Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Parsing Domestic Violence by Marriage and Class

This is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so you may have seen a statistic like this: Nearly 25 percent of American women report being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime.

This sort of statistic makes my students worry that they have a high likelihood of being beaten themselves. What this kind of scary blanket statistic obscures, though, is that educated, middle class, married people -- what the great majority of my students are likely to become -- are at the lowest risk of violence. As Waite and Gallagher note in The Case for Marriage, "the safest place for a women to be is inside marriage.” Being poor is an even greater risk factor than being unmarried: the National Family Violence Survey suggested that rates of "abusive violence" to women with annual incomes below $10,000 are more than 3.5 times those found in households with incomes over $40,000.

Domestic violence is a genuine problem for women and men of all marital states and social classes. But it is important in giving people a real sense of their own risks, and in fighting the culture of fear in general, to see that married middle class people are at low risk of domestic violence.


Katie said...

Yes, but notice that the statistic includes date rape. Future middle/upper class housewives are not immune from this part of the statistic, especially while in college. While it's wonderful that your students can most likely "breathe easy" that they will avoid domestic abuse, please be sure to not gloss over the very serious potential for date rape.

Gruntled said...

We do talk about date rape in class. We also note that women and men who conducting their courtship with no possibility of premarital sex (and no drunkenness) are also very unlikely to be subject to date rape, too.