Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Findings of first federally-funded female-on-male violence study unlikely to change current policy

The University of Washington School of Social Work is sponsoring a “project” that targets men “who are concerned or have mixed feelings about their behavior toward their partner.” It’s all voluntary, of course, but one suspects that the people who actually volunteer for this are not the ones who need the “help” that the project seeks to dispense. I already mentioned the ads for this project feature a Latino man, probably based on the “macho” stereotype, or perhaps an admission that they place more importance on “family” than other groups and thus would feel more guilty. But what if these volunteers report that their spouse or partner frequently verbally assaults or throws things, hits or kicks them, and they feel they must use physical means to make them stop? What should he do if he doesn’t want to do this? This, of course, is not what these “studies” and “projects” want to deal with, because that implies that the woman is committing domestic violence; they might be forced to deal with a reality that they choose not to acknowledge. If there is any “advice” at all, it is simply about what the male is doing something “wrong” to elicit such a reaction from his spouse. It is always his fault; such “projects” as these have no use for volunteers who will not “recognize” that they are solely at fault.

One may recall this year that former Brady Bunch actor Barry Williams was the object of ridicule and parody after he filed for a restraining order against his live-in partner after she had stolen money, hit, kicked and tried to stab him. Comedian Phil Hartman also spoke of domestic abuse from his wife, which no one took seriously until he was killed in a murder-suicide. The Department of Justice has never taken female-on-male violence seriously, refusing to fund anything but male-on-female domestic violence studies. In fact it was only recently that a federally-funded study by the National Institute of Mental Health examining the issue of female-on-male violence was conducted—indicative of the fact that violence by women is considered to be an “anomaly” and due to “mental and emotional health” issues, as if men do not have them. The study, by Denise Hines and Emily Douglas, examined the evidence and concluded that:

“1. Assumptions about the circumstances of individuals who sustain Intimate Partner Violence should be tested so that we have empirical data on their experiences, which can then inform the provision of services.

2. Given the serious level of the IPV that these men sustain, it is necessary to educate practitioners, researchers, and the public about men sustaining Intimate Terrorism, their experiences, and their barriers to leaving.

3. All of the men in this study indicated that they had sought help of some form, and a previous article using this sample showed barriers to receiving help, particularly from domestic violence hotlines, domestic violence agencies, and the police. These barriers included being turned away, ridiculed, accused of being a batterer, and arrested (Douglas & Hines, 2009). Because of the very serious nature of their victimization, it is important to educate and train frontline domestic violence workers about the existence of men victims and their needs.

4. Finally, it is important for all who work in the field of IPV, whether practitioner or researcher, to realize and acknowledge that both men and women can perpetrate even the most severe forms of IPV, and both men and women can be victimized by severe forms of IPV. Serious violence and controlling behaviors demand our attention, regardless of the gender of the perpetrator or victim.”

The study debunked the usual mythology that women only act in self-defense, or since men are bigger they don’t get hurt, or they can just take a long-walk outside, and when they come back everything will be fine, or they have so much money they can just move-out. The researchers only spoke to men who had actively sought help; 90 percent said that they had suffered “severe” physical abuse in the past year, and 50 percent claimed to have suffered life-threatening physical abuse. 67 percent also reported that their abusers falsely accused them of domestic violence, 40 percent filed restraining orders under false pretenses, and 50 percent claimed that the male abused his children. The claim that men can “control” women is rather considerably off-set by the fact that women almost unilaterally have access to the power of state and government resources to “control” men—often based on false or exaggerated claims.

Nevertheless, the fact that the NIMH conducted this study and not the Justice Department makes clear that female-on-male violence is considered a mental health issue and not a crime. One-third of all domestic partner murders are female-on-male, yet according to sociologist Murray Straus, “There is a tremendous effort to suppress and deny” this and other realities of domestic violence. A Capital News Service story this past week notes that female advocates completely deny this reality, even to ignore or criticize studies that do not support their ideology. Michaele Cohen of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, thinks that “Every 15 seconds a woman is battered” sounds “right,” but rejects the idea that men may be abused in any significant numbers,merely because men don’t “come forward” as often—ignoring the fact that men have far fewer resources and services available to them than do women; yet at the same time she accepts numbers that are basically estimates that include women who have not “come forward.” Cohen also states that female-on-male violence is not the “same,” and should only be taken into “context”—both myths that NIMH study debunked. Sociologist Richard Gelles was not surprised by the reliance of women’s advocates in nonscientific data: “People cherry-pick their numbers for advocacy issues. This is what advocates do, and that’s not sad. What is sad is policymakers don’t create evidence-based policy.”

A study by the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire noted that while males were more prone to violence than females insofar as crime statistics seem to indicate, the difference in the approval of violence between the genders is not significant in some interesting instances. Although the study did try to put politically-correct spins on some of its conclusions, the fact that boys were more likely to be “socialized” in violence than girls makes “only” a 10 percent differences in violence approval far from insignificant. In one survey used for the study, men were more likely to say that they were “spanked or hit a lot” as children by their parents than women were. Men also reported that they had seen violent acts more often than women as children, and were much more likely to be told to hit back if hit. Another survey used by the study revealed this fascinating tidbit: Both men and women were twice as likely to say that it is “OK” for a wife to slap her husband’s face than vice-versa. This may say more than we want known about this issue.

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