When one man beats his wife, it is interpersonal violence, but when a million men beat their wives, it is structural violence. Something within society is perpetuating or unconsciously condoning domestic abuse. In the United States the number of families where domestic violence is present is estimated to be around 10 million. For many women, home is the most unsafe place they can be.
Would it surprise you to know that men in prison are less likely to be raped than the average woman in a relationship? The probability of being raped in prison has been estimated to be anywhere from 4-7% while nearly 10% of women have reported being raped by an intimate partner. “I had no choice but to submit to being [a] wife. Out of fear for my life, I submitted to sucking his d**k, being f****d in my ass, and performing other duties as a woman, such as making his bed. In all reality, I was his slave.” The quote below illustrates the shared experience of women who are domestically abused and male rape in prison.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 1 in 4 women have experienced physical violence from an intimate partner. Emotional abuse exists in almost all relationships that display physical violence. Verbal abuse, withholding access to food, medication, or money, threatening family members, stalking are all common practices of an abuser. Rape, sexual abuse, and sexual humiliation are common in relationships where intimate partner violence occurs.
Many professionals explore the dynamics of interpersonal violence and speculate the reasons abusers abuse their partners. The theory is that abusers may feel a need to control their partner because of low self-esteem, extreme jealousy, use of drugs or alcohol, difficulties in regulating anger, or feeling inferior to their partner in education and socioeconomic standing (their female partner is smarter and/or more successful than they are). Conversely, women stay with abusers because they have low self-esteem, have been raised or conditioned to tolerate abuse, naively believe their partner will change, or are caught up in the cycle of relationship violence. Violence against woman has been present in society since times immemorial. Calling it “domestic” violence perpetuates the notion that the violence is an interpersonal issue between two dysfunctional people. Reframing domestic abuse and intimate partner violence as patriarchal violence more accurately explains the roles of sexist ideology and male domination in the pervasiveness of violence against woman.
Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?
Structural gender inequality imposes to many barriers for women when they try to leave abusive relationships. Despite the general sentiment that women should leave their abusers, they are actually at an increased risk for violence after they leave or attempt to leave. Women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship. Nearly half of all women who are murdered die at the hands of their current or former partners. In 70-80% of intimate partner homicides, no matter which partner was killed, the man physically abused the woman before the murder. The courts and the police offer little protection. The most common response to domestic violence by the police and the courts is a restraining order, or a protective order; a document that identifies the perpetrator as a potential threat to one victim (not to society in general) and instructs the abuser to have no physical or verbal contact with the victim Though the information is inconclusive, 11% -25% of woman (depending on the study) had active restraining orders at the time of their murder. Though there is some evidence of long-term benefit to a restraining order, initially there is a 21% chance of an escalation in violent behavior after an order of protection is issued. What we do know conclusively about restraining orders is that they can’t guarantee safety as much as putting the perpetrator in jail. Less than 2% of abusers ever receive any jail time.