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FAQ: But doesn’t evidence show that women are just as likely to batter their partners as men?

A: No. This is an often repeated claim based on either faulty understanding or outright misrepresentation of a few studies made using the CONFLICT TACTICS SCALE (CTS) or similar self-report surveys. One of the authors of the original study, Richard Gelles, categorically rejects this interpretation of his research, and has done ever since these factoids began to be popularised.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FACTOIDS
by Richard J. Gelles, University of Rhode Island Family Violence Research Program

[Excerpt]
MYTH: WOMEN ARE AS VIOLENT AS ARE MEN, AND WOMEN INITIATE VIOLENCE AS OFTEN AS DO MEN.

“This factoid cites research by Murray Straus, Suzanne Steinmetz, and Richard Gelles, as well as a host of other self-report surveys. Those using this factoid tend to conveniently leave out the fact that Straus and his colleague’s surveys as well as data collected from the National Crime Victimization Survey (Bureau of Justice Statistics) consistently find that no matter what the rate of violence or who initiates the violence, women are 7 to 10 times more likely to be injured in acts of intimate violence than are men.”

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: NOT AN EVEN PLAYING FIELD
By Richard J. Gelles

“[S]elf-described battered husbands, men’s rights group members and some scholars maintain that there are significant numbers of battered men, that battered men are indeed a social problem worthy of attention and that there are as many male victims of violence as female. The last claim is a significant distortion of well-grounded research data.

To even off the debate playing field it seems one piece of statistical evidence (that women and men hit one another in roughly equal numbers) is hauled out from my 1985 research – and distorted – to “prove” the position on violence against men. However, the critical rate of injury and homicide statistics provided in that same research are often eliminated altogether, or reduced to a parenthetical statement saying that “men typically do more damage.” The statement that men and women hit one another in roughly equal numbers is true, however, it cannot be made in a vacuum without the qualifiers that a) women are seriously injured at seven times the rate of men and b) that women are killed by partners at more than two times the rate of men.”

[...]
“[W]hen we look at injuries resulting from violence involving male and female partners, it is categorically false to imply that there are the same number of “battered” men as there are battered women. Research shows that nearly 90 percent of battering victims are women and only about ten percent are men…[T]here are very few women who stalk male partners or kill them and then their children in a cataclysmic act of familicide. The most brutal, terrorizing and continuing pattern of harmful intimate violence is carried out primarily by men.

Indeed, men are hit by their wives, they are injured, and some are killed. But, are all men hit by women “battered?” No. Men who beat their wives, who use emotional abuse and blackmail to control their wives, and are then hit or even harmed, cannot be considered battered men. A battered man is one who is physically injured by a wife or partner and has not physically struck or psychologically provoked her.

My estimate is that there are about 100,000 battered men in the United States each year – a much smaller number than the two to four million battered women – but hardly trivial.

Despite the fact that indeed, there are battered men too, it is misogynistic to paint the entire issue of domestic violence with a broad brush and make it appears as though men are victimized by their partners as much as women. It is not a simple case of simple numbers. The media, policy makers, and the public cannot simply ignore – or reduce to a parenthetical status the outcomes of violence, which leave more than 1,400 women dead each year and millions physically and/or psychologically scarred for life.”

Murray Straus also rejects the factoid interpretation of the original CTS research. Women are self-reported to be just as likely to strike their partners as men are, but they are not just as likely to batter their partners as men are. That is a crucial distinction.

One of the major critiques of the original CTS research, and it is one which Straus and Gelles largely concede, is the problem of sampling bias from various directions (the following is largely summarised from a post by Ampersand – link to cached article and refers to data from the USA):

  • The surveys were voluntary, and the most abusive individuals are unlikely to agree to complete such a survey in case they gave themselves away as serious abusers.
  • Their victims would be too terrorised to agree to complete such a survey in case their abusers found out.
  • The response rate in the original research incorrectly failed to include those people who refused to answer screening questions. When these people are re-included in the statistics, the response rate drops from 84% to around 60%, well within the accepted margin for sampling bias.
  • Straus and Gelles compiled information only about abuse within current, ongoing relationships. This has several sampling bias problems:
    • As noted above, current victims of abuse are understandably (and rationally) hesitant to be frank with interviewers due to fear of their abuser discovering their frankness, especially when the researchers made no effort to ensure that respondents were alone when they called to ask survey questions.
    • This methodology totally excludes violence which occurs after the end of a relationship, which accounts for 76% of all spousal assaults, and which is overwhelmingly committed by men, so thus discounts most of the most serious violence against women.

Other methodological criticisms of the CTS:

  • In the original studies, no questions were asked about rape or sexual assault, in which male abusers predominate.
  • The method of measurement is overly literal and limited:
    • Results are ignored: a push in self-defense is equated with pushing someone down the stairs. The two acts are clearly not equally violent by any other measure.
    • Context is ignored: playful mock-kicks or punches, which neither partner considers aggressive, are rated higher than a shove against the wall which jars the whole body.
  • The CTS also ignores the mental impact of violence: many studies show that women are more frightened by violence, and experience a larger sense of loss of personal control and well-being. This is largely attributed to the fact that smaller women are less able to leave a violent situation against a larger man’s will than vice versa.

Other studies of intimate partner violence which have controlled for the methodological flaws in the original CTS research have garnered very different results.

US Dept of Justice: Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey.
Authors: Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes Published: November 1998

Women experience significantly more partner violence than men do: 25 percent of surveyed women, compared with 8 percent of surveyed men, said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date in their lifetime; 1.5 percent of surveyed women and 0.9 percent of surveyed men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by such a perpetrator in the previous 12 months. According to survey estimates, approximately 1.5 million women and 834,700 men are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States. Because women are also more likely to be injured by intimate partners, research aimed at understanding and preventing partner violence against women should be stressed.

It is important to note that differences between women’s and men’s rates of physical assault by an intimate partner become greater as the seriousness of the assault increases. For example, women were two to three times more likely than men to report that an intimate partner threw something that could hurt or pushed, grabbed, or shoved them. However, they were 7 to 14 times more likely to report that an intimate partner beat them up, choked or tried to drown them, threatened them with a gun, or actually used a gun on them (see exhibit 8).

Violence against women is primarily partner violence: 76 percent of the women who were raped and/or physically assaulted since age 18 were assaulted by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, or date, compared with 18 percent of the men. It is therefore imperative that strategies for preventing violence against women should focus on ways of protecting women from risks posed by current and former intimates.

Violence against women is primarily male violence. The survey also found that most violence perpetrated against adults is perpetrated by males: 93 percent of the women and 86 percent of the men who were raped and/or physically assaulted since the age of 18 were assaulted by a male. In comparison only 11 percent of these women and 23 percent of these men were assaulted by a female (see exhibit 10). Given these findings, adult violence prevention strategies should focus primarily on the risks posed by male perpetrators.

Women are significantly more likely than men to be injured during an assault: 32 percent of the women and 16 percent of the men who were raped since age 18 were injured during their most recent rape; 39 percent of the women and 25 percent of the men who were physically assaulted since age 18 were injured during their most recent physical assault. About one in three women who were injured during a rape or physical assault required medical care. To better meet the medical needs of women who are victims of violence, medical professionals should receive comprehensive training on the physical consequences of violence against women and appropriate treatment strategies.

The survey found that women who were raped since age 18 were nearly twice as likely as their male counterparts to report an injury other than the rape itself (32 and 16 percent, respectively) (see exhibit 11). Similarly, women who were physically assaulted since age 18 were significantly more likely than their male counterparts to report that they were injured during their most recent physical assault (39 and 25 percent, respectively). When only physical assaults by intimates are considered, the difference between injury rates for women and men is even greater (41 and 19 percent, respectively).

The conclusion about intimate partner violence is perhaps best summarised by this Canadian Fact Sheet:

Violence Against Women in Relationships: A British Columbia Fact Sheet
Mutual Battering

Sometimes women are accused of being “just as violent” as their batterers. However, spousal homicide rates show that women are killed by their partners at a rate of three times higher than women who kill men, and women who have been separated from their partners are murdered eight times more by ex-husbands than separated men killed by ex-wives.

Generally, the claim of “mutual battering” is a method of denying what is really taking place. A close look at the history and pattern of a “violent relationship” will most often show that the abuser has superior physical strength and skills for assault as well a superior social status and privilege by virtue of his gender, race or class. By contrast, his partner will be the one to adapt her behavior and lifestyle preferences to please the abuser, and will be the one who has suffered the more extensive physical and/or emotional damage. Both partners may be violent, but studies have shown that men are violent in response to women resisting their control or trying to leave, and women are violent when their lives or their children’s lives are in danger.

None of this is to assert that women are not capable of violence as part of a pattern of “common-couple violence”, or that women are never controlling abusive batterers. However, research that covers all the bases shows that there are many, many, many more battered women than there are battered men. Battered men deserve to be listened to and provided with services and protected from their abusers, but there simply is not the numerical demand for the same level of services for battered men as there is for battered women.

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40 comments on “FAQ: But doesn’t evidence show that women are just as likely to batter their partners as men?

  1. One my professors in college, who also counseled abused women, used to say that sometimes abused people initiate violence with their abuser in order to be able to predict (and therefore in some sense control) when the violent outburst is going to occur. I thought it was an interesting theory and one that makes you think about how violence does not occur in a vacuum, as you have pointed out here.

  2. Another interesting piece of the puzzle is gay and lesbian relationships. When two men are in a relationship together there is a higher rate of domestic violence than when two women are in a relationship together. Of course, unlike the fine author of this piece I cannot find a source to back up my claim at the moment. But I swear I learned this in one of my sociology classes!

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  4. Thanks for this. It might be one of the most important articles you’ve ever posted here. And that’s saying a lot.

  5. [...] Feministing by Vanessa An open letter to Feministing from Reclusive Leftist by The Ghost of Violet FAQ: But doesn’t evidence show that women are just as likely to batter their partners as men? from Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog by [...]

  6. Sara: I am not so sure about that. There are several studies which differ and I suspect that your sociology class just touted the violent male stereotype.
    “Gardner (1989) had straight, gay, and lesbian couples rate the violence in their relationship on a scale ranging from 36 (no violence) to 288 (severe violence). The average score for straight couples was 38.51, for gay couples was 39.6, and for lesbian couples was 40.22. ” (http://www.psychpage.com/gay/library/gay_lesbian_violence/dv_gay_couples_intro2.html).
    “About 25% of LGBT people suffer through violent or threatening relationships with partners or ex-partners – about the same rate as heterosexual women” – Henderson, Laurie. “Prevalence of Domestic Violence Among Lesbians and Gay Men: Data Report to Flame TV,” Sigma Research, 2003.
    NCADV states that 2 in 5 gay or bisexual man experience abuse in a partner relationship. Appr. 50% of the lesbian population has or will experience domestic violence. (http://www.ncadv.org/files/lgbt.pdf).

    I suspect that the rates are about equal for about all types of relationships and I think it unlikely that heterosexual women are less likely to be abusive than lesbians. In short; a certain percentage of people regardless of gender and sexual orientation will be abusive in a relationship. I agree that the on average physical difference between women and men causes an disparity in injuries.

    Otherwise the term “Self-described battered husbands” jars me as it implies that the battered husband doesn’t really exist .

  7. “Gardner (1989) had straight, gay, and lesbian couples rate the violence in their relationship on a scale ranging from 36 (no violence) to 288 (severe violence). The average score for straight couples was 38.51, for gay couples was 39.6, and for lesbian couples was 40.22. ”

    From 36 (no violence) to 288(severe violence) is 252 points. The difference in scores between straights and lesbians is less than 2 points, and 2/252 is less than a 1% variation (well within statistical noise), and at only 4 points (2%) above the “zero” point for “no violence” it would appear that all the people in Gardner’s study came from essentially non-violent relationships, which raises the question of sampling bias: were people actually in violent relationships not responding? This raises the further question of whether Gardner’s study is at all relevant to a discussion of actual violent relationships.

    Again, some common-couple violence relationships are not abusive, and not all violent relationships involve actual battering. It is important to keep the distinction between violence and battering absolutely clear. Violence can range from playful skirmishes to occasional single-strike outbursts to repeated blows which cause severe physical damage. Abusers who attempt to justify battering on the grounds of lesser violence committed by their partner are guilty of a disproportionate response, and in many jurisdictions disproportionate defence is regarded as an assault in its own right, or at least it is when the crime involves bashing a burglar with a baseball bat.

    As to “self-described battered husbands”, Gelles uses the term as he does because he is rebutting the claim that equal numbers of battered men exist as battered women.

  8. I mentioned the Gardner study as it seems to be showing insignificant differences between the three types of relationships (straight, gay and lesbian). In your critique of the study you you question the sampling bias. In looking closer on the site where I picked up this reference I see that Gardner’s results is based on questions about the absence of violence and therefore should not be subject to the same problems Gardner thought the studies measuring the presence of violence might have with over-reporting. I hope that clarified, although even if we disregard the Gardner study the two other studies show that the rate of violence is the same on relationships regardless of sexual orientation. A google search reveals that this is commonly regarded as valid and several LGBT-sites and organizations against domestic violence states this as a fact on their pages.

    All studies I’ve cited uses the term violence or domestic violence.

    I cited these studies to rebut Sara’s attempt to prove that men are inherently more violent than women. She tried to prove that by asserting that gay relationships have more domestic violence than lesbian relationships. I’ve found no studies supporting that claim and several that disputes it (similar rates or an insignificant higher rate for lesbian couples).

    In the study from US Dept. of Justice you cited i found the following:
    “Only female interviewers surveyed female respondents. To test for possible bias introduced by the gender of the interviewer, a split-sample approach was used in the male sample whereby half of the interviews were conducted by female interviewers and half by male interviewers.”

    I couldn’t find anything in the study on whether they found any bias and if so how it affected the result. I suspect that a man might not answer the same to a male interviewer as he would to a female one.

  9. Well, Tamen, I haven’t seen any study about that; but if a relationship with two men is more prone to domestic violence, could it be because men were always expected to ‘assert’ their power through violence? I think, at least in western cultures, boys are more exposed to violence; and more encouraged to act violent to demonstrate their masculinity/dominance than girls.

    I’m not sure, I’m just speculating.

  10. Tamen, I do see your point about the study, it’s just that Gardner is cited often as if to show that lesbians are much more violent than straights or gays, when in fact the study shows that all her subjects were essentially non-violent.

    I do understand that most studies collect statistics on all kinds of domestic violence, not just battering, but most studies also collect data on injuries due to the violence, and this is where the difference between male-female perpetrators, whether in a single-perpetrator or common-couple situation, is most glaring. As Gelles said above:

    ” The statement that men and women hit one another in roughly equal numbers is true, however, it cannot be made in a vacuum without the qualifiers that a) women are seriously injured at seven times the rate of men and b) that women are killed by partners at more than two times the rate of men.”

  11. Noir: eh, I’m not sure what you mean, I’ve just cited 2-3 studies which found that there was no significant difference in rate of violence between gay, lesbian and straight relationships. So it seems that a relationship with two men is more prone to domestic violence simply isn’t true and thus one cannot assert that men are inherently more violent than women. Due to a difference in strength on average on mens part the women in straight relationships are more likely to be seriously injured than one partner in a gay/lesbian relationsship where the two are on average more equal in strength.

    tigtog: It was not my intention to try to show that lesbians are more violent. The difference in the Gardner study was as you point out small and the results for all three groups was very close to the baseline of no violence. I am though a bit baffled as to why you feel the need to emphasize to me that women in straight relationships are more often seriously injured than men (in straight relationships) as I acknowledge that in my first comment. I think that difference is to a very large degree caused by the on average disparity in strength and size between men and women in straight relationships.

  12. Tamen, many people read this blog without commenting. I write for them as well as for the people to whom I’m directly replying, and many of those readers who may have seen the Gardner study cited before will have seen it used as part of a claim that lesbians are much more violent, even if that wasn’t your claim.

    As to why I emphasised (again) the difference between all violence studies and battering studies, it was because the last time I did so you responded that all the studies you read referred to violence/domestic violence rather than to battering, or at least that was how I read your reply. Again, my reply was addressed as much to the lurkers as it was to you directly.

  13. I can see why you want to state things for the lurkers. It can be a bit confusing for the people you respond to I guess. It did seem to me that you re-stated facts I already acknowledged and sidestepped the issue/argument I was putting forth. As I understand your last reply that was not the case and I’ll of course take that at face value.

    As to why I responded that the studies I cited referred to violence/domestic violence was to clarify that I talked about that and not battering. I was specifically looking into the rate of violence to refute Sara assertion that gay relationships are more violet than lesbian (and thus imply that men are inherently more prone to violence than women). Sara’s argument doesn’t seem to be supported by data/studies. And if we are to believe that men are more prone to violence that means that either lesbian women are more likely to be violent than straight women (I don’t believe that) or that the studies (and hence many LGBT organizations and anti-DV organizations are mistaken too).

    Battered seems to be defined as the one who has the most physical injury (A battered man is one who is physically injured by a wife or partner and has not physically struck or psychologically provoked her). I find the last part of that sentence troubling. Is a woman who has psychologically provoked a man into hitting her not battered?

    Naturally enough the newest CDC study* ( http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/97/5/941 ) showed that “the more violence was reciprocated, the more injury occurred”. Reciprocated violence tends to escalate. No surprise there.
    “….when violence occur because a woman initiates it, it’s as dangerous as when men initiate it because that violence can escalate more and become more serious. Two-thirds of the time, the victim is a woman.”
    Again, I think it’s natural to think that more women are victims more often than men can to a large degree be explained by the on average physical difference between the sexes. If violence between to physically mismathced person escalated the physically weakest one will be (seriously) injured first. I’d like to hear arguments for other thesis for this disparity in injuries if any has any?
    Is the physically strongest always the one with moral responsibility to unilaterally stop the escalation? Or put it another way: Should men be more moral responsible than women? Should women be less moral responsible than men? Oh my, wording matters…
    “Also, among the relationships with nonreciprocal violence, women were reported to be the perpetrator 70.7% of the time”. This was the real shocker for the researchers. Of course, if the women was psychologically provoked into hitting these men the men are not battered – according to Richard J. Gelles. But how many of those 70.7% women were psychologically provoked? Ask yourselves, do you really think that that many men who willfully psychologically provokes a women into hitting them would not hit back and thus escalate the violence with “a good excuse” of “she started”? And is the “I was psychologically provoked” a good enough excuse in the first place? For either sex?
    In my opinion, no.

    *quotes on the CDC study from: http://media.www.dailycampus.com/media/storage/paper340/news/2007/10/31/News/Domestic.Violence.A.Danger.To.Men.And.Women.Alike-3068483.shtml

  14. Battered seems to be defined as the one who has the most physical injury (A battered man is one who is physically injured by a wife or partner and has not physically struck or psychologically provoked her). I find the last part of that sentence troubling. Is a woman who has psychologically provoked a man into hitting her not battered?

    You are misreading Gelles in my opinion. Immediately before that sentence he describes men who are injured by their wives in response to a history of beatings, emotional abuse and/or blackmail, and refers to those injured men as not legitimate battered men. That is because he views their injuries as having been inflicted by their partners acting in self-defence. Psychological provocation in the cases Gelles refers to is nearly always blackmail of the sort where the abusive partner threatens to harm others if the victim refuses their demands, not simply “provocation” by taunting or deriding.

    If someone is unable to demonstrate a reasonable fear of harm to oneself or to others, the self-defence argument is not valid. People who do have a history of harm to themselves from their partner, or who can show a history of their partner harming others, do tend to be found more credible by juries when they claim fear sufficient to validate self-defence. People who are unable to demonstrate such histories of harm are found less credible.

    The pattern of intimate partner violence is that women are far more frequently able to demonstrate a documented history of violence against themselves and/or others from their partners than men are, thus juries are more likely to believe them when they claim self-defence.

  15. P.S. you’ve had your three posts for the day, and your last was really long. Aim for more brevity, please?

  16. My bad, Tamen. The truth is that I remember seeing studies claiming there was a higher percentage of domestic violence between homosexual couples of men than women. I can’t find those studies, and I don’t know how trustful they were. I suppose not much.

    Due to a difference in strength on average on mens part the women in straight relationships are more likely to be seriously injured than one partner in a gay/lesbian relationsship where the two are on average more equal in strength.

    …No. I think it was discussed all over this blog, but it’s not only the difference of strength. The difference of power, and other social factors causes that violence too. It’s not called ‘abuse’ for anything.

  17. Noir: When I was talking about difference on strength I was talking about what I think is a major factor to the fact that more women than men (in straight relationships) are injured. Nowhere was I claiming that this physical difference do or don’t cause the violence (itself). Indeed, if the difference of (physical) power was a large cause of the violence then we would see a difference in rate of violence between straight relationships and homosexual relationships – which we don’t.

    Tigtog: Can you see how it might be harder for a (genuine) battered man to demonstrate a documented history of violence against them?

    Yes, I tend to get wordy. In my daily occupation I’ve learned that teaspoons can never be too small and that may show in other settnings I find myself. Hope this was terse enough :)

  18. [...] statistics ever since their 1985 study was published. (Here are two rebuttals of those arguments: Feminism 101 and a very thorough [...]

  19. Ok, I jumped back into this one rather late, but I just wanted to go on record as stating that if my previous statements is true (and like I said, I can’t find the source we used in class), it was used to show that men are socialized to be more violent than women are, not that men or women are inherently anything.

    Is there a follow comments link that I am not seeing? It would be really helpful.

  20. Sara, there’s no comments-feed for individual posts, but there is an RSS feed for all comments. The links are up in the header.

    I missed this from Tamen above at the time:

    Tigtog: Can you see how it might be harder for a (genuine) battered man to demonstrate a documented history of violence against them?

    I don’t really see how it is any harder than it would be for a woman. If the violence at home injures either a man or a woman so that they require urgent medical attention, then that medical treatment will be documented and can later be used as evidence, whether the injured party tells the attending medical team that their partner battered them or not. A pattern of such injuries occurring repeatedly over time would allow a court to infer a habit of battering from violent partner.

  21. A: Yes, it is true. Based on fact, not ideas or perception. The above coment who answered No:, left out part of the report she’s quoting from. It is true if a man hits a woman and a woman hits a man the probability of a woman being injured is higher.
    She only stated the probability of injury, not the fact women are just as likely to iniciate violence.

    This method is used on VAW sites. The first substantial research began coming out in the early 1970’s, which proved the equality in agressive behavior. Feminist, and governement still ignore the research. This is why only the numbers against women are included on the sites.

    [snipped two tangential & meandering paragraphs for length - moderator]

  22. It’s disingenuous to equate a study looking purely at “striking” and conclude that women are just as behaviourally aggressive as men when surely any sensible analysis of aggression would also include the intensity of the striking and the injury resulting from the striking.

    This point was made several times over in the article above. This is not ignoring the research that you mention, this is acknowledging that the research you mention was procedurally flawed.

  23. I believe that women strike men at equal rates but when asking about specifics such as “slapping”, “choking”, “punching”, and “using a weapon” or “throwing something” as the British Crime Survey did, it is clear that domestic violence is a very gendered problem.

    Also while 1 in 6 men experience domestic violence in the UK and 1 in 4 women as is quoted oftenon MRA sites as a sign of gender parity, I think the actual number of incidents comes down as over 12 million against women and (can’t remember exactly) but something like 2 million events against men. Most of the most heavily and repeatedly abused were women. Women were more likely to fail in stopping the violence by the ending the relationship….it goes on…

    • Well the article says this: “My estimate is that there are about 100,000 battered men in the United States each year – a much smaller number than the two to four million battered women – but hardly trivial.” but whether that is closer to the truth or your numbers are that was surprising to me. I didn’t realise that men were the victims of this abuse even at those rates. The number I carried in my head subconsciously was more like 1 in 100.

      I have another question though. A lot of the discussion here is on the physical damage done but what about the psychological damage (which Gelles alludes to). Is there any way to quantify that? And does there need to be physical injury for there to be psychological damage? By analogy with school bullying I would suggest no. In which case domestic violence against men could well be an even more significant problem.

      Now I’m not suggesting that overall domestic violence against women isn’t worse (physical pain coupled with psychological/emotional pain is certainly worse than just one of those things), but I am asking are we underestimating the effect on men?

      • Actually, son’t bother answering that. I re-read the above and there are a number of points that do address my questions.

      • @ Kandela (addressing your point anyway, because it’s worth addressing)

        The number I carried in my head subconsciously was more like 1 in 100.

        100,000 cases is a much lower rate than 1 in 100. Just as a back of the envelope calcuation – US population 300 million, half men, half of those men adults – adult male population approx 75 million. A rate of 1 in 100 would result in 750,000 male victims of battering.

        Now I’m not suggesting that overall domestic violence against women isn’t worse (physical pain coupled with psychological/emotional pain is certainly worse than just one of those things), but I am asking are we underestimating the effect on men?

        Two points:
        1. when we are talking about criminal law, we have to talk about physical violence. While years of emotional abuse may be a mitigating factor in a sentence for violence against another person, you can’t go down to the police station and charge someone with emotional abuse. This is why domestic violence is highlighted more than other forms of partner abuse.

        2. That women undoubtedly do engage in non-violent partner abuse that harms men is certainly a point worth making, so long as you don’t forget that men engage in non-violent partner abuse as well. The underestimating of the effect of non-violent partner abuse on both women and men is a huge social problem, I agree.

      • I meant 1 in 100 battered people was a man was the number I had in my head, not 1 in 100 men were battered. Whereas the quoted text says it could be as many as 1 in 20 battering victims is male. Still pale in significance compared to women but more significant than I thought.

        I agree with your other points.

      • Ah, I see what you meant now. Yes, fair enough – there is a substantial number of battered men.

        What I find hard to deal with from the MRA side of the fence (and this is not at all directed at you, just a tangential thought) is the demand that feminists provide battered men’s shelters just because women’s groups got battered women’s shelters up and running (at first solely through private donation, then lobbying for govt support as well).

        If men’s groups get their own shelter committees out fundraising for shelters and lobbying for govt funding to match, I don’t see most feminists having any problem donating money or signing petitions to elected representatives. Do the groundwork and make the noise about your continuing worthy work and you will be supported by generous folk of goodwill. Demanding that other people do the work for you because they’ve done it before for another group, and for them to not volunteer their time and resources to do the work for your group as well is oh so terribly unfair? Not so much.

  24. [...] Agency in Australia, just to confuse us, I guess. These people have run the line for many years, based on discredited interpretations of the “Conflict Tactics Scale” and other dubious s…, that if only the truth were known, domestic violence against men is an equally large problem but [...]

  25. “This methodology totally includes violence which occurs after the end of a relationship”

    Is “includes” here a typo for “excludes”? It’s the only way I can make sense of that clause.

  26. tigtog: there’s a slight issue with that. Currently, it’s groups fighting domestic violence against women who control the discourse on domestic violence – they’re the ones the government and the newspapers listen to – and they say domestic violence against men is a myth, doesn’t happen, is made up to distract from domestic violence against women. Therefore, any serious attempt to do something about domestic violence against men must eventually either get their support or fight them head-on. (Both of these appear nearly impossible!)

    Actually, there’s an even bigger problem. There’s this influential idea that, if a women violently attacks her male partner, it’s actually a sign that she’s a victim of domestic violence. Oh, and the police in several countries have been trained accordingly. This obviously makes going to the police risky and ineffective for male victims. More subtly, any attempt to get domestic violence against men taken seriously weakens this argument, and therefore is an outright attack on groups fighting domestic violence against women. (Who, as you’ll recall, have several advantages: much greater awareness and numbers, influence in government, and – perhaps most interestingly – a much better fit with existing gender roles and preconceptions.)

    Basically, what you’re suggesting is just not possible.

    • @makonk

      and they say domestic violence against men is a myth, doesn’t happen, is made up to distract from domestic violence against women

      I’d be very interested if you could actually provide a cite of an organisation focussed on domestic violence who says that women are never perpetrators, or who says that women perpetrators of domestic violence should not be prosecuted and punished.

      Objecting to discussions of violence against women repeatedly getting hijacked/derailed by individuals focussing on “what about the men” is not denying that female violence against men exists. It’s just objecting to the phenomenon of women’s experiences yet again being discounted and dismissed in favour of men’s.

  27. I think two huge issues in trying to determine the amount of DV perpetrated in the US is the unlikelyhood of men reporting any abuse and the moving target of what DV actually entails.

    Men are taught from a very early age to suck it up and take it like a man. They go to the doctor less, they call in sick from work less, they report crime less. Also, society has made DV against a man both excusable and a joke. If a man is a victim of DV either he deserved it or it is funny. Police often will arrest the man even if he is the one who called the police and is bleeding. We really have no clue how many men actually are physically battered by their wives, and until this problem changes we won’t know.

    The other issue is that the definition of DV changes constantly. It used to be that only physical violence was considered. Then emotional or phychological abuse was added, assuming men would be using threats of violence as well as slurs, insults, and degrading language. Then financial abuse was added, assuming men were breadwinners and would hold the woman hostage with money.

    The problem is women are just as likely if not more likely to treat their husbands disparagingly than men, based on my experience. Women also have the ultimate threats available to them, which are false accusations of abuse about her or the children, and moving out (and sometimes far away) with the children. Considering ~90% of all custody ends with full custody for the mother, this is a very real threat. Most women work today, 30% or so outearning their husbands, so the idea that men are holding women hostage with money is unlikely for most.

    With women any sort of negative behavior on the part of their husband is abuse, with men it is only when there is bodily injury. Is it any wonder the numbers are so disparate?

    So I would like to see a solid definition of DV, and see that one definition applied equally.

    • JenK, please note the general commenting guideline on comment length for future comments.

      As to your post, you seem to be confused. This post is only about actual physical battery of one’s partner, so all the other issues you have raised are not on-topic.

    • Police often will arrest the man even if he is the one who called the police and is bleeding. We really have no clue how many men actually are physically battered by their wives, and until this problem changes we won’t know.

      I’d like to see a citation for that; at the moment it seems like wild conjecture.

      The problem is women are just as likely if not more likely to treat their husbands disparagingly than men, based on my experience.

      Personal experience is inadmissible. I’ve never seen Europe but that doesn’t disprove its existence.

      Women also have the ultimate threats available to them, which are false accusations of abuse about her or the children, and moving out (and sometimes far away) with the children.

      Surely that’s not more of an “ultimate threat” than, “I will kill you,” which, as we have seen, is much more likely to be carried out by a man than by a woman.

      Considering ~90% of all custody ends with full custody for the mother, this is a very real threat.

      Citation needed; that smells like a made-up statistic.

      With women any sort of negative behavior on the part of their husband is abuse, with men it is only when there is bodily injury. Is it any wonder the numbers are so disparate?

      As a man, I was hoping for better representation than hearsay and conjecture. Do you have any factual claims to make? Can you point to legitimate studies that back them up?

  28. I don’t see refutation of the statistics here. All I see is an attack on the validity of self-reporting as a tool of Sociology. Now, there may be some merit to that, but when you attack it, you’re really playing with fire; a commonly-used tool in pro-feminist sociological studies is the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI), which relies entirely on self-reporting. I’ve taken it myself, and I must say, anybody with half a brain could easily skew the results to make themselves look less sexist. So, if you’re attacking the use of self-reporting, you should also be rejecting all studies of anti-female discrimination which rely upon the ASI.

  29. Your sources are over 30 years old. 100s of newer studies, and Straus and Gelles state that women are equally if not more often violent towards their partners.

    • Could you perhaps provide a link that includes exactly how “violent towards” is defined. Because violence that ends in hospital admissions strikes me as somewhat more serious than “shoves” or “slaps” that don’t.

      • After reading all the comments here, it appears that there is some consensus acknowledging that women and men hit each other equally. The only difference appears to be in that men injure women more. An obvious (and thus already addressed) reason for this is that men are naturally physically stronger than women. If a woman punches a man, and then a man punches a woman, the woman is more likely to be injured.

        This leads me to question why this is a feminist issue. Where is the inequality? If men and women are hitting each other equally, where is the problem? Should men simply hit women less often than women hit men? That might even out the statistics, but that places moral emphasis on men. This issue was brought up earlier, but never addressed.

        There was one thing I would like to question in the original post, but I won’t bring it up now for fear of this above issue being overlooked again.

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