All of the valiant people who have fought tirelessly to put an end to partner violence should sit down and take a brief, but well deserved breath. It is the position of many knowledgeable, objective persons that it is time for our society to accept and admit that despite all the efforts of these heroic people and the billions of dollars spent our domestic violence intervention methods are not effective and, in some victim classes, have been counter-productive.
Over the years, assorted presentations of the statistical analysis of the IPH trends have played tricks on public perception due to advocacy groups playing tricks with the statistical data to create their own reality. The saddest part of this story is; after thirty years they have actually created their own reality and as a result in some victim classes more women are being murdered by their intimate partners.
Review of the aggregate of all IPH victim classes leaves the appearance that we have done a great job combating this problem (See Figure 1).
However, once the aggregate is dissected out into the various classes of concern we will see this is not the case for all victim classes. Moreover, the high-level aggregate view also masks the worst part of the truth, the victims’ classes that have had the greatest amount of support, services, and funding deployed have the worst records of accomplishment.
Based on the plain facts that this piece will present, we will see that over the past thirty years we obviously made many mistakes, misjudgments, and miscalculations. Many of these, if not most, were innocent errors done with only the best of intentions. However, we are failing nonetheless.
Through review of the raw data of the trends for the various victim classes, we can see an unprejudiced view of what has really been happening through our efforts and in cases where the lack of effort presents a trend.
What we will see is that the victim classes who have had the highest levels of support have the worst records of accomplishment and those with the least amount of service and support have had the best records of accomplishment. The level of accomplishment is based on reduction of the number of cases.
Most of True Equality Network’s readership has expressed belief that the differences in IPH by gender are the most critical. Whether that is “the most critical” concern, or not, is less important for the scope of this piece as that it is easy to display this trend set comparison without getting into complicated statistical analysis methods. To aid in keeping of expressing the statistical details as simple as possible, this author will restrict all computations in this piece to grammar school level math.
One of the best-kept secrets since 1972, when our quest began to develop and deploy aggressive social intervention on behalf of intimate partner violence victims, is that thirty years ago more men were being murdered by their intimate partners annually than women were (See figure 2). Yet not one shelter for men was established. To this day less than a dozen shelters for men exist and our victim support systems routinely deny services to men.
From the onset of our societal intervention, the levels of IPH for both men and women declined. Oddly, and without any concise explanation from anyone to date, male IPH has declined at a much faster than IPH for women, although for the most part, only abused women have received support services. We identify this mystery as, “The Murder Paradox.”
The immediate response display of this trend dynamic brought to us is that it appears that providing abuse support services for one gender seems to be protecting the other from being murdered. It is a well known fact that everyone has their breaking point and, after sustaining abuses for prolonged periods, will either implode (depression, suicide, etc.) or explode (act out hostilely, homicide, etc. ). Currently women do have the exclusive ability to escape abusive situation before they reach their breaking point, where men have no funding for support systems to help them to do so. However, there is no substantive evidence or research to support any valid estimate of how much this dynamic contributes to the trends we can observe.
The second choice for “most critical” concern is the relationship between the victim’s gender and their relationship to the perpetrator. In this dissection, we still see the overall trend of male victimization being the higher in both the Spouse/Ex-Spouse and Girlfriend/Boyfriend classifications. The trends for Spouse/Ex-Spouse although lower in overall numbers had male IPH victims higher or equal to female IPH victims until almost 1990. The higher overall figures for Girlfriend/Boyfriend classification do show the trend toward male victimization dropped at fastest rate of all four classes. While the Female Spouse/Ex-Spouse classification had the lowest levels of IPH, the rate of decline in IPH lagged the most of all four classifications (See Figure 3).
The third pick for most critical concern is the relationship between the victim’s gender and their race. This dissection begins to show some significant differences in the IPH of the various classes. Discussion of this dissection must include the impact of a significant number of class specific social programs enacted prior to and during the review period. Thus, making this dissection the most complex to evaluate, which is far beyond the scope of this piece. Therefore, we cannot conclude that our domestic violence intervention programs have singularly resulted in or even contributed to any of the successes for African-Americans (See figure 4).
As the stratification by class becomes more granular, it becomes difficult to review the differences in the trends between classes in one chart the size this document permits.
For example, African-Americans had the highest IPH rates and then some classes had declines as much as 90% over thirty years. As a result, with several class stratifications presented in one chart, the trend for some white victim classes appear near flat. Therefore, plotting the races separately is needed for visual intelligibility.
However, the full set comparison does reveal that it was not until 2004 that every class of females had higher IPH rates than every class of males (See Figure 5).
Overall, we see it was African-American males that had the highest IPH rate thirty years ago, but have had the greatest reduction in IPH of all classes (See Figure 6).
In the next dissection we see that the declines for married white females are offset by that of unmarried white females. However, the overall white female trend is nearly flat for thirty years (less than a 2% change). This is attributed to the increase of divorce and reduction in marriage in younger adults. In other words, there was no meaningful change for white female; however, IPH for married white females did decline faster than IPH for unmarried white females increased (see Figure 7).
Observations indicate truth in saying, “… we have been focused on the symptoms of partner violence for so long we have ended up treating them as though they are the cause of the problem.”
There is a growing concern about the practice of dealing with violent crime through civil statute mechanisms, as is done with most domestic violence cases. From a victim safety consideration, these practices have proven to put victims of severe Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) at greater risk of recidivism (re-offense) and escalation to IPH.
The current thinking on IPV and IPH intervention methodologies has essentially decriminalized assault where the victim is an intimate partner. If someone attacks and seriously injures a stranger, they are likely charged with a crime and their victim is afforded the full scope and force of law to defend and protect them. This includes protection as a witness of the state for the victim and incarceration for the perpetrator. Civil statute restraining orders take that protection away from the victims of severe IPV.
Additionally, this practice amounts to having our equity courts (civil courts) trying criminal cases. Offenses where the actions against and the impact on intimate partner victims equate to the definition of criminal assault offenses need the same level of enforcement action as are common in cases where the perpetrator relationship to the victim is "stranger."
Our goals need to be adjusted to include identification of all the contributing dynamics on partner violence and objectively assess their impact on the problem. Objective research must be conducted and actual findings presented, regardless of what public perception is or the needs of advocacy groups are (male or female) to support their funding goals or ideological perspectives.
Then, once a model built on the complete set of dynamics is established the efforts should focus on effecting change in our social policies and criminal statues to help address the actual causes of the problem. We can then develop meaningful intervention and treatment programs that do address the significant contributing factors in conjunction with addressing the IPV violations.
In other words, if substance abuse was the primary cause of a rage event, then intervention that fails to deal with the perpetrator’s substance abuse would fail, putting the victims at greater risk. Numerous studies and reports, including reports from state probation departments show that substance abuse contributes to 86% of first attacks of IPV (75% alcohol and 11% drugs) and 87% of TRO violations where the subsequent attack results in greater injury than the original incident.
As you may understand, criminals make their decisions based on risk assessment. Jail is a serious risk that the criminally minded are willing to take. The penalties for violation of a civil statute temporary restraining orders (TRO) with a few dollars of a fine is not a risk to the criminally mined; it is simply a cost factor of “doing business.” I have personally heard such criminally minded persons say -- in the courthouse after their TRO violation hearings that they just "...paid the toll for beating the $#$#$# out of that loud mouthed ..." This description typifies the expressed lack of deterrence our current intervention methods has on violent criminals that assault their intimate partners.
Therefore, some statutory language enacted requiring criminal prosecution in cases where the assault meets the states' definition of a felony criminal assault; regardless of the victim-perpetrator relationship is needed. What confuses us is that the principal opponents to this are women's advocacy groups, including the National Organization for Women.
Another concern is the contributing factors substance abuse plays on crime is well known , but little seems to be acknowledged with it as a cause of IPV and maybe IPH. Our members’ personal experiences tell us that presenting a rage prone substance abuser with a TRO only exacerbates their rage and increases the likelihood of recidivism and possible escalation to IPH. Again, common sense is all that is required to figure this one out – without millions of tax dollars to fund studies. However, having spent the millions on studies the collected data is showing this to be the case.
The needs outlined in this piece show that our future efforts would require a highly complex analysis of IPH that correlates the IPH trends against changes in; social policies, population changes due to growth and migration, the divorce rate, the marriage rate, arrest policies, intervention methodologies, service systems provided, funding levels, and other social, legal, and economic dynamics. All assessments need to work within established objective scientific methodologies instead of the ideology based emotional rationalizations that have been the driving force behind our social policies on partner violence.
The result of decades of using flawed methodologies to base our federal and state partner violence intervention systems on has resulted in needless serious injury and death of many people. As noted:
The greatest cautionary note is that; without investigating the pronounced flaws in our current policies and practices regarding IPV and IPH, the United States Congress is pushing forward efforts to globalize the same failed policies and practices through the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). Given the results of our own VAWA, we can only expect the enactment of IVAWA to result in global increase in the murder of women.
It is said that the definition of insanity is “…trying the same methods over and over, expecting different results.” Given this, we can only surmise by their support for IVAWA that the United States Congress has gone insane.
 United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Homicide Rates per 100,000 Population by Gender 1976 - 2005
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 Massachusetts Trial Court Office Of The Commissioner Of Probation, Restraining Order Violators, Corrective Programming And Recidivism, November 1, 2004 (pdf)
 Unaccountable DV Programs Misuse Tax Dollars; Place Victims at Risk, RADAR, March 10, 2008
 RADAR Report Shows DV Programs May Worsen Partner Abuse, RADAR, October 9, 2007
 VAWA, I-VAWA, and CEDAW: Why Men Now Fear Marriage, RADAR, March 5, 2007
 Almost Anything Now Counts as Domestic “Violence,” Report Finds, RADAR, Sept. 6, 2006
 Beyond Duke: About Half Of All Rape Allegations Are False, RADAR, Apr. 27, 2007
Terri Lynn Tersak is a professional commercial photographer, the President and CEO of True Equality Networks, and a member of the Steering Committee and spokesperson of RADAR - Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting.
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Thank you for your patience and cooperation. ML