As I write this, a woman in this country is being killed by a jilted lover.
Violence against women is so commonplace that its occurrence stirs little in the public’s imagination. Almost one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their life. And well over one million women are slapped, beaten, kicked, punched or otherwise assaulted by boyfriends or husbands each year. Conservative estimates, moreover, show about 1500 women are murdered each year by intimates.
This is an epidemic that demands broad, sustained public attention. Yet despite the scope of this problem, our culture does not seem amenable to the sort of transformation that might end this continued open season on women’s bodies. Many states have come a long way over the last twenty years in addressing domestic violence more seriously. But that’s more an indictment of where states were, rather than a commendation of where they are. The hard facts of the obscene rates at which women continue to be victimized is proof of our shortcomings.
In too many instances, the handwriting is on the wall concerning the potentially deadly consequences of a victim’s assertion of self-determination. Departing the relationship; leaving the home; starting a new relationship: these acts of autonomy predictably provoke violent reactions in abusers. It is an indictment of the law — and thus us all — that despite this probability, the law does not intervene in a meaningful way until it’s too late. We need a sustained public commitment to change that.