Within the study of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), whether or not abuse and victimization are gendered or gender-specific has consistently been a controversial and sensitive subject. It can be argued that evidence has been found that IPV is gender-specific, but there is also evidence that IPV is not always gender-specific, leading to little or no connection between being male or female and being an offender or a victim. Using a case where a woman kills her husband with the help of her boyfriend, it can be shown that, although women are statistically and historically more affected by intimate partner violence than men, men can be susceptible to abuse, as well.
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Although women have historically been seen as being weak, emotional, or the property of their partner, corresponding with research that women are always and most often victims of abuse, this case shows that Intimate Partner Violence is not always gender-specific, the idea or image of what a victim embodies is not always the same, and that the connections between larger societal ideologies, values, and abusive behaviors can manifest in countless ways. Though there can be similarities in assessing gender differences within the topic of IPV, there are also many differences in cases of IPV regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or educational background. Many people seem to be stuck on the idea of Intimate Partner Violence as regularly occurring between a female victim and a male perpetrator, and while this image of IPV can be useful in many cases, it is important to be open to the idea that IPV can manifest in many forms in all types of relationships.
Throughout history, as well as within today’s society, intimate partner violence has been one of the most common forms of violence against women, including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, along with controlling behaviors at the hands of an intimate partner. According to the World Health Organization, “Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) occurs in all settings and among all socioeconomic, religious, and cultural groups. The overwhelming burden of IPV is borne by women” (2012, online). Though there are many connections between IPV and the victimization of women, in a case that occurred on August 18th, 2019, a woman named Dalli Jyothi murdered her husband, D. Satish Kumar, with the assistance of her boyfriend and a friend. As stated by Gulf News, Dalli Jyothi, along with her boyfriend S. Bharat Kumar, an ex-offender and his friend G. Bhaskar Rao, allegedly killed D. Satish Kumar a 32-year-old havildar (a rank equivalent to a sergeant) in the Indian Army (2019, online). According to Commissioner of Police RK Meena: “On August 18th night, Jyothi allegedly laced alcohol with sedatives and served it to Satish who fell asleep after consuming it. Then, she called her 24-year-old boyfriend Bharat, who reached her house, along with his friend Bhaskar. The trio allegedly strangled Satish with a dupatta and then hanged the body from a ceiling fan with a saree in a bid to make it look like a suicide” (Gulf News, 2019, online).
In many ways, this case is quite different from the typical ideas of how intimate partner violence looks. For example, in Beth Sipe’s case, IPV played out in multiple forms, including but not limited to: physical violence over an extended period, repeated sexual violence, emotional and verbal abuse, and financial abuse. “In front of the kids, Sam jumped on me, beating me in the face and head. Then he grabbed me by the hair and dragged me, kicking and screaming, into our bedroom. He threw me on the bed, sat on me, and held a pillow over my face until I blacked out” (Beth Sipe & Evelyn Hall, 2014, pg. 77), is one example of Beth’s experience with IPV and how Sam’s abuse manifested. Contrary to Beth’s case, Dalli and her husband, Satish, typically had frequent and heated verbal arguments, but neither she nor her husband ever got physical. For example, the commissioner stated that Dalli claimed her husband was an alcoholic and suspected of fidelity, which led to frequent arguments between them (Gulf News, 2019, online). Although Dalli and her husband and Beth and Sam had different experiences with IPV, some similarities would include the fact that both men had issues with alcohol and both men were in the Military.
According to Xavier L. Guadalupe-Diaz and Jana Jasinski, “Working through a modified grounded analytic approach, two major themes emerged in the help-seeking process: ‘walking the gender tightrope’ in which participants first struggled with gendered notions of victimization that made it difficult to identify abuse, and second, the challenges of ‘navigating genderist resources’” (2017, pg. 1). With this being said, the idea of what a victim looks like often leans toward the image of a woman who is being hit or physically abused by a man. Although this is an accurate image of a victim, it is important to recognize that anyone can be a victim, and victimization and abuse do not look the same across all cases.
In the case of Dalli and her husband, it might have been difficult to recognize any abusive patterns or experiences within their relationship, because there was no apparent physical abuse and more often than not, their arguments were behind closed doors. In other words, many people most likely would not suspect that Dalli was the abuser in this case or that any abuse or mistreatment was even occurring. Beth, on the other hand, fit the idea of what a victim looks like- she was a woman, smaller in stature, and she often had injuries that hinted at some type of physical abuse. Since all cases are different, it is important to recognize that anyone can be a victim, and it is not always apparent that abuse is occurring because certain types of victimization remain largely unexplored (Guadalupe-Diaz & Jasinski, 2017, pg. 1). The case of Dalli and Satish is an ideal example as to why we must expand the idea of a victim.
Connections between larger societal ideologies, values, and abusive behaviors can manifest in countless different ways. Historically, certain populations have been neglected and alienated by certain service systems, leading many to believe that there are no resources to help them cope with their IPV experience. Early feminist perspective focused on how society creates an accepting environment for abuse and used the idea of larger patriarchal social structures and histories to explain abusive behavior. Although the feminist perspective is useful, it hints at the idea that only men are abusers and women are victims. “Less visible, but even more widespread is the legacy of day-to-day, individual suffering. It is the pain of children who are abused by people who should protect them, women injured or humiliated by violent partners, elderly persons maltreated by their caregivers, youths who are bullied by other youths, and people of all ages who inflict violence on themselves. This suffering- and there are many more examples that I could give- is a legacy that reproduces itself, as new generations learn from the violence of generations past, as victims learn from victimizers, and as the social conditions that nurture violence are allowed to continue” (World Health Organization, 2002, pg. 5). This quote from the World Health Organization puts into perspective that suffering and victimization is universal and manifests in many different ways. Societal implications of abuse have begun to encourage changes, such as laws related to violence against women, to give additional support to not only women, but anyone affected by violence (“Laws on Violence Against Women,” 2018, online). If changes are not made and cycles are not broken, these historic ideologies and patriarchal structures will continue to enforce the idea that men are abusers and women are victims.
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More recently, the intersections of people’s lives and experiences have been expanding the idea of what it means to be or look like a victim. In Dalli and Satish’s situation, they both have unique experiences with intersectionality. For example, Dalli was a woman of color, and Satish was a male of color in the military. The intersections of their lives can play a major role in their day-to-day experiences, as well as experiences with intimate partner violence. Awareness of intersectionality has been becoming more important, moving away from this idea that IPV is similarly experienced among all victims and abusers. IPV as a woman’s issue is not the same as what a woman or male of color, a transgender man or woman, etc., might experience, so again, the expansion and awareness of the struggles that marginalized groupings might face is an important consideration for intimate partner violence.
“We know that domestic violence can affect anyone- including men. According to the CDC, one in seven men age 18+ in the U.S. has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in his lifetime” (“Men Can Be Victims of Abuse, Too,” 2014, online). Although women have historically been seen as being weak, emotional, or the property of their partner, corresponding with research that women are always and most often victims of abuse, this case shows that Intimate Partner Violence is not always gender-specific. In many cases, the idea or image of what a victim embodies is not always the same, and the connections between larger societal ideologies, values, and abusive behaviors can manifest in countless ways. Many seem to be stuck on the idea of Intimate Partner Violence as being a female victim and a male perpetrator, and while this image of IPV can be useful in some cases, it is important to be open to the idea that IPV can manifest in many forms in all types of relationships.
- Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241. doi: 10.2307/1229039
- Guadalupe-Diaz, X. L., & Jasinski, J. (2017). “I Wasn’t a Priority, I Wasn’t a Victim”: Challenges in Help Seeking for Transgender Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence. Violence Against Women, 23(6), 772–792. doi: 10.1177/1077801216650288
- Laws on violence against women. (2018, October 23). Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/get-help/laws-violence-against-women
- Men can be victims, too. (2014, July 22). Retrieved from https://www.thehotline.org/2014/07/22/men-can-be-victims-of-abuse-too/
- Report, G. N. W. (2019, September 11). India: Woman, lover kill husband, try to make it look like suicide. Retrieved from https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/india/india-woman-lover-kill-husband-try-to-make-it-look-like-suicide-1.1568186735342
- Sipe, B., & Hall, E. J. (2014). I am not your victim: anatomy of domestic violence (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.
- Woman ‘kills’ husband, tries to make it look like suicide. (2019, September 10). Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/woman-kills-husband-tries-to-make-it-look-like-suicide/article29386778.ece
- World Health Organization. (2002). World report on violence and health: summary. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/world_report/en/summary_en.pdf
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