Chapter 5 in the text examines the complex issue of intimate partner violence (IPV) among African Americans. Between the years 1998 to 2002, 49 percent of family violence cases were between intimate partners. In the book, authors Angela Hattery and Earl Smith make a point to refer to violence between partners as intimate partner violence rather than domestic violence. They state that domestic violence typically refers to any violence occurring in a household between family members (this would include child abuse, for example). Intimate partner violence is between two people who supposedly love each other, whether living together or not.
As stated in the text, “intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to the physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse that takes place between intimate partners” (86). Approximately 1,500 women are killed each year in the United States as a result of intimate partner violence. Many others suffer injuries of varying degrees, many of which end up in the hospital for treatment.
Prior to the 1970s, intimate partner violence was generally kept quiet and secret. It was a problem that was kept in the family; dealt with in privacy. It was basically legal for husbands to physically beat and assault their wives “as long as they didn’t kill them or the violence didn’t get out of hand” (87). However, as the 1970s drew to a close and the 1980s began, second wave feminists began shining light on the big problem of IPV. One way in which IPV was brought to light was through scholarly writings about these issues. It was then that IPV began to get talked about and researched.
Researchers Richard Gelles and Murray Straus, who developed the family violence paradigm, state that “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” (88). Gelles and Straus also found that there were generally two key issues involved with IPV within families. Power allows people to abuse those less powerful, and inflicting violence on others (in one’s family) “is an effective strategy for controlling” their behavior (89). Another point made by Hattery and Smith is that violence amongst family members often goes unchallenged or un-punished. Family members often know they can get away with various forms of violence because of this. It can be especially difficult to turn a family member in to the police, as is often seen with cases of known child sexual abusers within a family.
The term mutual combat refers to IPV exchanged between two people in an intimate relationship. Although rare, this can be seen when a man is abusive towards a woman and she is also abusive towards him; they abuse each other. According to the authors, “feminists argue that IPV is a direct outcome of a social system dominated by patriarchy,” meaning that the majority of IPV is perpetrated against women by men (89).
Hattery and Smith examine how IPV is not solely structured by a patriarchal system. “It is also structured by a system of racial superiority and by the intersections of these two systems” (patriarchy and racial superiority)(91). They also add that many male batterers resort to IPV because of a perceived threat to their masculinity. In the African American community, the ability for males to be the sole or main breadwinner is often difficult or unachievable because of constraints brought about by racism and other roadblocks.
The authors also examine the intersections of race, class, and gender to examine IPV. There is often a more complex explanation for why IPV occurs within a relationship than just saying “oh, that guy is stressed about making enough money and is taking it out on his girlfriend.” There are often more issues at play when it comes to why someone resorts to IPV.
While rates of IPV are virtually the same across racial and ethnic lines, “African American women are more likely to report certain forms of IPV,” and “are more likely to experience… more severe” types of IPV (93). According to the authors, one mechanism through which intergenerational IPV transmission can occur is through “the lack of positive models for a romantic, intimate relationship” (101). When girls grow up not knowing what a healthy relationship looks like, they won’t be able to recognize it in adulthood. This leaves them especially vulnerable to fall into the trap of an abusive relationship.
Hattery and Smith state that there isn’t one type of batterer. A batterer could be any race, ethnicity, social level, religion, and so forth. However, a man who is physically abused during childhood or who has been exposed to IPV in his household is more likely to engage in IPV in adulthood. Batterers also are often extremely sensitive about their masculinity, and any perceived threats to this image can cause them to react in an abusive manner.
“Cool Pose” arose in the African American male community as “a ritualized form of masculinity that entails behaviors, scripts, physical posturing, impression management, and carefully crafted performances” with the goal of creating an image of a strong, controlled, and proud man (103). As mentioned in the text, these alternative ideologies are often created by marginalized groups to portray a closer version of their own identities and realities.
The two Bs are Breadwinning and the Bedroom. Being the breadwinner for the household is a key position for the male to be in. If he is not able to provide for his family, it is often interpreted as a failure, and a threat to his masculinity. The B for bedroom signifies a male’s sexual prowess; how he is in bed and how much experience/how many sexual partners he has had. Since sexual prowess is also a big part of perceived masculinity, it can be extremely threatening to many men when they have a problem in this area.