The Unholy and Heinous act of the Abuse of Women

 

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bullet.gif (537 bytes) beat the press

Why Don’t More Women Report Abuse?  Should They Report? 

Each year, more than 2 million women become the victim of domestic abuse.

(Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, 1995)

The under-represented, the unassertive, and the meek can’t begin to fight back without being informed.  

     The following is a true story that I felt had to be told. I feel that others should know what the “system” is like for a lot of real people—not the ones you see portrayed in “the movie of the week,” but the ones you meet everyday on the street, in coffee houses, and in the library. This case will let those of you who unquestioningly trust and have false confidence in our system which is alleged to keep women from being beaten or killed and/or sexually harassed and discriminated against within the confines of their castle know that the walls have become paper.  

     After surviving nearly a year of extreme emotional and physical abuse, our victim finally made the decision to break the chain of violence and begin a process of recovery. This case illustrates key answers to questions posed by women who are being abused. Obviously, reporting the violence (assaults) doesn’t always work; the good woman doesn’t always win, and justice often doesn’t prevail. 

     The woman in our story is not what most would consider to be the prototypical domestic abuse victim. She wasn’t poor; she wasn’t uneducated; she didn’t have children, and she wasn’t shy or unassertive. In fact, she was extremely well-educated (almost a doctor), middle-class, assertive, and on the verge of “making it.” She had everything going for her, until she met him. He was attractive, kind at-first, and oh-so charming. He knew just what it took to rip away her self-esteem in order to build up his ugly, violent, impenetrable exterior. If he had a kind and gentle inside, after 2 years, she claims that she never really saw it.

     Intellectually, she knew what was going on.  She had read about “other women” who went through what she was experiencing. He penetrated her world, took away her supports (made her feel like there was no one/nothing else but him), and in their stead, placed himself. Thus, he made her feel that there were no other alternatives to the life that he was cementing her in.  

     This was a woman who had spent her every waking moment furthering her intellectual pursuits. But while she was book-smart, she was not prepared for the likes of him. Further, she had a hidden insecurity.  “Insecurity” is it so hard to say? She had a right to be insecure, to mature, and to grow from her experiences…not run from them. As is normal and customary, there wasn’t anything that her friends or family could say or do which could make her see the wrong in her relationship. Until she could stand back and look objectively at her situation, she could never see the dark world in which she was living.  

     All of the magazine articles, movies, and ad campaigns—they all urged the same thing: report the incidents of violence to the police, get a restraining order, and get away. They warned that until the victim did, the violence would never stop. This leads one to ask: “Is domestic abuse grossly under-reported?”  We think so.  What the media doesn’t tell you is that sex harassment, discrimination and abuse can start out very subtly and can so enmesh a woman in it’s grasp that they become so intimidated, terrified and embarrassed that they feel restrained from even mentioning their victimization.  There is terror in the thought that by revealing their ordeal they will make the situation worse  and expose themselves to the ridicule of non-believers.  Even when a victim does come forward the system frequently questions why she didn’t come forward sooner and why did she deal with the male in the first place.  Thus the victim is essentially placed on trial and her credibility placed into question.   

     What the media also doesn’t tell you is that with all of the “safe houses,” the restraining orders, and the phone calls to the police, an abused woman is always on her own. Law enforcement can’t guarantee protecting her. Restraining orders are only good if they are enforced, and if the men they are directed against are willing to abide by them. “Safe houses” are only safe, if the woman is willing to give up her identity and all that she once was. 

     The truth is that no matter how far the establishment says it has come in recognizing that “spousal” abuse is not just a case of “domestic squabbling” or “he-said versus she-said,” the majority still thinks it is. A letter to Ann Landers, Columnist in The Daily Breeze, by “Flo” highlights the situation:

Despite the fact that my attacker was arrested by the police, there were two eyewitnesses and my injuries required hospital care, the judge said it was a “he-said, she-said” kind of case. The judge then slapped ME with a restraining order, told me not to harass my attacker (not only have I never harassed him, I am terrified of him), and ruled that my attacker didn’t have to pay any court costs or attorney’s fees. 

“Flo’s” attacker was a stranger. What “hidden agenda” could she have had for this man? What must judges think when the victim and the attacker know each other—let alone have had an intimate relationship with one another? It should be no surprise that it takes an inordinately strong and determined woman to “work the system” and find salvation, protection, and justice. 

     Antithetically, women who are being abused, sexually harassed and or/discriminated against are are not in a position psychologically and often financially to be this type of woman. Further, as is the case with most types of victims, including the victim that we assisted, it is the woman--and not the abuser--who is “put on trial.” Often, she is asked:

“Why didn’t (don’t) you leave him?” “What did you do (to deserve it)?” Strangely, though, it is the man who can garner an attorney--often at the public’s expense--to champion his case through the system.  

     There is no one to champion the woman’s case—only if a district or city attorney wishes, will a woman’s case be brought before the “people of the state.” Before this can happen, society wants to see hard, physical evidence of crime before it is willing to say to someone, “you’re guilty.” (Abusers, in the beginning of their relationships, aren’t so giving; they often assault “their” women in ways and in places that aren’t obvious to outsiders.)  

     So, with the cards stacked against her, why should a woman report? Because, it is only when a woman is ready to report that she can begin the process of healing herself. She may not ever see justice served. But reporting is the clearest indicator of a woman’s taking stalk of herself and breaking the chain of violence. Further ,the data when reported becomes evidence which  can eventually help other women by making the crime public (and offering a certain kinship to other women) and by creating a “background” for the offender that might eventually keep him from adding another to his list of victims.” Choosing to report is just that, a “choice.” Women have the right not to report, and reporting isn’t always the best thing to do. Hotline counselors, police, and district attorneys don’t know a woman’s partner as well as the woman does. It should be the woman, the victim, who decides, after weighing the pros and cons, whether or not it would be appropriate to report.  

     If you are a person in an abusive relationship and you want to break the chain, you should know the following: 

1.     Keep a log of the abuse; note the time, day, and injury 

2.     Seal and stow away any physical evidence (e.g., bloody clothing, weapons, tape recordings), and take pictures of bruises, lacerations or other obvious injuries 

3.     If you have been physically assaulted, go to the hospital; staff there are under obligation to report injuries resulting from acts of violence, which also means that police might (should) be called 

4.     Be aware that after you report, and especially if you serve a restraining order, the frequency with which abusive incidents occur may increase; make sure that you have put in place measures to ensure your own safety (e.g., keep an unpredictable schedule, relocate, make family and friends aware of your whereabouts) 

5.     The police will commonly only arrest your abuser for violation of a restraining order if he/she has been observed by the police to break it; it is unlikely that the police will actively go out and arrest your abuser unless a serious crime has been committed 

6.     If the police and/or district attorney will not proceed with prosecution of a restraining-order violation, you can bring the matter before the civil courts; even without your abuser present, a judge can decide that a violation has been committed and he/she can issue a warrant for your abuser’s arrest 

7.     Keep in mind that unless your abuser violates the restraining order by committing a physical assault, he/she will at-best probably receive only a few days in jail as a penalty; this means that you will need to be prepared for when he/she is released 

8.     In some states, if you are willing to report and proceed with criminal prosecution of your abuser (even if the district attorney is unwilling to), you may be entitled to receive help (e.g., compensation for loss of work for court appearances, and reimbursement for medical/psychological services associated with your injuries) from a “victim’s assistance” program

     To summarize, we believe that it should be up to the woman/victim to decide whether or not she would report domestic abuse. Often, pursing a case through the criminal justice system can be long, tedious and unfruitful. However, an abusive relationship is definitely unhealthy and many times, becomes deadly. Abused women need help. And this help (e.g., from programs like victim’s assistance) should not be contingent upon whether or not a woman chooses to report.  

“If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning.” Aristotle Onassis

by Dr. Scott David Neff BA BS MPS MSOM DC DABCO CFE FFABS FFAAJTS       

© & TM 1998 American Academy for Justice Through Science. All rights reserved.

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