The awkward truth about spousal abuse

Barbara Kay | National Post | Dec. 21, 2011

One of first-wave feminism’s great achievements in the 1970s was to end the denial surrounding wife abuse in even the “best” homes. Resources for abused women proliferated. Traditional social, judicial and political attitudes toward violence against women were cleansed and reconstructed along feminist-designed lines.

But then a funny thing happened. The closet from which abuse victims were emerging had, everyone assumed, been filled with women. But honest researchers were surprised by the results of their own objective inquiries. They were all finding, independently, that intimate partner violence (IPV) is mostly bidirectional.

But by then the IPV domain was awash in heavily politicized stakeholders. Even peerreviewed community-based studies providing politically incorrect conclusions were cut off at the pass, their researchers’ names passed over for task force appointments and the writing of training manuals for the judiciary. Neither were internal whistle-blowers suffered gladly. Erin Pizzey, who opened the first refuge for battered women in England in 1971, was “disappeared” from the feminist movement when she revealed what she learned in her own shelter: She committed a heresy by asking women about their own violence, and they told her.

The most extreme IPV is certainly male-on-female, but hard-core batterers and outright killers are rare. In violence of the mild to moderately severe variety that constitutes most of IPV – shoving, slapping, hitting, punching, throwing objects, even stabbing and burning – both genders initiate and cause harm in equal measure.

Every major survey has borne out this truth. In fact, the most reliable, like Canada’s 1999 General Social Survey, found not only that most male and female violence is reciprocal, but also that the younger the sample, the more violent the women relative to men. A meta-analysis of more than 80 large-scale surveys notes a widening, and concerning, spread – less male and more female IPV – in the dating cohort.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has just published its National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey to great fanfare. The survey’s central finding is – yep – that men and women inflict and suffer equal rates of IPV, with 6.5% of men and 6.3% of women experiencing partner aggression in the past year. More men (18%) suffer psychological aggression (humiliation, threats of violence, controllingness) than women (14%). Feminists often define IPV as a “pattern of power and control,” but the survey finds that men were 50% more likely to have experienced coercive control than women (15.2% vs 10.7%).

(While the CDC survey does not reference Canadian data, our IPV statistics vary significantly from the U.S.’s in certain respects. “Minor” wife assault rates as measured on the commonly employed Conflict Tactics Scale are identical, but “severe violence” rates in Canada fall as the violence ratchets up. For “kicking” and “hitting,” Canadian rates were 80% of the American rate; for “beat up,” they were 25%; and for “threatened with or used a gun/knife,” they were only 17%.)

By now there is no excuse for the failure of governments at all levels to follow through on – or at least acknowledge – the settled science of bilateral violence. Yet just last week the Justice Institute of British Columbia issued a lengthy report on “Domestic Violence Prevention and Reduction,” and sure enough, it defines domestic violence as “intimate partner violence against women,” recommending only that government work “to bridge gaps in the services and systems designed to protect women and children.”

In Rethinking Domestic Violence (2006), his third in a series of comprehensive interdisciplinary reviews of IPV and related criminal justice research, University of British Columbia psychology professor Don Dutton cuts through the politicized clutter in this domain. Dutton concludes that personality disorder, culture and a background of family dysfunction, not gender, are the best predictors of partner violence. To further IPV harm reduction, Dutton recommends individual psychological treatment or couples therapy to replace the ideology-inspired thought-reform model, imposed only on male abusers, that has been common (and largely ineffective) practice for many years.

Ironically, and unjustly, abused men today are where women were 60 years ago: their ill-treatment is ignored, trivialized or mocked; there are virtually no funded resources for them; and they are expected to suffer partner violence in silence. Which most of them do.

Who will have the courage to bell this politically correct cat? When will revenge end and fairness begin?

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One Response to The awkward truth about spousal abuse

  1. Don Bridges says:

    It is curious that women want men to quit hitting them, even when bad women refuse to stop hitting men themselves (not all women hit men of course), thus setting the example that violence must be ok. Even good men can get fed up with constant nagging, hitting, and other controlling abuse, then snap. But certainly, when men get hit, even by women, mens natural defense mechanisms just might override their unnatural socialization to not defend themselves when attacked. Feminists and some women fail to see that they are helping create much of their own problem; they are foolish and predictably shortsighted to fail to realize that hitting men is probably the least smart and least safe thing to do. Reflected in the fact that feminists refuse to acknowledge this safety info for women (and failure for women and girls), is the fact that they are truly clueless and must be unashamedly hellbent on controlling men:feminism = male control.

    As EQUAL components of society, shouldn’t women be expected to be able to manage their impulses to control and punish? Don’t they have to show the exact same maturity, self-respect, respect for others, dignity, self-discipline and self-control as what they expect from men? If not true, then the entire equality pursuit is a joke—perpetuated by silly women. (Not all women are silly).

    Thus, the questions to be asked are how do feminists expect to be taken seriously when they immaturely block out large sections of legitimate discussion when it comes to curbing violence? Then, ask yourselves, why are men tolerating this outrage? Why do they pretend they do not notice the discrepancies relative to the supposed CONCEPTUAL equality of females with males? Why do males feel compelled to lie like this?

    Be brave enough to address that last question and then be even more brave to be open-minded enough to pursue solutions—whatever they might be, whatever it might hold, and whatever the future holds as a result. Refusal to look, define, study, categorize, scrutinize, and solve this dilemma is foolishness on behalf of men and until they learn to rethink the way they are forced into the wheel-spinning clutches of manhood that seeks the unnecessary validation by other males, then the longer the men will suffer–and apparently, they deserve to reap what they have sown. But, the thing is… do the little boys need to be sold down the river like they are being done by the men? How can men be taken seriously AS REAL MEN when they let boys grow up to think they have to let women hit on them and “take it like a man”. The dignity, worth, and respect of these human beings are being trammeled not just by ferociously oblivious feminists but also by the men who should darn well know better.

    Men—growing a set again and trying to teach our young boys that is just fine and ULTIMATELY smart to scrutinize women’s behavior is not hatred or against women. Men have a right to use their wit and when they don’t, they look pathetic. Take back your own control panels. Be man enough! The boys will thank you someday!


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