From the ‘Lectric Law Library’s stacks
The Feminist View Of Domestic Violence vs Scientific Studies
By Sam and Bunny Sewell, Family Resources & Research *
Note: We originally put up an earlier version of this document in 1996, with the preface: This document was e-mailed to us, and while we have no idea whether its premise is accurate, we found it thought provoking enough to bring it to you.
If you find it objectionable, inaccurate or otherwise fucked-up, bitch to the authors — NOT us. However, if you’ll e-mail us material refuting [or further supporting] its premise, we’ll be happy to put it in the Library.
Despite that we’ve received more harsh complaints about it, and demands that we remove it, than all but one other Library file… and exactly one person sent us any material to post (but which didn’t refute its allegations).
We believe in the free exchange and expression of ideas — one of the things the U.S. Constitution is supposed to protect — and won’t cave into the “suggestions” of narrow-minded authoritarians… be they nazis, feminazis, dopers, born-agains, or whatevers… who want to censor ideas they find objectionable. Therefore, while we reiterate that the Library will gladly post reputable material refuting this file’s accuracy or premises we also repeat that Those Who Don’t Like The Material Should Complain To It’s Authors – NOT To Us. — the Library StaffFAMILY VIOLENCE A report from: Family Resources & Research It ainÌt what ya donÌt know that hurts ya. What really puts a hurtinÌ on ya is what ya knows for sure, that just ain't so. -- Uncle Remus Inquire into them, that's how to know what things are really true. Quaeras de dubiis, legem bene discere si vis. -- St. Augustine Why We Publish This Report We are sending this report to the media, law enforcement, family law attorneys, and those persons and organizations who deal with family violence, in the hope that we can correct a serious misunderstanding about this very important issue. We want to make it clear that we have been working to end family violence for decades. One of us is an original incorporator of our local women's shelter. We were members of the "Century Club", those who contribute over $100 annually. We have sponsored benefit events for our shelter that attracted national media attention. Since we began publishing scientific studies on family violence the womenÌs shelter has returned our contributions and is conducting a smear campaign against us. How Can This Be? The family violence issue has been distorted and politicized by the gender wars. Believing what gender activists say about family violence is like believing what the tobacco companies say about cancer. Unfortunately, almost all information available to the public comes in the form of political propaganda from "Men's Rights" groups or "Women's Rights" groups. This misunderstanding of the family violence issue is so pervasive that city and county governments, the courts, law enforcement, prosecutorÌs offices, mental health clinics, and other tax supported agencies are now funding programs based on gender politics rather than responsible scientific studies. There are more than 100 solid scientific studies that reveal a startlingly different picture of family violence than what we usually see in the media. For instance: Comparative Spousal Violence Data From Three National Studies Definitions Of Spousal Violence MINOR VIOLENT ACTS: SEVERE VIOLENT ACTS: 1. Threw something 1. Kicked/bit/hit with fist 2. Pushed/Grabbed/Shoved 2. Hit, tried to hit with something 3. Slapped or spanked 3. Beat up 4. Threatened with gun or knife 5. Used gun or knife Spousal Assaults Expressed As Rate Per 1000 Couples Minor Assaults: Year Assault by Assault by husband wife 1975 98 98 1985 82 75 1992 92 94 Severe Assaults: 1975 38 47 1985 30 43 1992 19 44 Wives Report They Have been severely assaulted by husband 22 per 1000 severely assaulted husband 59 per 1000 Husbands Report They Have been severely assaulted by wives 32 per 1000 severely assaulted wives 18 per 1000 Husbands & Wives Both Report wife has been assaulted 20 per 1000 husband has been assaulted 44 per 1000 Violence against children by women is another issue where the public attitude is very different than the facts revealed by formal studies. * Women commit most child abuse in intact biological families. When the man is removed from the family the children are at greater risk. * Mother-only households are more dangerous to children than father- only households. * Children are 3 times more likely to be fatally abused in Mother-only Households than in Father-only Households, and many times more likely in households where the mother cohabits with a man other than the biological father. * Children raised in Single-mother Households are 8 times more likely to become killers than children raised with their biological father. Other studies reveal more about female violence against children: * Women hit their male children more frequently and more severely than they hit their female children. * Women commit 55% of child murders and 64% of their victims are male children. * Eighty two percent of the general population had their first experience of violence at the hands of women, usually their mother. Our culture learns to be violent from our mothers, not our fathers. Yet, 3.1 million reports of child abuse are filed against men each year, most of which are false accusations used as leverage in a divorce or custody case. Why We Don't Know the Truth How could we all be so mistaken about family violence? Have we been conned? Have we been taken in by one of the slickest "stings" ever executed? Here is how the truth has been hidden. Use of misleading statistics for political and financial gain: * Men do not usually report their violent wives to police. * Children do not usually report their violent mothers to the police. * Women are far more likely to report violent men to the police. * Police statistics describe the activities of the police departments and are grossly misleading as to the nature of family violence. One study done of emergency room patients shows that only 1% of men who were injured by women reported the incident to police. That should be enough to be suspicious of police statistics on spousal violence. There are other reasons police statistics are dramatically misleading. Some women call the police because there is a real need for intervention. However, there are other reasons for a woman to report a man, whether he be violent or not. * Women are encouraged to report spousal violence by countless media reminders. Propaganda always includes the female victim and the male perpetrator. Men are discouraged from claiming to be victims of violent women. * Some women call police because they are frightened by a minor incident. Perhaps she thought calling the police was a "trump card" in an argument. These women do not realize that with one phone call they have invited the government and gender politics into their homes. * Some women make false reports because there are legal, financial, and child custody rewards for making a false report. Some divorce attorneys and gender activists specialize in encouraging false accusations, and actively coaching women how to falsely accuse. Several researchers have documented that one of the common adaptive tools of human females, used to compensate for smaller size and social power, is to mimic victim behavior, including false accusations against a power figure (boss, parent, counselor, teacher, husband, lover, police, etc.). Adolescent girls are the demographic group most prone to this adaptive tool. These factors, and others, distort police statistics beyond usefulness to anyone who is sincerely looking for the truth about family violence. However, misleading statistics are a deliberate fund raising tactic for women's shelters. The shelter movement almost never mentions scientific studies. This misuse of distorted police statistics to push a "female victims" agenda is widespread and very misleading. Gender activists have high jacked the legitimate issue of family violence and turned it into "AmericaÌs Most Successful Fundraising Fraud". The promotion of family violence myths and misleading statistics detracts from the importance and scope of the family violence problem. If we are misled about the nature of family violence we will be misled about solutions. A falsely framed issue skews understanding and jeopardizes justice. For example, former Massachusetts Bar Association President Elaine Epstein stated, "It has become essentially impossible to effectively represent a man against whom any allegation of domestic violence has been made." The Other Police Statistics You Don't Hear About Men and children may not report when they are injured by a woman, however, the dead bodies of the men and children who are the victims of violent women are usually reported. Murder statistics are far more reliable than reported abuse statistics. The Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report of family homicides in 33 urban counties. Some gender activists claim that violent women are acting in self- defense. These quoted statistics represent convictions for murder. 1. "In spouse murders, women represented 41 percent of killers." 2. "In murders of their offspring, women predominated, accounting for 55 percent of killers." 3. "Among black marital partners, wives were just about as likely to murder their husbands as husbands were to murder their wives: 47 percent of the victims of a spouse were husbands and 53 percent were wives." This is a long way from the claim that "men are responsible for 90% of family violence". Those who quote law enforcement statistics to support the "male villain-female victim" dogma are either misled or deliberately attempting to mislead. The Hidden Victims The scientific data shows that both men and women are violent to a far greater extent than police statistics reveal. This scientific data shows that spousal violence is mostly unreported. In fact, some degree of violence occurs at a rate of 113 incidents per 1000 couples per year (husband on wife) and 121 incidents per 1000 couples per year (wife on husband). Many local women's shelters emphasize female victims reported to the police, and ignore much larger numbers of women, children, and men who are also victims of family violence. We quote from a brochure from a battered womenÌs shelter: "What Is Domestic Violence? Domestic violence is an increasingly visible social and legal problem wherein women are abused by their partners." Notice that it doesnÌt say that this is one aspect of domestic violence, or that this is the aspect that they deal with, but rather that this is domestic violence. Surely domestic violence is violence which takes place at home, the word ÇdomesticÌ referring to the definition "of or relating to the household or the family. Female violence against children is another taboo topic among gender activists. From our experience with shelter personnel, this is a typical attitude. And after using Çphysical abuseÌ as the topic to begin the discussion of abuse, (more accurately, "the physical abuse of women by men"), many shelter workers go on to mention all the other types of abuse men do to women, like emotional and psychological. The conversation seldom turns to look at any type of abuse by women to men even though dozens of scientific studies indicate women are at least as violent as men in "domestic" settings. Most leaders in the women's shelter movement are fully aware of the broader scope of family violence but hold fast to the villain/victim dogma. The directors of women's shelters almost always know that they are deliberately misleading the public. Why? They must maintain their power and fund raising base. If they lose their special "victim status" they will rapidly go out of business. They do not want to be replaced with a gender neutral, family friendly, community service agency that implements policy on the basis of scientific studies rather than gender propaganda. Feminism Vs Science And The Law There is much confusion about whom to believe in the debate about spousal violence. On one side we have gender activists who rely on law enforcement statistics. On the other side we have social scientists who rely on scientifically structured studies. Unfortunately, the results of scientific studies do not receive media attention. AmericaÌs press is seemingly more interested in political correctness than scientific accuracy. Therefore, the public perception, and the perception of many well-intentioned domestic violence activists, is radically skewed away from the more balanced perception of social scientists. Many abuse shelter personnel below the executive level are unaware of the scientific studies, even though they claim to be "domestic violence experts" and often conduct "training" sessions for government agencies. There are towns and cities in our country where the entire legal establishment, including law enforcement, family law attorneys, and judges, are making decisions about family violence based on political propaganda rather than well established research. Here is a comment on the subject from a judge who asked for our report. We have rescued him from any consequences resulting from his candor by disguising his identity. Dear Revs. Sewell Thanks for the interesting information. I am a judge in xxxxx who regularly hears requests for domestic violence orders of protection. The DV issue has been politicized big time in our area. We judges are ordered to attend "consciousness raising" seminars where we are harangued by feminist "experts". Supervising judges have been courted and won over, and now we have annual breakfasts honoring judges who cooperate with the feminist "agenda". As a former prosecutor and divorce lawyer I know that the best deterrent to violence by human beings is arrest, prosecution and appropriate consequences. With well-prepared cases, vigorous prosecution, and no nonsense consequences the cycle of abuse can be broken, no matter who the abuser is. Humans become habitual abusers because they get away with it. It is impossible to make progress in reducing domestic violence until we recognize that women are violent. As a member of an advisory committee for the local shelter I was shocked at the attitudes of the ladies who ran the center: The ONLY solution championed by the shelter was to get free from that big bad male. The committee expressed concern about the underlying anti-male bias which even showed up in the name of the shelter and recommended that the name be changed to The Center for Victims of Abuse - rather than WomenÌs Strength. Anyway, I forwarded your piece on to a couple of other judges - some of whom will undoubtedly immediately reject itÌs premise. Judge xxxxxx The typical response of the abuse shelter workers upon first hearing the results of the scientific studies is to "shoot the messenger". You can almost hear their minds snap closed. There is an almost cult like "party line" among victim advocates. Much of the belief system of their "cult" has no more scientific or rational basis than that of fanatical religious cults. On the other hand, some abuse agency personnel have not accepted the "party line"; particularly religiously sponsored family services organizations. They are eager to have accurate information upon which to plan and implement rational programs for prevention, intervention, and treatment for abusers and victims of both genders. Are the family violence "experts" in your community aware of the scientific studies? What is happening at the abuse shelter in your community? Spousal Violence In Other Countries We think it is important to note that there have been the same kind of studies done in many countries. There is cross-cultural verification that women are more violent than men in family settings. When behavior has cross-cultural verification it means that it is part of human nature rather than a result of cultural conditioning. Females are most often the perpetrators in spousal violence in all but one of the cultures that have been studied to date. That leads many professionals to conclude that there is something biological about violent females in family situations. Researchers are now exploring the role of the "territorial imperative" as a factor in womenÌs violence against men. Women see the home as their territory. Like many other species on the planet, we humans will ignore size difference when we experience conflict on our own territory. So, the scientific results that reveal the violence of American women are not unique to our culture, and do not indicate a special pathology among American women. World wide, women are more violent than men in family settings. One of the leading researchers in this field did a cross-cultural comparison of marital abuse entitled "Married Couples from 9 Different Cultures". These cross-cultural studies yielded results very similar to family violence studies done in the United States and other nations. Another survey of couples in Canada found the same familiar pattern in that the rate of severe husband-to-wife violence was 4.8%, while severe wife-to-husband violence was 10%. The Canadian study below is typical of the results of scientific studies on family violence done in many nations. Female Vs. Male Perpetrated Violence As A %age Of All Respondents: Minor Violence % of females % of males Threw an object (not at partner) 23.6 15.8 Threaten to throw object 14.9 7.3 Threw object at partner 16.2 4.6 Pushed or grabbed 19.8 17.2 Severe Violence Slapped, punched, kicked 15.8 7.3 Used weapon 3.1 0.9 Violence as self defense 9.9 14.8 Alcohol factor 8.0 16.0 My partner needed medical help 14.3 21.4 Overall Violence 39.1 26.3 The Propaganda Problem Abuse shelter advocates have severely distorted the picture and deliberately produce fraudulent statistics and dis-information. Even when they quote well-grounded statistics, they misuse the information. Here is an example: One of the favorite statistics quoted by abuse shelter advocates is that a woman is the victim of spousal violence every 15 seconds. This statistic is deduced from a well conducted piece of research which was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, a respected professional journal for marriage and family therapists. The Abuse Shelter advocates arrived at this figure by using one of the conclusions of the study, i.e.; 1.8 million women suffer an assault from a husband or boyfriend per year. What abuse shelter advocates always fail to report is another finding of the same study, i.e.; 2 million men are assaulted by a wife or girl friend per year, which translates as, a man is the victim of spousal violence every 14 seconds. This is typical of the wide spread deception practiced by abuse shelter advocates. AmericaÌs press establishment is a party to this deception, and shares the blame for exacerbating the problem by helping to perpetuate a false diagnosis. Acknowledging That Women Are Abusers Leads To Better Solutions Women usually initiate spousal violence episodes (they hit first), and women hit more frequently, as well as using weapons three times more often then men. This combination of violent acts means that efforts to find solutions to the family violence problem need to include appropriate focus on female perpetrators. We need to recognize that women are violent, and we need nationwide educational programs that portray women as perpetrators. Other studies show that men are becoming less violent at the same time that women are becoming more violent. Educating men seems to be working. Educating women to be less violent should now be the main thrust of public education programs. Any family violence program which accepts the "male abuser - female victim" paradigm is based on a false premise. These kind of family violence programs actually perpetuate the problem of abuse and do not deserve to be supported by private citizens or government agencies. Many government agencies, and legitimate charities, have been funding a feminist political cause, rather than funding rational, solution focused, family violence prevention programs. What kind of family violence program do you have in your community? Does your local program encourage the healing of families, or do they take the "divorce" approach? Does the family violence prevention program in your community devote as much attention to violent females, as it does to violent males? If not, why not? We need a family-friendly agency in our community that delivers services to all family members and works to preserve families, not tear them apart. We donÌt need gender activists with an anti-marriage, anti-family political ax to grind. We need to separate gender politics from the issue of family violence. We need to look at the full spectrum of family violence, not just female victims. We need to consult scientific studies when we make policy decisions. We cannot hope to implement rational, solution- focused programs and policies until we face the fact that "behind closed doors" women are at least as violent as men. Some Exceptions To The Usual Media Silence On Science Based Stories On Family Violence. Spouse Abuse a Two-Way Street By Warren Farrell, Ph.D. USA Today, June 29, 1994 Just as bad cases make bad laws, so can celebrity cases reinforce old myths. The biggest myth the O.J. Simpson case is likely to reinforce is the myth that domestic violence is a one way street (male-to- female), and its corollary, that male violence against women is an outgrowth of masculinity. When I began seven years of research into these issues in preparation for "The Myth of Male Power", I began with these two assumptions since I had been the only man in the United States to have been elected three times to the Board of Directors of the National Organization of Women in New York City, and these assumptions went unquestioned in feminist circles. My first finding - that in the U.S. and Canada more than 90% of the domestic violence reports to the police were by women, not men - seemed to confirm these assumptions. But, then the picture became more complex. About a dozen studies in the U.S. and Canada asked BOTH sexes how often they hit each other, all of them found that women hit men either more frequently or about as often as the reverse. Two of the main studies - by Suzanne Steinmetz, Murray Straus and Richard Gelles - assumed men hit women more severely, so they divided domestic violence into seven different levels of severity. They were surprised to discover that, overall, the more severe levels of violence were conducted more by women against men. A caveat, though. Men hitting women did more damage than the reverse. However, this caveat carried its own caveat: it was exactly because menÌs hits hurt more that women resorted to more severe methods (i.e. tossing boiling water over her husband or swinging a frying pan into his face). These findings were supported by the Census BureauÌs own survey: As early as 1977, the U.S. Census Bureau conducted the National Crime Survey, surveying 60,000 households every six months for three and one half years. They found women use weapons against men 82% of the time; men use weapons against women 25% of the time. Overall, they found that even the women acknowledged they hit men more than men hit women. The key issue, though, is who initiates this cycle of violence. Steinmetz, Strauss and Gelles found to their initial surprise that women are more likely to be the first initiators. Why? In part, the belief that men can take it - - they can therefore be a punching bag and not be expected to hit back. I was still a bit incredulous. I asked thousands of men and women in my workshops to count all the relationships in which they had hit their partner before their partner had ever it them. and vice versa. About 60% of the women acknowledged they had more often been the first to strike a blow: among the men, about 90% felt their female partner had been the first to strike a blow. I still felt violence was an out growth of masculinity. I was half right. Men are responsible for most of the violence which occurs outside the home. However, when 54% of women in lesbian relationships acknowledge violence in their current relationship, vs. only 11% of heterosexual couples reporting violence, I realized that domestic violence is not an outgrowth of male biology. Why do we vigorously denounce domestic violence against women and not even know about domestic violence against men? Women Abuse Men: ItÌs More Widespread Than People Think By Armin A. Brott. M.D. From Special supplement to The Washington Post, 12/28/93 Despite all the evidence about female-on-male violence, many groups actively try to suppress coverage of the issue. Suzanne Steinmetz received verbal threats and anonymous phone calls from radical womenÌs groups threatening to harm her children after she published "The Battered Husband Syndrome" in 1978. She says she finds it ironic that the same people who claim that women- initiated violence is purely self defense are so quick to threaten violence against people who do nothing more than publish a scientific study. SteinmetzÌs story is not unique. Ten years after that study, R.L. McNeely, a professor at the School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin, and Gloria Robinson-Simpson published "The Truth About Domestic Violence: A Falsely Framed Issue." The article examined various studies on domestic violence and concluded that society must recognize that men are victims "or we will be addressing only part of the phenomenon." Shortly thereafter, McNeely received letters from a Pennsylvania womenÌs organization threatening to use its influence in Washington to pull his research funding. Robinson-Simpson, who uncovered some of the most important data, largely was left alone. According to McNeely, "she, a young assistant professor, was assumed to have been "duped" by the senior male professor." Domestic Abuse: ItÌs Not Always His Fault By Betsy Hart, Scripps Howard News Service 8/18/97 Not long ago members of VirginiaÌs General Assembly considered a bill meant to keep husbands from abusing their wives: putting a warning label at the top of marriage licenses! It didnÌt get far. (Possibly calmer heads prevailed and pointed out that itÌs non marital relationships that are a major risk factor for abuse.) Still, this attempt highlights the prevailing notion in domestic violence circles that "itÌs always his fault." That, in fact, is the title of the cover article in the summer issue of "The WomenÌs Quarterly, " published by the Independent WomenÌs Forum, an increasingly high-profile group thatÌs kind of an antidote to the National Organization for Women. Author Sally L. Satel, psychiatrist and Yale medical school lecturer, shows how accepted Gloria SteinemÌs assertion that "the patriarchy requires violence in order to maintain itself" has become. I.e., abusive men arenÌt criminals, or drunks, or particularly troubled people some of whom may be redeemed. They are just men. The Chicago Metropolitan Battered WomenÌs Network explains: "Battery is a fulfillment of cultural expectation, not a defiant or sick behavior." This view pervades the activist groups dealing with this issue, and the bureaucracies that fund them with federal dollars. Today a dozen states basically preclude treatment other than feminist therapy of domestic batterers, Satel notes, and more are following. Forget joint counseling when appropriate and desired. Involving the battererÌs mate in treatment amounts to "blaming the victim . That, despite the fact that many abuse experts unhindered by feminist blinders recognize abuse is often part of a "dance of mutual destructiveness" as psychologist Judith Shervin writes. And that women initiate violence in cohabiting relationships as often as men (often using weapons to make up for physical differences) according to leading abuse researchers-widely respected across philosophical lines - Richard Gelles and Murray Straus. No matter. "Don," a college administrator arrested for once slapping his wife (they are still together) was required to attend a typical "abuse" program. Every week "the message was clear," Don told Satel. "Whatever she does to you is your fault, whatever you do to her is your fault. It would have been a lot more helpful if they taught us to recognize when we felt ourselves being driven into a position where we lash out. The message should have been "recognize it, deal with it, and quit hitting." All Don got was guilt about his maleness. Hand in hand with this agenda are feminist backed "must arrest" and similar legal policies which exist in hundreds of jurisdictions. These require police to arrest one partner-almost always the man-when called to a domestic dispute. Even when things have completely cooled down, there was no hitting, and the woman doesnÌt want the man arrested. Common "no-drop" polices do not allow a woman to drop abuse charges once theyÌre filed, even if her motive was anger, not fear. In California, it is mandatory for judges to issue a restraining order separating the parties in all domestic violence cases. Such practices treat women like children, and ensure that if couples stay together-and most in fact do-nothing really changes, Satel writes, though the woman might mistakenly and dangerously be led to believe it has. While there is virtually no convincing data that this feminist approach to male violence is effective, Satel notes, several respected studies suggest that these typical legal practices can escalate spousal violence in some men by further enraging them. The goal of these feminist treatments and legal responses, Satel says, is to separate women from their abusive partner -no matter what the circumstances, and no matter how fervently the women wish otherwise. These "one size fits all" policies might make a bit more sense if "abuse" always meant serious, systematic violence. But the feminist politicization of the term "abuse" renders it virtually meaningless. A typical check-list, this from the Westchester Coalition of Family Violence agencies, tells women that if their partner behaves in "an overprotective manner," "turns minor incidents into major arguments" or "insults you," then "you might be abused." Sometimes, of course, no redemption is possible, and leaving, or ensuring the violent spouse is locked up (preferably for good), is the only answer. And Satel rightly notes that the feminist agenda in this area has forced law enforcement to take domestic abuse seriously. But once again, the radical feminist agenda of "man bad woman good" has permeated the culture on an a fundamentally important issue, and once again it has done a terrible disservice to the constituency feminists are supposed to help-women.