Domestic violence can happen to individuals of any race, any socioeconomic status, any education level, and of course, any gender. But there’s no denying that domestic violence rates against women are higher than they are for men. Additionally, women are also more likely to be seriously hurt or killed as a result of intimate partner violence than men.
(Trans and nonbinary folks also experience higher rates of intimate partner violence, but unfortunately, there is less data for these communities and more research needs to be conducted.)
So why are women more likely to experience domestic violence—and more severe incidents of violence—than men?
It’s not because women are inherently more submissive or that men are simply stronger and more violent than women. Instead, it’s because women face greater societal inequities that perpetuate domestic violence against women and support systems that prevent women from getting help or making a change.
Gender stereotypes play a huge role in the perpetuation of domestic violence against women. Stereotypes arise as a result of cultural or societal values and, unfortunately, are an inherent part of any community.
Left unexamined, stereotypes lead to prejudice, discrimination, and systemic inequities that are layered into every aspect of society, such as access to job opportunities, housing, equal pay, access to education, and more. While progress can be made to equalize opportunities, the persistence of stereotypes will always result in more barriers and deeper levels of inequality.
Examples of Gender Stereotypes
One stereotype attributed to women in many cultures is that women are more submissive than men, especially in the context of marriage and family. This stereotype fosters the belief that women should obey their husbands and other male family members—not to mention male coworkers, bosses, and other authority figures. If they don’t obey or comply, this belief promotes the idea that women should be punished.
Additionally, men are stereotyped to be aggressive, powerful, and dominant in their relationships. This stereotype makes it more likely that men (and women!) automatically believe men have the right to make decisions for women, control their behaviors, and normalize violence against them.
It’s important to understand that stereotypes are general. Of course, we can all think of many men and women in our lives who do not fit these stereotypes. But not every person has to conform to stereotypes for the stereotype to be meaningfully baked into society. And unfortunately, there are real consequences for those affected.
The Persistence of the Wage Gap
As a result of centuries-old stereotypes, the wage gap between men and women persists into the 21st century, despite decades of progress toward more equality in the workplace. As of 2020, working women still only earned $0.84 for every dollar that men earned. For women of color, the wage gap is even larger.
Earning less has several implications for victims of domestic violence. For instance, a woman who earns less than her partner may have less bargaining power in the home, since she doesn’t contribute as much money to the household. Additionally, a woman who earns less than her partner and relies on his income will be less likely to be able to—or want to—leave an abusive relationship.
Women are disproportionately responsible for care-giving duties than their male partners. They are more likely to leave their jobs (temporarily or permanently) to care for children, elderly family members, and disabled loved ones. The pandemic only exacerbated this inequity as schools and childcare centers all over the country were forced to shut down.
Even if a woman leaves her career temporarily to provide care for her family, she may experience permanent consequences. Women who leave the workforce are more likely to earn lower wages when they return to work and have fewer opportunities to be promoted in the future.
Expectations of care-taking responsibilities also play a role in higher rates of violence against women. By leaving the workforce to care for children or other loved ones, she sacrifices her ability to remain independent—both financially and socially. Without her own earnings, a woman may be more likely to be dependent on her partner and less likely to leave an abusive relationship.
Systemic inequalities mean that women are more likely to live in poverty than men. In 2018, 12.9% of women lived in poverty compared to 10.6% of men. The fact that more women live in poverty means that more women may have to make the decision to enter into or stay in abusive relationships.
Historically, one-quarter to more than one-half of women experiencing homelessness cite domestic violence as the reason they were homeless. Clearly, the stakes of leaving an abusive relationship are high for women.
Get Help and Support at Safe Shelter
At Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley, we recognize that while people of all genders can experience domestic violence, women, trans, and nonbinary folks are more likely to experience more frequent and severe instances of violence than men. Unfortunately, societal and systemic pressures make it more likely that women will be abused. These same pressures make it more difficult for women to escape abusive relationships.
We are here to serve you or your loved ones who are experiencing domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. You can call our office during business hours at 303-772-0432, our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422, or click here to fill out our online question form at any time.