Saturday, November 10, 2007

With Friends Like These . . .

by Tory Butterworth

You know the fantasy. You're walking to your car in a deserted parking garage at night, alone. Your nerves are on edge. You're alert for any unexplained noise or movement. Just as you are reaching towards your car door, you feel a hand pressed against your mouth, stifling your screams . . .

As scary as this fantasy may be, the fact is, women are nine times as likely to be attacked at home than outside it. And I'm not talking about strangers breaking and entering, I'm talking about abusive partners in relationships. It's known as, "Intimate Partner Violence," or IPV. It's a form of domestic violence, which also includes child and elder abuse.

It's not the people you don't know who are most likely to hurt you, it's those you know all too well.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the second largest employer in Allegheny County (after Wal-Mart) did an anonymous survey and found that close to 40% of its female employees reported an experience of intimate partner violence some time in their adult life. Male employees were about half as likely to report IPV. This is pretty typical of national figures, which show between 25 and 45% of women have experienced IPV.

Many women don't recognize the signs of potential abuse until they are far into a relationship.

Why do they stay? One reason is a realistic fear of further violence. Abused women are most likely to be killed as they leave the relationship. Other reasons include belief in the perpetrator's promises to change, shame and embarrassment, social isolation, financial dependence, lack of alternative housing, and the immobilization that's often a result of \physical and psychological trauma.

Between 43% and 70% of battered women do eventually end their relationships with violent partners, but on the average it takes 3 to 5 attempts and about 7 years. It's not an easy thing to do.

I've often commented that I don't read fiction to scare me, real life is scary enough. This is just one example.

So, next time you're looking for a suspect for your mystery or thriller, you may not have far to go. While the cliché in mysteries may be, "the butler did it," in relationships it's, "the partner did it."

Do these statistics surprise you?

6 comments:

Annette said...

Sad to say, I'm not surprised all that much. While I'm fortunate in that I've never experienced this kind of violence, I feel I did dodge a bullet in my younger days. I was dating a guy who showed all the classic signs of a future abuser, mainly wanting to control my life and demanding to know who I saw every minute we were not together. Luckily, while I was young and naive, I was also fiercely independent and blew him off. He then stalked me for a time and threatened to kill himself if I didn't take him back. I basically told him to knock himself out. He came to my house one evening when I was out on a date with another guy some months later and my dad physically THREW him out. That was the last I heard of him, but I know it could have been a lot worse.

Tory said...

Wow, Annette, that was a close call! Have you written him into one of your mysteries? :-)

Gina said...

I believe the statistics, Tory.

One my many past jobs [my August 1, 2007 blog] was running the Family Law Specialty Unit for Neighborhood Legal Services Association. My staff and I handled all of the Protection from Abuse cases that NLSA filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. Every day, there were at least 2 or 3; sometimes a dozen or more. And the abuse victims were all ages and ethnicities. Almost all were women, but I've suspected that some men get abused, too -- it's just harder for them to admit it, particularly if the abuser is female. And a lot of the abuse seemed to be mutual -- both partners beating on each other -- but the woman was the one who sought the PFA.

Annette said...

Not yet, Tory, but I supposed I should, since I was the one talking about writer's revenge a few days ago. Mostly I try to block this guy out, but it might be therapeutic to deal with him in my fiction. Hmmm...

Tory said...

Gina: data show that even if the abuse is mutual, the woman usually gets more badly injured.

Nancy said...

This subject fascinates me. (Annette!! What a blog!) I'm especially interested in how to communicate this warning message to our daughters. Has anyone written a good book on this subject? Tory, maybe it's up to you!