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Insult to Injury

Insult to Injury: Rethinking our Responses to Intimate Abuse

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Insult to Injury
    Book Description:

    Locking up men who beat their partners sounds like a tremendous improvement over the days when men could hit women with impunity and women fearing for their lives could expect no help from authorities. But does our system of requiring the arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of abusers lessen domestic violence or help battered women? In this already controversial but vitally important book, we learn that the criminal justice system may actually be making the problem of domestic violence worse. Looking honestly at uncomfortable facts, Linda Mills makes the case for a complete overhaul and presents a promising alternative.

    The evidence turns up some surprising facts about the complexities of intimate abuse, facts that run against mainstream assumptions: The current system robs battered women of what power they do hold. Perhaps as many as half of women in abusive relationships stay in them for strong cultural, economic, religious, or emotional reasons. Jailing their partners often makes their situations worse. Women are at least as physically violent and emotionally aggressive as are men toward women, and women's aggression is often central to the dynamic of intimate abuse.

    Informed by compelling evidence, personal experience, and what abused women themselves say about their needs, Mills proposes no less than a fundamentally new system. Addressing the real dynamics of intimate abuse and incorporating proven methods of restorative justice, Mills's approach focuses on healing and transformation rather than shame or punishment. Already the subject of heated controversy, Insult to Injury offers a desperately needed and powerful means for using what we know to reduce violence in our homes.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2568-4
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Giving Thanks
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Linda Gayle Mills
    (pp. 1-16)

    WALKING DOWN BETHNAL GREEN ROAD, AN ARTERIAL street in working-class East London, I witnessed a remarkable scene. I was carrying my laundry and talking with a friend when my focus was drawn to a mother walking with her five-year-old son. He was demanding attention, as all children do, and her patience suddenly snapped. She whipped around and smacked him across the face. He staggered backward. I was shocked that I was witnessing this violence at such close range and simultaneously struck by its intimacy and familiarity. I had just watched a mother assault a child in broad daylight in the...

  5. PART I Rethinking Our Responses to Intimate Abuse

    • ONE The Ground Zero of Intimate Abuse
      (pp. 19-32)

      THERE IS A STRIKING SIMILARITY BETWEEN HOW WE AS A nation react to such mass violence as September 11 and how we individually and collectively respond to intimate abuse. The experiences of my lower Manhattan neighborhood help illuminate those similarities. On September 11, 2001, Ronnie, my five-year-old son, was a kindergarten student at P.S. 234, an elementary school that is located a few blocks from the World Trade Center. After the attack, the 640 children who attended the school were displaced for more than six months, and two alternative sites were used as classrooms while the parents debated the safety...

    • TWO Mandatory Policies as Crime Reduction Strategies: Do They Work?
      (pp. 33-49)

      FOR MANY MAINSTREAM FEMINISTS, POLICIES SUCH AS mandatory arrest, mandatory prosecution, and mandatory reporting represent significant progress in forcing the state to take domestic violence crimes seriously. After years of indifference to intimate abuse, police officers, prosecutors, physicians, and judges are now mandated to respond uniformly to crimes between intimate partners. This approach eliminates both the professional’s discretion and the victim’s desires from the state’s decision-making process. In this chapter, I will argue that such policies are mostly symbolic; they do not achieve the instrumental goal of reducing incidents of domestic violence.

      Looking back helps to understand both how we...

    • THREE Power over Women in Abusive Relationships
      (pp. 50-66)

      MAINSTREAM FEMINISTS EXERT POWER BY DEFINING WHO women in abusive relationships are and therefore what they should do about the violence in their lives. Mandatory policies turn professionals away from women in abusive relationships by focusing so exclusively on arrest and prosecution and ignoring the opportunity, through human contact, to nurture a relationship with the victim. As we have seen, this lost opportunity can affect the violence itself. The overall importance of empowering women in abusive relationships in terms of safety, and initiating ongoing contact to provide emotional support and healing, begs the question: Why do mainstream feminists and professionals...

    • FOUR Are Women as Aggressive as Men?
      (pp. 67-84)

      I FIRST MET BRENDA ARIS AT FRONTERA PRISON IN Southern California, where she was serving a fifteen-year to life sentence for shooting her sleeping husband. Perhaps I expected to meet someone calculating and cruel. Instead, I found Brenda to be kind and docile. Even when I learned her history of abuse, I did not fully understand where she found the strength to kill.

      Over the course of many years, Brenda has shared with me the details of that fateful event. Rick Aris, her husband of eleven years, had hit her that night and had threatened her life before he passed...

  6. PART II Fixing the Failures

    • FIVE The Dynamic of Intimate Abuse
      (pp. 87-100)

      ACKNOWLEDGING THAT WOMEN CAN BE AGGRESSIVE, even violent, takes us closer to the overall goal of recognizing just how much violence we all contribute to and are exposed to. My hope is that by developing the capacity to see beyond the limitations of the narrow labels of man as aggressor and woman as victim, we can begin to recognize in ourselves the existence of both of these qualities in some form or another, and their contribution, however minor, to a dynamic of abuse evident in all intimate relationships. This self-reflection is necessary to understand intimate violence better and to develop...

    • SIX Changing the System
      (pp. 101-118)

      GALLA HENDY MET HER BOYFRIEND (I WILL CALL HIM Bob) in 1996 while she was working a part-time job as a stripper.¹ Galla was the mother of three children and a home health care worker during the day. Bob was also a health care worker. Galla and Bob fell in love. They were both immigrants (she from Guyana, he from Jamaica), and they had a good relationship. In 1999, Galla gave birth to their little girl. Bob has been on disability. He has been diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia and had also had hip surgery, an operation that caused him to...

    • SEVEN Learning to Listen to Narratives of Intimate Abuse
      (pp. 119-133)

      THE INTIMATE ABUSE CIRCLE PROCESS IS PREMISED ON two core assumptions: first, that the most successful path to healing from violence involves a relational cure, one that includes other people who help reaffirm the couple’s faith and trust in the world; second, that the professionals and care communities who participate in that healing process do so with an awareness of how their own experiences of violence can cause countertransference and projection reactions, which, in turn, can interfere with people’s efforts to heal from intimate violence. These two issues are key to the success of the IAC process and therefore are...

    • EIGHT A Better Way
      (pp. 134-148)

      IF WE ACCEPT THAT INTIMATE VIOLENCE CAN AFFECT everyone, we need a system in place that can begin a process of self-reflection and healing. Several systems similar to the Intimate Abuse Circle process have been developed in the recent past, approaches that aim to heal rather than punish. Perhaps the most famous of the examples is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, created in 1995 to address apartheid-related crimes in South Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, chaired the world’s largest truth commission, which was founded on the principle that “reconciliation depends on forgiveness and that forgiveness...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 149-170)
  8. Index
    (pp. 171-178)