Week 11 post — Sophia Belletti

Unreported violence between intimate partners from 1998 and 2002 accounted for 49 percent of all family violence. Minority women report higher rate of IPV: 20 percent of minority and poor women reported an incident in 2000, according to Tjaden and Thoennes. Intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to the physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse that takes place between intimate partners. The authors of this book chose not to use the term domestic violence because they are not referring to violence that occurs between other members of the domestic household, such as the abuse of children by parents. In addition, the term domestic implies a shared residence. Yet many of the casualties of IPV do not live together and often when they do live together, the violence began before they moved in together or got married. FInally, they choose the term intimate partner rather than domestic in order to highlight the nature of the relationship — these are intimate partners who claim to love each other — regardless of their marital status. IPV is present in both marital and cohabiting relationships. We will not differentiate between this legal status, but rather will focus on the intimate nature of their relationship. Intimate partner violence kills 1,500 women per year and sends millions to the local emergency rooms for medical treatment, according to statistics from 2003. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, second-wave feminists began to draw attention to the situation of domestic violence and its victims.


The most common factor across all of these various forms of violence is the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim: The perpetrator always has more power than the victim. Parents abuse their children, older siblings abuse younger siblings, male siblings abuse female siblings, adult children abuse aging parents and husbands abuse wives. This pattern reveals at least two key elements to family violence, whatever form it takes. First, that power provides a license to abuse (powerful people are rarely held accountable for victimizing less powerful people) and violence is an effective strategy for controlling the behavior of other family members.


Although some women beat their male partners, and although some families live with what can be best characterized as mutual combat, a term coined by Gelles and Strauss in 1988.

Intimate partner violence is a direct outcome of a social system dominated by patriarchy, one of the challenges is to explain mutual combat or situational couple violence — the times when women initiate the violence or hit back. When examining intimate partner violence, the authors examine the systems of racism, sexism and classism and how they intersect and become mutually reinforcing. Intimate partner violence is not simply structured by a system of patriarchy. It is also structured by a system of racial superiority and by the intersections of these two systems. When men feel emasculated, they often will try to reassert their masculinity through violence. One of the outcomes of patriarchy is the requirement that men be the breadwinner in the families.


The lack of positive models for a romantic, intimate relationship may, in fact, be one mechanism by which intergenerational transmission is occurring, although we would never suggest that this is the only mechanism or process of work.


Men who batter are of all races and ethnicities, all ages, all levels of education and all different occupations and they live in all different regions of the country. The authors of this book argue that if anything distinguishes batters from men who don’t batter, it is two things: Men who batter are well-socialized into hypermasculinity and triggers to battering can be best understood primarily as threats to batterers’ masculinity. The most cited attempt at understanding African American male masculinity and the issues surrounding it comes from Majors and Bilson who argue that “Cool Pose” is an attempt to make African American males visible. “Cool Pose is a ritualized form of masculinity that entails behaviors, scripts, physical posturing, impression management and carefully crafted performances that deliver a single critical message: pride, strength and control. It case the worry and pain of blocked opportunities. Being cool is an ego booster for Black males comparable to the kind White males more easily find through attending good schools, landing prestigious jobs and bringing home decent wages.”


The key issues both batterers and battered women identify as triggers to battering are men’s successes in breadwinning and the bedroom —  the two Bs.

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