In the three decades since women’s groups began the outcry against domestic violence, shelters and hotlines have sprung up around the nation, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Specialized police, courtrooms, and psychological-treatment programs aim to curb “intimate-partner” violence. Doctors routinely ask patients about battering. Fewer spouses, lovers, and ex-lovers are killed or assaulted, but more than 38,000 women a year still call domestic-violence hotlines in the Philadelphia eight-county region. More than 25,000 people seek restraining orders. Courtrooms boom with the fallout of angry relationships.
Disputes regularly turned deadly. This month, a Bucks County man shot his former wife and a friend of hers in Northeast Philadelphia, then died. In 1976, the numbers of men and women killed by lovers or former lovers were close to equal: 1,357 male victims nationally vs. 1,600 female. Since then, surprisingly, slayings of men have fallen far faster. Experts say that’s because women now have alternatives to staying with abusive men who eventually push them too far. Children who witness domestic violence are at higher risk of emotional and behavioral problems, now and as adults. “The most effective way to raise a batterer is to hit your wife and to hit your son,” said Richard Gelles, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Gelles thinks police and courts must get better at identifying the most dangerous batterers and locking them up. The Inquirer reviews a week’s worth of domestic violence cases in the Philadelphia area.