My Frying Pan?"
Women and Domestic Violence
Richard C. Weiss
all-too-typical article in my local paper Eliott McLaughlin’s
editorial "Valentine’s for loving, not bludgeoning" (Opelika-Auburn
News, Feb. 12, 2000) was a socially irresponsible, sensational,
and gender biased distortion of the reality of domestic violence.
honor Valentine’s Day a time for expressing love and kindness
Mr. McLaughlin could have chosen to praise Auburn’s exemplary
Valentine’s Father-Daughter Date Night (which I attended with both
my daughters). Instead, he cheapened Valentine’s by sensationalizing
domestic violence, perpetuating the destructive albeit politically
correct myth that men are the main culprits. Whose agenda is Mr.
have previously written an editorial and a detailed letter in this
newspaper with valid references that show domestic violence is an
equal-opportunity problem. Has Mr. McLaughlin even bothered to read
the government statistics I referenced and the results of government-sponsored
research that show women batter men as frequently or more than they
are battered, or is he just parroting the party line of feminist
author Barry Yeoman indicates violence by women has "skyrocketed"
in the latter part of this century ("Bad girls," Psychology
Today, December 1999).
first nationwide study of partner assault in the United States,
done in 1975, found that 4.6% of husbands were victims of severe
domestic violence each year, while only 3.8% of wives were partner
assault victims. Since then, annual assault rates against wives
have fallen to 1.9%, while assaults on husbands remain high 4.5%
in 1992 (Murray Straus and Glenda Kantor. Change in Spouse Assault
Rates from 1975 to 1992. Presented at the 13th World
Congress of Sociology, July 19, 1994).
1975, over 100 scientific studies of partner assault have shown
that women are as physically aggressive or more aggressive
than men in their relationships with their male partners
(Fiebert M. References
examining Assaults by Women on Their Spouses or Male Partners: An
Annotated Bibliography. 1998).
it comes to partner abuse, women have become fully the equal of
organizations typically over-represent the proportion of male assaults
often quoting that women represent 90% of abuse victims. These distortions
are broadcast mostly for political advantage and for increased funding
fact is these numbers, like those in McLaughlin’s OA News article,
come from battered women shelters and from crime statistics, like
the National Crime Victimization Survey. Most cases of partner assault,
however, are not considered a crime. So they don’t show up in crime
statistics. And most assaults against men, in particular, go unreported.
may argue that domestic violence by women is usually done in self-defense.
No. Even when researchers ask women themselves, women admit they
initiate the partner assault at least half the time. One study of
dating relationships asked, "Who struck the first blow without
retaliation?" Answer: Women in 26% of the cases, men in just
13% (O’Leary DK et al. Prevalence
and stability of physical aggression between spouses. Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 1989; 57:263-265).
what about the most severe forms of partner battering? One study
examined FBI statistics on 16,595 spousal homicides committed in
the United States over a 10-year period. They found that 56.6% (9,393)
of the murder victims were wives, and 43.4% (7,202) were husbands.
Black males were at greatest risk of being killed by their partner
(Mercy JA, Saltzman LE. Fatal violence among spouses in the United
States, 1975-85. American Journal of Public Health 1989;
real danger of domestic violence bias targeted at men, irresponsibly
reinforced by the media, is that it is has now become all too easy
to vilify men. Already, many innocent men have been issued restraining
orders, barred from seeing their children, kicked out of their homes
and even imprisoned, all on allegations of abuse later proven to
be false. This is a flagrant violation of due process and our constitutional
destructive myth that domestic violence is perpetrated predominantly
by men against women has to stop. Domestic violence is a tragic
social problem equally of men and women. The agenda of the local
battered women’s task force is obvious. The OA News, however,
has a public responsibility to report facts without bias. Responsible
journalism demands it.
9 , 2000
Dr. Richard C. Weiss is president of the Children’s
Rights Council of Alabama.