Book Review: Abusive endings: Separation and divorce violence against women

Published date01 December 2018
Date01 December 2018
Subject MatterBook Reviews
In summary, In Search of Safety is a well-researched examination of how women get to and
experience prison. The authors detail how women confront the realities of their time in prison.
Finally, the authors make a compelling case for sending as few women as possible to prison and for
making prison a much different place for those women that society still sends to prison.
DeKeseredy, W., Dragiewicz, M., & Schwartz, M. (2017).
Abusive endings: Separation and divorce violence against women. Oakland: University of California Press. xiii,
227 pp. $32.93, ISBN 978-0-520-28575-0.
Reviewed by: Tammy Meredith, Applied Research Services, Inc., Atlanta, GA, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016817737137
The American media obsession with mass shootings is understandable; nearly one American is
killed each day on average in a mass shooting (325 people died in 2015). Yet in the same year, 3
times as many women are murdered by a current or former partner and the media coverage pales.
The fact that we’re not equally shocked and horrified by both types of killings, to quote the authors,
“says a great deal about American culture and the commonplace notion of killing women.” We
might respond, “if she was abused then why didn’t she leave?” Abusive Endings examines what
happens when women begin to leave abusive relationships. A woman’s risk of murder increases by 9
times when she exits an abusive relationship, particularly within the first 2 months. That risk of death
spreads to her children. Between one third and one half of homicide victims following relationship
separation are children killed by their fathers. Thus, marks the entre´e of seemingly private business
into the very public worlds of law enforcement, health, child welfare, and family law.
Abusive Endings is fourth in the series Gender and Justice (Editor Claire Renzetti), which seeks
to “challenge assumptions” and “transform practice and policy.” The authors ground this work in
over 40 years of studying gender violence and after consulting 586 sources of relevant materials.
In the first two chapters, the authors conceptualize, define, and describe male violence against
women. The first myth debunked: Abuse is a mental health problem. In fact, it is commonplace
behavior predictable and easily understood. The authors call for a broad definition of separation and
divorce violence to include physically, legally, or emotionally exiting a marital or cohabitating
relationship and a broad definition of violence to include physical, psychological, verbal, and
spiritual. They next call for a gender-specific definition to debunk the second myth: Women are
as violent as men. Gender-neutral “intimate partner violence” language obfuscates the overwhelm-
ing scientific evidence. Despite the antifeminist backlash, men are the primary offenders and women
are the primary targets of intimate violence. Attention to definitions is critical, as a narrow con-
ceptualization of separation/divorce violence results in many behaviors not counted in the collection
and analysis of data necessary to support the development of theory.
Without an explanation, we cannot expect change. The third myth is debunked: Most abused
women do leave. That act of separation is a primary risk factor for fatal violence, for themselves, and
for their children.
Chapter 3 examines the role of new technologies in facilitating abuse, stalking, and harassment.
In a patriarchal culture where financial control is typically held by men, abused women are partic-
ularly vulnerable to cell phone, credit card, and banking activity tracking. Advances in computer
spyware, hidden spy cameras, social network site intrusion, and image-based sexual assault (revenge
pornography) increase opportunities for abuse. Technologies have also increased exposure to the
518 Criminal Justice Review 43(4)

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