Theories and Facts about “Domestic” Violence

In response to an article in Ms. Magazine, 2014, by Donna Decker

“In the Aftermath of Isla Vista,” In the Intro, Decker writes: “Feminists have long tried to show the link between misogyny, hypermasculinity and violence against women. This time, there was no mistaking the connections.”

Ironically the article begins with the words of poet Muriel Rukeyser in 1968: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” I remember Rukeyser’s statement, and watched and participated in the unfolding of the women’s movement around “telling her story” privately, publicly, in legal settings, in education. By the late 1970s, the secret was out. Couples composed of a prominent man in business or politics and a well-educated, sophisticated woman who was his wife, housekeeper, child care worker, etc., looked to the outside world like the perfect couple. Behind closed doors, there was verbal, physical, and sexual violence against the female spouse.

In some excellent work on women and depression, evidence showed that many women suffered from depression because she was a victim of abuse, with a spouse who could keep her trapped by taking away her keys, her money, her access to other women, even to a job.

Ms. Decker refers to a series of tragic mass murders, one committed in 2014 by 22-year old Elliot Rodget  a day after putting out a UTube video aimed at women about his “war on women” and his intention to punish them for depriving him of sex, and other rejections. She points to the 1989 tragedy in which Marc Lepine killed 14 women at an engineering school because they were taking places from men and they were “feminists!”

Decker notes that the connection between these massacres with misogyny AND hypermasculinity was not in the headlines. Instead, groups of men assembled in rights groups to demand that they be seen as the superior person in a couple, and that women were to be insulted, denigrated, basically put in their place.

A link between hypermasculinity and misogyny has not been proven. No one, no series of studies, in fact no systematic research has shown a direct causal connection between young men who hate, then kill, women and men who assault, abuse, even kill their spouse. It is certainly an avenue worth following, but it does not really fit a long history of experiences by women.

After all these years, domestic violence has neither been eradicated nor reduced. In fact, in my work with teenagers, I frequently hear young women say that they have the power to deal with violence at home by striking back. As one who has worked through the decades to stop domestic violence, I now realize that this societal problem needs intense investigation, continued education, and raising our daughters to say no to violence in a relationship.

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