Murders by Husbands Rise Despite Publicity
Tough laws, media coverage help battered women escape; but change in society's attitudes still needed, advocates say. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
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``I think we're in that period where it's more dangerous,'' says Ms. Menard. ``Should we turn around and go back? No. Should we recognize the risks? Yes. We may need to protect women more during this time.''Skip to next paragraph
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States are starting to provide that protection. Connecticut passed a beefed-up mandatory arrest law in 1986, after Tracey Thurman, who was severely injured in an attack by her ex-husband, sued the Torrington, Conn., police department and won $1.9 million. That law requires that cases be heard within 24 hours, and that a woman be given police protection and an advocate in court. Since the law went into effect, there has been a tripling of arrests in Connecticut, from 9,000 to 27,000.
``Without question, the size of the settlement, the brutality of the attack, and new studies which suggested that arrest was a more appropriate response than mediation, all came together'' to put the law in place, Menard says.
As more states pass mandatory arrest laws, and judges order counseling for offenders, the number of groups offering counseling to male batterers has increased. Between 100 and 150 groups have organized in the last five years. In states that pass mandatory arrest laws, they often appear overnight, says David Adams, program director of Emerge, the first men's counseling service on domestic violence.
But while more men are going to these groups, there is only a 25 percent success rate, says Mr. Adams. That is comparable to alcohol and drug programs. What is most needed now, say advocates for abused women, is a change in the public culture that tacitly condones such behavior.
``We've now got the victims, the police, and the courts, saying, `What you're doing is wrong,''' Menard says. ``But we don't have the brothers of these guys, the bartenders, clergy, and bosses saying, `That's not cool. What are you treating her that way for?'''
Menard suggests a national campaign against violence toward women, similar to the one against drinking and driving. That campaign, Menard says, has resulted not only in stiffer penalties against drunk drivers and penalties for bartenders who serve them, but more important - a change in social consequences. Getting people to choose designated-driver status or refusing to allow a friend to drive drunk is a shift in public awareness not thought possible even five years ago.
Ann Jones sees a glimmer of hope because a new generation of women is more aware of family violence.
``Younger women are exercising greater care in who they date, and being more closely observant, looking for signs of potential violence and control,'' she says.
``At the root of all this is a very distorted concept of masculinity and manhood,'' says Edward Gondolf, author of a book on male violence toward women. It is ``the notion that a man has to be in charge, tough, scared of intimacy - and one that degrades females as weak and vulnerable.''
``Overcontrol comes out of distorted notions about manhood that can be changed,'' he says.