Recognizing Warning Signs

Recognizing Warning Signs

Recognizing Warning Signs
Recognizing Warning Signs

Besides seeking answers to the question of how many, victimologists also wonder, “What kinds of families are wracked by these problems?” At first there were only media images and personal revela- tions (true confessions), but this kind of anecdotal evidence might be very unrepresentative and mis- leading. Atypical cases make the news, but what kinds of women are usually objects of their lovers’ wrath?

The statistical profile of a couple in which the woman is at risk for a severe beating is as follows, (the more factors that fit, the higher the risk): The family income is low and the couple is under eco- nomic stress. She is young, unemployed, poorly educated, and lives with but is not married to a man of a different religious or ethnic background. He is between the ages of 18 and 30, is unemployed or working in a blue-collar job, did not graduate from high school, beats his children, and abuses alcohol and illicit drugs. His parents were violent toward each other, and he grew up in a rough neighborhood where neighbors were unwilling to intervene in situations where they witnessed vio- lence. She suffers from anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, passivity, dependence, and an inordi- nate need for attention, affection, and approval. She lives in isolation from family and friends and also may be especially vulnerable due to physical disabilities. He is impulsive, jealous, possessive, ver- bally domineering, and a firm believer in strictly defined gender roles and male dominance in deci- sion making. He too suffers from a low sense of self-worth and dreads rejection and abandonment. Her threats to move out to escape his clutches provoke fears that he is losing control of her (Ingrassia and Beck, 1994; Healy and Smith, 1998; “Domestic Abusers,” 1999; Tjaden and Thoennes, 2000; and CDC, 2011b).

In terms of demography rather than individual situations and traits, the highest risk groups for inti- mate partner violence, as identified by their disclo- sures on the NCVS, are women who are between the ages of 18 and 34. Women over 50 were assaulted far less frequently. Females heading up


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households with children were 10 times more likely to be victimized than married women with chil- dren. Women who were separated were in much more danger than married women; single women who were never married or were divorced faced moderate levels of risk. African-American women faced higher risks, and Hispanic and Asian women faced lower risks of beatings than white women in 2010 (Catalano, 2012).

Battered women may be in very grave danger of severe or even fatal injuries if a number of these “red flags” are evident: He owns a gun, threatens to kill her, chokes or strangles her during fights, is exceedingly jealous and possessive, compels her to submit to sex, controls most of her daily activities, is a substance abuser and goes on drug-taking or drinking binges, disregards restraining orders and stalks her, and acts violently toward others as well. Social service agencies working with abused women often try to estimate their clients’ level of risks by asking about warning signs (like previous episodes of choking) listed on a “lethality assess- ment tool” (Campbell et al., 2003), but skeptics question whether concerted attempts to murder a partner are really statistically predictable and there- fore preventable (see Adame, 2014).

Researchers also have discovered that a sub- stantial age discrepancy raises the risks that one spouse will kill the other. The chances of lethal violence are much higher if the man is at least 16 years older than the woman, or if the woman is at least 10 years older than the man, according to a study of intimate partner homicides that took place in Chicago from the mid-1960s to the mid- 1990s (Breitman, Shackelford, and Block, 2004).

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