It’s time to tell truth about domestic violence

By Mark Mahnkey

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The month is designed to increase awareness of how to make our homes safe from partner violence. So what is the truth about intimate partner aggression? Nearly 200 scientific studies point to one simple conclusion: Women are at least as likely as men to engage in partner aggression.

Irene Hanson Frieze, in Psychology of Women’s Quarterly, says “Research indicates that women can be just as violent as their partners.” Don Dutton from the University of British Columbia notes that “Recent evidence from the best designed studies indicates that intimate partner violence is committed by both genders with often equal consequences.” And the Journal of Family Psychology in 2006 tells us that “Differences were observed in the rates of male and female partner violence, with female violence occurring more frequently.”

A 2007 survey sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control of young adults found that 71 percent of the instigators in nonreciprocal partner violence were women. A national survey of married and co-habiting partners found that 8 percent of women engaged in severe partner violence, while only 4 percent of men were involved in severe violence.

The result of this recent peer-reviewed and published research is much different than you have been led to believe, but you are not alone. Many researchers have noted lately that the results of their research are much different than they expected.

Men often suffer injuries from their wives or girlfriends. According to a 2000 analysis by John

Archer, men suffer 38 percent of all injuries arising from partner aggression. But men often endure their pain in silence and don’t report the incident. As a result, the media and others often present a one-sided and distorted view of the problem.

Domestic violence industry advocates often make claims such as “95 percent of DV victims are women.” These false statements only make the problem worse because:

n Abusive women can’t get the help they need.

n Male victims are denied services.

n False allegations of abuse escalate partner conflict and families are harmed.

n Aggressive domestic violence laws short-circuit due process and create a presumption of “guilty until proven innocent.”

Recall two recent incidents to illustrate the problem.

One evening Warren Moon, then a National Football League quarterback, got into a fight with his wife. Police were called and Mr. Moon was arrested. Against Mrs. Moon’s wishes, the case went to trial. Placed on the witness stand, Mrs. Moon admitted that she was the one who had started the fight by throwing a candlestick, and that her husband had only acted in self-defense. Warren Moon was acquitted.

A judge in New Mexico granted a restraining order against David Letterman for sending messages over the television to a woman in that state. The judge was quoted as saying “if they fill out the paperwork correctly, I always grant the restraining order.”

If the domestic violence industry really wanted to prevent harm, they would support legislation to prosecute false accusers, and attempt to help all victims, both male and female. While they claim to offer service to men, that service is primarily offering “treatment” courses, which are majorly ineffective. These courses have no objective criteria for completion, other than requiring a statement that the dispute was exclusively the alleged perpetrator’s fault, with not an iota of responsibility or accountability on the part of the “victim,” disregarding the research that shows most intimate partner violence to be mutual. There is a continuing, solid resistance to making all restraining orders mutual, even though that would greatly decrease the chances of the parties interacting and make both parties accountable for their behavior. Lastly, they would encourage prosecution of false accusers, allowing the real victims the attention and services they need.

The domestic violence industry often complains about “blaming the victim,” but in the face of the new research and evidence, they now not only continue to blame the half of the victims that are male, but to incarcerate him as well.

Thirty-some years ago, there was a thankfully successful campaign to get rape of females taken seriously. Now is the time to get violence against men by female partners taken seriously.

Mark Mahnkey served on the faculty at Washington State University and is director of Public Policy for the Washington Civil Rights Council. He can be reached at 425-329-6656.

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