From abuse to murder

As we think about addressing the leniency abusive men have gotten, it is worth reminding ourselves that men who murder their wives are not fine blokes having a really bad day.  Pendagon has a review of Why Do They Kill?: Men Who Murder Their Intimate Partners by David Adams.  As feminists have long realized, murder of a women by her partner is not done by a basically good person who just snapped.  Without exception, the men studied  had a history of using violence to gain control, and a lack of control was met with escalating violence.The fact that murder occurs within a history of violence does not show that violence will lead to murder.  But it gives us a very different context for seeing domestic violence, one that locates it squarely in pervasive attitudes:

across the board Adams paints a picture of men who feel that women are their property and who try to control their property through violence.

The picture of violence as coming from the perpetrators’ objectification of their partners provides an alternative to the judge’s view that it was the circumstances of the marriage that had provoked Colin Read and that now those circumstances had gone, sending him to prison would “help no one”.  Pendagon’s reviewer reports that the book is well worth reading. One other interesting facet is what comes out about the victims, who are realists dealing with an impossible situation:

the women mostly report staying in the relationship out of a rational fear that their abusers would try to kill them or family members if they left.

10 thoughts on “From abuse to murder

  1. Is this why Mary Winkler had to shoot her husband in the back, pull the phone cord out of the wall, and then cross state lines with her children? And then, after serving a few months in jail, appear on Oprah to be portrayed as a victim instead of a murderer?

  2. A jury judged Mary Winkler guilty of manslaughter, presumably because they believed her claim that she was an abused wife. But even if we suppose the jury was right to believe her, she does not fit directly into the narrative being discussed.

    The study cited was about men who murder their wives. It also looked to wives who stay in such relations and do not end the relationship. Clearly, Mary Winkler does not fall into either category.

    The study does also conclude that the women who stay do so because of rational calculations of what is best for them and their children; they have a perfectly rational fear that the abuser will inflict great harm on them or their families/children if they do leave. They are like abducted hostages, it maintained. Seeing Mary Winkler’s behavior in this light is apparently what the jury did. I.e., she was a hostage who finally turned.

    Trying to assess their verdict without a great deal of study would be foolish.

  3. I guess what kills me is the double standard.

    Scott Peterson murdered his wife in cold blood. He gets the death sentence.

    Mary Winkler murdered her husband in cold blood. She gets 60 days and a spot on Oprah.

  4. I hope I understand your general concern, but I’m having trouble seeing the two you have mentioned as a case of double standards, since the defendants’ claims in the two cases were remarkably different. “Self-defense” is widely regarded as an important defense again a charge of first degree murder; one claimed that and the other didn’t.

    Also, the original post is not really about comparing what happens in cases where the perpetrators are of different genders. If we were to do that comparison, it might well be best to try to do a general study of trends in sentences in different countries.

  5. “DEFENSE, SELF-DEFENSE – A defense to certain criminal charges involving force (e.g. murder).

    Use of force is justified when a person reasonably believes that it is necessary for the defense of oneself or another against the immediate use of unlawful force. However, a person must use no more force than appears reasonably necessary in the circumstances.

    Force likely to cause death or great bodily harm is justified in self-defense only if a person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.”

    She shot him in the back, while he was asleep. It’s a hell of a stretch to say she was in danger of immediate use of unlawful force.

  6. Sorry, KellyMac, I shouldn’t have imported the term “self defense,” into the discussion. A quick look at reports suggests that wasn’t her defense, though I hardly have full knowledge and could be wrong.

  7. She was likely suffering from PTSD or Battered Women Syndrome both of which is caused from domestic violence. These men do not stop battering. That may have been the only way out for both her and her children!

  8. As a survivor of severe abuse and domestic violence I thank you for this post. Much more education and awareness on this topic is greatly needed.

    Domestic Homicides:

    Women are much more likely than men to be killed by an intimate partner. In 2000, intimate partner homicides accounted for 33.5 percent of the murders of women and less than four percent of the murders of men.17

    Pregnant and recently pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause18 , and evidence exists that a significant proportion of all female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners.19

    Research suggests that injury related deaths, including homicide and suicide, account for approximately one-third of all maternal mortality cases, while medical reasons make up the rest. But, homicide is the leading cause of death overall for pregnant women, followed by cancer, acute and chronic respiratory conditions, motor vehicle collisions and drug overdose, peripartum and postpartum cardiomyopthy, and suicide.

Comments are closed.