven, right? Wrong!

Before too long, the batterer begins the cycle all over again until the woman has become totally desensitized. She has lost all sense of identity, control, herself. The cycle becomes a routine, a ritual. Thus, as long as there are batterers; there will be victims.