The Family Prosperity Institute
Why Do Some Men Kill Their Wives or Girlfriends? Domestic Violence as Murder
                                                      
                                                  Judith Rand, PhD  (Copyright 2011)
                                                              

An article published on December 29, 2010 in The Dallas Morning News, reported that Arlington police officer Jillian Smith
was shot to death while trying to protect an 11-year-old girl. The girl's mother was involved in a domestic dispute. Smith, 24,
had been dispatched to take a domestic violence report. When she arrived, she encountered Kimberly Deshay Carter, 29,
and her daughter. Minutes after her arrival, the suspected murderer, Barnes Samuel Nettles, 38, arrived at the apartment
with a gun. As he began shooting, Officer Smith moved toward the girl to cover her. Nettles fatally shot Smith. The young girl
escaped. Nettles approached a bedroom and fatally shot Carter. He then went into the living room and fatally shot himself.

In the literature that provides our current understanding of why perpetration of domestic abuse occurs, at least three major
assumptions are made. First, we assume Domestic Violence is related to personal factors: Alcoholism is the cause of
violence or batterers are mentally ill. Second, we assume partner abuse occurs due to family factors: Violence begets
violence, via role modeling in the home. Third, we assume such violence is associated with socio-cultural factors: We have a
patriarchal society in that our society holds traditional male dominated attitudes and viewpoints and is based on traditional
male-dominated practices. Therefore, patriarchy invites and sustains violence against women. Power and control issues are
too often played out within the relationship through emotional, physical, psychological and financial abuse. When talking
about reasons for the epidemic of Domestic Violence, we emphasize that power and control issues play out within the
marriage through emotional, physical, and psychological abuse.

In these current assumptions about Domestic Violence, there is A HORSE ON THE DINING ROOM TABLE. A "horse on the
dining room table" refers to any subject matter that members in a specific group are all aware of to some extent but for
various reasons do not, cannot, or will not discuss it because of undesirable outcomes or implications to some or all of its
members. In discussions of the reasons husbands or boyfriends kill wives or girlfriends, financial factors, including financial
attitudes and practices, are still largely ignored. Money is at the heart of our capitalistic society, a society that is still run by
those men and women holding traditional male-dominated (or Patriarchal viewpoints) about gender and gender-appropriate
behavior.

Perpetration of Domestic Violence is allowed to continue precisely because dysfunctional and harmful financial attitudes and
practices (e.g., the failure to educate girls and women on serious financial issues, the financial abuse of women in marriages,
unreasonably low monetary consequences for perpetrators, inequitable distribution of assets in divorce settlements for
women who leave their abusers) on the part of individuals, families, and societal institutions in this country sustain it. Such
social institutions include the institution of marriage; religious institutions; the judicial system; political institutions; law
enforcement institutions; the economic system at the national, state, and local levels, both
public and private; military institutions; workplace cultures; the media; and institutions of higher education (in both academic
and athletic domains).

Why do some men kill spouses or girlfriends? Most simply, some men kill wives and girlfriends because they can. Social
institutions overtly or covertly allow such homicide to continue because biased financial attitudes and practices at the
personal, familial, and institutional levels allow it to continue. Are all men to be considered to be potential spouse abusers
and/or murderers? No, men are not natural born killers. Even men who have issues with childhood abuse, alcohol
consumption, physical aggression with other males (e.g., bar room brawls), or participation in physically aggressive sports,
do not compulsorily turn such violence-prone tendencies into violence against their spouses and girlfriends, let alone murder.

Who are the men who do it and what prompts them to do so? Most professionals would agree that there are at least two
types of men who batter their wives. In the first type, men who batter are more emotionally needy and more difficult to live
with. They are highly sensitive to abandonment by their wives or partners. They can be described as dysphoric and/or
borderline. They often engage their partners in demand-withdraw patterns of interaction, whereby the man requests (initially)
or demands (later) change from his partner, while the woman avoids (initially) or withdraws (later). Wives of this type of
batterer are more likely to leave the battering relationship. However, the most vulnerable time for a woman to experience
violence by her spouse or partner is when she attempts to leave the relationship.

In the second type, batterers are explosive and very dangerous. They are initially captivating and later frightening to their
wives. They are often described as narcissistic, self-centered, entitled, unemotional, incapable of empathy, cruel, and
sociopathic in the extreme. These traits grow deeper and stronger with time and, as such, cannot be changed. These men
are not able to think about the implications of their behavior for others and the impact of their behavior on others. When they
do cause harm to their wives, they can only talk about the level of annoyance and inconvenience to which the situation has
subjected them. They see their partners as unimportant, to the extent that a woman (especially a vulnerable woman in terms
of number of existing children to care for, income level, etc.) can be won over by jewelry, flowers, and charm, and who can be
used for their own gratification on demand. This second type of batterer is more likely to have had a chaotic, traumatic
childhood, to commit more emotional abuse, to inflict more severe levels of violence, and to commit violence outside as well
as inside the marriage. This latter type is more likely to have more severe forms of mental illness (e.g., antisocial personality),
substance abuse/dependence, and criminal histories. This type of batterer is more difficult for the wife to leave because of
the extreme violence they have previously experienced.

Why do men who batter go to the extent of actually murdering the women in their lives? Two suggestions are proposed. First,
they believe they are entitled to control the existence of another person. Second, they perceive the lack of real, logical, and
harsh consequences, both legal and financial, for perpetrating this extreme form of violence. Society often provides the
feedback that they are right. In any relationship, marital or otherwise, individuals want to know that they can make a
difference, that they have the power to influence another, at least some of the time. A significant reduction in the escalating
rates of wife/partner abuse and murder will be had when and only when peer relationships and peer marriages (in terms of
equal access to wealth, power, and prestige within the relationship) becomes the standard by which relationships are judged
as healthy and abuse-free.

On societal and political levels as well, people acquire the ability to influence others through the acquisition of wealth, power,
and prestige. Social and political institutions are ways that individuals access the ability to influence others on a societal, and
thus, on a more significant and lasting, level. Hence, it is at these levels that we must effect change if we are to eliminate wife
or girlfriend abuse and murder. There is a taboo in America's institutions against full exposure to the depth and breadth of
factors related to Domestic Violence, and a failure to spend necessary and sufficient money to ensure its eradication in our
lifetime. We must call for change at the institutional level by eradicating corruption within these institutions. A strong message
must be sent. We will effect change through the wealth, power, and prestige of those working within these institutions when
they condone such violence or fail to hold harshly accountable men who batter and commit murder against the women in
their lives.

In the cases of murdering husbands and boyfriends, we need to look at the financial context of the murder. What financial
factors might have played a role in the alleged crime? Can we learn more about the role of personal, familial, social, and
political factors, as related to money factors, from women victimized in such a heinous way in order to prevent future loss of
life? If so, the recent loss of the lives of two courageous women in Arlington, Texas, like so many before them, will not have
been in vain.