Report Shows Women in Abusive Relationships Most at Risk When Breaking Up

February 10, 2009 03:03 PM
by Anne Szustek
Breakups with an abusive partner are an especially dangerous time for domestic violence victims, according to a new report.

Breaking Up with Abusive Partner Can Be Deadly, Says Study

According to its 20th annual Femicide Report, made available Monday by advocacy group Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, at least 21 women in Minnesota were killed as a result of domestic violence in 2008. More than half of them died when either they were trying to leave or had just left their partners. The latter statistic showed an increase from 2007, when 22 women died in connection with domestic violence, 42 percent of them coinciding with a breakup.

“It’s a time when batterers are increasing their attempts to intimidate their partners, and it’s when ultimately they don’t want to relinquish control over their partner,” Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women executive director Cyndi Cook was quoted as saying by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. “The ultimate act of control is to take a person’s life.”

Controlling behavior is often a precursor to domestic violence, Cook continued. “Stalking is a red flag for potential homicide. It’s certainly a red flag for ongoing violence and intimidation, and it’s downright scary.”

This scenario fits the profile of Brittany Givens-Copeland, who lived in Bloomington, Minn. She had reported feeling “creeped out” by her ex-boyfriend, Adam Williams. The Star-Tribune interviewed Anthony Darden, the father of Givens-Copeland’s child, about her.

“He wouldn’t go away,” Darden was quoted as saying about Williams. “He was being weird, like walking through her back door when I was with her, and acting like he owned the place, or knocking on the window at three in the morning.”

On Jan. 25, when Givens-Copeland went to Williams’ home to break off their relationship formally, Williams allegedly asphyxiated her, and then set a fire. He died of smoke inhalation.

University of Minnesota School of Social Work Professor Jeffrey Edleson, the director of the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse, noted that if Givens-Copeland had felt intimidated by Williams, “he would have hoped that she would have taken steps to have someone else there while she broke up” with him as well as have a contingency plan, although she may not have been aware of his violent tendencies, writes the Star Tribune.

Cook reiterated the idea that some women fail see a potentially murderous streak in their abusive partners, despite their controlling behavior. “It’s hard to believe that someone who you love, or whom you loved, and who professed to love you, could ever harm you in that way,” she was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The Femicide Report also noted that in the instances of domestic violence-connected deaths in Minnesota, in six of the cases, the alleged murderer committed suicide and in four cases, threatened or attempted suicide.

Related Topics: Other partner abuse studies, stalking

A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine last year reports high rates of relationship violence among high school and college students.

According to Science Daily, researchers surveyed a group of undergraduates and found that “44.7 percent of participants experienced relationship violence either before or during college, including 42.1 percent who were victims of such violence and 17.1 percent of participants who reported perpetrating violence.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 11 adolescents reports being the victim of physical dating violence every year.

But the results of another recent study suggest that perhaps the right questions aren’t being asked. Only 7 percent of nearly 5,000 women surveyed in a recent nationwide study cited by The New York Times said a physician had ever asked them about domestic violence, while doctors maintained that they didn’t have the time, training or enough access to services to help patients being abused.

As advocates grapple with ways to protect people from abuse, technology is allowing abusers to inflict psychological damage on their victims without direct contact. According to numbers published by the Department of Justice, stalking affects roughly 3.4 million Americans a year. New technologies such as text messaging and online social networking have made it easier for stalkers to intimidate their victims.

Once the stalking is being conducted, it can have a huge effect on a victim’s life. About 13,000 victims had been fired or asked to leave their jobs due to conflicts related to their stalking. The report also showed that stalking can last for years, with 11 percent of respondents saying they had been stalked for five or more years.

Reference: Getting help for domestic abuse; women’s health


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