reality check: violence against women

By writing about violence against women, I am demonizing men. So says a nasty commenter, whose content, tone and word choice violated wmtc comment policy.

Some facts.

In Canada:
  • In 88% of all violent incidents, males are identified as the suspects; half of all incidents involve a male perpetrator and a female victim.

  • Women are almost 8 times more likely to be victimized by a spouse than are men.

  • 30% of women currently or previously married have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence at the hands of a marital partner.

  • 21% of women abused by a marital partner were assaulted during pregnancy; 40% of these women stated that the abuse began during their pregnancy.

  • In the US:
  • Estimates range from 960,000 incidents of violence against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend per year to three million women who are physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year.

  • Nearly one-third of American women (31 percent) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives, according to a 1998 Commonwealth Fund survey.

  • Nearly 25 percent of American women report being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime, according to the National Violence Against Women Survey, conducted from November 1995 to May 1996.

  • Thirty percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.

  • Intimate partner violence is primarily a crime against women. In 2001, women accounted for 85 percent of the victims of intimate partner violence (588,490 total) and men accounted for approximately 15 percent of the victims (103,220 total).

  • While women are less likely than men to be victims of violent crimes overall, women are five to eight times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate partner.

  • As many as 324,000 women each year experience intimate partner violence during their pregnancy.

  • Male violence against women does much more damage than female violence against men; women are much more likely to be injured than men.

  • On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day. In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner. The same year, 440 men were killed by an intimate partner.

  • Women are much more likely than men to be killed by an intimate partner. In 2000, intimate partner homicides accounted for 33.5 percent of the murders of women and less than four percent of the murders of men.

  • Pregnant and recently pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause, and evidence exists that a significant proportion of all female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners.

  • Research suggests that injury related deaths, including homicide and suicide, account for approximately one-third of all maternal mortality cases, while medical reasons make up the rest. But, homicide is the leading cause of death overall for pregnant women, followed by cancer, acute and chronic respiratory conditions, motor vehicle collisions and drug overdose, peripartum and postpartum cardiomyopthy, and suicide.

  • Some thoughts.

    Violence in relationships is always wrong. Relationship violence occurs in gay male relationships, lesbian relationships, and heterosexual relationships, with both men and women as perpetrator and victim. In every case, it is equally wrong. However, the most common power dynamic of relationship violence by far is the male perpetrator/female victim. That is by percentage, not raw numbers.

    This is not because men are evil.

    This is because the world we live in defines masculinity in myriad unhealthy and dangerous ways.

    It's because we live in an extremely violent world, in which most people do not learn healthy methods, and are not given appropriate tools, to deal with frustration, anger, and hurt, and instead learn to cope with pain by lashing out violently.

    It's because too many relationships are grossly unequal in power.

    It's because women often feel powerless in relationships with men.

    It's because too many boys see their fathers hit their mothers, and too many girls see their mothers get hit.

    It's because so many people's feelings of self-worth are egg-shell thin, causing a need to dominate others, or causing them to accept violence as a part of life, or to believe they deserve it.

    It's because girls and women learn to direct anger against themselves - leading to depression, low self-esteem, alcoholism, eating disorders, suicide - while boys and men learn to direct anger against others.

    It's because most men are bigger and stronger than their female partners.

    It's because of many things. It's not because men are evil.

    Most rapists are men, but not all men are rapists. Every man is a potential rapist - and every man is a potential force against rape. Every human is a potential murderer - and each of us is a potential force for life and hope.

    Through the women's movement - through feminism - we have come a long, long way from the days when violence at home was a shameful secret. After decades of activism and advocacy, we now see relationship and domestic violence acknowledged and faced openly. This alone is a sea change.

    But how can women stop violence against women when they do not cause it? Men are an obvious, essential and necessary part of the solution.

    Men are standing up against violence in their own lives. And men are reaching out to help others do the same.

    Here, too, change has been enormous. When I was a child, this would have been impossible. Who could ever have imagined a famous person in a professional sport choosing domestic violence as his cause and foundation? Saying, openly, in public, I saw this in my own home, and I want to help stop it.

    Men who think talking about domestic violence in real terms "demonizes" men are missing an opportunity to become part of the solution - to remake the world - to become more fully human.

    But no matter. We will march on without you.

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