Domestic violence is not exclusively a male problem

There is a very interesting longitudinal study of families done by Otago University on the issue of domestic violence.

I should preface these extracts by saying that when it comes to the most severe forms of domestic violence – being killed or maimed by your partner or ex-partner, its is clear that this happens to women, by men, far more often. But what does the Otago study find for overall domestic violence:

In addition, victimization and perpetration reports were highly correlated (r = .81). This reflects the fact that, in most instances, respondents reported mutual IPV, with 90% of those reporting IPV victimization reporting IPV perpetration, and 94% of those reporting IPV perpetration reporting IPV victimization.

There were no significant differences between males and females in terms of reported IPV victimization. The mean victimization score for females was 2.12 (SD = 2.91) compared to the mean of 2.28 (SD = 2.71) for males (p > .40). However, there was a significant difference between males and females in terms of reported IPV perpetration, such that females reported higher levels of IPV perpetration. The mean perpetration score for females was 2.15 (SD = 2.26), compared to a mean of 1.66 (SD = 2.04) for males (p < .01).

That’s what you call an inconvenient fact.

In terms of the CTS victimization subscale measures, 11.3% of males and 7.3% of females reported being exposed to minor physical assault; 7.7% of males and 3.4% of females reported severe physical assault; 65.7% of males and 66.1% of females reported minor psychological aggression; and 15.4% of males and 9.2% of females reported severe psychological aggression. For the CTS perpetration subscale measures, 6.7% of males and 5.5% of females reported committing minor physical assault; 2.8% of males and 3.2% of females reported severe physical assault; 56.7% of males and 68.7% of females reported minor psychological
aggression; and 6.9% of males and 9.2% of females reported severe psychological aggression.

So males are more likely to suffer a severe physical assault.

Now the reality is that most men and stronger than most women, and the impact of a serious physical assault can be both physically and psychologically more damaging, even terrifying for a woman. So this paper doesn’t minimise the horrendous impact on women, of serious assaults. It just establishes that domestic violence is far from exclusively something men do to women – in fact 90% of those who get victimised by domestic violence, also perpetrate it, according to this study. Now that is not 100%, and many people suffer domestic violence, who never ever engage in it itself. But the study shows they are the exception,  not the rule.

The report authors conclude:

All research into IPV is conducted against the backdrop of what Dutton (Dutton, 1994; Dutton & Nicholls, 2005) has described as “the feminist paradigm” (p. 682). This model, which dominates public discourse about domestic violence, views violence through a gendered lens that centers around the assumptions that: (a) most domestic violence involves male perpetrators and female victims; (b) female violence is defensive and reactive; and (c) the causes of domestic violence reflect the values of patriarchal social structures in which violence is used to control women and limit their opportunities (e.g. Bograd, 1988; Dobash & Dobash, 1979; Dobash, Dobash, Wilson, & Daly, 1992; Johnson, 1995).

While this model has been highly influential in setting the directions of domestic violence policy, it is almost completely discrepant with the findings of this and a growing number of studies.

They point out:

While population survey data have tended to suggest an absence of gender differences, official data tend to suggest a predominance of male perpetrators and female victims. Reconciling these differences is central to a balanced understanding of the issues of IPV. The most straightforward resolution of the evidence is to suggest that, while males and females appear to be equally predisposed to domestic violence, because of greater male strength and capacity for aggression, males predominate in the more extreme cases of IPV represented in officially recorded statistics

None of the above should take away from the reality that too many men do commit domestic violence, and as a society we should make domestic violence as socially unacceptable as drink driving now is. That is what very clumsily was trying to say a couple of days ago.

But apologising for being a man, was both stupid (you apologise for what you do, not for what you are), but also missing the wider picture of domestic violence.

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