View from the hill

Which of the following statements about domestic violence are true and which are myths?

(A) Women and men batter each other about equally.

(B) Women batter men more than men batter women.

(C) Women are more likely to initiate violence and much more likely to inflict severe violence than men.

(D) Women are more likely to engage in violence that was not reciprocated by men than the other way around.

(E) A, B and C are true.

(F) A, B, C D are true.

(G) None of the above are true.

If you answered “E” you would be correct, according to the findings of at least 53 studies which focused on domestic violence, including one published by Murray A. Straus, Richard J. Gelles and Suzanne K. Steinmetz, titled “Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980). However, one other choice “F” which included “D” was true in almost all of the studies.

Another interesting finding in these studies was that when “A” is not true, “B” tends to be true.

As to the depth of all the studies, they included both sexes in the United States, England, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Many of the studies were conducted in the 1990s, being more reflective of the current cultural climate.

My answer to the multiple-choice question would have been “none of the above are true.” I had always believed the claim that men were the majority perpetrators of domestic violence because of the data being presented in the media, and as such they (most men) deserved to be treated with a little suspicion and mistrust.

But the studies suggest the claim upon which my assumption was based is not necessarily true. In the Straus, Gelles, Steinmetz study, they found that 3.8 percent of the husbands beat their wives while 4.6 percent of the wives beat their husbands.

Warren Farrell highlighted his own review of the studies I mentioned above in “Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say.” The studies were included in the appendix of the book, pages 323-329.

Who is this Farrell character and might his conclusions be biased? As a longtime, passionate spokesperson for women’s rights, Farrell once held a position on the board of directors for the National Organization for Women, or NOW, as it is commonly known. That is, Farrell was a board member until he began to argue for fairness, honesty and a balanced perspective when discussing the facts about domestic violence.

Previously, NOW had successfully used Farrell’s commanding presence on the television talk show circuit to promote women’s issues using facts, which according to Farrell, after conducting his own studies concluded they were either totally misrepresented, or at best, some facts were simply omitted.

As I read the chapter in Farrell’s book, which highlighted his findings of the studies, I could not ignore a nagging question: How can we sort out the truth from fiction?

As for me, I intend to finish reading Farrell’s book from cover to cover. And my goal is to check out some of the studies he mentioned, plus a few he does not mention, and see for myself if what he said is true. And I believe everyone has a duty to do the same and use their own abilities to make sure they are knowledgeable regarding the real facts about domestic violence.

Unfortunately, I believe the general public tends to take alleged statements of fact at face value, just as I did, without bothering to check the claims. We want to believe what has been declared the truth, because the spokesperson sounds and looks believable, and he or she claims to speak for the oppressed, down trodden victims of domestic violence.

What concerned me most when I read this information for the first time is that in the last 25 years since the data began to emerge from these studies, we have not seen all of the evidence that would give us a balanced perspective on the nature of domestic violence. It seems that not everybody is interested in promoting fairness, true justice and equality in our society.

My motivation to continue my research on this subject is not that I am interested in establishing blame on one sex or the other. I want to understand what causes the violence to occur in the first place and be given the opportunity to participate in the discussion on how to reduce the tensions that causes violence to occur.

There is a certain risk society takes when we are presented with a dilemma like this; either we reject this new evidence outright and continue to maintain the status quo, or we must go back and review the evidence once again in an impartial manner. And we must be open to the possibility that we may have been deceived, that we have not been fair to a very large group of individuals-namely, men.

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