DEAR ABBY: As the founder of a court program that specializes in domestic violence cases and the author of two books on the topic of spousal abuse, I have performed more lethality assessments of batterers (25,000) than any other professional in the United States. As a victim's advocate, I feel compelled to respond to Jason Larix of Montana, who felt that you exaggerated the number of women killed each year by their husbands or boyfriends.
While crime statistics do reflect that approximately 1,400 women annually are murdered by an intimate partner, these figures actually underestimate batterers' lethality. Many such homicides are never properly classified, while others go unsolved and the victim's relationship to the killer is never determined. In addition, the deaths of many women occur as a cumulative result of injuries received during years of habitual beatings, and their deaths are not reported as homicides.
A significant testimonial of batterers' lethality is the number of family members, friends, neighbors and children who are slain when they get caught in the crossfire of unbridled rage. All things considered, it is quite probable that, as you stated in your recent column, batterers are responsible for approximately 4,000 deaths each year. To realize that such men are responsible for the deaths of 11 people daily is frightening.
As a writer and researcher, I'm concerned that our society fails to recognize that not all batterers are the same. While the nonhabitual offender may be nonlethal and treatable, the chronic offender is often homicidal and beyond rehabilitation.
It also concerns me that while society readily accepts the terms "serial rapist" and "serial killer" to refer to men who habitually rape and murder multiple victims, it fails to acknowledge that men who habitually batter multiple female partners are "serial batterers." The fact is, the serial batterer is one of the most dangerous individuals in American society, and we must stop excusing him and minimizing his existence. -- MICHAEL GROETSCH, KENNER, LA.
DEAR MICHAEL: I agree that serial batterers should be removed from society in much the same way as any other serial criminal. However, I would prefer to focus attention on the part of the problem that is fixable. The majority of domestic abuse comes at the hands of men whose anger escalates from 0 to 100 in seconds. They are not psychopaths. These are individuals who lash out with their fists or the nearest knife or gun at the slightest provocation. If they are willing to admit they have a problem, they can be helped, but only with therapy and programs that place a heavy emphasis on anger management. However, I fear the serial batterer cannot be helped.