Chapter Two – Who Are the Victims of Domestic Violence
Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse. There have been incidences of abuse among all ethnic groups, income levels, religions and sexual orientation.
Females are more likely to be abused than men, but that does not mean men cannot be the victims of abuse. It is important to note that abuse is a behavior that must be changed in the abuser, not in the family.
There has often been a myth that abuse is a family problem and that changes must be made throughout the family in order to end the abuse. The fact is that only the abuser can stop the violence.
Shocking National Victim Statistics
- Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States. (Tjaden, P., and N. Thoennes. Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women; Findings from the NVAW Survey, 2000)
- National Crime Victimization Survey found that about 85 percent of victimizations by intimate partners in 1998 were against women. (Rennison, C.M. Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Feb. 2003)
- Intimate partner homicides make up 40 to 50 percent of all murders of women in the United States. In 70 to 80 percent of intimate partner homicides, no matter which partner was killed, the man physically abused the woman before the murder. (“Assessing Risk Factors for Intimate Partner Homicide.” NIJ, November 2003“)
- BJS reports that 30 percent of female homicide victims are murdered by their intimate partners compared with 5 percent of male homicide victims, and that 22 percent of victims or non-fatal intimate partner violence victims are female, but only 3 per cent are male. (Catalano, Shannan, Intimate Partner Violence in the United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006)
- Women ages 18 to 34 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.
- More than 4 million women experience physical assault and rape by their partners.
- In 2 out of 3 female homicide cases, females are killed by a family member or intimate partner.
Why Women Stay
There are as many reasons that women remain in abusive relationships as there are abusive relationships. Remember, an abuser works very hard to make the abused person feel that they are not worthy of anyone else. The abused person may no longer have any self-esteem. This leads them to feel paralyzed or unable to make adequate decisions. They may be afraid that it will be even worse for them outside the relationship. Some women stay for the children, believing that living in an abusive home is better than an broken home. They may also fear the abusive partner will take the children or turn the children against them.
For some reason, staying is due to financial factors. They may not be permitted to work or may work at a job where they cannot afford to support themselves and their children without income from the abuser. Many are afraid they cannot afford legal representation necessary to divorce the partner or to fight for custody of children.
Still other women believe that they can change the abusive behavior. They feel that if they stay, the abuser will be able to get help or that their support will convince them that the abuse is wrong. The abuser may have threatened suicide.
One of the biggest reasons that women stay is that the abuser has threatened them in some way. They may have threatened to kill them, their children or their family if they leave. The fact is that the two weeks after a battered woman leaves her partner is the most dangerous time in the relationship. Women are 70 times more likely to be killed during that period that at any other time they are with the abuser.
The Progression of Domestic Violence
There is a progression of domestic violence that often leads women to stay, even after the abuse has gotten physical. An abused person often tries to rationalize the abuse in their minds. As the abuse increases, the reasons the victim stays change as well. This progression occurs whether the victim is male or female.
First, she stays because:
- She loves him.
- She believes he’ll grow up or change.
- She believes she can control the beatings by doing as he says: cleaning the house, keeping the children quiet, having dinner on time, etc.
- She believes she can convince him that she loves him and thereby end his jealousy.
- She believes it is her duty to make the relationship work.
- She believes him when he says he’s sorry and won’t do it again.
- She’s afraid of what will happen if the police get involved.
Later, she stays because:
- She loves him, though less.
- She believes he loves and needs her.
- She believes she can’t support herself.
- She’s under pressure from family or friends to stay.
- She hopes he’ll change or get help.
- She is increasingly afraid of her partner’s violence.
Finally, she stays because:
- She believes no on can love her.
- She believes she can’t survive alone.
- She believes she has no control over her own life.
- She feels hopeless and helpless, having no options.
- She has developed serious emotional and physical problems.
- She becomes depressed and immobile; decisions are difficult, sometimes impossible.
- She becomes suicidal or homicidal.
- He has become tremendously powerful in her eyes, and she is afraid.
- He threatens to kill her, the children, or her family.
Domestic Violence Within Gay Relationships
Research indicates that domestic violence among homosexual couples is a growing issue and those who are victims rarely report the violence to police. Because domestic abuse has been portrayed as a woman’s issue, many homosexual males are reluctant to report when a partner has been violent with them. In addition, because there is already a backlash against homosexuals in some communities, a gay person may be fearful that they will make the gay and lesbian community look bad, as if they are “airing dirty laundry,” very much like heterosexual domestic violence was viewed not that long ago.
According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control in 2013, bisexual men and women have a higher incidence of domestic violence than others. Approximately 75 percent of bisexual women had a violent partner while 47 percent of bisexual men had a partner who was violent. Only 46 percent of homosexual women and 43 percent of straight women reported violence in a relationship, while 40 percent of gay men and 21 percent of straight men reported a violent partner.
Domestic Violence and the Elderly
It is not only domestic partners who can suffer from abuse. When someone exerts power and control to inflict injury or harm, whether it is physical, sexual, emotional or financial, on a person who is elderly, it also falls under domestic abuse. The abuser can be a spouse, a child, extended family or a caregiver. Like all other types of abuse, it can occur at all income levels, in all ethnic groups and at all education levels.
The abuse is similar with the abuser using threats, intimidation and violence to control an elderly person. They often isolate the older person, keeping them from seeing other family members and they are often in control of the older person’s finances. Too often, the older person has no method for reaching out for help, especially if they are ill or frail. This makes it difficult for them to seek assistance for the abuse.
Almost every state has mandatory reporting policies when it comes to elder abuse. Therefore, if someone suspects that an elder friend or relative may be the victim of abuse, they are required to report the suspicions to authorities who must investigate the complaint. Unfortunately, some victims may be afraid they will be forced to leave their home for assisted living facilities and may not be willing to discuss abuse with officials. If the abuser is a spouse or child, they may be reluctant to report the abuse out of a sense of family. For some generations, discussing family issues may be difficult as they were raised to keep family matters private.
Once the reasons that a victim may remain in an abusive relationship, whether they are heterosexual, homosexual or elderly, it is important to understand what makes someone an abuser. There are many reasons why someone may become abusive, and understanding what caused them to develop those tendencies can go a long way toward helping them overcome their violent outbursts.