Our VoiceCulture

An Epidemic of Violence


Jessica Acee • Nov 14, 2011

photo taken from the flickr page of the Duke University Archives

There is an epidemic of violence in this country that’s all but completely ignored.  And it’s costing women their lives.

It seems that every week there is another news story of a man who kills his wife or girlfriend, and then maybe himself or their children.  A quick Google search pulled up four such cases in the last three weeks alone.

Also routinely, random and horrific acts of violence are committed against groups of women by men.  A few examples that come to mind are the mass killing in 2009 at a health club in Pennsylvania, the 1998 school shooting in Jonesboro, AK, and the Amish school shooting in 2006.

When a woman is killed by her partner or when women are killed in a mass murder, the end result is the same: death, fear, and oppression. The act is labeled an isolated incident, a problem within the family, and the attacker is deemed crazy. The common practice of separating domestic violence from mass gendered killings makes both types of violence against women seem disconnected and unrelated.

But these are not isolated incidents.  Misogyny and sexism are woven into every facet of our culture. After the Jonesboro murders, David Vest, a domestic violence counselor, wrote, “The boys who methodically gunned down those girls and those women were only acting out their own version of an all-too frequent story in America.”

According to the FBI, 10 women a day are murdered by their boyfriends, husbands, or
ex-husbands.  Domestic violence homicides are on the rise in most states.  In New York state, for example, for the second year in a row 44 percent of all woman killed were killed by an intimate partner.

A curious thing happened when I searched key words like “women killed by their husbands” or “husbands kill wives.”  The majority of the sites that came up featured “heartless” and “calculating” women who killed their husbands.  We know from years of data that this is quite rare.  And it further serves to dismiss partner-violence against women as something that happens because of a couple’s inability to get along.

People will argue that violence against women originated from an attackers own history with abuse.  Again, data tells us that most abused children do not grow up to be violent.  Taking a critical look at the way men and women are expected to interact is the only way we’ll find real answers.

While people are quick to blame divorce, job loss, violent media, and mental illness, I want to be clear. The recession, the so-called “breakdown of the American family,” even R-rated video games may exacerbate the violence, but misogyny is the root cause.

Women’s organizations, media, and Congress should start by studying this problem.  Women’s lives depend on it.

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