Battered Women 2 Essay, Research Paper
Women are more likely to be assaulted by husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends, and ex-boyfriends than by a stranger. Domestic violence crimes committed against women are a staggering number; even though feminist have advocated for decades for women’s rights laws to try and protect women from battering spouses. The truth is that,”in one six year period alone — 1967 to 1973 — battering men killed 17,500 women and children in the United States”(Jones 23). Exactly twice that number, in the same time period, 39,000 men were killed in the Vietnam War. The numbers have not decreased,”in 1991 more than 21,000 domestic assaults, rapes, and murders were reported to the police every week”(23). First time penalties for criminals who commit domestic violence must be harsher and longer.
Historically domestic violence has been seen as “family matters” and the criminal justice system has sought to keep accountability for these crimes in the home rather than using the legal system as a deterrent. Until the 1970’s, due to the feminist’s movement, crimes committed against women by their spouse were seen as less serious than crimes committed by a stranger. Then in the 1980s laws were passed mandating that crimes committed by a spouse were treated like crimes committed by a stranger. This was also due to the fact that lawsuits were being filed against police departments on the basis that they had not presued the full protection of the law for battered women (Groetsch 135). Usually when police were called to the scene of domestic violence they were allowed to use their own judgment which rarely resulted in an arrest. The treatment of women who did report domestic violence was poor. They were scolded and left to feel like it was a joke. The result, even to date, is that women rarely report first time domestic violence (Jacobson and Gottman 212).
Sentences are deterrents for batters. A person who has been found guilty of committing spousal abuse rarely will ever see the inside of a jail cell. This is due largely to the fact of over-crowding in prison; so many times judges will issue therapy instead of a sentence. Sometimes the state will simply sue the defendant as a punishment. The lack of accountability results in repeat offenders. Society has to come to the realization that as the beatings continue, so does their severity. Studies have been shown that “judges are slowly becoming educated about the importance of punishment as a deterrent”(Jacobson and Gottman 210). The fact still stands that the law needs to be re-structured so that it will maximize accountability for criminals who commit domestic violence. These types of assaults are classified as misdemeanors rather than felonies; versus if the assault had been committed by a stranger it is usually a felony. Some people ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” But the fact is that,”the risk of homicide increases when women try to leave”(Jones 204).
Repeater offenders of domestic violence usually cause serious bodily injuries and sometimes death to women. These injuries can range from serve scaring, paralyzation, and not to mention the long-term emotional detriment a battered women will be forever engraved with. For instance,
“Tracy Thurman was twenty-one and had been married for two years. She tried to leave her husband, Charles Thurman, in 1982. She moved to Connecticut where she had grown up. Charles followed Tracey back to her hometown. On one occasion Charles smashed Tracy’s windshield and was sentenced to six months in jail, but instead of serving time he was placed on probation and allowed to return to Virginia even though a restraning order was already in place. On New years Eve a neighbor called Tracy to warn her that her husband was outside her house. Tracey called the police but it resulted in no action being taken. Even though the police had recorded every instance, they said that no action could be taken until a crime had been committed. The fact is he should have been immediately sentenced to six months in jail as violation of probation per the restraining order. Again Tracey was told by a police officer ‘It would be easier for us to act if the two of you were not married.’ This helped to later establish grounds for a lawsuit. She did in fact then file for a divorce and then he threatened to kill her and her son. Ultimately it resulted in her being stabbed thirteen times; leaving her partially paralyzed and disabled for the rest of her life. Subsequently she won a 2.3 million-dollar lawsuit against the police station due to the fact that the police officer on the scene took almost no action in preventing the actions of Charles” (Jacobson and Gottman 206-208).
Our culture seems to hold a common belief that some women bring domestic violence on themselves and in some way “deserve what they get.” The truth is batterers commit violent acts regardless of what a spouse might do or say. For example, one husband came home after work and as his wife opened the door to greet him he punched her in the face because he had a bad day. One therapist told a wife, “If you would stop using that language, perhaps he wouldn’t get so out of control”(Jacobson and Gottman). Statements like this allow the batterer to “minimize the severity of their violent actions”(47). He feels that she is now responsible in some way for his actions, but what is so devastating in this situation is now the wife feels in some way that she did indeed bring it on herself. In this case the women felt the solution was “to be a better wife”(47). Why is it so devastating? Instead of a deterrent being established for the battered in was now the deterrent for the person being battered. This becomes the detrimental trend in women and a backlash for trying to prevent domestic violence in the future.
Some would still argue that therapy should be considered and is, in fact, a reasonable solution to domestic violence. That would be true if it worked. The fact is that the alternative to imprisonment is often a mistake. Studies show that the effectiveness for programs for batterers is very low. Criminals who assault strangers are very rarely given the choice of therapy, yet spouses who abuse their partners are often given this opportunity. One man named Roy was given therapy, which consisted of sixteen weeks of group therapy. He received glowing reports, but after only two months, “Roy came home with a knife almost killing his wife” (Jacobson and Gottman 47). What it comes down to is the punishment has to fit the crime regardless if that person is your spouse or not. The person who commits domestic violence must be accountable for their actions and has to see that the punishment is justified. Though the necessary first step to initiate this type of conceptual thinking is to maximize punishment for first time offenders of domestic violence crimes (48).
Groetsch, Michael. He Promised He’d Stop. Brookfield: CPI Publishing, 1997.
Jacobson, Neil and John Gottman. When Men Batter Women. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.
Jones, Anne. Next Time, She’ll Be Dead. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.