I recently read a blog from Jenny Smith. She has the distinction of being one of the first women ever admitted into a battered women’s shelter. Way back in May of 1973, the first battered woman shelter opened in England. (They are called women’s refuge.). She talked about her experience of finding shelter from her abuser, making one of those very first calls to seek shelter.
Jenny Smith talked about her experience but also asserted that she thinks battered women are no safer now than they were in 1973. She makes several interesting points.
Most studies that track homicide rates of battered women, show that those numbers have remained about the same over the decades. What has changed dramatically over that period of time is the number of battered women who kill their abuser. Those number have gone way down. Fewer battered women kill their abusers. We have saved abusers from being killed. While I certainly don’t advocate killing people, I do find it ironic that we have successfully saved abusers from being killed, while the number of women being killed by their abuses has remained fairly static.
I have no doubt that many battered women and their children have been saved by having battered women shelters. What I also know is that abuse is still accepted and consequences still seem small for committing abuse. We have better laws but most abuse is never punished.
And little emphasis is put on psychological abuse and it’s impact. It’s hard to create laws against psychological abuse. Yet, we know it’s impact is devastating, in many cases. Most of domestic violence is not physical abuse, but psychological abuse and coercive control.
So, have we made it safer for battered women since 1973 when Jenny Smith first took refuge in a battered woman shelter? Maybe not.