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.
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                      FAMILY VIOLENCE
          A report from: Family Resources & Research

It ainít what ya donít know that hurts ya. What really puts a hurtiní
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 womenís
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,
prosecutorís 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
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
 * 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

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
 * 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

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
 * 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

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 "Americaís Most Successful Fundraising

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 womenís 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 doesnít 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 Ďdomesticí 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 Ďphysical abuseí 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. Americaís 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

   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 Womenís Strength.

   Anyway, I forwarded your piece on to a couple of other judges -
   some of whom will undoubtedly immediately reject itís 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

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 womenís 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. Americaís 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 donít 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
menís 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 Bureauís 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: Itís 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 womenís
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.

Steinmetzís 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
womenís 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: Itís Not Always His Fault
  By Betsy Hart, Scripps Howard News Service 8/18/97

Not long ago members of Virginiaís General Assembly considered a bill
meant to keep husbands from abusing their wives: putting a warning
label at the top of marriage licenses! It didnít get far. (Possibly
calmer heads prevailed and pointed out that itís non marital
relationships that are a major risk factor for abuse.)

Still, this attempt highlights the prevailing notion in domestic
violence circles that "itís always his fault." That, in fact, is the
title of the cover article in the summer issue of "The Womenís
Quarterly, " published by the Independent Womenís Forum, an
increasingly high-profile group thatís kind of an antidote to the
National Organization for Women.

Author Sally L. Satel, psychiatrist and Yale medical school lecturer,
shows how accepted Gloria Steinemís assertion that "the patriarchy
requires violence in order to maintain itself" has become. I.e.,
abusive men arenít criminals, or drunks, or particularly troubled
people some of whom may be redeemed. They are just men.

The Chicago Metropolitan Battered Womenís 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
battererís 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 doesnít want the man arrested.

Common "no-drop" polices do not allow a woman to drop abuse charges
once theyíre 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.

  * This file has been excerpted and edited by the 'Lectric Law Library from Sam and Bunny Sewell's FAMILY VIOLENCE, A Report From: Family Resources & Research, 2000 edition.
  The complete document, including its footnotes, scientific research citations, and much more is available at:
  Its authors can be e-mailed at:
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