‘If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all,’ declared First Lady Hillary Clinton to the United Nations at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in September 1995 (PBS). Clinton, a staunch advocate for women and children’s rights throughout her legal career, knows more about the plight of women worldwide as well as the disparaging remarks said behind her back, the barely audible masculine chuckles, and the outright condescending stares from the unapproving if not the outright malicious than most women choose to remember from their own experiences, and she is the First Lady of the United States of America and the first woman nominated to run for the Presidency of the United States by a powerful party.
Yet, to an outrageously large amount of men, and a disgustingly misguided number of women, she is not a patriot and advocate continuing the quest for true and absolute equality started by proud suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth, she is a shrill know-it-all who doesn’t understand her place, her place as a second-class citizen. Oppression is most effective when it hides behind the veil of laws ensuring equality. The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in 1863. Segregation and discrimination were still actively practiced one hundred years later, and Jim Crowe laws are still legal in some states today; during the Civil Rights Movement Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. were murdered within five years of each other for exercising their rights to be free citizens of this country, and black men like Trevon Martin and Michael Brown are still being unlawfully killed so regularly that it seldom makes the news.
In 1919, the Ninetieth Amendment to the Constitution passed granting women the right to vote after fifty years of organized advocacy and protest. Yet, twice in the last thirty years men considered for the highest legal position in the country, Justice to the Supreme Court, have had their appointments delayed, not refused, by allegations of sexual misconduct towards women. In 2016 the vitriolic misogynistic slurs hurled at candidate for president Hillary Clinton illustrated once again the true opinions of women and their right as equal citizens in the United States. It is this silent second-class citizenship that tacitly condones violence against women.
Criminal Domestic Violence is widespread and underreported; it affects the physical and mental health of women, undermines the economic stability of women, and worst of all, normalizes behaviors that are unconstitutional and illegal.
Traditional modern society is strongly patriarchal; all important roles in society are expected to be filled by men. However, early hominid mankind may have been strongly matriarchal; the proof lies in the discovery of female totems and rituals that celebrated and revered women for their mysterious life-giving powers with obvious connections to Mother Earth, Gaia. But over the last two thousand years, with active subjugation of women through witch trials and stripping of property rights by the Catholic Church, women became lesser than men; in the Bible Timothy 2: 11-12, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (The Bible). Marriage vows have the woman pledges “to obey and serve” her husband. Men have slowly usurped the role as head of the household. “If patriarchy says a man is king in his home, and if women’s lives and needs are deemed less worthy than men’s, then it follows that many heterosexual relationships descend into a nightmare of control and violence as the abuser asserts his supremacy” (The Nation). Studies estimate that up to 97 percent of abusers are men with female partners; between 1994 and 2010, the Bureau of Justice says, four in five victims of intimate partner violence were women (The Nation).
Everyone falls as children, often scaping knees, bruising, or even breaking bones on occasion. Perhaps men more than women in youth play contact sports or engage in fist fights to settle differences. Yet, after college, adults seldom have black eyes, or swollen faces, or dislocated shoulders unless they were in a car accident. It does happen, though, and most individuals take a couple days off.
However, women abuse victims miss work more often, come in late more often, are “hospitalized for injuries more often, suffer more long-term and chronic health conditions (depression, PTSD, substance abuse), and thereby accrue more medical debt” (The National). Physically marred, the victims, the women are noticeably physically “marked” and avoided by bystanders and friends who “don’t want to get involved;” the victim is ostracized. In one study, 60 percent of domestic violence survivors reported losing their jobs as a direct consequence of the abuse (Bowlus and Sheitz).
These physical scars slowly transform into debilitating metal health conditions as well. Ninety-eight percent said that abuse made them worse at their jobs—they couldn’t concentrate because they’d been attacked or were anticipating an attack when they got home. “Abused women are less likely to choose to work than women experiencing no current abuse; women are also less likely to work if the abuse occurred prior to the past 12 months. Divorced women who were abused in the past marriage exhibit an employment rate that is 20% below that of non-abused women” (Bowlus and Sheitz).
Stockholm Syndrome is a condition where victims of kidnapping involuntarily emotionally bond with their kidnappers. B. F. Skinner was instrumental in the development of modern Psychology; he believed that the human being was not as complicated as we romantically consider ourselves to be. He believed that if you wanted to change the way a person thinks, you could change the environment and reward the behaviors that the experimenter wanted to change in the subject; ultimately by changing behavior, one will change the mental outlook of the subject (Psych Central). We use “classical conditioning” to train our dogs every day.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a documented mental and physical change to the “fight or flight” response in those that experienced trauma. It is completely acceptable, if not expected, for a victim of sustained domestic violence to carry mental scars that inhibit a natural and “normal” interaction with the world. This abuse breaks down the self and is directly responsible for undermining the woman’s economic stability.
Physical and emotional scars from years of physical and emotional abuse make finding a stable job, opening a small business, or raising finances for economic ventures much more difficult than for average men and women. Victims of abuse often have no control over their own bank accounts.
Accruing medical debt from beatings and endangering her income by destabilizing the woman’s relationship with her employer is a form of domination and control. Abusive men will often sabotage job interviews and “make sure that things like cell phone contracts are in the abuser’s name—it’s no surprise that a woman who does try to leave her abuser frequently finds that her entire financial support structure disintegrates when the relationship does” (Doyle). It’s for precisely this reason that the majority of homeless women are domestic violence survivors. In Pennsylvania, for example, there are two measures on the table.
The first is a motion to remove all cancellation fees for abuse victims who must abruptly leave their cell-phone contracts, and the phone company will give them a new phone number if requested. Two, women who are being abused can end their leases without penalty (The National). “And you can’t ‘just leave’ if breaking your lease will damage your credit and make it impossible for you to rent your next home and begin to rebuild your life” (Doyle). The life of a woman in the throws of a domestically violent relationship with her intimate partner is a life of constant anxiety and fear, where a woman’s legal rights don’t apply within her own home; she is a financial and psychological prisoner, living in fear of arbitrary retaliation from their husband warden.
Aggravated Assault – the attack or attempted attack with a weapon, regardless of whether an injury occurred and attack without a weapon when serious injury results – is a felony and punishable by ten to twenty years in jail. Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including both psychological coercion and physical force.
Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by the offender(s); it is a felony punishable by five to thirty years in jail in extreme cases. 2,372 of these crimes reported are identified as intimate partner violence, Criminal Domestic Violence (Catalano et.al.). Twenty per cent of all rapes, one in five, are Criminal Domestic Violence (Ibid). However, the most devastating statistic is that fifty per cent, one half, one in two of the cases are not reported. The fact that half of the victims do not report these vicious, life-altering experiences speaks to this society that values archaic and outdated ideas of gender roles that somehow use women’s inferiority to justify the mistreatment of equal citizens of the United States and their constitutionally protected rights, specifically, your daughters, your sisters, your aunts, your friends, and your mothers.
Women make up half of the population, but they are not appropriately represented in government, or the higher echelons of business, even though more women were elected to the House of Representatives this November than ever before. There is one place, however, where women are over represented. Women are twice as likely as men to be a victim of Aggravated Assault or Rape, one half as likely to report it, and have a twenty per cent chance that they are married to the men who beat them and sexually assault them. The community has a responsibility to bring the disgrace of Criminal Domestic Violence out from the shadows of shame and silence and into the sunshine of Justice.