Tuesday, March 15, 2005

EOTM: The Lies: Domestic Violence

Lie # 1: Men are inherently violent, abusive, and exploitive. Women are universally passive victims who take no active role in violence. If a woman engages in violence, it it because she herself was abused.

Below is a rough summary of Domestic Violence studies and statistics. It is posted in raw form as I received it.

Hopefully, over time I will be able to put it in summary form and provide links to the sources.

Citations for scientific studies of domestic violence

Gelles, R.J. The violent home: A study of physical aggression between husbands and wives In 1974, a study was done which compared male and female domestic violence. In that study, it was found that 47% of husbands had used physical violence on their wives, and 33% of wives had used violence on their husbands (Gelles 1974). Half of the respondents in this study were selected from either cases of domestic violence reported to the police, or those identified by the social service agency. Very few men report being assaulted by their wives. This accounts for the lowered statistic for violent females, however it would be foolish to ignore 33% of the problem even if this was the only study available. Later studies are more accurate.

Chesanow, Neil, Violence at Home New Woman, February 1992, pg. 96-98. [Note: This is a very interesting article which appeared in a women’s magazine, and argues that women are equally violent towards men in intimate relationships. One of the bases for Chesanow’s arguments is that domestic violence among lesbian intimates is as common as domestic violence among heterosexual intimates—based on crime statistics.]

Curtis, L.A. Criminal violence: National patterns and behavior Lexington Books Lexington MA, In 1974, a study was released showing that the number of murders of women by men (17.5% of total homicides) was about the same as the number of murders of men by women (16.4% of total homicides). This study (Curtis 1974), however, showed that men were three times as likely to assault women as vice-versa. These statistics came from police records.

Wolfgang, M. Patterns in Criminal Homicide Wiley, New York, 1958

Mercy, J.A. & Saltzman, L.E. "Fatal violence among spouses in the United States, 1976-85" American Journal of Public Health 79(5): 595-9 May 1989 Curtis’s murder statistic (above study) was no big news. In 1958, an investigation of spousal homicide between 1948 and 1952 found that 7.8% of murder victims were husbands murdered by wives, and 8% were wives murdered by husbands (Wolfgang 1958). More recently, in a study of spousal homicide in the period from 1976 to 1985, it was found that there was an overall ratio of 1.3:1.0 of murdered wives to murdered husbands, and that "Black husbands were at greater risk of spouse homicide victimization than black wives or white spouses of either sex." (Mercy & Saltzman 1989)

Steinmetz, Suzanne K. The cycle of violence: Assertive, aggressive and abusive family interaction Praeger Press, New York, 1977

Steinmetz, Suzanne K. The Battered Husband Syndrome Victimology 2, 1977-1978 In 1977, Suzanne Steinmetz released results from several studies showing that the percentage of wives who have used physical violence is higher than the percentage of husbands, and that the wives’ average violence score tended to be higher, although men were somewhat more likely to cause greater injury. She also found that women were as likely as men to initiate physical violence, and that they had similar motives for their violent acts (Steinmetz 1977-78).

Nisonoff, L. & Bitman, I Spouse Abuse: Incidence and Relationship to Selected Demographic Variables, Victimology 4, 1979, pp. 131-140 In 1979, a telephone survey was conducted in which subjects were asked about their experiences of domestic violence (Nisonoff & Bitman 1979). 15.5% of the men and 11.3% of the women reported having hit their spouse; 18.6% of the men and 12.7% of the women reported having been hit by their spouse.

Straus, M.A., Gelles, R.J., and Steinmetz, S.K. Behind closed doors: Violence in American families, Doubleday, NewYork, 1980 In 1980, a team of researchers, including Steinmetz, attempted to address some concerns about the earlier surveys (Straus, Gelles & Steinmetz, 1980). They created a nationally representative study of family violence and found that the total violence scores seemed to be about even between husbands and wives, and that wives tended to be more abusive in almost all categories except pushing and shoving.

Straus, M.A. & Gelles, R.J. "Societal change and change in family violence from 1975 to 1985 as revealed by two national surveys" Journal of Marriage and the Family 48, po. 465-479, 1986 Straus & Gelles did a followup survey in 1985, comparing their data to a 1975 survey (Straus & Gelles 1986). They found that in that decade, domestic violence against women dropped from 12.1% of women to 11.3% while domestic violence against men rose from 11.6% to 12.1%. The rate of severely violent incidents dropped for both groups: From 3.8% to 3.0% of women victimized and from 4.6% to 4.4% for men.

Sexuality Today Newsletter "Violence in Adolescent Dating Relationships Common, New Survey Reveals" December 22, 1986 In 1986, a report appeared in Social Work, the journal of the National Association of Social Workers (Nov./Dec. 1986) on violence in adolescent dating relationships, in which it was found that girls were violent more frequently than boys.

O’Leary, K. Daniel; Arias, Ilena; Rosenbaum, Alan & Barling, Julian "Premarital Physical Aggression" State University of New York at Stony Brook & Syracuse University Another report on premarital violence (O’Leary, et al) found that 34% of the males and 40% of the females reported engaging in some form of physical aggression against their mates in a year. 17% of women and 7% of men reported engaging in severe physical aggression. 35% of the men and 30% of the women reported having been abused.

Daly, M. & Wilson, M. "Parent-Offspring Homicides in Canada, 1974-1983" Science v. 242, pp. 519-524, 1988Nagi, Saad Child Maltreatment in the United States Columbia University Press, New York,

Statistical Abstract of the United States 1987 table 277 The idea of women being violent is a hard thing for many people to believe. It goes against the stereotype of the passive and helpless female. This, in spite of the fact that women are known to be more likely than men to commit child abuse and child murder (Daly & Wilson 1988 report 54% of parent-child murders where the child is under 17 were committed by the mother in Canada between 1974 and 1983, for instance. The Statistical Abstract of the United States 1987 reports that of reported child maltreatment cases between 1980 and 1984 between 57.0% and 61.4% of these were perpetrated by the mother. Nagi 1977 found 53.1% of perpetrators were female, 21% male and 22.6% both.

Nisonoff, L. & Bitman, I "Spouse Abuse: Incidence and Relationship to Selected Demographic Variables" Victimology 4, 1979, pp. 131-140 found that men and women reported quite similar instances of violence both by them and by their partner.

"The Battered Husband Syndrome" Victimology 2, 1977-1978, p. 499

Steinmetz, Suzanne K. The cycle of violence: Assertive, aggressive

and abusive family interaction Praeger Press, New York, 1977 found that wives were "more" violent than husbands. Steinmetz later left the field of domestic violence studies after alleging that infuriated feminists had made death threats against her children.

Wolfgang, M. Patterns in Criminal Homicide, Wiley, New York, 1958

Mercy, J.A. & Saltzman, L.E. "Fatal violence among spouses in the United States, 1976-85" American Journal of Public Health 79(5):595-9 May 1989 Two studies, 30 years apart, showing that on average wives kill husbands at a similar rate to that at which husbands kill wives.

Straus, Murray, Gelles, R.J., and Steinmetz, S.K. Behind closed doors: Violence in American families, Doubleday, New York, 1980 addressed earlier methodological problems, shows spousal abuse to be almost gender-neutral in almost all categories of violence.

Straus, Murray" & Gelles, R.J. "Societal change and change in family violence from 1975 to 1985 as revealed by two national surveys" Journal of Marriage and the Family 48, po. 465-479, 1986 shows that domestic violence by women is increasing and violence by men is decreasing. A more recent study, reported at a conference by Straus, shows the trend is continuing

Jurik & Gregware 1989 and Mann 1990. You will find that much fewer than half the female murderers have history of being beaten. Most women who murder their husbands are impulsive, violent, and have criminal records. Jurik (1989) and Jurik and Gregware’s (1989) investigation of 24 cases in which women killed husbands or lovers found that the victim initiated use of physical forces in (40%) of the cases. Jurik and Gregware’s Table 2 shows that only 5 out of the 24 homicides (21%) were in response to "prior abuse" or "threat of abuse/death." Mann’s (1990) study of the circumstances surrounding partner homicides by wives shows that many women who murder their spouses are impulsive, violent, and have criminal records. Jurik (1989) and Jurik and Gregware (1989) also report that 60% of the women they studied had previous arrests.

Jurik, N. C. (1989 November).Women who kill and the reasonable man: The legal issues surounding female-perpetrated homicide. Paper presented at the 41st Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Reno, NV.

Jurik & Gregware (1989) "A method for murder: An interactionist analysis of homicides by women. Tempe: Arizona State University, School of Justice Studies.

Mann, C. R. (1990). Black female homicide in the United States, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5, 176-201.

O’Leary KD. Barling J. Arias I. Rosenbaum A. Malone J. Tyree A. April, 1989. Prevalence and stability of physical aggression between spouses: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology. 57(2):263-8. Community couples (N = 272) were assessed in a longitudinal study of early marriage. More women than men reported physically aggressing against their partners at premarriage (44% vs. 31%) and 18 months (36% vs. 27%). At 30 months, men and women did not report significantly different rates of aggression (32% vs. 25%). However, using either the self-report or the partner’s report, the prevalence of aggression was higher for women than men at each assessment period. Modal forms of physical aggression for both men and women were pushing, shoving, and slapping. Conditional probability analyses indicated that the likelihood of physically aggressing at 30 months given that one had engaged in such aggression before marriage and at 18 months after marriage was .72 for women and .59 for men. Furthermore, 25-30% of the recipients of physical aggression at all three assessment periods were seriously maritally discordant at 30 months.

Spousal Abuse Rates - Stats from UCR and Straus, Gelles The data from the US National Crime Survey (NCS) states that 84% of the victims of "intimate" violence were female. ("Highlights from 20 years of Surveying Crime Victims", NCJ-144525.) It also puts the occurrence of this violent crime (from "intimates only") at 5.4 female victims per 1000 women per year - this is all crimes, some of which did not involve injury. For comparison, the rate for "Accidental injury, all circumstances" is given as 220 per 1000 adults per year - a figure 40 times higher. If one ac-cepts data such as that from the NCS, one must (at least if one is consistent and intellectually honest) admit that such violence is rare. The picture changes, though, when different techniques of investigation (methodologies) are used, such as those by "Straus, Murray" and Gelles. This data shows that domestic violence is MUCH more common. In fact, some degree of violence (NOT injury, however) occurs at a rate of 113 incidents per 1000 couples per year (hus-band on wife) and 121 incidents per 1000 couples pr year (wife on husband)! This is 20x the rate that the NCS reports.

Family Homicides - rates by gender - DoJ, 94 In July 1994 the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice released a Special Report detailing the results of a survey of family homicides in 33 urban U.S. counties. The report covered ONLY convictions, which should respond to any contention that female-on-male family violence is almost always reactive. The report said: "A third of family murders involved a female as the killer. In sibling murders, females were 15 percent of killers, and in murders of parents, 18 percent. But in spouse murders, women represented 41 percent of killers. In murders of their offspring, women predominated, accounting for 55 percent of killers."

"Among black marital partners, wives were just about as likely to kill their husbands as husbands were to kill their wives: 47 percent of the victims of a spouse were husbands and 53 percent were wives." U.S. Department of Justice

Conflict Tactics Scales To give a little background on how the rates of violence were determined, by "Straus, & Gelles", we include the following question from the published survey for the CTS methodology:

Question 35: No matter how well a couple gets along, there are times when they disagree, get annoyed with the other person, or just have spats or fights because they’re in a bad mood or tired or for some other reason. They also use many different ways of trying to settle their differences. I’m going to read some things that you and your spouse might do when you have an argument. I would like you to tell me how many times in the last 12 months you:

a. Discussed the issue calmly
b. Got information to back up your side of things
c. Brought in or tried to bring in someone to help settle things
d. Insulted or swore at the other one
e. Sulked and/or refused to talk about it
f. Stormed out of the room or house (or yard)
g. Cried
h. Did or said something to spite the other one
i. Threatened to hit or throw something at the other one
j. Threw or smashed or hit or kicked something
k. Threw something at the other one
l. Pushed, grabbed, or shoved the other one
m. Slapped the other one
n. Kicked, butted, or hit with a fist
o. Hit, or tried to hit with something
p. Beat up the other one
q. Threatened with a knife or gun
r. Used a knife or gun

To summarize, Straus & Gelles, using the CTS methodology described above, found that rates for total (including less severe violence, such as pushing and shoving) between husbands and wives are quite close for husbands and wives, with one survey showing husbands as more violent and the other with wives as more violent .

Other data, however indicates that the gender of the striker of the first blow is fairly uniform. Jan. E States and Murray A Straus, "Gender Differences in Reporting Marital Violence and It’s Medical and Psychological Consequences", ch 9 in Straus & Gelles Physical Violence in American Families quote the following: Men claimed they struck the first blow in 44% of the cases, their female partners in 44% of the cases, and "couldn’t remember" in 12% of the cases. The women claimed men hit them first in 43% of the cases, that they struck the first blow in 53% of the cases, and "couldn’t remember" in 5% of the cases. However, data for injury rates based on these studies shows women seeking treatment for a doctor much more often than men did. In a study of 8145 families 7.3% of 137 women severely assaulted (i.e. 10 out of 137) and 1% of 95 men severely assaulted (i.e 1 out of 95) men needed a doctor.

(All figures are rates per 1000 couples per year, and the CTS figures are based on two national surveys of a representative population sample)
Recent Trends in Spousal Violence - Dept of Justice The U.S. Department of Justice released a study on domestic violence and spousal homicides on July 11, 1994. In this study it is reported that women kill men at approximately the same rate as men kill women in "spousal" homicides. (A "spousal" homicide is a husband or wife killing the other or a homicide perpetrated by a common-law marriage partner on the other partner.) In addition this study also reported that children were killed by mothers in 55% of all parental homicides. The 13th World Congress of Sociology, on July 19, 1994 revealed the average of spousal violence reports by males and females: Husband on wife severe assault occurred at a rate of 2.0%, whereas wife on husband severe assault occurred at a rate of 4.6%, and Husband on wife minor assault occurred at a rate of 9.9%, whereas wife on husband assault occurred at a rate of 9.5%. A rate of 2.0% means that during 1992 there were 20 instances of severe husband on wife assault for every 1000 couples.

Also reported at the conference was the fact that although male on female violence has been slowly decreasing over the last decade, female on male violence is now increasing sharply.

Various Spousal Violence Stats In 1975 and again in 1985, Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles and others conducted one of the largest and most respected studies in family violence ever done. What they found confounded conventional wisdom on the subject: Not only are men just as likely to be the victims of domestic violence as women, the study showed that between 1975 and 1985, the overall rate of domestic violence by men against women decreased, while women’s violence against men increased. Responding to accusations of gender bias, Straus re-computed the assault rates based solely on the responses of the women in the 1985 study and confirmed that even according to women, men are the ones more likely to be assaulted by their partner.

There is no question that while men on average are bigger and stronger than women, they can do more damage in a fistfight. However according to Professors R.L. McNeely and Cormae Richey Mann, "the average man’s size and strength are neutralized by guns and knives, boiling water, bricks, fireplace pokers and baseball bats."

A 1984 study of 6,200 cases found that 86% of female-on-male violence involved weapons, contrasted with 25% in cases of male-on-female violence. McLeod, Justice Quarterly (2) 1984 pp. 171-193. Of every 100 families, 3.8 experience severe husband-to-wife violence, but 4.5% experience severe wife-to-husband violence. (Straus, Gelles, Steinmetz , Behind Closed Doors: Violence in American Families (1980). A 1985 study of Texas University students, Breen found that 18% of men and 14% of women reported a violent act by a romantic partner. In the same study, 28% of married men reported that their wives had slapped, punched or kicked them. (Shupe, Stacey & Hazlewood). "Violent Men, Violent Couples (1986) Chapter 3. In another study, 15.5% of men and 11.3% of women reported having hit a spouse while 18.6% of men and 12% of women reported been struck by a spouse. Nisnoff & Bitman, Victimology 4, (1979), pp. 131-140.

Back to Gender War, Sexuality, and Love