Battered mothers: Adding insult to injury

By Rachel Roth

By Salon Staff
September 19, 2000 11:33PM (UTC)
main article image

Read the story

As a psychologist who occasionally calls in these women for abuse, I don't think these women are just "innocent victims." They stay for complex reasons, not just fear or poverty. They stay because they love him, they want him to change. They put aside the terrible trauma they are doing to their children by allowing them to witness this violence. Maybe a call to CPS will help them to wake up to the fact that it's not just they themselves who are suffering, and that they have a lot to lose by CHOOSING to stay. I like to think that I am helping them make a better choice for their children.


-- Dr. Carolyn Breuer

I'd like to take more of a middle ground here. I agree with Roth that the perpetrators of the violence are the main culprits here. However, that does not negate the responsibility of parents to ensure their children are in a safe environment. If a woman has made a serious effort to end the abuse, by moving away, going to a shelter, getting a restraining order, etc., then she should not be help liable for the actions of a maniac husband. If, on the other hand, she repeatedly goes to the hospital with injuries from the same man, and has made no effort to leave the situation, then she is guilty of endangering her child.

However, along with acknowledging the responsibility of an abused spouse to ensure the safety of themselves and their children, we must acknowledge that the abusers are also culpable. In this case, abusers need to be charged twice -- once with assaulting their spouse, and once with assaulting their child. In this way, it's clear that the abuser is most culpable for the assault, while still acknowledging that anyone who, through action or inaction, puts their child at risk is guilty of abuse.


-- Lyle Bateman

What's the old slogan for Virginia Slims cigarettes? Something like, "You've come a long way, baby!" Obviously, we haven't. Men are still entitled to do whatever the hell they want to women, and women are still responsible -- for the act, and for the outcome. And if a woman has children, she alone is to blame for any problems in the home, any problems with the children.

This ruling has to be the "bright idea" of some man. I wonder what Nicholas Scoppetta, commissioner of New York's Administration for Children's Services, would do if his sister or his daughter was the bruised, beaten, battered, demoralized, frightened mother-to-be. Probably haul her off to jail, tsk-tsking all the way.


New York wants to hold women responsible for their unborn children? New York wants to charge women with neglecting their fetus if they're battered while they're pregnant? Fine, New York, go ahead -- as long as you hold the batterers responsible, too, and charge them with assault. Twice. Once for the woman, and once for the unborn baby.

-- Renee Lillie

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------