Battered wives

To determine the amount and types of violence in U. S. homes, sociologists have interviewed nationally representative samples of U. S. couples (Straus, 1992). Although not all sociologists agree, Murray Straus concludes that husbands and wives are about equally likely to attack one another. When it comes to the effects of violence, however, gender equality certainly vanishes. As Straus points out, even though she may throw the coffeepot first, it is generally he who lands the last and most damaging blow.

Consequently, many more wives than husbands seek medical attention because of marital violence. A good part of the reason, of course, is that most husbands are bigger and stronger than their wives, putting women at a disadvantage in this literal battle of the sexes. Violence against women is related to the sexist structure of society and to socialization. Growing up with norms that encourage aggression and the use of violence, many men feel it is their right to control women.

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When frustrated in a relationship or even by causes outside it, many men turn violently on their wives and lovers. The basic question is how to socialize males to handle frustration and disagreements without resorting to violence and this has not been answered yet. This paper will be discussing battered women and battered women syndrome in relationship to crime and deterrence. Battering of Women: The characteristics of assaulting a spouse or love suggest low deterrability. The behavior appears to be irrational, expressive, quite violent and likely to take place in private.
It is often pointed out that the act historically has been culturally condoned and arguably continues so to some degree. Given a theoretical framework generally suggesting low deterrability, the outcome of the Minneapolis Domestic Violence experiment (Sherman & Berk, 1984) was quite surprising. The design of this important study provided for random assignment of three police responses to cases of misdemeanor domestic assault, the arrest of the offender, separation of the parties and some sort of advice, including mediation.
Police officers responding to domestic violence calls were instructed to intervene as dictated by the color of the form appearing at the top of the report pad. Cases were then followed for six months to determine if the assaulter’s recidivated, as measured by additional reports to the police and periodic interviews with the victims. The lowest rate of repeat assaults, 13% was obtained when the offenders had been arrested, a middle level, 18. 2% followed advice or mediation, while the highest incidence of new assaults came after separation.
The researchers concluded that “swift imposition of a sanction of temporary incarceration may deter male offenders in domestic assault cases…In short; criminal justice sanctions seem to matter for this offense in this setting with this group of experienced offenders” (Sherman & Berk, 1984, p. 270). Special deterrence was thought to be operating even for this theoretically unpromising type of crime. The Minneapolis study, in combination with feminist activism and civil suits seeking equal protection of the laws for battered women had an unprecedented impact on police policy.
Arrest became the preferred policy for misdemeanor domestic assault cases in most large U. S. police departments and remains the norm. Arrests of men who had committed misdemeanor assaults against their partners moved from a rarity in 1984 when the study was reported to the typical response well before the close of the decade. Ironically the changes in law have also led to dramatic increases in arrests of women, and have created a sense of ambivalence among some feminist criminologists (Chesney-Lind, 2002).
While the impact of the Minneapolis experiment, combined with other social forces, was rapid and substantial, a series of six replication studies reflected the complexity of the concept of deterrence. Lively debate was stimulated because the conclusions of the evaluators of these six studies were quite divergent. While some found special deterrent effects of arrest, albeit weaker, others did not. Still others found that arrest increased recidivism among marginal offenders, those who may have felt they had nothing to lose.
In Milwaukee, for example, unemployed suspects were more likely to assault their partners again if arrested (Sherman, Schmidt, Rogan, Smith, Gartin, Cohn, Collins & Bacich, 1992). The evidence for deterring the crime of misdemeanor assaults of women in domestic settings is mixed and complex. The consensus seems to be that there is some special deterrent effect, varying by characteristics of the offender. Unfortunately, differences in deterrability by persons, even when clearly understood, complicate the task of policy development.
If arrest deters some assaulters, but escalates the violence of others, police policy for responding to these crimes becomes far more difficult to formulate. Policy changes in the area of police responses to woman battering have been one of the most dramatic within criminal justice in recent decades. The policy directive of most U. S. police departments has shifted from one of arrest avoidance for misdemeanor assault of intimate partners, to a presumptive arrest standard. In other words, rather than having to justify an arrest as exceptional, an officer must defend a non-arrest decision when a woman is the victim of a minor assault.
The public opinion for these changes is mixed (Brown, 1990). Battered Woman Syndrome: Women who are victims of violence from husbands and live-in male companions increasingly are being brought within the scope of criminological study. Earlier such events were regarded by the male-dominated realm of law enforcement and the equally male-dominated real of social science as private affairs, best left in the shadows. There was a wild myth that women enjoyed being hit, interpreting it as attention, and therefore a sign of caring. Some victims who are beaten may respond with seeming indifference.
Women who are beaten, particularly lower-class women may not see themselves as real victims, but merely as suffering the usual lot of a woman. The problem of wife beating did not command the public attention it now receives because of startling increases in such violence, but rather because of a shift in public sentiment. By capitalizing on the expansionist interests in the social work, mental health, and legal professions, and offering a good subject for the media, special interest groups convinced people that there was a problem demanding attention.
Hundreds of shelters for battered women that provided an alternative to remaining with abusive males soon were opening (Walker, 2000). Today the battered woman syndrome sometimes is successfully introduced into criminal trials to excuse a woman who killed her husband after being subjected to intense abuse over a considerable period of time. Many men take exception to such acquittals, insisting that the use of lethal force is a disproportionate response; after all assault is not a capital offense. They also may argue that the women could have departed rather than killed.
Many women take strong exception to this male position. They insist that the victims of domestic violence lose their self-respect, their judgment, and that they retaliate out of desperation (Chan, 2001). In the past few years, considerable national attention has been given to the issue of how to handle persons who kill spouses or loves, who abuse them. In some states women convicted of killing their husbands after years of abuse have been granted clemency and released from prison. Jurisdictions have differed in their treatment of the battered women syndrome defense.
Some courts have refused to admit evidence of the syndrome. Others have admitted it for limited purposes, such as to show the inability of a woman to assist her attorney in her defense (Walker, 2000). Conclusion: It has been estimated that over 1. 5 million wives in this country are severely beaten by their husbands annually (Strauss, 1992), and such figures may underestimate the number of actual cases. Women in cohabiting relationships are even more likely than wives to be battered, although the reasons for this are not at all clear.
Sympathy for battered women may be difficult to come by in light of widespread tendencies to blame the victim for staying with, going back to, or not walking out on an abusive husband or lover. Years of exploration have addressed the question of why abused women stay with abusers. Proposed explanations, none of them entirely satisfactory, have included reference to the victims economic dependency, the victims tendencies to place blame on themselves, not the batterers and a vicious circle of abuse leading to lowered self-esteem on the part of the victim, which in turn leads to greater abuse.
But because there is a strong tendency for domestic violence to recur and in some cases to become progressively more severe over time victims must be strongly encouraged to seek professional and or legal assistance at the very first sign that their spouses or lovers are batterers and this is despite any promises, protests, excuses, apologies or vows never to do it again on the part of the batterers. Reference: Brown, S. E. (1990). “Police responses to wife beating: Five years later”.
Journal of Criminal Justice,18, 459-462. Chan, W. (2001). Women, Murder, and Justice. New York: Palgrave. Chesney-Lind, M. (2002). “Criminalizing victimization: The unintended consequences of pro-arrest polices for girls and women”. Criminology & Public Policy, 1, 81- 90. Sherman , L. W. & Burk, R. A. (1984). “ The specific deterrent effects of arrest for domestic assault”. American Sociological Review, 49, 261-272. Sherman, L. W. , Schmidt, J. D. , Rogan, D.
P. , Smith, D. A. , Gartin, P. R. , Cohn, E. G. , Collins, D. J. & Bacich, A. R. (1992). “The variable effects of arrest on criminal careers: The Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment”. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 83, 170-200. Strauss, M. A. (1992). “Explaining family violence”. In Marriage and Family in a Changing Society, 4th. Ed. New York: Free Press, 344-356. Walker, L. E. A. (2000). The Battered Women Syndrome, 2nd. Ed. New York: Springer


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