PART ONE : COLONIAL TIMES - 2000

                  PART TWO : 2000 - 2013


As "head of the house," a man had a presumed
right to use "moderate" violence to "chastise"
his wife and children for behaviors or attitudes
that violated the ideals of a conservative,
patriarchal society. The definition of "moderate"
was obviously subjective, and great leeway was
given to husbands and fathers, but "unjustified"
beatings or senseless violence was considered
an "abuse of authority" and could result in
community censure. (OTT: Pages 9, 137)
(DVS: 3) (DT: 17-33)


A rare exception to a husband's right of
"moderate chastisement" was the Puritan
"Body of Liberties". It provided that "Everie
married woeman shall be free from bodilie
correction or stripes by her husband unlesse
it be in his own defence upon her assault."
Puritans considered violence - even within
the home - a threat to the stability and
image of the community, and feared that such
"wicked carriage" invited Divine retribution
upon all. However, Puritans always placed the
preservation of the (patriarchal) family ahead
of protection of the victims, so cruelty, by
itself, was NOT sufficient grounds for divorce.
(DV: 27) (DV 2: 23-24) (DT: 17-23)


Blackstone's "Commentaries on the Laws
of England" became popular among Colonial
judges and lawmakers, as did his belief that
"crime was an act that produced mischief in
civil society, while private vices were not the
legitimate subject of law." Since wifebeating
generally occurs within the home, legislators
and officers of the court now felt they had
even more justification for being reluctant
to intervene against such "private vices."
(BWJ: 10) (DV: 28)


Pennsylvania's new divorce law allowed
cruelty to be used as a ground for gaining a
legal separation. (OTT: 46)


Vermont made "intolerable severity" a
ground for divorce, and in 1791, New Hampshire
outlawed "extreme cruelty." (OTT: 75)


As America became more secular, urban,
and spread out, traditional restraints on use
of alcohol weakened. The country went on a
"binge" from about 1790 to 1830, which many
associated with increased domestic violence.
With divorce mostly taboo, and no feminist
movement as yet, many women eagerly joined
Temperance societies, hoping to lessen spousal
abuse by attacking alcohol, which they saw as
causing the "embrutement" of men. By 1840, the
image of the virtuous wife and helpless children
being beaten by the drunkard was a centerpiece
of Temperance campaigns. (OTT: 139) (DV: 29)
(DT: 49-54)


A much-cited case affirming a man's "right"
to "moderate" spousal abuse is Calvin Bradley vs.
The State, (156 Mississippi 1824). ".....let the
husband be permitted to exercise the right of
moderate chastisement......without being
subjected to vexatious prosecutions...." Still,
Bradley's actions were too much for even the
judges, so he was found guilty of assault and
battery. (WB: 62) (DVS: 3)


Abused wives in Baltimore, MD were going
to Justices of the Peace with complaints of
assault. The J.P. could make a violent husband
post a hefty "surety" bond to be forfeited if the
beating was repeated, then the case went to City
Court, where judges were surprisingly willing to
jail abusive husbands. Even when the case didn't
go all the way to a judge, J.P.'s were known to
often bend the law by jailing husbands during
the "investigation" phase, thus assuring that at
least a few days (or weeks) would be served.
So, in some places, wives had a degree of
protection under "common law" interpretations
of local officials who were more flexible and
humane than faraway, impersonal legislators
and high courts. (OTT: 149-152, 160)


Delaware's Appellate Court rejects a
husband's right of chastisement in the case of
State v. Buckley (2 Del. 69, 1838) when they
affirm a lower court ruling finding him guilty
of abuse. (WB: 62)

Early 1850's

Tennessee passed a law that specifically
outlawed wifebeating. (WB: 61) (BWJ: 10). 19 of
31 states permitted divorce for "cruelty", but
most judges insisted the wife prove she was
"submissive, pure, and protective of the children
throughout the marriage". (OTT: 137) (DV: 30)
(DT: 55)


Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whose home had
served as a refuge for neighborhood battered
women, spoke openly in favor of the right of
abused wives to obtain a divorce. Ameila
Bloomer made the first public speech
denouncing marital rape. (DV: 30-31)


A North Carolina court declared that the
law permits the husband '.....to use towards his
wife such a degree of force as in necessary to
control an unruly temper and make her behave
herself..." (State v. Jesse Black, 1 Winston 266).
(WB: 62) (DVS: 4) (DV: 33)


Martha White Mc Whirter and other abused
women formed a self-reliant community which
was the ancestor of the "women's shelter". By
1880, the fifty women living there owned and
operated three farms, a steam laundry, a hotel,
and several rooming houses. Her original home
still stands in Belmont, Texas, with a bullet
hole in the door as proof that they had to defend
themselves from irate husbands on occasion.
(DVS: 17)


Only 13% of the few divorces granted were
for "cruelty". (DT: 56)


A time of major progress in regard to
domestic violence. In the years after the Civil
War, a more liberalized attitude toward the
role of government allowed the passage of laws
which restricted a man's "right" to abuse family
members. A resurgent feminist movement made
effective and direct attacks on wifebeating, and
powerful "social purity" crusaders played a part
as well by denouncing marital rape as they
strove to convert men's "brutal and lustful"
sexual behavior to the "higher and purer"
standard of women. (DT: 65, 88-89)
(CAW: 451-470)


One of the last cases to recognize a
"right" to wife abuse. The North Carolina
Supreme Court ruled that only "permanent
injury" would justify legal punishment, but
even as they handed down their ruling, they
recognized that they were out of step with
the rest of the country when they affirmed Mr.
Rhodes' acquittal. {State vs. Rhodes, 64 N.C.
453, 1868} (WB: 62-63)


Changing attitudes had made wifebeating
illegal in most of the nation, enforced by 8
state laws, 5 state court decisions, and policies
in other states and communities which allowed
abusive spouses to be arrested under common
assault laws. (Of course, enforcement varied
considerably, and a successful conviction by
an all-male justice system usually required a
victim whose reputation as a wife and mother
was spotless.) In other places, community
pressures and even informal vigilante groups
could exert influence on small-town and rural
wifebeaters. (WB: 63-71) (DT: 103)

Early 1870's

Landmark decisions in Massachusetts
(Commonwealth vs. McAfee, 102 Mass. 458,
1871) and Alabama (Fulghum v. State, 46 Ala.
143, 1874) deny a husband's right to even
"moderately" abuse his wife. In the case of
Mr. Fulghum, the court vehemently rejected
traditional ideas: "A rod which may be drawn
through the wedding ring is not now deemed
necessary to teach the wife her duty and
subjection to the husband. The husband is
therefore not justified or allowed by law to
use such a weapon, or any other, for her
moderate correction. The wife is not to be
considered as the husband's slave. And the
privilege, ancient though it be, to beat her
with a stick, to pull her hair, choke her,
spit in her face or kick her about the floor,
or to inflict upon her like indignities, is not
now acknowledged by our law." They summed
up their surprisingly modern views by saying
that "The rule of love has superseded the rule
of force." (DVS: 4) (WB: 62)


Though no 19th Century wife ever had the
right to sue her batterer, the first two of
twenty states granted wives the right to sue
a saloonkeeper if she was assaulted by an
intoxicated husband. (She had to notify the
bartender in advance not to serve her husband
due to his violent tendencies, however).
(CAW: 463) (DT: 101)


The North Carolina court ruled that as long
as no "permanent injury" has been inflicted by a
husband, "......it is better to draw the curtain,
shut out the public gaze, and leave the parties
to forget and forgive." (State vs. Richard
Oliver; 70 N.C. 44). However, Mr. Oliver's
conviction was still upheld. (DV: 34) (WB:62)


Lucy Stone's newspaper (The Woman's
Journal), began publishing a shockingly
explicit catalog of crimes against women to
jolt middle class women into action. (DV: 34)


Lucy Stone lobbied for a bill to give battered
wives the right to apply for legal separation,
child support and custody, but the Massachusetts
legislature defeated it three times. (CAW: 460)


The first of three states (Maryland, Delaware
and Oregon) passed laws which made wifebeating
an offense punishable at the whipping post. The
laws were mostly symbolic, however, and rarely
enforced. (CAW: 461) (WB: 61,66) (DV: 35)
(DV 2: 25) (DT: 109)


The Protective Agency for Women and
Children was formed in Chicago to aid battered
women and rape survivors. It continued its
work until 1912. In the same city, the Woman's
Club operated a shelter, where women stayed
for up to four weeks. (CAW: 465) (DV: 35)
(DT: 95,98)


Progress against domestic violence halts for
the next eight decades. Winning the vote became
the central focus of feminists, so other issues
were "temporarily" shed, to fought for later, and
won, with the power of the ballot. Also, as
society became more "liberated" in regard to
sexual behavior and gender roles, old stereotypes
about "delicate and virtuous women" abused by
"brutal and lustful men" seemed dated, and even
the Temperance advocates now focused on the
health consequences of alcohol rather than any
connection with violence. (CAW: 469-470)
(DV 2: 26)


The new "Progressive" era saw spouse and
child abuse cases shifted into special courts
where they were seen as problems to be solved
within an intact family with the help of social
workers and psychologists, rather than a crime
to be punished. While "Progressives" were quite
outspoken about ending abuses of women and
children in the workplace, a "curtain" was once
again being drawn over the home as the 20th
Century began. (DV: 36) (DT: 126,136)


President Theodore Roosevelt criticized
wifebeating in his annual message to Congress.
No other President had ever done that before,
and none would again until Ronald Reagan.
(DT: 119)


Helene Deutsch, a student of Freud, dealt a
setback to battered women that would last for
decades by declaring that the three essential
female traits are masochism, passivity, and
narcissism. Soon, popular culture would absorb
and reinforce the idea that a certain degree of
male/female violence was natural, and even
"sought" by the women themselves. (DV: 37,65)
(DT: 158)


California's Supreme Court affirms that a
husband cannot be sued by his wife for spousal
abuse, but severely criticizes the law in the
case of Self vs. Self (376 P.2nd 65, 1962).
(DVS: 4, 18)


A study of battered women ("The Wife-
Beater's Wife: A Study of Family Interaction"
by John E. Snell, Richard J. Rosenwald, and
Ames Robey) appears in a professional journal
on psychiatry. It finds that battered women
are "castrating," "aggressive," "masculine,"
"frigid," "indecisive," "passive," and - of
course - "masochistic." This study reinforced
the already prevalent "blame the victim"
mentality of professionals and public alike.
(DV: 38)


The feminist movement finally began to
revive the issue of spousal abuse as Nancy
Kirk-Gormley starts the first local NOW
Task Force on battered women in Pennsylvania.
(DV: 39)


The first U.S. newspaper article on spousal
abuse appears in the New York Times. (DV: 59)
"Women's Advocates" of St. Paul, MN opened
what may have been the first modern feminist
shelter for battered women. (BWJ: 11) (DT: 189)
"Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear," by
Erin Pizzey becomes the first book on domestic
violence. (DV: 71) Two female law students at
the University of Michigan document police
attitudes, such as the "stitch rule": An abusive
husband was arrested only if the injury required
a certain number of stitches. (DT: 186)


NOW Task Force on Battered Wives created.
(DVS: 20) Ann Arbor (MI) NOW coined the phrase
"domestic violence." (DT: 194)


There were now 20 shelters in the U.S.
(DT: 190) "Ms." magazine does a special issue on
spouse abuse. (DV: 74)


A domestic violence bill was introduced
in Congress by Lindy Boggs, but failed. (DV: 42)
(DT: 196) The New York Times ran 44 articles
on domestic violence. (DT: 182) Oregon was the
first state to mandate arrests in domestic
violence cases when it adopted the Family
Abuse Prevention Act. This legislation was a
model which other states would follow.
(DV: 42)


The Senate, House, and U.S. Civil Rights
Commission hold hearings on spousal abuse.
(DT: 195) The National Coalition Against
Domestic Violence and the Women's Self-
Defense Law Project were founded. (BWJ: 37-
38) (DVS: 20)


President Carter established the Office of
Domestic Violence. (DV: 44) (DT: 196)


Forty four states provided services for
domestic violence survivors, as well as
programs for modernizing police procedures.
Domestic violence legislation was once again
introduced in Congress, but defeated by "pro-
family" groups who called it an attack on
"motherhood, the family, and Christian values."
(DV: 44,45) (DT: 197)


There were now 300 shelters in the U.S.
(DT: 190)


The U.S. Attorney General established a
Task Force on Family Violence. (DV: 47)


The Charlotte Fedders divorce proceedings
showed spousal abuse occurred among the
rich and powerful. Tracy Thurman sued the
city of Torrington, Connecticut and 24 police
officers for failure to protect her, and the
suit spurred other police departments to take
a more active role in regard to arrest policies.
(DV: 47-48,65)


National Clearinghouse for the Defense of
Battered Women established. (BWJ: 40)


U.S. Roman Catholic bishops say the Bible
does NOT require women to submit to abusive
husbands. (DV: 52)


The Violence Against Women Act, first
introduced in Congress in 1990, passed. A
section of it ("Safe Homes for Women Act of
1994") provided numerous services for abused
women, such as grants to police departments
to improve their services to battered women,
a national domestic violence hotline, youth
education, community programs, and programs
to combat domestic violence cases that cross
state lines. A sudden surge of media attention
on the issue of battered women caused by the
Simpson case triggers a "backlash" challenging
all statistics, and trying to re-focus attention
on "battered husbands." There were 1,200
shelters in the U.S. (DV: 55-56)


President Clinton opened the Violence Against
Women Office at the Department of Justice.
(DV: 56) The I.N.S. announced that domestic abuse,
rape, and other forms of violence against women
are valid grounds for asking asylum in the U.S.
(NYT 1)


Attacks on women by intimate partners
dropped 21% since 1993 from 1.1 million to
876,340. More shelters, mandatory arrest
policies, and grants to train police and
prosecutors were credited with helping
bring the numbers down. (AP 1) (AP 2)


Judges in New York became able to issue
same-day orders of protection and impound
a spouse's firearms as part of that order.
(NYT 2) Californians fleeing domestic violence
were eligible for a free post office box and
mail forwarding by the Secretary of State.
(LAT 1)


With reauthorization of the Violence Against
Women Act already stalled in Congress, the
Supreme Court also dealt it a setback by
declaring that the portion of the Act which
gave rape survivors the right to sue their
attackers in Federal Court was unconstitutional.
(AP 2) This new and more regressive attitude by
Congress and the Court in regard to combatting
violence against women was a "wake up call" to
remind everyone that NOTHING can ever be
taken for granted, and that though a lot of
progress has been made, a lot more hard work
and constant vigilance still lies ahead.



AP 1: "Domestic Violence Declines, Report
Says" by Michael J. Sniffen, AP-NY-05-
17-00 0900 EDT

AP 2: "Reno: Renew Women-Violence Law"
by Jesse J. Holland AP-NY-05-17-00
1737 EDT

BWJ: "Battered Women's Justice, The
Movement for Clemency and the Politics
of Self-Defense" by Patricia Gagne

CAW: "Feminist Responses to 'Crimes Against
Women,' 1868-1896" by Elizabeth Pleck
(Signs, Spring 1983, pgs. 451-470)

DT: "Domestic Tyranny, The Making of
American Social Policy against Family
Violence from Colonial Times to the
Present" by Elizabeth Pleck

DV: "Domestic Violence, A Reference
Handbook" by Margi Laird McCue

DV 2: "Domestic Violence, The Criminal
Justice Response" by Eve S. Buzawa
and Carl G. Buzawa

DVS: "The Domestic Violence Sourcebook,
Everything You Need To Know" by
Dawn Bradley Berry

LAT 1: "New Program to Help Protect Domestic
Violence Victims" by Carl Ingram, L.A.
Times, 2/7/99 pg 13 col 1

NYT 1: "U.S. to Accept Asylum Pleas For Sex
Abuse" by Ashley Dunn, 5/27/95, p. 1
col. 5, New York Times

NYT 2: "Protective Orders to Be Issued More
Quickly" New York Times, 11/28/99
page 53, col 7

OTT: "Over the Threshold, Intimate Violence
in Early America" by Christine Daniels
and Michael V. Kennedy

WB: "Wife-Beating in Nineteenth-Century
America" by Elizabeth Pleck (Vol. 4,
1979, #1, pgs. 60-74; Victimology)



                    PART TWO : 2000-2013


January 1, 2000 : A series of new laws

became effective in California. They

required mandatory arrest for viola-

tions of restraining orders (Penal Code

Section 836) ; expanded protection to

former spouses and co-habitants (Penal

Code Sections 243e and 273.5) ; man-

dated removal of all firearms at

domestic violence scenes (SB 218) ;

provided $ 2,000 in relocation costs for

survivors (AB 606) ; ordered that

survivors be given a free copy of the

police report within 5 days if requested

(Family Code Section 6228) ; required

Family Courts to make a presumption

that giving custody to a perpetrator of

domestic violence is detrimental to

a child (Family Code Section 3044),

and that no one can be discriminated

against at work for taking time off to

deal with domestic violence (Labor

Code Section 230.)


October 28, 2000 : President Clinton

signed the Victims of Trafficking and

Violence Prevention Act of 2000

(P.L. 106-386) into law. (Division B

was the Violence Against Women

Act of 2000.)


July 1, 2001 : California law required

that domestic violence forms be made

available in languages other than

English (Code of Civil Procedure,

Section 185.)


August 2, 2003 : The National Domestic

Violence Hotline gets its 1,000,000th



June 27, 2005 : In “Town of Castle

Rock v. Gonzalez” (545 U.S. 748) the

Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that a town

and police department cannot be sued

if a person is harmed by its failure to

enforce a restraining order.  


September 28, 2005 : The House voted

to re-authorize the Violence Against

Women Act (H.R. 3402) by a vote of



December 16, 2005: The Senate voted

to re-authorize the Violence Against

Women Act, but with slightly different



December 17, 2005 : The House voted

to reauthorize the Violence Against

Women Act using the same language

as the Senate version, thus completing

Congressional action. 


January 5, 2006 : President Bush signed

the re-authorization of the Violence

Against Women Act (Public Law 109-



February, 2007 : The National Teen

Dating Abuse Helpline is launched.


July 7, 2009 : A New York State law

established that those who are victim-

ized by domestic violence are a pro-

tected class under the New York

State’s Human Rights Law. (Chapter



October 27, 2010 : President Obama held

a ceremony in the East Room of the White

House to mark Domestic Violence Aware-

ness Month. He said, “The bottom line is

this : nobody in America should live in

fear because they’re unsafe in their own

home, no adult and no child. And no one

who is the victim of abuse should feel

that they have no way to get out.” He

announced that the Department of

Housing and Urban Development would

be releasing new rules that would pre-

vent those subject to domestic violence

from being evicted or denied housing

on account of their abuse.


December 14, 2011 : A new study,

called the “National Intimate Partner

and Sexual Violence Survey,” conducted

by the National Center for Injury Pre-

vention and Control at the Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention was

released showing that one in four

women had been beaten by an intimate

partner, and one in five had been raped.

One in seven men had experienced do-

mestic violence and one in 71 had been



April 26, 2012 : The Senate voted 68-31

(53 Democrats and 15 Republicans) to

renew the Violence Against Women Act,

adding three new provisions : Allowing

Native American tribal courts to try non-

Native Americans for domestic violence

offenses committed on reservations ;

expand the number of temporary visas

for undocumented immigrants who suffer

domestic violence ; and cover LGBT

individuals who are survivors of domestic



May 16, 2012 : The House passed the

Republican version of the Violence

Against Women Act by 222-205. (216

Republicans voted in favor, and 23

against ; 6 Democrats voted in favor,

and 182 against.) It omitted the three

new Senate provisions.


February 11, 2013 : The Senate passed

the extension of the Violence Against

Women Act 78-22. Fifty-three Democrats,

twenty-three Republicans and two Inde-

pendents voted in favor. All 22 votes

against were male Republicans. The

three new provisions were once again



February 28, 2013 : The House gave

final Congressional approval to renewal

of V.A.W.A. The vote was 286 in favor

(199 Democrats and 87 Republicans)

and 138 opposed, all Republicans.

Seven Republicans and one Democrat

did not vote. The bill contained the

three new provisions first passed by

the Senate on April 26, 2012. Since

passage of the original V.A.W.A. in

1994, there has been a 64% reduction

in domestic violence, according to Vice

President Joe Biden.





01/01/00 : Purple Berets, “Violence

Against Women,” “California Passes

Tough New Domestic Violence Laws,”

by Marie De Santis, Women’s Justice



10/28/00 : “Public Law 106-386-OCT.

28, 2000”


07/01/01 : Purple Berets, Violence

Against Women, “California Passes

Tough New Domestic Violence Laws,”

by Marie De Santis, Women’s Justice



08/02/03 : Office on Violence Against

Women, “Violence Against Women Act,

15 Years Working Together to End



06/27/05 : New York Times (NYT),

June 28, 2005, “The Supreme Court :

Domestic Violence ; Justices Rule

Police Do Not Have a Constitutional

Duty to Protect Someone,” by Linda



09/28/05 : “CRS Report for Congress,”

Violence Against Woman Act : History

and Federal Funding.”


12/16/05 : “Futures Without Violence,”

Features, December 19, 2005. “Con-

gress Completes Work on Violence

Against Women Act.”


12/17/05 : “Futures Without Violence,”

Features, December 19, 2005. “Con-

gress Completes Work on Violence

Against Women Act.”


01/05/06 : “Public Law 109-162–JAN.

5, 2006.”


02/00/07 : Office on Violence Against

Women, “Violence Against Women Act,

15 Years Working Together to End



07/07/09 : New York State Office for

Prevention of Domestic Violence,

Legislative Summary by Year (2009.)


10/27/10 : NYT Blog, October 27,

2010, “Obama Decries Domestic Vio-

lence,” by Peter Baker.


12/14/11 : NYT Blog, December 14,

2011, “Nearly 1 in 5 Women in U.S.

Survey Say They Have Been Sexually

Assaulted,” by Roni Caryn Rabin.


04/26/12 : NYT, April 27, 2012, “Sen-

ate Votes to Reauthorize Domestic

Violence Act,” by Jonathan Weisman.


05/16/12 : NYT, May 17, 2012, “House

Vote Sets Up Battle On Domestic Vio-

lence Bill,” by Robert Pear.


02/11/13 : “Yahoo News,” Feb 12,

2013, “Senate votes to renew, expand

Violence Against Women Act,” by

Thomas Ferraro.


“RH Reality Check,” Feb 13, 2013,

“Senate Passes Violence Against

Women Act, 22 Male Republicans

Vote No,” by Robin Marty.


02/28/13 : NYT, March 1, 2013,

“House Renews Violence Against

Women Measure,” by Ashley Parker.

/ The White House, “Statement by

Vice President Biden on the House

Passage of the Violence Against

Women Act,” February 28, 2013.