VIOLENCE UNBOUND: "Perhaps women were once so dangerous they had to have their feet bound," writes author Maxine Hong Kingston. And perhaps men have become so dangerous they need to beat and murder women in record numbers.
Family Violence Prevention Fund statistics continue to boggle our brains: fourteen percent of American women acknowledge having been violently abused by a husband or boyfriend. Forty-two percent of murdered women are killed by their intimate male partners. Medical personnel correctly diagnose only one in 35 battered women.
Recent Arizona Department of Economic Security figures are just as numbing:
Last year 5,474 women and children sought help at the state's 28 shelters. Forty-five percent of the abuse was done by spouses. Only 663 batterers were arrested.
Frankly, I don't think about battered women on a daily basis. When you live with a gentle man, like I do, a man who never raises his hand toward you except to brush the hair out of your eyes or offer a hug, you get out of touch.
This summer I got "in touch" when I saw my friend being emotionally and psychologically abused by her husband. He was isolating her from friends and family. He made disparaging remarks about her myriad interests. He controlled all the money, even though they both worked. One day he shoved her out of the way. Last week I got a letter from her. She went for counseling--he refused to go--and came home with some pills for depression. She says her husband is "better." Thank God for drugs.
Women like me ask ourselves the same stupid questions again and again--like, why do they take it, why do they stay--even though we know it's the financial problems, the fear, the confusion, the children, the habit.
Kathleen Standish, with the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, says since the O.J. display shelters in Arizona have been filling up--and women are being turned away in record numbers. She says the state desperately needs more shelters, especially in rural areas. The legal system is also weak. "There are not a lot of attorneys who do pro bono work," she laments.
Governor J. Fife Symington III, saying he has "found" $1 million for domestic violence action in Arizona, has earmarked $460,000 dollars of that for direct shelter support. The rest will go towards "implementing a state plan," says Standish. Not another task force, I moan, thinking of the women who must go home to a batterer tonight because there's no room at the inn. But Standish, who relies on state and federal dollars, says we need the plan to create a coordinated effort of professionals, from courts to clergy to media. "It's everybody's problem," she says, and "it's going to take a lot of money." And how many more broken bones?
By the time you finish reading this column, another 10 women in this country will have been physically abused by their husbands.
And that's if you're reading fast, warriors.
For shelter assistance call The Brewster Center at 622-6347 or Tucson Centers for Women and Children, 795-4266.
| © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth