Violence Against Women in Intimate Relationships
Domestic violence is a conscious behavior in which acts of violence and aggression are carried out by one person in a relationship to dominate the other. This violence consists of deliberate verbal, sexual, emotional, psychological, and physical abuse, along with social and economic deprivation. Statistics and studies show victims of domestic violence are mostly women and their children, but men are victims as well. Friends, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and even family members are capable of demonstrating domestic violence. This widespread practice negatively affects gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight individuals of all ages, cultures, and social backgrounds.
Violent and abusive relationships are often problematic for many women to escape, and it is sad to see that these women must undergo additional setbacks including race and class struggles. The specific issues that contribute to the difficulty of leaving an abusive partner include economic and financial instability, child custody issues, language barriers, and lack of ethnically sensitive services. Girlfriends and wives who are dependent upon their abusive partner’s income have a harder time escaping the abuse, because they do not have money to support themselves independently. If the woman has a child with her partner, this poses an even more difficult situation because she would have to consider the child’s needs. In result, if the woman has no one else to turn to, she must stay and suffer the abusive environment. Wen Lin and Imm Tan’s essay “Holding Up More Than Half the Heavens,” addresses the lack of multicultural and multilingual services for battered Asian Pacific American women. “In the entire United States, only two shelters exist for Asian Pacific American women” (Wen Lin and Imm Tan, 464). Their essay brings to light the issue of who is taken into women’s shelters and who is turned away. Women of different cultures who cannot speak English are the individuals being deprived of shelter services often “because of language and cultural difficulties or sheer racism” (Wen Lin and Imm Tan, 464). “The language barrier, in effect, shuts out most refugee and immigrant women” (Wen Lin and Imm Tan, 464). Shelters are these women’s last hope, and once they are refused help, they must return to violence in their homes once again. As you can imagine, the men will most likely be furious upon their return, giving way to more beatings and emotional abuse. These women will remain silenced and unable to escape because “of the domestic violence resources availablefew have staff who speak Asian Pacific languages” (Wen Lin and Imm Tan, 464).
The abuse and violence experienced in the homes of battered women and children produce many psychological effects. The environment in which they live is neither supportive nor consoling. Del Martin’s “A Letter From A Battered Wife”, reveals a battered mother’s feeling of shame, hysteria, and helplessness. In her letter, she writes, “No one wants to take in a woman with four childrenno one wants to become involved ina domestic situation” (Martin, 454). This woman and thousands other battered women, feel that there is no one to turn to. The mentality of “no one understands or cares” drives battered women mad. “Hysteria inevitably sets in after a beatingthe shaking and crying and mumbling is not accepted by anyone, so there has never been anyone to call” (Martin, 454). Low self-esteem and loss of identity are also amongst psychological effects experienced by battered women. In Latina Anonima’s “La Princesa”, she looks back at an abusive relationship in her early college years and states, “I do not identify, much less connect, with the experiences I’ve just recounted. It’s as if they belong to someone else” (464). Women in violent relationships are forced to become someone they’re not, and perform acts they do not identify with. This is what shocks them most when they look back at their experiences.
Let us not forget another major group of individuals equally affected by domestic violence, children. At young ages, some children are exposed to domestic violence in their homes, in which potentially harmful psychological effects develop. Loss of identity, intense fear, need for approval, and blaming one’s self are some effects that can develop in adolescence. Since they are of young age, these effects can be carried with them well into their future and cause problems in adulthood. “Countdown”, written by Lanette Fisher-Hertz, is the story of a young girl named Cassie, whose mother is in a relationship with an abusive man. During the course of her mother’s relationship, Cassie loses her sense of identity. As a child, it is natural to play with friends, have fun, and laugh. Cassie is not able to make friends and play because she is constantly stuck inside the apartment with her mother. Although Crew, her mother’s boyfriend, was violent at times, he still had “good days” and Cassie loved him. Cassie did things that she knew would not provoke him, and when she pleased him, she received recognition. She brought him ice-cold beers and felt special “when she’d seen Crew smile and relaxas she waved her arms up and down in front of him” (Fisher-Hertz, 458). Cassie lived for Crew’s approval. One day, Cassie’s mother asks her to watch over dinner, but she decides to go outside and play. As Cassie yells in excitement to kids playing across the street, a car hits her. When the ambulance arrives, the first thing she says is “Please don’t tell, can someone check the dinner? I’m supposed to be watching it” (Fisher-Hertz, 458). Even after being hit by a car, this child is worried about her mother and her boyfriend. This is an example of a child being too consumed with failure and approval. At such a young age, they should not have to experience such a lifestyle. The child almost feels that their failure is responsible for the violence. Seeking approval can cause problems for children in adulthood because they will grow up living for others and not themselves.
Ann Jones’ essay titled “Battering: Who’s Going to Stop It?” provides a series of answers as to how women can be freed from domestic violence, and in addition, what and who is responsible for this freeing. She first acknowledges the efforts of domestic violence survivors stating, “Never before in history has there been such an organization of crime victims to rescue other victims and prevent further crimes” (Jones, 452). Jones encourages victims to share their stories to continuously provide other battered women with strength to speak out as well. Jones also gives credit to shelters because “they have provided safe havenfor millions of women and their childrenthey have saved thousands of lives” (Jones, 452). She then calls upon the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and The Battered Women’s Movement, which has aided in freeing women from the violence by bringing “battering out of the private household and into the spotlight of public debate” (Jones, 452). Lastly, Jones expresses the necessity of a national campaign “to go after men at faultand send them to jail” (Jones, 452).
After reading the essays on “Violence Against Women in Intimate Relationships,” pp.447-467, I now know the ways in which I can take an active role in fighting to free women from domestic violence. “Domestic Violence “is not an isolated issue. It is not a private family affair” (Wan Lin and Imm Tan, 466). This is what battered women need to know. If they remain silenced, they will remain at the hands of their abuser and possibly risk their life along with their children’s lives. We can help women escape domestic violence in many ways, starting with encouraging them to speak out and report cases of abuse and assault. Indeed, it is challenging to help a battered woman who fears her partner will find out that she is getting help, but we can reassure her and safely provide counseling and shelter. However, in order for this to happen, more shelters and organizations must be established. More volunteers are needed which is where many of us can help. Multilingual centers, programs, and shelters are also a necessity because thousands of women who cannot speak English are without help. Domestic Violence does not affect one specific race; it affects individuals of all cultures and ethnicities. Therefore, the services provided for battered women must serve all cultures as well. In doing so, thousands of more lives can be saved. If we speak a different language, we can look into organizations that may be looking for volunteer translators to help speak to non-English speaking women. I also feel that teenage girls should be offered an awareness program to educate them on early signs of violent and unhealthy relationships. This may help them avoid a potentially abusive relationship. Programs can also provide battered women with tips on how to prosecute an abuser because if arrests are made, “prosecutors commonly fail to prosecuteamong assaulted men arrestedless than 1 percent (0.9 percent) served any time in jail”(Jones, 452). Any effort to speak out about domestic violence, pass out flyers, or broadcast commercials will help women get out of the darkness. We must all rise up and help domestic violence victims realize that they do have rights and there is a way out.
Anonima, Latina., “La Princesa.” Kesselman, McNair, and Nancy Schneidwind, eds. Women: Images and Realities, a Multicultural Anthology. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
Fisher-Hertz, Lanette., “Countdown.” Kesselman, McNair, and Nancy Schneidwind, eds. Women: Images and Realities, a Multicultural Anthology. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
Imm Tan, Cheng., and Margareta Wan Lin., “Holding Up More Than Half the Heavens.” Kesselman,
McNair, and Nancy Schneidwind, eds. Women: Images and Realities, a Multicultural Anthology.
3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
Jones, Ann., “Battering: Who’s Going to Stop It?” Kesselman, McNair, and Nancy Schneidwind eds. Women: Images and Realities, a Multicultural Anthology. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
Kesselman, McNair, and Nancy Schneidwind, eds. Women: Images and Realities, a Multicultural Anthology.
3rd ed. New York: McGraw- Hill, 2003.
Martin, Del., “A Letter From a Battered Wife.” Kesselman, McNair, and Nancy Schneidwind, eds.
Women: Images and Realities, a Multicultural Anthology. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.