Gender aspects of abuse
The role of gender is a controversial topic related to the discussion of domestic violence.
Among the persons killed by an intimate partner, about three quarters are female, and about a quarter are male: in 1999, in the US, 1,218 women and 424 men were killed by an intimate partner, regardless of which partner started the violence and of the gender of the partner. In the US, in 2005, 1181 females and 329 males were killed by their intimate partners. Women are also much more likely than men to enlist help if they wish to kill their spouse; but such multiple-offender homicides are not counted toward domestic-violence statistics.
The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) states that “violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which has led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.”
Erin Pizzey, the founder of an early women's shelter in Chiswick, London, has expressed her dismay at how domestic abuse has become a gender-political football, and expressed an unpopular view in her book Prone to Violence that roughly two-thirds of women in the refuge system had a predisposition to seek abusive relationships, and to inflict violence. Pizzey also expressed the view that domestic violence can occur against any vulnerable intimates, regardless of their gender.
A Freudian concept, repetition compulsion, has been cited as a possible cause of a woman who was abused in childhood seeking an abusive man (or vice versa), theoretically as a misguided way to "master" their traumatic experience.
There continues to be discussion about whether men or women are more abusive, whether women's abuse of men, or men's abuse of women is typically more severe, and the question of whether abused men should be provided the same resources and shelters that exist for women victims sekä Carney (2007)
A problem in conducting studies that seek to describe violence in terms of gender is the amount of silence, fear and shame that results from abuse within families and relationships. Another is that abusive patterns can tend to seem normal to those who have lived in them for a length of time. Similarly, subtle forms of abuse can be quite transparent even as they set the stage for further abuse seeming normal. Finally, inconsistent definition of what domestic violence is makes definite conclusions difficult to reach when compiling the available studies.
Martin S. Fiebert of the Department of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach, provides an annotated bibliography of over two hundred scholarly works which demonstrate that women and men often exhibit comparable levels of IPV violence. In a Los Angeles Times article about male victims of domestic violence, Fiebert suggests that "...consensus in the field is that women are as likely as men to strike their partner but that—as expected—women are more likely to be injured than men." However, he noted, men are seriously injured in 38% of the cases in which "extreme aggression" is used. Fiebert additionally noted that his work was not meant to minimize the serious effects of men who abuse women.
In a Meta-analysis, John Archer, Ph. D., from the Department of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, UK, writes:
The present analyses indicate that men are among those who are likely to be on the receiving end of acts of physical aggression. The extent to which this involves mutual combat or the male equivalent to “battered women” is at present unresolved. Both situations are causes for concern. Straus (1997) has warned of the dangers involved—especially for women—when physical aggression becomes a routine response to relationship conflict. “Battered men”—those subjected to systematic and prolonged violence—are likely to suffer physical and psychological consequences, together with specific problems associated with a lack of recognition of their plight (George and George, 1998). Seeking to address these problems need not detract from continuing to address the problem of “battered women."
Donald G. Dutton and Tonia L. Nicholls, from the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia also undertook a meta-analysis of data in 2005. They concluded:
Clearly, shelter houses full of battered women demonstrate the need for their continued existence. Moreover, outside of North American and Northern Europe, gender inequality is still the norm (Archer, in press). However, within those countries that have been most progressive about women’s equality, female violence has increased as male violence has decreased (Archer, in press). There is not one solution for every domestically violent situation; some require incarceration of a terrorist perpetrator, others can be dealt with through court-mandated treatment, still others may benefit from couples therapy. However, feminist inspired intervention standards that preclude therapists in many states from doing effective therapy with male batterers are one outcome of this paradigm. The failure to recognize female threat to husbands, female partners, or children is another (Straus et al., 1980 found 10% higher rates of child abuse reported by mothers than by fathers).
The one size fits all policy driven by a simplistic notion that intimate violence is a recapitulation of class war does not most effectively deal with this serious problem or represent the variety of spousal violence patterns revealed by research. At some point, one has to ask whether feminists are more interested in diminishing violence within a population or promoting a political ideology. If they are interested in diminishing violence, it should be diminished for all members of a population and by the most effective and utilitarian means possible. This would mean an intervention/treatment approach based on other successful approaches from criminology and psychology.
Theories that women are as violent as men have been dubbed "Gender Symmetry" theories. On the other hand, Michael Kimmel of the State University of New York at Stony Brook found that men are more violent inside and outside of the home than women.
Both men and women have been arrested and convicted of assaulting their partners in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. The bulk of these arrests have been men being arrested for assaulting women. However, in the case of reciprocal violence, frequently only the male perpetrator is arrested. Determining how many instances of domestic violence actually involve male victims is difficult. Male domestic violence victims may be reluctant to get help for a number of reasons. Another study has demonstrated a high degree of acceptance by women of aggression against men.
Murders of female intimate partners by men have dropped, but not nearly as dramatically. Men kill their female intimate partners at about four times the rate that women kill their male intimate partners. Research by Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD RN FAAN has found that at least two thirds of women killed by their intimate partners were battered by those men prior to the murder. She also found that when males are killed by female intimates, the women in those relationships had been abused by their male partner about 75% of the time. (See battered person syndrome and battered woman defense.)
Some researchers have found a relationship between the availability of domestic violence services, improved laws and enforcement regarding domestic violence and increased access to divorce, and higher earnings for women with declines in intimate partner homicide. However, both men and women are far less likely to be abused when married to each other. The bulk of injuries from domestic violence involves co-habitation or the distresses of relationship break-ups.
Gender roles and expectations can and do play a role in abusive situations, and exploring these roles and expectations can be helpful in addressing abusive situations, as do factors like race, class, religion, sexuality and philosophy. None of these factors cause one to abuse or another to be abused.
In 1997, the Canadian Advertising Foundation ruled that a national ad campaign that featured Nicole Brown Simpson's sister Denise with the slogan "Stop violence against women" was in fact portraying only men as aggressors, that it was not providing a balanced message and was, in fact, contributing to gender stereotyping. (The murder of Nicole Simpson also included the murder of Ronald Goldman.)
Child Murder by Mothers: A Critical Analysis of the Current State of Knowledge and a Research Agenda
OBJECTIVE: Maternal filicide, or child murder by mothers, occursmore frequently in the United States than in other developednations. However, little is known about factors that conferrisk to children. The authors review the literature to identifypredictors of maternal filicide and identify gaps in knowledgeabout maternal filicide. METHOD: Databases were systematicallysearched for studies of maternal filicide and neonaticide (murderin the first day of life) that were conducted in industrializedcountries and were published in peer-reviewed, English-languagepublications after 1980. RESULTS: Women who committed filicidevaried greatly by the type of sample studied. Neonaticide wasoften committed by young, poor, unmarried women with littleor no prenatal care. CONCLUSIONS: The results of the reviewsuggest that little is known about the predictors of maternalfilicide and that a systematic, focused program of researchon reliable markers for maternal filicide is needed to betterprevent these events.
Predominantly women, not men, kill children According to Jeff White, writing for the Report Newsmagazine, men are brutes who 'always specialized in killing older children.' However, it is women, not men, who kill more children, by far. The following article was commissioned by the Report Newsmagazine but was not published. Apparently it became overlooked and forgotten. I can't blame the editor for that. He was busy fighting a case for freedom of the press in a Human Rights Tribunal of the Alberta Human Rights Commission at the time.Response to Jeff White Andrea Yates notwithstanding,….all men are beastly brutes, if we are to believe what Jeff White told us. Re:Report, Apr. 29, 2002, p. 40
According to Jeff White, "Men have always specialized in wholesale killing of older children." Well, maybe he has always done so (how did he get away with it?), but nobody else I know did. He told more whoppers in his article. He mentioned a survey (unnamed) "of 35 cultures from around the world," that "found that 21 of them killed deformed or sickly children," and "positively demanded" their deaths. "Only Christians didn't approve of it." By my reckoning, 35 - 21 = 14. Were those 14 cultures exclusively Christian? Did Jews and Muslims habitually kill their disabled children? Are Christians to be despised for bringing an end to the practice of destroying those that don't conform to pagan ideals of beauty or convenience? Hitler promoted such "Whitish" cleansing. The more of our Christian ideals we discard, the more the people on the Left cleanse. It's now a women's right!
In addressing the topic of the male role in "serious domestic violent crime," Jeff White covered a selective and very broad range of subjects, localities and much anecdotal evidence. From there he then drifted back to Canada and cemented his hypothesis of men being habitual killers of their families firmly into place with StatCan's estimates on partner violence, even if covering only a fraction of family violence. Those data relate to all alleged violence between men and women only, including instances of men yelling at their wives, giving them the cold shoulder or "scaring" them. They are demonstrably tainted with StatCan's pro-feminist and family-hostile editorial bias. Moreover, they are not even based on biased convictions but largely on the results of telephone surveys. Why not, advocacy numbers fit a pet theory so much better, right?
StatCan's very broad definitions of "mother" and "father" deliberately mislead. A "spouse" could mean just about anyone in the presence of a woman or man, no matter the duration or quality of the presence. "Mother" is likely to be a natural mother, whereas "father" is most likely any man but a natural father. Thereby it is made to appear that we can safely ignore the far superior safety of families headed by married biological parents. However, in their care, as Patrick Fagan from the Heritage Foundation identified, children are 33 times less likely to be seriously abused and 73 times less likely to be killed than in single-mother "families."
American government agencies report numbers that are more objective, not as subjective as those Jeff White selected. In the US in 1999, 70.3 percent of perpetrators of child abuse were female parents acting alone or with others. Out of an estimated 826,000 victims of child maltreatment, nation-wide, 1,100 were fatalities. Their perpetrators break down as follows:
PERPETRATOR RELATIONSHIP 
31.5% Female Parent Only
10.7% Male Parent Only *
21.3% Both Parents *
16.3% Female Parent and Other
1.1% Male Parent and Other *
4.5% Family Relative
6.1% Substitute Care Provider(s)
* "Male parent" in that context most likely is just about anything but a natural father.
That means that, acting alone or with others, female parents were responsible in 69.1 percent, and male parents in 33.1 percent of cases of fatal child maltreatment.
Contrary to Jeff White's yarn, if anyone cornered the market on the killing of children, women did, not men! Furthermore, considering stepfathers, common-law husbands, boyfriends and other strange males involved in the lives of women and in the abuse of "women's" children, it emerges that natural fathers are the least likely to let harm come to any child. That's what we should try to establish, not deny and twist around.
Not much can be gained by tarring all men or women with the same brush. It would be a long jump from the circumstance that at most three percent of people engage in child abuse to the assertion that therefore all women (or all men) are child abusers. Such jumps in logic are a prerogative usurped by feminists, not the mark of an objective journalist.
Space doesn't permit to go into the misperceptions promoted by Jeff White with respect to partner violence. He should look up the studies undertaken by Drs. John Archer, Martin Fiebert and others. Newspapers, too, in spite of their liberal bent still provide much useful information, as long as we can keep it free of editorializing by uninformed people or those with an agenda. By the way, there were no "horrors of the Yates trial," but the trial exposed, examined and judged the horrors visited by Andrea Yates on the children she and her husband conceived.
Was it necessary to publish an article that contained such a large collection of misleading information? Aren't men being vilified enough already without anyone adding to the general slander directed against them? Let's hope that Jeff White's article is not a sign of worse things to come, and that we won't see the Report join the drive to keep women and "their" children safe from those beastly brutish men, although the media frequently report that women kill children in revenge against the children's fathers.
What's next, the promotion of deadly ideologies of people like Prof. Steven Pinker? ("…birth is as arbitrary a milestone as any other" in setting a boundary for the killing of a child ) They significantly extend abortion to include the new-born whose continued life will depend solely on a "rational" decision by the mother, all in compliance with the "prehistoric tradition of infanticide as the oldest method of reproductive control." At least Steven Pinker, who used almost identical words, only speculated that there may have been such a tradition. On Jeff White's keyboard it became an assertion. The Report printed it and always told the truth before, therefore the "prehistoric tradition" (an oxymoron) must be true?
See also: Video on violent women
1.) "Family Violence in Canada 2000 — An Alternative Approach," by Eeva Sodhi, a letter to Statistics Canada, posted 2000 08 31, at http://fathersforlife.org/Sodhi/fvcans1.htm, a critique pointing out flaws in the method of presentation and in the statistics contained in: Statistics Canada pub. "Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2000" Cat. No. 85-224 (Note: Interestingly, in her commentary, Eeva Sodhi identifies and analyses precisely those statistics by which StatCan misleads the uninformed in exactly the manner in which Jeff White got mislead.)
2.) A compelling status report and useful suggestions for solutions are provided in the report by the Heritage Foundation "Marriage: The Safest Place for Women and Children", by Patrick F. Fagan and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., Backgrounder #1535.
3.) Child Maltreatment 1999, Fig. 4-3 http://www.calib.com/nccanch/chma99.pdf
4.) Studies by Archer, Fiebert and others can be accessed or are listed at http://fathersforlife.org/family_violence_main_page.htm
5.) "Why They Kill Their Newborns," by Steven Pinker, New York Times, November 2, 1997, Sunday, Section: Magazine Desk, http://www.gargaro.com/pinker.html
Copyright © 2003 United Western Communications Ltd.
By Dahlia Lithwick
When Parents KillWhy fathers do it. Why mothers do it.By Dahlia LithwickPosted Tuesday, March 12, 2002, at 6:00 PM ETAndrea YatesWomen do not, by and large, make terrific criminals. In the United States, women commit only two crimes as frequently as men. The first is shoplifting. The second is the murder of their own children. Andrea Yates, the Houston mother whose trial for the murders of three of her children ends today, and Marilyn Lemak, the Chicago nurse recently convicted of killing her three children, are not at all statistical anomalies. Somehow, women—who commit less than 13 percent of all violent crimes in the United States—commit about 50 percent of all parental murders. Why do so many women direct their most violent impulses toward their own children? While it may once have been true that women were the sole—and often frustrated—caregivers of small children, mothers now work, yet they don't kill their colleagues; they kill their babies. Why? Feminists and legal researchers tend to claim that such women must be extremely ill. Judges and juries mostly agree, with the result being that women who kill their children in this country are disproportionately hospitalized or treated, while men who do so are disproportionately jailed, even executed.
According to a recent book entitled Mothers Who Kill Their Children,by Michelle Oberman—a professor of law at DePaul University—juries are loath to hand down murder convictions for mothers accused of killing their own children. Such juries are even more reluctant to impose draconian penalties. A 1969 study by Dr. Phillip Resnick, the "father" of maternal filicide (the murder of a child by a parent), found that while mothers convicted of murdering their children were hospitalized 68 percent of the time and imprisoned 27 percent of the time, fathers convicted of killing their children were sentenced to prison or executed 72 percent of the time and hospitalized only 14 percent of the time. More recent British studies by P.T. D'Orban support these findings. And although the United States does not have any formal equivalent to England's Infanticide Act—which codifies a sort of postpartum depression defense—American juries and judges have taken it upon themselves to excuse and treat most of these mothers for mental illness while condemning the fathers as violent criminals.
The scholars, the media, and most of the studies do their best to persuade us that these murderous moms really are ill. Perhaps it comforts us to believe that anyone who violates the sacred mother-child bond is simply crazy; it would be unimaginable if these mothers were making rational criminal choices. And since women are not violent in other contexts, most scholars, including Oberman, argue that the majority of maternal murderers suffer from depression, postpartum psychoses, and other mental afflictions. But no one has put forth an analogous medical theory to explain whether fathers who kill their offspring are also depressed, isolated, or psychotic.
The problem with the "illness" theory is that it only goes partway toward explaining why women kill their babies. Illness may explain how some women eventually snap and behave violently. But it doesn't begin to explain why they direct this madness so disproportionately toward their own offspring. Even taking into account that some small fraction of the mental illnesses associated with maternal filicide—most notably postpartum depression—are triggered by the births themselves, the illness theory doesn't explain why mothers suffering from other mental illnesses, or who aren't ill at all, act out with their own children rather than strangers. The illness theory doesn't explain why we don't consider fathers who kill their children to be sick. Pulling murderous mothers out of the field of ordinary criminology and viewing them as fundamentally different raises more questions than it answers. Perhaps murderous mothers are no crazier than fathers. Perhaps murderous fathers are even crazier than mothers. Either way, the failure to view these crimes as morally or legally equivalent reflects a more central legal truth: We still view children as the mother's property. Since destroying one's own property is considered crazy while destroying someone else's property is criminal, women who murder their own children are sent to hospitals, whereas their husbands are criminals, who go to jail or the electric chair.
Why does the legal system treat a mother who kills someone else's child as though she were a sociopathic killer while showing mercy toward a mom who drowns her own? For the same reason the law treats individuals who burn down other people's houses as criminals and institutionalizes those who burn down their own. Men are disproportionately jailed for filicide not because they are more evil than women but because we believe they have harmed a woman's property—as opposed to their own.
Children under the age of 5 in the United States are more likely to be killed by their parents than anyone else. Contrary to popular mythology, they are rarely killed by a sex-crazed stranger. FBI crime statistics show that in 1999 parents were responsible for 57 percent of these murders, with family friends and acquaintances accounting for another 30 percent and other family members accounting for 8 percent. Crime statistics further reveal that of the children under 5 killed from 1976 to 1999, 30 percent were murdered by their mothers while 31 percent were killed by their fathers. And while the strangers, acquaintances, and other family members who kill children skew heavily toward males (as does the entire class of murderers), children are as likely to be murdered by their fathers as by their mothers.
Doug Saunders observed recently in the Toronto newspaper the Globe and Mail that the media is complicit in treating maternal killers as newsworthy and paternal killers as ordinary criminals. Newspapers currently following every motion in the Andrea Yates trial completely ignored last month's Los Angeles filicide, in which Adair Garcia killed five of his six children by asphyxiating them with a barbeque he'd lit in the living room. He did it to punish his estranged wife, who had moved out a week earlier. Coverage of Ukranian immigrant Nikolay Soltys, who killed his pregnant wife and 3-year-old son last August, was less focused on his mental state than his dramatic flight and capture. Why is Yates a front-page story while Garcia is disregarded? To paraphrase Michelle Oberman: Murdering mothers are just different.
The same studies that have been used to prove that murderous mothers are "sick" can as readily be used to support the theory that both mothers and fathers consider children to be a woman's property. Social science research and FBI crime statistics show that men and women differ in the reasons they kill their children, in the methods they employ, and in the ways they behave following such murders. None of this data proves that fathers are crazier than mothers. Much of it suggests that we all simply believe children "belong" to their moms.
Researchers, building on the work of Phillip Resnick, have shown that women tend to kill their own offspring for one of several reasons: because the child is unwanted; out of mercy; as a result of some mental illness in the mother; in retaliation against a spouse; as a result of abuse. Frequent themes are that they themselves deserved to be punished, that killing the children would be an altruistic or loving act, or that children need to be "erased" in order to save or preserve a relationship. Contrast this with the reasons men kill their children: Most frequently—like Garcia or Soltys—they kill because they feel they have lost control over their finances, or their families, or the relationship, or out of revenge for a perceived slight or infidelity. The consistent idea is that women usually kill their children either because they are angry at themselves or because they want to destroy that which they created, whereas more often than not, men kill their children to get back at a woman—to take away what she most cherishes.
According to a recent article by Elizabeth Fernandez in the San Francisco Chronicle, studies further reveal that fathers are far more likely to commit suicide after killing their children. Mothers attempt post-filicide suicide but rarely succeed. Some scholars suggest this is because mothers tend to view their children as mere extensions of themselves and that these homicides are in fact suicidal.
Perhaps more revealing than the differences in why they kill their offspring are the differences between how fathers and mothers do so. For one thing, parental murderers tend to be highly physical. According to a 1988 survey done by the U.S. Justice Department, while 61 percent of all murder defendants used a gun in 1988, only 20 percent of the parents who killed their children used one. Children were drowned and shaken, beaten, poisoned, stabbed, and suffocated. These methods betray a certain "craziness" in both genders—they betray an intense passion and a lack of planning. But a study by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows that fathers are far more violent. And mothers frequently dispose of the corpses in what researchers call a "womblike" fashion. Bodies are swaddled, submerged in water, or wrapped in plastic. Moreover, the NCMEC study showed that while the victims of maternal killings are almost always found either in or close to the home, fathers will, on average, dispose of the bodies hundreds of miles away. All these behaviors suggest that women associate these murders with themselves, their homes, and their bodies
None of the arguments here assumes that there is no such thing as postpartum depression or, in rarer cases, postpartum psychosis—a deep break from reality that affects less than one in 500 new mothers. Andrea Yates is actually a good example of someone who was overdetermined to experience some kind of psychotic break that would end tragically. But Yates is only one of hundreds of mothers who kill every year, and while complete psychotic breaks explain why some of this homicidal rage and violence is turned upon one's own children, it doesn't account for either the staggering numbers of maternal homicides or for society's leniency toward women in these cases. The property theory does provide these answers. Women still believe that they have sole dominion over so little property that arson and armed robbery and rape make no intuitive sense to them. But the destruction and control of something deemed to be a woman's sole property sends a powerful message about who's really in charge, and this message hasn't changed since the time of Jason and Medea.
It would, of course, help if we could stop thinking of children as anyone's property. It does nothing to advance the feminist cause to simply assume that all mothers who kill their children must necessarily be crazy. It will do a good deal to advance the cause of children's rights if we begin to consider them as legal entities in and of themselves.
All data from: US Department of Health and Human Services
From Domestic Violence Resource Center
Due to cultural norms that require men to present a strong façade and that minimize female-perpetrated abuse (Mooney, 2000; Straus et al, 1997; Sorenson & Taylor, 2005), men are less likely to verbalize fear of any kind. (Dutton & Nicholls, 2005; Hines et al, in press)
(Dutton, D., & Nicholls, T. (2005). A critical review of the gender paradigm in domestic violence research and theory: Part I – Theory and data. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10, 680-714.
Hines, D., Brown, J., & Dunning, E. (in press) Characteristics of callers to the domestic abuse helpline for men. Journal of Family Violence.
Mooney, J. (2000). Gender, violence, and the social order. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Sorenson, S., & Taylor, C. (2005). Female aggression toward male intimate partners: An examination of social norms in a community-based sample. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29, 78-96.
Straus, M., Kaufman-Kantor, G., & Moore, D. (1997). Change in cultural norms approving marital violence: From 1968 to 1994. In G. Kaufman-Kantor & J. Jasinski (Eds.), Out of the darkness: Contemporary perspectives on family violence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.)
Individuals who are controlling of their partners are much more likely to also be physically assaultive, and this holds equally for both male and female perpetrators.
(Felson, R., & Outlaw, M. (2007). The control motive and marital violence. Violence and Victims, 22 (4), 387-407.
Graham-Kevan, N. (2007). Men’s and women’s use of intimate partner violence: Implications for treatment programs. Presented July 9, 2007 at the International Family Violence and Child Victimization Research Conference, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.)
Societal norms support female-perpetrated abuse in the home. (Straus et al., 1997; Straus, 1999) (Straus, M. (1999). The controversy over domestic violence by women. In X. Arriaga & S. Oskamp (Eds.), Violence in intimate relationships (pp. 17-44).)
Structural power does not necessarily translate to individual power.
(Felson, R. (2002). Violence & gender reexamined. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.)
Surveys find that men and women assault one another and strike the first blow at approximately equal rates.
(Archer, J. (2000). Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 126 (5), 651-680.
Dutton, D., Kwong, M., & Bartholomew, K. (1999). Gender differences in patterns of relationship violence in Alberta. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 31, 150-160
Morse, B. (1995). Beyond the Conflict Tactics Scale: Assessing gender differences in partner violence. Violence and Victims, 10 (4), 251-269.
Straus, M. (1993). Physical assaults by wives: A major social problem. In R. Gelles & D. Loseky (Eds.), Current controversies on family violence (pp. 67-87). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.)
Men and women engage in overall comparable levels of abuse and control, such as diminishing the partner’s self-esteem, isolation and jealousy, using children and economic abuse; however, men engage in higher levels of sexual coercion and can more easily intimidate physically.
(Coker, A, Davis, K., Arias, I., Desai, S., Sanderson, M., Brandt, H., & Smith, P. (2002). Physical and mental health effects of intimate partner violence for men and women. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 23 (4), 260-268.
Hammock, G., & O’Hearn, R. (2002). Psychological aggression in dating relationships: Predictive models for male and females. Violence and Victims, 17, 525-540.)
*Thanks to John Hamel, LCSW, for assistance with this webpage section.
By BRUCE WATSON
Amid the media frenzy over Tiger Woods and Bengals receiver Chris Henry, a key aspect of both stories slipped through the cracks: Like millions of other men, Woods and Henrywere -- allegedly at least -- the victims of domestic violence perpetrated by their wives or girlfriends. Beyond its brutal physical and psychological costs, domestic violence against men exacts a cruel economic toll at the personal, societal and national levels.
For the most part, the media, authorities and average citizens see domestic violence as a crime that is committed by men and victimizes women. Consequently, funding to combat the problem has overwhelmingly been spent on programs that support women.
Widely Ignored Problem
And yet, more than 200 survey-based studies show that domestic violence is just as likely to strike men as women. In fact, the overwhelming mass of evidence indicates that half of all domestic violence cases involve an exchange of blows and the remaining 50% is evenly split between men and women who are brutalized by their partners.
Part of the reason that this problem is widely ignored lies in the notion that battered males are weak or unmanly. A good example of this is the Barry Williams case: Recently, the former Brady Bunch star sought a restraining order against his live-in girlfriend, who had hit him, stolen $29,000 from his bank account, attempted to kick and stab him and had repeatedly threatened his life.
It is hard to imagine a media outlet mocking a battered woman, but E! online took the opportunity to poke fun at Williams, comparing the event to various Brady Bunch episodes. Similarly, when Saturday Night Live ran a segment in which a frightened Tiger Woods was repeatedly brutalized by his wife, the show was roundly attacked -- for being insensitive to musical guest Rihanna, herself a victim of domestic violence.
Lack of Research
Sometimes it is impossible to ignore the problem, but when domestic violence against men turns deadly -- as in the case of actor Phil Hartman -- the focus tends to shift to mental illness. The same can be said of the Andrea Yates case, which many pundits presented as the story of how an insensitive husband can drive a wife to murder.
Much of the information on domestic violence against men is anecdotal, largely because of the lack of funding to study the problem. Although several organizations explore domestic violence, the biggest single resource is the Department of Justice, which administers grants through its Office on Violence Against Women.
For years, the DOJ has explicitly refused to fund studies that investigate domestic violence against men. According to specialists in this field, the DOJ recently agreed to cover this problem -- as long as researchers give equal time to addressing violence against women.
First National Study
Researchers Denise Hines and Emily Douglas recently completed the first national study to scientifically measure the mental and social impact of domestic violence on male victims. Interestingly, their research was funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, not the DOJ. Not only does this demonstrate the lack of resources for researchers of this issue, but it also suggests that male battering is perceived as a mental health issue, not a crime.
This decriminalization of domestic violence against men affects research conclusions. While survey-based studies have found that men and women commit domestic violence in equal numbers, crime-based studies show that women are far more likely to be victimized. This inconsistency begins to make sense when one considers that man-on-woman violence tends to be seen through a criminal lens, while woman-on-man violence is viewed more benignly.
A recent 32-nation study revealed that more than 51% of men and 52% of women felt that there were times when it was appropriate for a wife to slap her husband. By comparison, only 26% of men and 21% of women felt that there were times when it was appropriate for a husband to slap his wife. Murray Straus, creator of the Conflict Tactics Scale and one of the authors of the study, explained this discrepancy: "We don't perceive men as victims. We see women as being more vulnerable than men."
Kneed In The Groin
This trend becomes particularly striking when one considers the 1996 case of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Warren Moon, who tried to restrain his wife after she threw a candlestick at his head and kneed him in the groin. Subsequently charged with spousal abuse, he was only acquitted after his wife admitted that she attacked him -- and that her wounds were self-inflicted. Ironically, her admission of fault did not result in charges being brought against her.
While Moon's trial was particularly high profile, his situation is actually very common. In fact, studies have found that a man who calls the police to report domestic violence is three times more likely to be arrested than the woman who is abusing him.
The mainstream perception of domestic violence also impacts the resources that are available to battered men. For example, the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women, the only national toll-free hot line that specializes in helping male victims of domestic violence, has faced numerous roadblocks in its search for funding. In Maine, where the helpline is based, the surest route to funding is through membership in the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
On A Shoestring
But, according to Helpline director Jan Brown, the Coalition refused to even issue the program an application for membership, effectively denying it access to funding. Today, 45 Helpline volunteers field 550 calls per month, 80% of which are from men or people who are looking for help on behalf of a man. Operating with a yearly budget of less than $15,000, it provides intensive training to its workers and offers victims housing, food, bus tickets and a host of other services.
The Helpline's sheltering services are informal and ad hoc, largely because its lack of access to funding makes a shelter financially impossible. In fact, of the estimated 1,200 to 1,800 shelters in the U.S., only one -- the Valley Oasis shelter in Antelope Valley, Calif. -- provides a full range of shelter services to men. And, on average, less than 10% of OVW funds allocated to fight domestic violence are used to help men.
For male victims of domestic violence, the legal system can become another tool for abuse. As in the Moon case, battered men are often likely to find themselves arrested, even when they are the ones who call the police. And, even after the arrest, the process of incarceration, restraining orders, divorce court and child custody hearings continue to disadvantage men.
A High Cost
Restraining orders are a particularly difficult hurdle. Radar Services, a watchdog organization, estimates that approximately 85% of the roughly 2 million temporary restraining orders that are issued every year are made against men. In many states, the requirements for an order are exceedingly vague: In Oregon, for example, a "fear" of violence is sufficient for a restraining order, while Michigan issues them to protect family members against "fear of mental harm."
But there's nothing vague about the effect of restraining orders: They often turn men out of their homes, deny them access to children and result in further personal costs as millions of men have to find new places to live, hire lawyers and pay other expenses. For some men, as Hines and Brown point out, the legal system gives abusive wives and girlfriends tools to continue attacks even after their relationships end.
As Straus notes, "The preponderance of [domestic violence] resources should be made available to women. They are injured more often, are more economically vulnerable, and are often responsible for the couple's children. That having been said, more resources need to be made available to men."
There is no doubt that domestic violence against men can be reduced; the domestic violence initiatives of the past 40 years have brought a hidden crime to light and provided protection for millions of women. The next step is to admit that domestic violence is not a male or female problem, but rather a human problem, and that a lasting solution must address the cruelty -- and suffering -- of both sexes.
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A University of Pennsylvania emergency room report found 13% of men reported being assaulted by a female partner in the previous 12 months, of which 50% were choked, kicked, bitten, punched, or had an object thrown at them, 37% involved a weapon, and 14% required medical attention, at Academic of Emergency Medicine
University of Pennsylvania Professor Richard Gelles states: "Contrary to the claim that women only hit in self-defense, we found that women were as likely to initiate the violence as were men. In order to correct for a possible bias in reporting, we reexamined our data looking only at the self-reports of women. The women reported similar rates of female-to-male violence compared to male-to-female, and women also reported they were as likely to initiate the violence as were men," in his article reprinted at The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence