The Advocate reports that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest round of budget cuts have reduced funding to domestic violence shelters, which protect women from very violent men. Dale Standifer, director of a shelter in the New Orleans area, noted that state reductions will erode funding for its emergency shelter. Such a move by Jindal’s office reflects a lack of insight into the dynamics of some of the most dangerous men who walk and stalk the streets and homes of America.
As the author of two books on the lethality assessment of domestic perpetrators, I am gravely concerned that such cutbacks will place women in further peril.
Batterers murder an average of 1,400 women a year in the United States. The thought that a husband or boyfriend kills a wife or girlfriend an average of every six hours of each day defies comprehension. In these murders, they employ knives, clubs, fire and guns to destroy the women and, in many cases, the children they should be protecting.
I am sometimes asked about women who commit acts of domestic violence. The fact is approximately 90 percent of such violence is perpetrated by men on women. Additionally, while men kill women out of pathological rage, women generally kill men in self-defense.
I should note that there are no battered men shelters in the U.S. because there is no statistical need. While battered men do exist, they are so low in number that there is no need for male shelters. In the neighborhood where I raised my children, within an 18-month period, three men murdered a total of seven members of their family. The crimes that male batterers commit seem as endless as they are chilling.
In announcing the cutbacks to domestic shelters, the Jindal administration explained that the “state was moving away from costly residential care for domestic violence victims in favor of short term hotel stays and family care.” Such a shift in the protection of victims borders on lunacy. Unless hotels install bulletproof glass and have special security assigned to women and children who are the target of estranged stalkers, they should not be given the responsibility of protecting victims they cannot protect.
In addition, to suggest that families of such victims are often willing to take in women being pursued by batterers borders on naivety. Most abusers have managed to isolate victims from family support systems long before they need assistance. In addition, such a process often jeopardizes the lives of additional family members.
The Jindal administration should be aware that batterers often kill more than the primary focus of their rage. Family members, friends and acquaintances are frequently slain when they get caught in the crossfire of domestic attacks. When secondary victims are included with the list of battered women murdered, the number of fatalities that such perpetrators are responsible for each year in America increases exponentially. Just recently, the estranged husband of a victim entered a Brookfield, Wis., spa where his wife was employed and, during a fit of pathological rage, shot her and six others with an automatic weapon. She and two others died at the scene.
The fact is when batterers kill their estranged partners, they often murder anyone who gets in the way. Children, parents, neighbors, employers, close friends and even police are often slain when trying to house, employ or protect women being stalked by violent men.
The newspaper clippings I have of articles where domestic perpetrators kicked in the doors of those trying to protect the target of the assailant’s rage and killing everyone inside are voluminous. The Governor’s Office should not be in the business of furthering such possibilities.
Michael Groetsch, of New Orleans, is the author of “The Battering Syndrome” and “He Promised He’d Stop” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.