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115 6 Fighting Back “You Want to Fight? We Gonna Fight!” By the time Medea and her abusive husband, Henry, were approximately five years into their relationship, they were sleeping in separate rooms and Medea was already seriously contemplating getting a divorce. During their relationship, Medea called the police on a regular basis to intervene in Henry’s battering toward her. Sadly, the police in the Caribbean town where Medea resided were especially indifferent to woman battering. After what was to be the final battering incident, the police responded but left soon after. Later that evening, Medea took it upon herself to prevent any future battering by Henry: I waited till he was asleep and I got a knife. I gently turned the [knob] on his bedroom door and the door was locked. I had to take stock, I had to look at what I was doing, look at who I was becoming, look at what was going on with me. I had to look at that, as well as to look at the impact on my children. What kind of children did I want? Who did I want to raise? So I had to really do some introspection. . . . Aside from killing him, nothing would have satisfied me in terms of hurting him. I think he was so emotionally fucked that I think that very little could have hurt him. I really do. I just don’t think—I can’t conceive of anything that could have hurt him. I think he’s hurting now, ’cause [our children] have no contact at all with him. But [back] then, no. Women respond to intimate partner abuse in numerous ways, and many women utilize several methods throughout the course of the abusive relationship. Initially, women who are confronted with abuse tend to focus on the positive features of the abusive relationships.1 This was the situation for the women in my study. And, as I demonstrated in the previous chapter, the women were shocked by the first violent physical attacks 116 Fighting Back and were often uncertain as to how to proceed in the relationship. The most common response in the early stages of the abuse is for a woman to placate, accommodate, and/or avoid the batterer.2 Several of the women demonstrated this indulgent behavior by aspiring to be the perfect wife and mother. Mary Ann Dutton and her colleagues identified that battered women employ these and other “strategic responses” to protect themselves and their children from further intimate partner abuse.3 The more resistant and retaliatory strategies of talking back and hitting back are also forms of personal methods for responding to intimate partner abuse. The compelling circumstances that lead battered women to retaliate physically against a batterer may be connected to the severity of an abusive event, the expected outcome, or the battered woman’s personal experiences with abuse (particularly that which took place during childhood ). The need for battered women to physically fight back has received significant attention in other research.4 There are many cases where a battered woman has succeeded in putting an end to her abuse through the application of extreme or lethal violence. Though such cases have been profiled in academic literature,5 it is the popular media that brought women who murder their abusers to the general public’s attention. These acts may occur at the time the abuser attacks, or, in a more passive, safer method, while the batterer is incapacitated in some way (for example, asleep or intoxicated ) or otherwise not expecting an imminent reprisal by the resister. A series of studies has demonstrated that the propensity to combat the attacks of a batterer varies between women of different races and ethnicities . In particular, Black women have been found to fight back at greater rates than White women.6 As most couples are intraracial, a review of statistical findings regarding intimate partner violence against Black men (of whom most would identify as heterosexual, meaning that they have been assaulted by Black women) is important to mention with this analysis. In an evaluation of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data, Callie Marie Rennison and Sarah Welchans ascertained that intimate partner violence against Black men was approximately 62 percent higher than that of White men.7 This survey (and the resultant estimations) is based on interviews conducted with a sample of households across the United States. Individuals age 12 and older in each household were interviewed about offenses perpetrated against them...


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