There have been several high-profile domestic abuse incidents in recent months. 

Media attention has been overwhelming for the murder of Gabby Petto. A 911 call made by Petito before her death raises questions about potential domestic violence between Petito, her boyfriend Brian Laundrie and Petito. The remains of Petito were discovered Wednesday in a Florida wilderness. Tyga, born Michael Stevenson, is the rapper and ex-boyfriend of Kylie Jenner. MAID, a hugely-popular series that explores emotional abuse in its lesser known dimensions, premiered this month on Netflix.

It has been a long time since there were any significant cultural events. Advocates point out Farrah Fawcett’s role as a housewife in 1984 film “The Burning Bed,” which was about the O.J. In the ’90s Simpson was tried. Rihanna suffered a violent assault in 2009 by Chris Brown. But combatting domestic abuse requires far more than increased public awareness – it is a complex social problem with many causes, different prevention points, affecting different populations with different needs. The problem extends far beyond cases of violence and murder, which are often highly publicized.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one third of women have been victims to intimate partner violence.

“I don’t know the number of moments it takes before it becomes important,” stated TK Logan (a University of Kentucky professor whose research focuses specifically on stalking. I’ve studied this subject for over 30 years. The attention is coming in waves. It’s great to speak about it. While I do not intend to diminish that fact, we must also take action. It is time to help women.

The term is “domestic violence,” but what does it mean? How do we know what we are able to understand, and how do we see it? Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a time when survivors and advocates try to help victims and advocates understand that abuse doesn’t mean bloody noses or black eyes. Control and degrading, sickness in the stomach, terror at night are all aspects of domestic violence. It is your partner, the one who inspects and monitors all aspects of what you eat. They also watch what you spend. There are eggshells everywhere. It is guilt and gaslighting. 

Experts agree that it is time for society to cease asking the question “Why didn’t you leave?” The right question is “Why are you so afraid to leave?” “Why does he hurt me?” “Why did you feel that you needed to leave?”

“We love quick policy fixes. We love more police. We are more fond of prosecutions. “And none of this is really going to solve the problem. And hasn’t,” stated Leigh Goodmark from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law Gender Violence Clinic. It is becoming increasingly clear that the work of addressing gender violence takes effort, energy and time.

Advocates agree that public awareness must be increased, but we should not stop there

Domestic violence is a pervasive social problem that cuts across race, age, income, sexual orientation, religion and gender — in terms of both victims and perpetrators. Females of color suffer the most from domestic violence.

The public awareness of domestic abuse is important in the sense that it makes people more aware. It is possible to intervene more quickly if there are people who recognize abusive behaviour. If a victim is ready for a breakup, it’s easier to find support by people who are more familiar with the issues. It is vital to inform individuals as they may become leaders at their work place, jurors for domestic abuse cases or local politicians in their community.

Yet, despite years of advocacy, stereotypical views about domestic violence continue to persist. They include that perpetrators all look like monsters and that abuse starts immediately. Gillian Pinchevsky from the University of Nevada Las Vegas is an associate professor of Criminal Justice. Pinchevsky said domestic violence can only be physical. Pinchevsky stated that in her class she requires students to illustrate domestic abuse. Most students draw violence on a woman victim or male perpetrator.

According to the Justice Department, domestic abuse could be sexual, physical, emotional, financial, and psychological. Many victims feel that physical abuse doesn’t make it the worst. 

Domestic violence myths can be internalized by survivors, which makes it harder to identify abusers or their victims. The scene is from Netflix’s MAID. Alex is trying to break up with her boyfriend. She manipulates Alex, berates and coerces her. But she has never been actually hurt. 

She tells a social worker, “I am not being abused.” 

Check out systems that don’t help anyone

Pinchevsky noted that criminal justice systems also place a lot of emphasis on physical violence. This is part of the reason why researchers and scholars believe they are not the right entity to tackle domestic abuse. 

She stated, “It has failed victims repeatedly over and again.”

Goodmark is one of those who believe that the legal and criminal systems do not have the ability to respond sensitively to custody cases. 

She stated that “these systems don’t aid people.” They don’t stop violence between intimate partners. They don’t reduce violence and are actually hurting people they were intended to assist.

A USA TODAY investigation in December found that in defiance of widely accepted best practices, Florida removes children from parents – most of them mothers – who have been battered by an intimate partner.

Goodmark doesn’t think the prison system can be used to punish domestic abusers. 

She said, “Prison exposes people trauma they then bring back to their relationships.” It does not resolve the original issues that led them to the system.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics sponsored a 2010 study that found domestic violence offenders who received sentences including a sentence in jail had higher chances of domestic violence recantivism. The study found that anger management and victim-oriented treatment were linked to lower chances of domestic violence recidivism over a 5-year period.

Learn more about what makes people commit violence

Advocates say the culture needs to think deeply about better ways of responding to abuse and preventing it, which can include public health approaches as well as community-based solutions.

Understanding why someone commits abuse is also crucial. There are many things that happen before someone commits violence. It is a desire to have power or control over someone else that dominates domestic violence. Goodmark agrees with the idea that control and power over the partner is often the result, but she doesn’t believe it’s the only motivation. 

“We need to examine this narrative critically to ask, “What else causes people to be violent?” Do you want control over your partner and the power? Do you desire control? How can we help people feel in control and stop them from acting out? What does it have to do with masculinity? What about economic stress?

Goodmark claims that economic and violent issues cannot be separated. 

“One of my favorite statistics about the pandemic was the fact that early in its development, domestic violence had increased dramatically. Then, in April 2020 you can see it drop pretty sharply,” she stated. That coincided perfectly with the first stimulus checks. This begs the question: Why? “Why is this?”

Don’t punish women who don’t make a perfect victim.

Although the Petito case has captured national attention, experts in gendered violent have said that it was difficult for women to seek help when they needed it.

A video released by the Moab Police Department in Utah shows an officer pulled over Petito and Laundrie’s van in August. Laundrie is calm and laughing with officers. Petito, however, appears to be shaken. Petito claims Laundrie grabbed at her face and officers hear them discussing the incident. Petito says she hit Laundrie. 

Petito was deemed the aggressor by officers.

Goodmark stated that research in the 1980s showed arrest was likely decrease recidivist violent behavior. Many states, including Utah adopted mandatory arrest laws. They require that police arrive on the scene of violence by intimate partners and have probable cause for arrest. 

Goodmark stated that the result was that women were arrested at an unprecedented rate. It wasn’t because women suddenly became violent but because police applied those laws. Because they consider violence to be aberrational, women are more likely to confess to using violence.

The police arrive on the scene to find a woman who says that she hit him because he was strangling him. Sometimes the injuries from strangulation are not visible, but there are scratch marks. 

If a woman, especially, is anything less than a perfect victim, Goodmark said, if they are emotional, or angry, if they have a mental health issue or a criminal history, that is used against them.

Goodmark stated that there are many ways the police could say “Well, obviously you’re no perfect victim and therefore you can be considered a perpetrator.” After you’ve been identified by the perpetrator, it flips the switch and everyone in the system, including police and prosecutors, cannot see you anymore as a victim.

Be sure to ask the right questions

There are many “unsexy” solutions for domestic violence. They also work with structural racism and sexism. These solutions are not always simple or easy. This prevents children from being neglected and abused, as well as from experiencing violence at home or in the community. It helps schools implement violence prevention, ensures people get their basic needs met and gives the communities tools to hold perpetrators responsible. This money is used to fund research, safety nets and programs for women who are in abusive relationships or when they move on. 

Alex in MAID is both determined and desperate at times. Her daughter and she want a better future. Over and over, she’s been thrown off her feet and re-emerged. When she encounters people without empathy or logic and systems that are not logical, she puts her foot forward even if it isn’t clear where she will end up. When the social worker asks if she has any special skills, her mind flashes to her 2-year-old daughter Maddy, the pair of them gleefully twirling on a beach, Alex quietly rocking her in the sun, cultivating the child’s joy in spite of her own misery. It is an ability. This skill is essential for survival. 

People can be tempted to say “You know what?” when there are no easy solutions. It’s impossible to fix it. It’s with us from the very beginning. Goodmark stated that it will remain with us forever. It is clear that the majority of coverage is focused on what law enforcement should have done to stop this happening. This is the wrong question. This is the wrong question. We’ll find solutions when we ask that question.


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