Gender and Legislation in Latin America and the Caribbean; an online book
Adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women at the 16th plenary meeting, on 15 September 1995
D. Violence against women
112. Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace. Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The long-standing failure to protect and promote those rights and freedoms in the case of violence against women is a matter of concern to all States and should be addressed. Knowledge about its causes and consequences, as well as its incidence and measures to combat it, have been greatly expanded since the Nairobi Conference. In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture. The low social and economic status of women can be both a cause and a consequence of violence against women.
113. The term "violence against women" means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. Accordingly, violence against women encompasses but is not limited to the following:
114. Other acts of violence against women include violation of human rights of women in situations of armed conflict, in particular murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy.
115. Acts of violence against women also include forced sterilization and forced abortion, coercive/force use of contraceptives, prenatal sex selection and female infanticide.
116. Some groups of women, such as women belonging to minority groups, indigenous women, refugee women, women migrants, including women migrant workers, women in poverty living in rural or remote communities, destitute women, women in institutions or in detention, female children, women with disabilities, elderly women, displaced women, repatriated women, women living in poverty and women in situations of armed conflict, foreign occupation, wars of aggression, civil wars, terrorism, including hostage-taking, are also particularly vulnerable to violence.
117. Acts or threats of violence, whether occurring within the home or in the community, or perpetrated or condoned by the State, instil fear and insecurity in women's lives and are obstacles to the achievement of equality and for development and peace. The fear of violence, including harassment, is a permanent constraint on the mobility of women and limits their access to resources and basic activities. High social, health and economic costs to the individual and society are associated with violence against women. Violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men. In many cases, violence against women and girls occurs in the family or within the home, where violence is often tolerated. The neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and rape of girl children and women by family members and other members of the household, as well as incidences of spousal and non-spousal abuse, often go unreported and are thus difficult to detect. Even when such violence is reported, there is often a failure to protect victims or punish perpetrators.
118. Violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women's full advancement. Violence against women throughout the life cycle derives essentially from cultural patterns, in particular the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices and all acts of extremism linked to race, sex, language or religion that perpetuated the lower status accorded to women in the family, the workplace, the community and society. Violence against women is exacerbated by social pressures, notably the shame of denouncing certain acts that have been perpetrated against women; women's lack of access to legal information, aid or protection; the lack of laws that effectively prohibit violence against women; failure to reform to reform existing laws; inadequate efforts on the part of public authorities to promote awareness of and to enforce existing laws; and the absences of educational and other means to address the causes and consequences of violence. Images in the media of violence against women, in particular those that depict rape or sexual slavery as well as the use of women and girls as sex objects, including pornography, factors contributing to the continued prevalence of such violence, adversely influencing the community at large, in particular children and young people.
119. Developing a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to the challenging risk of promoting families, communities and States that are free of violence against women is necessary and achievable. Equality, partnership between women and men and respect for human dignity must permeate all stages of the socialization process. Educational systems should promote self-respect, mutual respect, and cooperation between women and men.
120. The absence of adequate gender-disaggregated data and statistics on the incidence of violence makes the elaboration of programmes and monitoring of changes difficult. Lack of or inadequate documentation and research on domestic violence, sexual harassment and violence against women and girls in private and in public, including the workplace, impede efforts to design specific intervention strategies. Experience in a number of countries shows that women and men can be mobilized to overcome violence in all its forms and that effective public measures can be taken to address both the causes and the consequences of violence. Men's groups mobilizing against gender violence are necessary allies for change.
121. Women may be vulnerable to violence perpetrated by persons in positions of authority in both conflict and non-conflict situations. Training of all officials in humanitarian and human rights law and the punishment of perpetrators of violent acts against women would help to ensure that such violence does not take place at the hands of public officials in whom women should be able to place trust, including police and prison officials and security forces.
122. The effective suppression of trafficking in women and girls for the sex trade is a matter of pressing international concern. Implementation of the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of others, 18/ as well as other relevant instruments, needs to be reviewed and strengthened. The use of women in international organized crime. The Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on violence against women, who has explored these acts as an additional cause of the violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls, is invited to address, within her mandate and as a matter of urgency, the issue of international trafficking for the purposes of the sex trade, as well as the issues of forced prostitution, rape, sexual abuse and sex tourism. Women and girls who are victims of this international trade are at an increased risk of further violence, as well as unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection, including infection with HIV/AIDS.
123. In addressing violence against women, Governments and other actors should promote and active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes so that before decisions are taken an analysis may be made of their effects on women and men, respectively.
Strategic objective D.1. Take integrated measures to prevent and eliminate violence against women
Actions to be taken
124. By Governments:
125. By Governments, including local governments, and community organizations, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, the public and private sectors, particularly enterprises, and the mass media, as appropriate;
126. By Governments, employers, trade unions, community and youth organizations and non-governmental organizations, as appropriate:
127. By the Secretary-General of the United Nations:
128. By Governments, intonational organizations and non-governmental organizations:
Actions to be taken
129. By Governments, regional organizations, the United Nations, other international organizations, research institutions, women's and youth organizations and non-governmental organizations, as appropriate:
Actions to be taken
130. By Governments of countries of origin, transit and destination, regional and international organizations, as appropriate;
BEIJING DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION
G: Women in power and decision-making
183. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every one has the right to take part in the Government of his/her country. The empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of women's social, economic and political status is essential for the achievement of both transparent and accountable government and administration and sustainable development in all areas of life. The power relations that impede women's attainment of fulfilling lives operate at many levels of society, from the most personal to the highly public. Achieving the global of equal participation of women and men in decision-making will provide a balance that more accurately reflects the composition of society and is needed in order to strengthen democracy and promote its proper functioning. Equality in political decision-making perform a leverage function without which it is highly unlikely that a real integration of the equality dimension in government policy-making is feasible. In this respect, women's equal participation in decision-making is not only a demand for simple justice or democracy but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women's interests to be taken into account. Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women's perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.
184. Despite the widespread movement towards democratization in most countries, women are largely underrepresented at most levels of government, especially in ministerial and other executive bodies, and have made little progress in attaining political power in legislative bodies or in achieving the target endorsed by the Economic and Social Council of having 30 per cent women in positions at decision-making levels by 1995. Globally, only 10 per cent of the members of legislative bodies and a lower percentage of ministerial positions are now held by women. Indeed, some countries, including those that undergoing fundamental political, economic and social changes, have seen a significant decrease in the number of women represented in legislative bodies. Although women make up at least half of the electorate in almost all countries and have attained the right to vote and hold office in almost all States Members of the United Nations, women continue to be seriously underrepresented as candidates for public office. The traditional working patterns of many political parties and government structures continue to be barriers to women's participation in public life. Women may be discouraged from seeking political office by discriminatory attitudes and practices, family and child-care responsibilities, and the high cost of seeking and holding public office. Women in politics and decision-making positions in Governments and legislative bodies contribute to redefining political priorities, placing new items on the political agenda that reflect and address women's gender-specific concerns, values and experience, and providing new perspective on mainstream political issues.
185. Women have demonstrated considerable leadership in community and informal organizations, as well as in public office. However, socialization and negative stereotyping of women and men, including stereotyping through the media, reinforces the tendency for political decision-making to remain domain of men. Likewise, the underrpesentation of women in decision-making positions in the areas of art, culture, sports, the media, education, religion and the law have prevented women from having a significant impact on many key institutions.
186. Owing to their limited access to the traditional avenues to power, such as the decision-making bodies of political parties, employer organizations and trade unions, women have gained access to power through alternative structures, particularly in the non-governmental organization sector. Through non-governmental organizations and grass-roots organizations, women have been able to articulate their interests and concerns and have placed women's issues on the national, regional and international agendas.
187. Inequality in the public arena can often start with discriminatory attitudes and practices and unequal power relations between women and men within the family, as described in paragraph 30. The unequal division of labour and responsibilities within households based on unequal power relations also limits women's potential to find the time and develop the skills required for participation in decision-making in wider public forums. A more equal sharing of those responsibilities between women and men not only provides a betterquality of life for women and their daughters but also enhance their opportunities to shape and design public policy, practice and expenditure so that their interests may be recognize and addressed. Non-formal networks and patterns of decision-making at the local community level that reflect a dominant male ethos restrict women's ability to participate equally in political, economic and social life.
188. The low proportion of women among economic and political decision makers at the local, national, regional and international levels reflects structural and attitudinal barriers that need to be addressed through positive measures. Governments, transnational and national corporations, the mass media, banks, academic and scientific institutions and regional and international organizations, including those in the United Nations system, do not make full use of women's talents as top-level managers, policy makers, diplomats and negotiators.
189. The equatable distribution of power and decision-making at all levels is dependent on Governments and other actors undertaking statistical gender analysis and mainstreaming a gender perspective in policy development and the implementation of programmes. Equality in decision-making is essential to the empowerment of women. In some countries, affirmative action has led to 33.3 per cent or larger representation in local and national Governments.
190. National, regional and international statistical institutions still have insufficient knowledge of how to present the issues related to the equal treatment of women and men in the economic and social spheres. In particular, there is insufficient use of existing databases and methodologies in the important sphere of decision-making.
191. In addressing the inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels, Governments and other actors should promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes so that before decisions are taken, an analysis is made of the effects on women and men, respectively.
Strategic objective G.1. Take measures to ensure women's equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making
Actions to be taken
192. By Governments:
BEIJING DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION
196. National machineries for the advancement of women have been established in almost every Member State to, inter alia, design, promote the implementation of, execute, monitor, evaluate, advocate and mobilize support for policies that promote the advancement of women. National machineries are diverse in form and uneven in their effectiveness, and in some cases have declined. Often marginalized in national government structures, these mechanisms are frequently hampered by unclear mandates, lack of adequate staff, training, data and sufficient resources, and insufficient support from national political leadership.
197. At the regional and international levels, mechanisms and institutions to promote the advancement of women as an integral part of mainstream political, economic, social and cultural development, and of initiatives on development and human rights, encounter similar problems emanating from a lack of commitment at the highest levels.
198. Successive international conference have underscored the need to take gender factors into account in policy and programme planning. However, in many instances this has not been done.
199. Regional bodies concerned with the advancement of women have been strengthened, together with international machinery, such as the Commission on the Status of Women and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against women. However, the limited resources available continue to impede full implementation of their mandates.
200. Methodologies for conducting gender-based analysis in policies and programmes and for dealing with the differential effects of policies on women and men have been developed in many organizations and are available for application but are often not being applied or are not being applied consistently.
201. A national machinery for the advancement of women is the central policy-coordinating unit inside government. Its main task is to support government-wide mainstreaming of a gender-equality perspective in all policy areas. The necessary conditions for an effective functioning of such national machineries include:
202. In addressing the issue of mechanisms for promoting the advancement of women, Governments and other actors should promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes so that, before decisions are taken, an analysis is made of the effects on women and men, respectively.
Strategic objective H.1. Create or strengthen national machineries and other governmental bodies
Actions to be taken
203. By Governments:
Strategic objective H.2. Integrate gender perspectives in legislation, public polices, programmes and projects
Actions to be taken
204. By Governments:
205. By national machinery:
Strategic objective H.3. Generate and disseminate gender-desegregated data and information for planning and evaluation
Actions to be taken
206. By national, regional and international statistical services and relevant governmental and United Nations agencies, in cooperation with research and documentation organizations, in their respective areas of responsibility:
207. By Governments:
208. By the Untied Nations:
209. By multilateral development institutions and bilateral donors:
Encourage and support the development of national capacity in developing countries and in countries with economies in transition by providing resources and technical assistance so that countries can fully measure the work done by women and men, including both remunerated and unremunerated work, and, where appropriate, use satellite or other official accounts for unremunerated work.
By Jane E. Brody
Published in the New York Times, March 17, 1998
The cobra is a real snake in the grass, quiet and focused before striking its victim with little or no warning. The pit bulls fury smolders and builds, and once its teeth are sunk into its victim it wont let go. Men who batter women are either like cobras or pit bulls, say two professors of psychology at the University of Washington who have spent a decade studying violent marriages, and the distinction can make a difference in the severity of the harm they inflict, the ability of women to escape a relationship and the risks the women face if they do leave.
"Pit bulls are great guys, until they get into an intimate relationship," said Dr. Neil Jacobson who, with his colleague, Dr. John Gottman, elaborate on their study findings in a provocative new book, "When Men Batter Women" (Simon and Schuster, $25). "O.J.Simpson is a classic pit bull. Pit bulls confine their monstrous behavior to the women they love, acting out of emotional dependence and a fear of abandonment. Pit bulls are the stalkers, the jealous husbands and boyfriends who are charming to everyone except their wives and girlfriends."
Mr. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of charges that he murdered his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and one of her friends, Ronald L. Goldman, but was found to be responsible for the deaths in a subsequent civil trial.
Pit Bulls, the psychologists say, monitor the womans every move. They tend to see betrayal at every turn and it infuriates them. And when their anger explodes into violence, they seem to lose control.
Cobras, on the other hand, are often sociopaths. They are cold and calculating con artists relatively free of the trappings of emotional dependence but with a high incidence of antisocial and criminal traits and sadistic behavior, the researchers found. Cobras violence grows out of a pathological need to have their way, to be the boss and make sure that everyone, especially their wives and girlfriends, knows it and acts accordingly.
When they think their authority has been challenged, cobras strike swiftly and ferociously, the study revealed. Although they do not lose control like the pit bulls, they are more violent toward their wives, often threatening them with a knife or gun. They are also likely to be aggressive toward everyone in their lives, including strangers and even pets, as well as friends, relatives and co-workers. Cobras are the ones who kill the cat as a warning to wives that if they fail to toe the mark, this could happen to them.
In their study of 201 couples, including 63 couples where the wives were repeatedly beaten and emotionally abused, the Seattle-based psychologists discovered and extraordinary physiological difference between the two types of batterers. They hooked up the couples to polygraphs that recorded characteristics like heart rate, blood pressure and skin resistance while the couples argued nonviolently in a laboratory setting about volatile issues in their marriages. The researchers noted that, as expected, the batterers they call pit bulls became physiologically aroused as their anger intensified, but, surprisingly, those labeled cobras calmed down internally as they became increasingly aggressive.
When the police are called in response to violence inflicted by a cobra, they are likely to find a highly agitated woman and a calm, controlled man who blames the incident on his wife, which sometimes results in the arrest of the wrong person, the researchers said.
Prof. Amy Holtzworth-Munroe, a psychologist at Indiana University in Bloomington, said that understanding the types of batterers and how they got that way should help in the development of more effective treatment programs, as well as efforts to prevent domestic violence.
"Right now, we take a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment," Dr. Holtzworth-Munroe said. "If we increase our understanding of sub-types, we could match treatment protocols to them."
The psychologists were prompted to explore this societal scourge in detail by compelling statistics and myths about domestic violence, and frustration with the general failure of therapy and the law to deal effectively with batterers. They point to estimates that two million to four million wives are severely assaulted each year by their husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends or ex-boyfriends. The comparable statistic for murdered men is only 6 percent.
Yet, in only one of six battering episodes are the police called and in only 6 percent of severely violent episodes does the batterer end up in the criminal justice system.
For example, Dr. Jacobson said, when O.J. Simpson was arrested in 1989 and pleaded no contest to spousal abuse, "he was given a slap in the wrist." "If the laws were different and enforced differently, battered women would be much safer," he said. "If wife-beating was an automatic felony and the perpetrators had a mandatory jail sentence, women would have a chance to experience life without an abusive husband and an opportunity to formulate a safety plan to escape from the relationship."
Instead, Dr. Jacobson said, "batterers are often referred to treatment programs that dont work, and judges and therapists alike are conned by these men, especially be the cobras," who have little trouble convincing everyone, including their wives, that it is safe for them to return home.
Dr. Daniel Saunders at the University of Michigan School of Social Work said: " Treatment evaluation studies are still in their infancy. Were still trying to find out what works and in what types of men." The evidence thus far indicates that a combination of arrest, prosecution, fines and counseling works better than any one approach alone, he said.
In the Seattle study, the actions and responses among violent couples were compared with those of three other groups: equally unhappy but nonviolent couples, couples who exhibited some aggressive behavior but not enough to be classified as violent and happily married couples.
Participants were recruited through advertisements and were simply told the study would examine conflicts in marriage. When they joined the study, the couples completed extensive interviews and participated in laboratory-staged arguments that were videotaped and analyzed by independent observers who did not know how each couple was classified. A similar analysis was repeated two years later.
"There is occasional low-level violence in many marriages, with pushing or hitting with a pillow now and then out of frustration," Dr. Jacobson said. " This kind of behavior is found among about half of those who, seek couples therapy, but it almost never develops into a battering relationship." Battering, the researchers insist, is not just a matter of physical aggression. Rather, Dr. Jacobson said, "it is aggression with the intent to control, subjugate or intimidate another human being, and in marriage it is almost always the man who fits this definition."
Once physical violence succeeds in intimidating the woman, it may even taper off, only to be replaced by a never-ending barrage of emotional abuse that is sufficient to remind the woman that the threat of physical violence is always present.
The two hallmarks of battering are fear and injury, Dr. Jacobson said. "Even though in 50 percent of the violent couples the wives were also violent, the men never show fear in their voices or faces but the women virtually always were terrified and they get much more seriously injured," he noted.
Unlike the attacks by men, the violence of women is nearly always in response to battering by the man and is more self-defense than aggression, the researchers maintain. Yet, the men classified as pit bulls often profess that "theyre the ones who are the victims in a violent relationship," Dr. Jacobson said. "O.J. Simpson said he felt like a battered husband. Cobras, on the other hand, know they are perpetrators and dont care."
While pit bulls may be easier to leave than cobras, in the long run they can be more dangerous. They are the ones who kill battered women on the courthouse steps when the women seek protection orders or divorces.
While the psychologists found that battered women are less likely to leave cobras, those who do escape face a shorter danger period because cobras generally stop trying to pursue them and go on to new conquests.
The histories of cobras and pit bulls also tend to differ. Cobras often had violent, traumatic childhoods, criminal records and a personal history of alcohol and drug abuse. Pit bulls, on the other hand, are less likely to have a history of delinquency or criminal behavior, but they are more likely than cobras to have had fathers who battered their mothers.
Drs. Jacobson and Gottman said their research shatters many prevailing myths about domestic violence. Contrary to the claims of batterers, their wives rarely do or say anything that would provoke a vicious attack in another kind of marriage. The same words and actions in a nonviolent marriage might trigger a disagreement or argument, but not a fist in the eye. Likewise, the psychologists state emphatically, there is nothing a woman can do or say to stave off or abort a battering episode. In many cases among their study subjects, when the woman tried to end an attack by leaving, the husband pursued her and intensified the beating.
Judging from the couples studied, the researchers concluded that battering almost never stops on its own. Although the frequency of physical attacks may diminish with time, in only one case did they stop altogether. Furthermore, even when physical attacks abated, emotional abuse continued and served to keep the wives intimidated and afraid. In fact, Dr. Jacobson said, emotional abuse can be even more damaging than physical abuse because the man is "always in her face, demeaning, degrading, humiliating, harassing and robbing her of her identity."
But in another myth-shattering discovery, the researchers found that a large number 38 percent of women managed to escape from their abusive relationships within the two- year follow-up period. None, however, were the wives of cobras, who were terrified of their husband propensity to use lethal weapons. But at a subsequent contact five years after they entered the study, 25 percent of the cobra wives had also left their husbands. All told, 65 percent of the wives of violent men had left them at that point.
The researchers said those who left demonstrated extraordinary courage and resourcefulness, because it is upon leaving that the women face the greatest likelihood of being killed. But, as one woman who left said, "Death would be preferable to continue in this living hell."
Profiles of Abuse
After a decade of research, two psychology professors have found that abusive men tend to fall into one of two categories: "cobras" and "pit bulls," each with distinct characteristics.
Pit Bulls Cobras
Confine violent behavior to people they love. Likely to be aggressive toward everyone, including pets.
Jealous and fear abandonment; try Not emotionally dependent, but
to deprive partners of independence. insist that partners cater to every desire.
Prone to rage, stalking and even .
public attacks. Calm down internally as they
Become physiologically aroused in become aggressive.
an argument. Difficult to treat with therapy.
Some potential for rehabilitation. More likely to have criminal records
Less likely to have criminal record; and abuse drugs and/or more likely to have
abusive fathers. alcohol.
By Jane E. Brody
Published in the New York Times, March 17, 1998
A common response of people who learn that a woman is being battered by the man she lives with is: "Why doesnt she leave? What kind of woman is she to stay with a man who beats her?" But experts on domestic violence and the women who are its victims say these questions, though well-meaning, reflect profound ignorance of the tenacious hold abusive men can have on their partners and the often-limited options available to women in abusive relationships.
Such a woman faces two major obstacles: fear and finances fear for her safety and that of her children and a lock of money to support herself or them. The most dangerous time in the life of a battered woman is when she attempts to leave her abuser. Threatened by the loss of control, the batterer is likely to become even more violent and may even try to kill her. There are simply not enough shelters to protect all the women who need them.
Despite much stronger laws against domestic violence and a greater willingness of the authorities to enforce them, the risk to an abused womans life is ever-present. Even when a batterer is served with an order of protection, he may stalk and harass the woman and taunt her with threats of further violence. More than half the women who leave violent men are hounded, badgered and forced to return, experts report.
Still, every year many women do escape, safely and permanently, gradually rebuild their tattered egos and start a new life. Sarah Buel, who had been a seriously battered wife before she finally escaped with her young son, went to college at night, then Harvard Law School and become a prosecutor and advocate for abused women, maintains that leaving a violent relationship "is all about who you know and what you know," adding, "Its about feeling empowered enough to make that break, feeling good enough about yourself to say I dont deserve this anymore."
She points out that "women are socialized to be loving, forgiving and to give one more chance," adding, "They dont want to believe that their relationship failed because they werent willing to try harder." But according to Dr. Neil Jacobson and Dr. John Gottman, psychologists at the University of Washington in Seattle and authors of "When Men Batter Women" (Simon & Shuster, $25), "Those who stay, hoping that the violence and emotional abuse will stop, are usually disappointed."
A Safety Plan
The primary tasks of a woman trapped in a violent relationship are to learn about the resources in her community that can help her and to develop a plan that can protect her and her children while she is still in the relationship and when she is ready to get out. Possibly the single best resource is a $12 paperback book published last year by Harper Perennial, "What to Do When Love Turns Violent," written by Marian Betancourt, who spent three years preparing to escape with her children from a violent husband. She learned the hard way what resources were and were not available to help abused women and in her book provides detailed advice and helpful sources to aid in every aspect of escape.
Start with the National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE (7233) and, for the hearing-impaired, 800-787-3224. Through the hot line you can get a packet of helpful information (have it sent to your workplace or a trusted friend or family member) and guidance to local resources. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands now have central domestic violence coalitions that can help women find community resources, including counseling, medical clinics, shelters, safe houses, support groups, victim assistance programs, emergency funds, police domestic violence officers and mental health and legal services.
Your best resource when living with a violent partner may be the emergency number, 911. Dont hesitate to use it when you are in immediate danger. Teach your children to use it, too, and to give the operator succinct information like "My Daddy is beating my Mommy. He is drunk and he has a knife. We live at .. Hurry."
Ms. Betancourt points out that recent laws have mandated improved police training for handling domestic violence. Laws now also call for mandatory arrests of perpetrators in most states. She urges women to report each and every violent episode to police, provide them with every conceivable bit of evidence, from photographs of bruises to torn clothing and smashed furniture, and to make sure that the police file a report and arrest the abuser. Keep several throw-away cameras in the house to easily document the abuse.
Consider wearing a pendant alarm or carrying a cell phone to call the police when you are in danger. Have an emergency bag packed and store it outside the house, perhaps with a neighbor. It should contain keys to the car, money and copies of all important documents, including order of protection, drivers license and car registration, birth certificate, medical insurance cards, passport and immigration papers, the childrens school and immunization records and the numbers of your bank card, credit cards and Social Security cards (yours and his). You may also want to pack a few clothes for yourself and your children.
Know every way you can get out of the house, where you can go for help and how to get there. If you live in an apartment with only one door, ask the neighbors to call the police any time they hear your cries for help or suspicious loud noises coming from your apartment. Tell the children in advance that if you are forced to leave home without them because you are in danger, you will come back for them as soon as possible. Tell them, too, where they can go to be safe during a violent encounter with your partner and warn them against trying to intervene lest they get beaten or worse.
Ms. Betancourt also recommends that a woman tell her employer about her home situation and, if she has obtained an order of protection, provide the security guards at work with photos of her partner.
But even with the best plans and most expert advice, the Seattle psychologists warn, it must never be forgotten that "all attempts to escape from abusive relationships are risky," adding, "no one can predict with anything close to certainty how a batterer will respond." They emphasize that the woman not family, friends or professionals is the only one who can decide if and when it is the right time to leave.
Even if you are not ready to leave a violent relationship, you may find it helpful to join a support group for abused women. These usually are available at or through local shelters. Ms. Betancourt says there you can find empathy and understanding for your plight, people who can boost your ego and offer much-needed hugs and provide useful hints on how to get the system working for you.
Places to Turn
Local police departments in most major cities now have domestic violence officers, who often can provide the help that victims need. National resources include: