Sunday, January 07, 2007

The “De-feminization” of Domestic Violence and What it Means for Elder Abuse

In 1994, the San Francisco Consortium got a grant from the Administration on Aging to develop services for older battered women. I was delighted. A few years earlier, I’d collaborated with the Family Violence Prevention Fund on a series of talks on elder domestic violence for aging and DV service providers. Since nobody knew much about the subject then, my co-trainer from FVPF talked about DV for half an hour, and I talked about elder abuse for the other half. It was in the car on the way home that we tried to figure out the connections.

Amazing things happened. Once, I heard that a woman who worked at an agency we’d just presented to had refused to attend. Afterwards, others approached her to ask why. As they’d expected, she was a victim herself, terrified, and unready to deal with it. The short story is that with their help, she relocated and got a job with a sister agency in another city, all in a matter of weeks. When I called my co-trainer from FVPF to tell her the news, her response was, “Yeah, we get that a lot.”

Since our field was struggling to understand why so many clients refuse help, I was tremendously impressed by her insights into why battered women do what they do, when they do it, and why. Grounded in feminist ideology, traditional DV theory blames deeply-rooted, gender-based inequalities and discrimination for why men batter and get away with. It recognizes the intense cultural, psychological, and economic forces that trap women in violent relationships. And, that violence doesn’t occur randomly; it follows predictable patterns, which, when understood, suggest ways to help.

Once we got the AoA grant, we pulled together an advisory committee of reps from the DV and elder abuse networks. At our first meeting, we tried to come up with a working definition of DV. Someone proposed one that was commonly used at the time: “An escalating pattern of violence by men against their intimate partners to gain power and control.”

Immediately, the elder abuse folks wanted to tinker. “But adult children abuse their parents, and it happens in the home, which makes it “domestic,” they argued. “And it’s often related to financial abuse so we should include that too.” Things heated up quickly, and I imagined the project going belly up. The deadlock was eventually broken when we started talking about cases, (incidentally, I've always found this to be an effective antidote to turfism). Other AoA-funded projects were having similar struggles with varying resolutions. One project, for example, included abuse by male offspring but only if it met the other DV criteria.

Today, we wouldn’t be having the same debate. Definitions of DV have changed radically over the years for several reasons. As DV programs reached out to women of color, they met resistance from many who argued that while sexism plays a role in family violence, other social injustices do too. The Sacred Circle National Resource Center, for example, emphasizes the role of colonization and the disruption of family life in family violence among Indians. Duluth’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Project changed its definition, conceding that “all forms of institutionalized oppression, including racism, classism, heterosexism, and ageism increase the vulnerability of women…” Gay and lesbian advocates challenged traditional gender-based theory by exposing violence among same-sex intimate partners.

The elder abuse network has contributed to this “de-feminization” of DV. Much of the literature on elder DV cites prevalence studies showing that spousal abuse is the most common form of elder abuse. The same studies show that men are at somewhat greater risk. What they don’t explain is that these studies include dementia-related violence, which is clearly not DV.

More recently, men’s advocacy groups have claimed that men get abused too, by women, with some claiming that men are at equal or even greater risk. Critics argue that most of these studies use the same research tool, which has serious limitations. For example, it leaves out important forms of violence, including sexual assault, stalking, and intimidation, and fails to differentiate between offensive and defensive acts. Still, these groups have gained traction. They have initiated lawsuits claiming unlawful gender discrimination by DV programs that don’t serve men, and a 2005 amendment to the Violence Against Women Act specifies that “any grants or other activities for assistance to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual assault or trafficking in persons shall be construed to cover both male and female victims.”

All of these pressures and challenges have obscured the definition of DV to the point that many prominent groups have abandoned the term altogether, replacing it with "intimate partner violence," "violence against women," "late-life domestic abuse," and other terms that are equally obscure. I find this lack of clarity troubling since DV laws like mandatory arrest and no-drop policies are powerful tools that should only be used for the purposes they were intended for, empowering the disempowered.

While nobody would argue that men are abused by women and deserve protection, the whole point of the DV movement was that radical reforms were needed to counteract historical injustices that rendered the tradition system ineffective. Clearly, those who have not experienced these injustices don’t need special protections. Many believe that the "battered men’s movement" has less to do with a genuine concern for male victims and more with political agendas regarding family courts and other anti-feminist concerns (some men's advocacy groups were originally formed to address issues like child custody). This backlash threatens what are already over-extended resources for battered women.

The elder abuse network is divided when it comes to the role of gender and other societal forces in elder DV (and elder abuse in general). Some have criticized us for being “gender neutral,” and others have called for discussion about the cumulative effects of gender, age, race, and class in raising older women’s vulnerability.

Others reject feminist and social justice analyses altogether. Much of the mainstream literature on older battered women is devoid of any references to feminism, gender, or social justice. I believe that’s a mistake. To assume that these factors don't affect risk or victims’ ability to protect themselves, assuming instead that abuse is only about interpersonal conflict, is myopic and does a disservice to the elderly women we serve. Not to mention compromising hard won battles fought by our colleagues in DV.

The DV movement is in a state of flux. In addition to the backlash from men, there is debate within the field. Victim dissatisfaction with criminal justice responses and such problems as the escalating number of women being arrested as co-combatants, which I’ve talked about in earlier posts, have led some to suggest that greater attention to other approaches is needed, including helping abused women attain financial self-sufficiency.

There has been little debate or discussion within our field about any of these issues or even about what we mean by the term “elder domestic violence.” I believe there should be. How things shake down in the DV world, and where we stand in relation to it, will have significant repercussions for those we serve.

I'd welcome your comments.

19 comments:

Marion S. said...

It clearly seems that the field of Elder Abuse can learn from the experience and research of Domestic Violence professionals. However, it also seems that the Elder Abuse community must be careful to select appropriate criteria and adapt them as necessary to our own experience and research in the arena of Elder Violence.

For example, we need to examine such questions as: is Elder Violence subject to the same gender and power issues as Domestic Violence; should we include only relatives of the abused when speaking of Elder Violence; is neglect included as a form of Elder Violence; is the term Elder Domestic Violence even appropriate; what about Elder Violence that occurs outside of the home? These are but a few of the questions that come to mind. How could we as a group begin to learn from the Domestic Violence community, and how best could we come to an agreement as to an appropriate definition for Elder Violence?

I'd love to see a discussion on this topic.

Ola Barnett said...

Kudos to Lisa Nerenberg for calling attention to the issue of “de-feminization” of DV. I agree that there has been a new push to conceptualize DV as gender neutral

I would like to express my view about the use of the phrase Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) as a substitute for DV. There are far too many terms in vogue concerning male-to-female intimate violence. IPV seems to be a helpful term because it is so inclusive. It covers intimate persons who are married, cohabiting, separated/ divorced, dating couples, elders, and both genders. Surveys that try to capture the prevalence or incidence of spouse abuse (married spouses only) miss the especially high prevalence and incidence of abuse against separated or divorced women. Such an oversight contributes to the doubtful conclusion that women are as violent as men.

In response to Lisa’s statements about the intention of DV laws to empower the disempowered, I wonder whether empowerment has been the purpose of the newer legislation. Usually, law enforcement personnel are charged with arresting and prosecuting DV perpetrators on the basis of discrete acts. They would not consider being “disempowered” as a rationale for legal intervention - the concept of disempowerment is particularly difficult to operationally define. Some experts are aware of the consequences of current laws, and they are tackling methods for making criminal justice responses more sensitive to battered women’s individual needs.

Research in the area of DV causation is evolving. Certainly the culture traps many women, and the status of women in a culture is highly associated with the level of abuse leveled against them. That is, the lower a woman’s cultural status, the higher the probability is that she will be a recipient of violence from her male partner. There is little debate that the minority status (race, ethnicity, immigrant, rural, same sex) of some women in the United States places them at increased risk for DV.
Because interpersonal violence has many causes, one cannot limit the dialogue to just one cause – the patriarchy. This is especially true because only a small percentage of men in the United States actually physically abuse women. Other motivations for DV exist. Consistent reliable evidence, for example, indicates that some men batter women because they have learned how by watching how violence is used in their childhood home. They see their father beating their mother, or they see how a parent uses physical discipline. Both of these events demonstrate that using violence is effective in getting one’s way. Other causes that contribute to some men’s violence are certain forms of psychopathology, such as antisocial personality disorder. Although probably not directly causative, alcohol or drug usage is highly correlated with DV.
There are also powerful psychological reasons why battered women do not leave. One is that they love their partner and hope that he will change. Since many batterers apologize and promise to change, feelings of hope are quite understandable. Most people want their marriage to work, and they have invested a lot of time and effort into the relationship. Battered women are no different. Another reason battered women do not leave is that they develop intense fear of their batterer. The male partner may have threatened to kill the female partner, and she believes that he might just do it. She has learned that her male partner will hurt her or her children, and she worries that her partner’s threats to harm her relatives are real. Feelings of love/hope coupled with fear of the partner tend to trap women into staying.
These conflicting feelings added to women’s economic dependency further trap them in violent relationships. A number of research studies have, in fact, revealed that lack of financial resources may be the number one reason many women give for staying. Without money, where can a battered woman go? How will she feed her children?
The idea of patterns of abuse, whether escalating or cycling needs further clarification. Although less that a handful of studies have investigated patterns of DV, those that have failed to identify any predictable patterns applicable to batterers as a whole. Instead, such theorized patterns apply only to some subgroups of batterers. In the majority of cases, DV may de-escalate or desists altogether. Discrepancies exist because of sample differences, the source of DV reports, and how DV is measured. Sheltered women, for example, most likely have experienced far more violence, some of it escalating or cycling, than community women.
It continues to be difficult for scholars in the field to agree on a definition of DV. The idea of defining DV as “An escalating pattern of violence by men against their intimate partners to gain power and control” seemed to have reached something of a consensus until newer contradictory research emerged. Also, it has been difficult to validate the idea that DV stems from a desire for power and control, despite widespread acceptance and anecdotal evidence. One problem has been devising a measurement instrument capable of assessing control/domination/power motivation.
The question of whether elder abuse is “spouse abuse grown old” or abuse of parents by adult children remains a bit unclear. Most of the latest research suggests that adult children are the most frequent offenders. Here again, methodological differences (samples, measurements) have caused much of the ambiguity.

What types of abuse constitute elder abuse is another evolving issue. Is DV against elders limited to physical abuse and neglect or are there other insidious forms? More and more experts have recognized the extensive financial abuse of parents by adult children in the United States. Financial abuse by children is so common that there are a number of special teams of bankers, police, social workers, and the like, who are working on methods of detection and prevention. Judges are becoming more active in the field as well. It is an interesting side note that adult Chinese children hold the cultural belief that they “own” their elder parents’ as their parents’ age.
I certainly agree with Ms. Nerenberg’s summary of the ongoing debate about gender symmetry in DV. Almost without exception, research surveys using the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS1; Straus, 1979) show that women are as violent as men. Even the test developer, however, concedes that “women are more truly victimized than men.” With the addition of sexual assault and injury subscales to CTS2 (revised test), research results do not show gender parity. One major complaint about the CTS scales is that they force the respondents’ answers into the framework of a “conflict” situation. Since much DV does not arise within a conflict context, critics question the findings of gender symmetry based on these scales. Including separated and divorced women in these surveys would also change the results. It is useful to note that criminal justice surveys definitely do not show gender parity and neither do injury incidence studies. These studies show men to be far more violent toward their female partners than vice versa. Stalking data also show that women are more frequently victimized than men.
As Ms. Nerenberg states, nobody would debate that some men are battered. It is more difficult to claim, however, that men have experienced as much injustice at the hands of the criminal justice system as women have. From a different perspective, it is surprising to note that even now, the FBI will not accept the category of male rape as a crime. Here, men have suffered an injustice that should be addressed.
It does seem that the "battered men’s movement" has less to do with a genuine concern for male victims and more with political agendas regarding family courts and other anti-feminist concerns (some men's advocacy groups were originally formed to address issues like child custody). Some judges have certainly made a number of custody decisions in ways biased against women. Such behavior points to the need for more judicial education and for the establishment of special DV courts. Defense attorneys need to be cautious about using nonscientific myths about “parental alienation syndrome” in order to gain custody for their male clients.
Experts in this area of criminal justice are extremely concerned about the arrest of “abused perpetrators” - women acting in self-defense. Many available studies decry such terms as “mutual combat.” Further, some practitioners relate that gender symmetry in treatment of offenders is inadequate. Research in the area is still so sparse that only cautious interpretation is appropriate at this time. It is important to acknowledge that current treatment for DV has been and is under heavy criticism because of its ineffectiveness. The ineffectiveness of treatment has led to a movement to identify subtypes of DV offenders and then match treatment to subtype. It is very clear now that batterers are not a homogeneous group of men.

I certainly applaud experts in the field of elder abuse for their efforts to confront and eliminate this type of interpersonal violence. Keep up the good work. Ola Barnett.

Jessica Parent said...

I disagree with the de-feminization of domestic abuse. I have been an advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence for the past 12 years. Domestic abuse is a gendered crime. Men are abused (by women and by other men) but women are abused by men's violence at a much greater rate. Domestic abuse is underreported for all populations, not just men.

I think that the article hit the nail on the head about the "men's movement." In my experience, this movement has been about the continued use of power and control when a survivor of abuse leaves the abusive relationship and seeks a divorce.

Each population of survivors (children, adults, elderly) have differently difficult situations to content with. When children are abusing their elderly parents, it is not the same dynamic as spousal abuse. I think that the comparison puts us on a very slippery slope about what domestic abuse is and what elderly abuse by child is. They are different.

The feminist/battered women's movement is not a fix for everything; but it has made lasting, positive contributions that greatly impact ALL survivors. For this, we owe our thanks.

Jessica Parent

Lisa Nerenberg, Consultant, Speaker, Trainer said...

Hi Jessica.
Thanks for being the first brave soul in your class to post a comment

I absolutely agree that "de-feminizing" domestic abuse threatens to lead us down a dangerous slippery slope that undermines the important contributions made by the DV movement. DV practice was based on the idea that the power in "power and control" relationships is rooted in social, economic, and historical inequalities that women face. To assume that these factors no longer exist or are relevant would be a serious mistake.

That being said, however, DV advocates have increasingly come to recognize that other social, economic, and historical forces, besides gender discrimination, also contribute to violence. And, that these same forces obstruct survivors' access to resources and our systems of protection. Some in our field of elder abuse prevention have pointed out that ageism, added to racism and sexism, creates a "triple jeopardy." For more on that, see my article "A Feminist Perspective on Gender and Elder Abuse: A Review of the Literature" –there's a link from my website. I was at a meeting hosted by the Archstone Foundation earlier this year, where they had a "lessons learned" panel of representatives from the domestic violence and child abuse networks. When the domestic violence movement rep was asked if the DV movement had made any mistakes that we in elder abuse should avoid, her response was that they hadn't done enough to engage women of color. I hope we don't make the same mistake.

One last thought. I didn't mean to suggest that the de-feminization of elder DV is absolute. I recently saw the video What's Age Got To Do With /t?, which was written and directed by Hilary Pryor and produced by The May Street Group Film for the B.C./Yukon Society of Transition Houses. It clearly affirms the importance of gender in elder domestic violence. A study guide that accompanies the video states "Because men often have more cultural, economic and physical power than women, they are more likely to use force, intimidation and fear to dominate women in relationships." It also describes how these forces increase with age.

DawnJ said...

I don’t find anything wrong with elder abuse being considered gender neutral. Elder abuse can happen to both genders similar to DV, but women are also seen as the victims. With elder abuse the perpetrators tend to be children so it does not matter if the parent is male or female. In the cases I see the reason why women victims are more prevalent I find is due to the fact that women live longer than men and are around for a longer period of time increasing their chances for being victims of abuse, which does not mean that men are not being abused as frequently. Dawn J

L. Rene Bergeron said...

Fascinating dialogue. I need to process more, but want to respond and not use my "processing" as an excuse not to...so I will "think outloud" and reserve the right to change my mind.

I believe that it was absolutely necessary to frame domestic violence in the context of abuse perpetrated against women by male partners in order to obtain a justice system that would be response to abused women -- thus, the feminization of abuse.

However, since that time we have learned much, developed much, and are revising much. We have learned that women do abuse men, and domestic violence does involve sibling to sibling abuse, child to parent abuse, parent to child abuse, and spousal/partner abuse. To minimize other forms of abuse because is may not be as severe as what males do to women could be dangerous, especially for the younger generation growing up today where female violence is on the rise. It is an essence what has happened to the field of research in medicine -- only the dramatic diseases that affect the largest number people (and many times only if those people are of a middle or upper class status)can be assured of funding. The obscure diseases that affect the uninsured, poor, and small number of people have little research available to them.

Our culture is dramatically changing where the taboos of not allowing women in combat, not allowing women to value their bodies for their strength, and not allowing women access into "masculine" jobs are diminishing (although I recognize we have much further to go). Women are also beginning to share one of the biggest powerbases they have held -- that of raising their children -with their male partners. Hopefully, by putting fathers into childcaring, nurturing roles of daily caregiving of their children,a taboo against violent behavior will be instilled. Thus, I do not believe we can continue to hold onto the feminization of abuse. What I see is that the feminization of abuse is a practice approach to be used for one population of victims, and to be applied as appropriate to other groups. It is a valid and powerful argument for policies and laws for that population. But we need other practice approaches for other types of domestic violence besides that of men who perpetrate against women. And now that we have recognized that other forms of violence do indeed exist, that alone changes the overarching definition of domestic violence. We cannot reserve that term just for the female victims of violent acts.

Cindy W said...

It seems to me that alot of time is spent on terminology and definitions regarding a simple truth...violence is prevalent in our society. Violence, whether labeled domestic violence, intimate violence, physical, sexual, psyhologiccal, elder abuse, childhood abuse, bullying or assualts, are all violent acts against humanity. This statement is probably over-simplified and obviuos, but I become quite frustrated with the time and energy researchers, and service providers spend "labeling" oppression. With that said, I beleive educating our children through early intervention programs (elementary level) that aggressive acts and violence are not acceptable as problem-solving techniques. From research I have read it appears that children who see their parents engage in violent acts are three times more likely to become bullies or victims of bullying in their life span, especailly if the child is a male. This means a child does not even have to be a victim of abuse to continue the unhealthy cycle of family violence. Early internvention teaching children compassion, empathy, respect,and understanding for others is key to changing our societel acceptance of violence as an answer to stress, frustration, or anger.
I feel that DV was and remains an important movement in protecting the less powerful and discriminated against parties. But as a society we must remain open-minded enough to realize that generalizations can be dangerous. The power and control of our society is actually held by a very small group...the white, rich, males. That leaves the rest of humanity struggling for the limited social service resources available.
I feel that elder abuse can be studied with some level of gender neutrality because even though we know women are victimized at higher rates than men,as Dawn commented,that could be simply due to less elder men in society. I personally feel males and females deserve equal social justic rights of respect, dignity, and protection.
The comment in Lisa's blog states, "This backlash threatens what are already over-extended resources for battered women". I agee that there is a problem with the funding of social services in America, but does that give service practitioners the right to decide what group of battered souls deserves more "help" than another? I wish there was a magic fix, but then we wouldn't be having this dialogue!

meredith watson said...

from the experiences i have had working in the field, vicitms of domestic violence are more likely to be female. I have a strong belief that patriarchy is a cause for domestic violence against women, young and older. the patriarchial theory focuses specifically on domestic violence against women. it uses cultural, finanical, and political inferiority of women as compared to men to explain how women are treated as men's possessions and the target of their agressions. our government laws and customs maintain the power between the sexes. throughout our history in America domestic violence has occurred because women were seen as subordinate to men. Throughout history men were encouraged to treat their wives and daughters as property. There was the rule of thumb, where men were not permitted to beat their wives or children with an item larger than his thumb. i feel that the women's movement has helped to put this issue into the public eye, but patriarchy still exisits in our society and i feel that domestic violence is a gender issue because of the fact that it has to do with power and control. i am in no way trying to say that men who are vicitms shouldnt be entitled to assistance. i do feel that domestic violence is a issue that is typically a female issue and that it is deep rooted in sexism. i feel that because of that it should be treated as a gender issue. Meredith Watson

Anonymous said...

In terms of elder abuse, I feel that this issue is effects both sexes, albeit not equally. All things being equal (ie. age of elderly victim) men are typically less likely to access helping agencies where as women across the life span typically connect with these resources. It would be interesting to hear from others on how they feel access to resources affects these numbers.

Concerning de-feminization of domestic violence and how it affects elder abuse...the premise behind feminist theory is that the oppressed have the potential to become abused. This statement holds true as elders are cast aside in this society. Therefore the potential for elderly men to be victimized is more likely when the potential perpetrator is younger (ie. the elder's child).

In the spirit of the feminist movement I feel that it can evolve into justice for all members of all oppressed groups including elderly men. That being said I believe that social workers and other members of the helping community need to remember the spirit in which feminism was established.

Mandy G

MindyD said...

I am reminded of one of Dr. Bergeron’s articles, in which she emphasized the fact that whichever theory(ies) on elder abuse we as social workers subscribe to influences our assessments and interventions, so we need to be aware of what we believe and why, making the discussion of the defeminization of elder abuse worthwhile, in my humble opinion.

I agree that we need to keep an eye on/carefully guard against movements that would undermine the hard-won power and control basis of so much of the violence against women of all ages. At the same time, we can’t deny that elderly men are abused as well – and for them, we need another theory/practice approach that fits their situations. I just can’t bring myself to see them as any less deserving of help. Since I began this program, the emphasis has been on social work as a person-in-environment field of helping – it’s all about context, context, context. In many or most cases of elder abuse, the feminist lens probably applies – in others, I’m sure it doesn’t. In her original post, Ms. Nerenberg talked about the debate raging between the reps from the DV and elder abuse networks as they tried to hammer out a working definition of DV. It’s interesting that the deadlock wasn’t broken until they stopped arguing and started talking about cases, which suggests to me that again, it’s about the person in their environment/situation at that point in time. However, I’m not minimizing the importance of coming up with agreed-on definitions for the problems we’re trying to address. We need them. We need them to be uniform across states, which they aren’t. So I guess we need to keep arguing until we have them, in order to best serve all survivors, regardless of gender, age, race, SES, etc. And in the meantime, know what we believe and why, and respect the individuality of each case and each person involved.
-- Mindy D.

Lisa Nerenberg, Consultant, Speaker, Trainer said...

The issue of context is so important, and I'm glad that so many of you have brought it up.

The consequences of not understanding context can be deadly as the video "What's Age Got To Do With It" demonstrates. In it, a social worker wrongfully assesses a situation as caregiver stress and leaves a very vulnerable elderly woman in a deadly situation. On the other hand, when police fail to recognize that abuse is caused by dementia, believing instead that it's domestic violence, they may feel compelled to make arrests (some states have "mandatory arrest" policies for DV), which can have nightmarish consequences for people with dementias. In the string on "Perpetrators with Dementias," many of your classmates have described situations in which that response would be totally inappropriate.

Differentiating between DV that belongs in the criminal justice system, and cases that require a mental health or social service response is one of the greatest challenges workers face. It can also be the cause of conflict. Law enforcement folks often want to review cases as early as possible because the earlier they start working a case, the less chance there is for perpetrators to re-offend, that critical evidence will be lost or destroyed, or that perpetrators will hide their tracks or, in financial abuse cases, abscond with assets. On the other hand, social workers may want to intervene first because they understand that using heavy-handed approaches is likely to alienate clients, and building trust is so important in elder abuse cases. Most of us in the field also abide by the overarching principle that we start with less restrictive alternatives first.

Some of what I consider to be the most innovative programs around these days are trying to avoid these conflicts by bringing together police, advocates, and social and mental health service providers together at the earliest stage possible in cases so that those involved can figure out which approach is appropriate. Examples include "rapid response multidisciplinary teams" and family justice centers.
Check out Santa Clara's Rapid Response FAST in my manual Multidisciplinary Elder Abuse Prevention Teams: A New Generation. http://www.familyjusticecenter.org/
San Diego has a family justice center that recently added an elder abuse unit. For more, see: http://www.familyjusticecenter.org/

Abbey said...

Abbey P.

Domestic violence is not one gender and it does not happen at one particular age. I feel that instead of the different advocates and foundations fighting for their specific gender or age group they should work together. They should do this so that they can fight for a particular grant to better their resources or to give society a better understanding.

The problem is that these gender and age specific groups are not working together, instead it seems like they are working against each other. Maybe if they put their difference aside and work together though could accomplish more. Although they are fighting for their specific layer of dv. If they worked together than they can educate society and help them have a better understanding of what dv is. Who knows if this happened then maybe there would be more grants to do research or give resources out to the victims.

I feel that society was given the knowledge of what dv is through the women’s movement. The women movement worked really hard to advocate for themselves when living in a more male dominate world. Due to working so hard they were able to put the resources out their and allow women to receive the help that they needed to get out of their abusive relationships. They were so strong in their fight to better our society with the knowledge of dv that they did not leave room for men who are victims in intimate partner violent relationships. No wonder why male advocacy groups are fighting to be heard. Elder domestic violence may also struggle from this as well. I feel that elder dv advocates are better able to get their voices heard, but they are not as strong as women dv groups. We need to find a better way that all of these dv groups can work together. They are all going for one goal, which is to free ourselves from a world of dv. Why is it so hard to work together to do this, instead of fighting separately.

Cathy O said...

It is an unfortunate fact that a potential exists for any individual to be the victim of abuse. It is the case, however, that more younger and middle-age women are victims of domestic abuse than men. With this in mind, it seems intuitive that we should feminize domestic abuse, allowing for the occasional exception. However feminization may not be the most effective approach for elder abuse. As males age, the likelihood of victimization increases. Laws protecting victims of elder abuse must benefit all victims; long established services provided for women as the conventional victims must be reevaluated. It is entirely appropriate that our social justice system de-feminize abuse as it relates to elders.

traciew. said...

I feel that patriarchy is largely to blame for domestic violence in our culture...and quite honestly, world wide. I recently did a paper on the issue of intimate partner violence as seen from the feminist perspective. I was hard pressed to find evidence that did not make the correlation between male dominance, power, and control as a factor for violence against women. M. Strauss has much research to the contrary, specifically with regard to reciprocity of violence and women who batter, however, he fails to discuss at much length the circumstances surrounding those instances of violence, offensive vs. defensive acts of DV, and even more, severity of injuries becuase of domestic violence. It still stands that, as found in much of the research, in cases of domestic violence upto 85% of the time the victim is a female.

Gender equity is not found in domestic violence cases, however, the more research that becomes available on elder abuse we may find increased numbers of male victims. Circumstances for such findings I am assuming will be differentiated on a couple of key factors; perpetration by children and financial exploitation for instance, will most likely result in an increase in male victims of elder abuse. This however, does not create a notion of gender equity or equality for me, but simply adds another dimension to various forms of abuse and victims of such abuse.

Rebecca P said...

As research has indicated, elder abuse, including domestic violence, disproportionately affects women. Elder abuse and domestic violence impact men, too, and I am certainly not suggesting that it should not be taken seriously, but, statistically, cases of women being abused by male perpetrators are more common. Therefore, it makes sense that, initially, many services would primarily serve women.

I feel that men’s advocacy groups that have filed lawsuits claiming “unlawful gender discrimination by DV programs that don’t serve men…” do not fully grasp the feminist movement, and why, initially, support and protection services mainly accommodated women.

Beyond discrepancies, however, as to how to define DV, we do not want to lose sight of a very serious and primary issue and that is we need more support and protective services for the elderly population as a whole. Elder abuse is a large social problem and both elder women and men are at risk of being victims of elder abuse. Furthermore, elder abuse affects all races and social classes (Bergeron, 2003). As the baby boom population ages, the number of elder abuse cases will also increase (Bergeron, 2003), and, in my opinion, that should be a main focus. More vital services need to be put in place to assist the elderly population regardless of gender.

On a separate note, I discovered the Family Violence Prevention Fund website while doing research for a paper. I found this website that was also noted in Lisa’s blog to be a very useful and beneficial tool regarding abuse in a different context. Not only are there programs for specific populations, such as women, children and teens, but there is extremely beneficial information targeting public education as a means to promote awareness of domestic violence. There are useful links containing current legislation surrounding these issues.
Rebecca P

kimc said...

I think that it was interesting to hear about Lisa's experiences with two different groups and perspectives (DV and the Elder abuse networks) and how they figured out the similarities and the differences...and what worked and what didn't work...in order to provide the best services.

In my work with refugees and immigrants, I am always trying to bring out the culture piece when talking to providers and other professionals...It is important that we keep trying to look at all the parts and not assume a "one size fits all" approach...

Gina J. said...

Hello Dr. Nerenburg,
I am curious to know why you believe that the term intimate partner violence is obscure.
It is my opinion that support for men who have been victimized by domestic violence and support for women who have been victimized by domestic violence are, and should remain as seperate issues. If they are represented as seperate issues, then it seems that the existence of one does not have the ability to threaten the other.
I agree that it is a mistake to refrain from making references to feminism, gender or social justice when discussing the issue of older battered women. In fact, I would venture to say that older women have the potential to be even more at risk than their younger counterparts because it is likely that they have been socialized to be less liberated, due to the fact that they were raised during times when patriarchial control was even stronger than it is today.
I also agree that other approaches are needed, especially helping abused women to attain financial self-sufficiancy. My concern is that there are little to no options available for such services to these women.
Gina J.

A Bergeron student said...

Mandy, I agree with your statement that "the premise behind feminist theory [as it relates to DV] is that the oppressed have the potential to become abused." Women are oppressed because of patriarchy. People of color are oppressed because of racism. The poor are oppressed because of economic inequality. The list goes on and on. In the case of elders, oppression exists because of ageism, and because age, with few exceptions, eventually brings physical decline and infirmity. Each elder, depending upon his/her status within each factor (e.g. gender, race, economic status, disability), faces any number of oppressive factors that together make him/her vulnerable to abuse. I don't think one form of oppression necessarily trumps another, but the combined effect of all forms of oppression upon an individual (e.g. a poor, physically disabled, cognitively impaired, elderly women of color) increases that individual's vulnerability to abuse.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Nurenberg,

Thank you for this blog. I am a graduate student doing some research on victims of elder abuse in rural communities and I appreciated the information given in your article.

Thanks.