Amorphous system beats, kills women and children!

The Denver Post today ran an AP story on the increase of domestic violence over the past few months, which some attribute to “the ailing economy”:

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. — Some hospitals report seeing more than twice as many shaken babies as a year ago. Deaths from domestic violence have increased sharply in some areas.

Calls to domestic-violence hotlines have risen too, and more than half the callers said their families’ financial situation has changed recently.

Across the country, these and other signs point to another troubling effect of the recession: The American home is becoming more violent, and the ailing economy could be at least partially to blame.

“Our children and families are suffering,” said Alane Fagin, who runs a Long Island nonprofit group called Child Abuse Prevention Services. “With more layoffs expected, the threat of foreclosure looming over so many and our savings disappearing, even the best parents can feel stressed out and overwhelmed.”

But who, who, who could be doing this, and how can we stop it?  This article doesn’t seem interested in letting us know until the very last paragraph: 

Amy Wicks, a spokeswoman with the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, said her organization has received reports from pediatricians across the country concerned about a spike in cases.

“It’s not just shaken baby; it’s other forms of physical abuse,” Wicks said. “A lot of fathers, or male caregivers, have been laid off, and now they’re home with the screaming baby. Sometimes the stress of a crying baby is just too much on top of everything else.”

manwithgunOhhhhh–it’s not domestic violence.  It’s male violence against women and children we’re talking about!  Why didn’t you say so?  Maybe because few people have pointed out the shocking epidemic of men who are killing not just their wives or girlfriends, but their children and/or other family members as well?  (For just a few recent examples, see here, here, here, here, here, and here–and I’m sure you can find other examples that I’ve missed.  Erica Barnett has a nice post here about how the media narrative is all about the women “precipitating” the attack by taking steps to leave the relationship, rather than the man’s history of abusing the women and children.)   I wonder why it is that “the economy” doesn’t cause women to pick up guns and assassinate their entire families or beat up their husbands and boyfriends?

Oh well–I guess we’ll never know, since no one ever wants to point out the bloody obvious:  women and children are overwhelmingly more likely to be the victims rather than the perpetrators of “domestic violence,” the perpetrators are overwhelmingly adult men who victimize their own families, and guns are overwhelmingly likely to be the causes of fatal violence.  I’m all for systemic studies of violence in the home–I just don’t get why we can’t talk about this as a problem caused overwhelmingly and obviously by men, and especially, men with guns.

14 thoughts on “Amorphous system beats, kills women and children!

  1. There is so much to say about this — But I think an important starting point is the way that gender and relationships are presumed to work in our society. Many people have noted that women in abusive relationships are often encouraged to remain in their abusive relationship by their closest friends and family.

    There is also a link between sex and violence (or making violence sexy) that gets almost no examination anymore.


  2. But Historiann, if the baby only knew how stressed papa was, it would stop crying. Blame the baby. . .

    Anyway, I second Squadrato. The real thing is that domestic violence is a term for a phenomenon, but there are actors. Just as there is a football team, but usually we talk about particular players.


  3. Here’s a question, and one I doubt will get any examination: how might this play out in same-sex couples, with or without children. Anecdotally, the dynamics in families where one female partner is the primary caretaker for the children are pretty similar to what they are in heterosexual situations, if there is domestic violence. I have absolutely no idea for rates of domestic violence between gay male couples.


  4. Ditto. I’m always horrified by the media/social gloss that is blind to the fact that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators in DV cases. Another one that gets me: when the media puts up this big hooha about a woman teacher and a young male – after generations of it being male teachers hitting on students, that’s not news.

    What would happen if we went back to calling it wife/child beating/abuse and quit hiding it behind DV?


  5. Belle–you know, I’ve just been thinking along the same lines about the language we use (“domestic violence” instead of “murder,” “assault,” “rape,” etc.) The somewhat clinical and dispassionate term “domestic violence” also puts emphasis on the “domestic” nature of the “violence”–as though the fact that it happens in domestic space and/or within a family relationship is an important qualifier of the violence.

    The effect of this is like what happens to the word “rape” when you call the crime “acquaintance rape” or “date rape.” It undermines the notion that a woman wasn’t consenting, so therefore it calls into question the use of the term “rape.” How is it any less of a “rape” if a woman knows the perp or has even in the past had a consensual sexual relationship with him? (Oh, yeah: and the fact that most rape victims know their attackers makes it a handy way not to have to prosecute rapists! Because we all know that the biggest problem with rape is that women might accuse a man falsely…)

    Susan’s comment gets at this victim-blaming rather than perp-blaming angle too: yes, let’s blame those stupid crying babies! Why can’t they just STFU when daddy says so?


  6. Terms like “domestic violence” and “date rape” add a level of abstraction and ‘rationalisation’ that serves to obscure the true nature of the crime, I think. The false rape accusation thing drives me mad. Women are assaulted and raped every day and rate at best a few lines on the inside pages of the paper, but the (very occasional) false complaint gets front page headlines and is usually accompanied by fevered calls for a review of evidence laws and police procedure. Where I live, there has recently been a fairly serious campaign to return to the bad old days of requiring some sort of 3rd party/independent corroboration for a rape complaint to even be investigated by the police.


  7. Another place the male perpetrator gets hidden is in take back the night marches which have become co-ed events focusing on violence against everybody. This is the announcement from the Columbia/Barnard TBTN rally:

    “The mission of Take Back the Night March and Speakout is to break the silence about sexual violence by inviting the Morningside Heights community to gather together, as survivors, allies, family, friends, neighbors and strangers, to support each other and protest the violence that affects all of us. The march is an opportunity to re-claim the streets of New York City, the neighborhood of Morningside Heights, and the Columbia campus as safe spaces. After the march, we host a Speakout, during which community members speak anonymously about their experiences. The march is wheelchair accessible. Free childcare will be provided. ASL signer will be present during pre-march rally.”

    It isn’t about violence against women by men. It’s about amorphous “violence that affects all of us.” It’s about reclaiming the streets of NY as “safe spaces” for, apparently, everybody. That’s a problem, IMO.


  8. Emma–good point. I hadn’t realized that TBTN marches pretended that violence in public spaces was an equal opportunity thing. (I don’t mind TBTN being used to highlight violence against LBGTQ people–the issues that transgender people, gay men, and lesbians face with attacks on them because of their sexuality are similar to those faced by women. But let’s not pretend that everyone is affected equally.)


  9. I sought support for getting out of a violent relationship and what people, including experts, had to say was that there was no point in getting out because if I was in such a relationship now, I’d seek another as soon as I left this one.


  10. Pingback: Let’s play “What’s Wrong with This Headline?” : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  11. Pingback: Wrung out. | Historiann

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