Domestic Violence Against Men Case Study

What Domestic Violence Against Men Looks Like

“It’s hard for a guy to say ‘I need help,’” says Paige Flink, the chief executive of the Family Place, a domestic violence shelter for men in Dallas that opened in May. “It’s just not a natural instinct for a lot of men.”

The Family Place is on track to serve 65 to 70 men this year, Fink tells me, and she says there’s no common denominator among them. To wit: Of the seven men who currently live at the shelter, one’s girlfriend began beating his daughter; one was strangled by his male partner; and one was stabbed by his brother, after the resident had accused him of sexually abusing his daughter.

Then there’s Joshua Miller, whose girlfriend smashed their 2-year-old son’s guitar into his forehead. When the police arrived, however, Miller was the one cuffed. “Men are not looked at as victims,” he told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month. “People say, ‘A woman can’t hurt you.’”

Miller’s experience is typical, says Emily M. Douglas, a professor and department head of Social Science & Policy Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, whose research over the last 15 years has largely focused on partner violence against men.

She says the need to be “macho” has resulted in men not even considering themselves victims or realizing the violence they’re experiencing is a crime. “We don’t think of men as being capable of being victims or targets of abuse. We associate them with moral and physical strength and being protectors, which doesn’t align nicely with an image of someone being physically abused, psychologically manipulated or degraded.”

Plus, when men do seek help, she adds, they often feel they’ve lost their “man cred” — i.e., strength, self-reliance, etc. “That’s largely an internal barrier that women haven’t had to overcome.”

According to the most recent study from the CDC, there are more men than women who are victims of intimate partner physical violence. I ask Douglas if that could possibly be true — after all, aren’t men thought to be more aggressive?

“Research since the early 1970s has shown that men and women perpetrate violence against each other at roughly the same rates,” she says. “It’s an issue that’s largely been overlooked. And men have trouble finding help.”

For example, she says when men call domestic violence agencies or law enforcement they’re often ridiculed. “Men report that the police often laugh at them and say things like ‘What’s wrong with you? Can’t you control your woman?’”

“When I called the police to file a complaint against my former wife,” Ian Alterman wrote in a 1994 letter to TheNew York Times, “the initial response was amused disbelief. When I finally convinced them my complaint was real, the response — without missing a beat — was, ‘So hit her back.’”

Nine years before Alterman’s letter, the U.S. National Family Violence Survey found that when domestic violence calls to the police were made…

  • The man was ordered out of the house in 41.4 percent of cases when a woman called, but the woman was never ordered out of the house when the man called.
  • The man was threatened with immediate arrest in 28.2 percent of cases when a woman called, but the woman was never threatened with arrest when the man called.
  • The man was threatened with arrest at a later date in 10.7 percent of cases when a woman called, but the woman was never threatened with arrest at a later date when the man called.
  • The man was actually arrested in 15.2 percent of cases when a woman called, but the woman was never arrested when the man called. In fact, in 12 percent of cases when the man called, the man himself was arrested.

Men receive a similarly unsympathetic reaction from friends, Flink says. “The minute they start talking about what their girlfriend is doing to them they say, ‘C’mon man, buck up.’ Then the guy feels like he’s not as strong of a man. It’s emasculating.”

Accounts from both the history books and tabloids seem to support the notion that none of this is all that new:

  • Records indicate that Mary Todd Lincoln hurled potatoes at Abe, threw a cup of hot coffee at him, assaulted him with a piece of firewood and chased him around the yard with a knife — twice causing bloody injuries to his head.
  • Humphrey Bogart’s third wife, Mayo Methot, stabbed him in the back during an alcohol-induced fight.
  • Lionel Richie’s ex-wife, Brenda Harvey, was arrested for spousal abuse in 1988 for beating Richie after catching him in bed with another woman.
  • Christian Slater required 20 stitches to his neck after his wife hurled a glass at him at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in 2003.
  • Whitney Houston admitted to beating husband Bobby Brown. “Contrary to belief,” she proudly told the AP in 1999, “I do the hitting, he doesn’t.”
  • Al Green’s girlfriend, Mary Woodson, dumped a pan of boiling grits on him while he was taking a shower because he refused to marry her, resulting in third-degree burns on his back, stomach and arms.
  • And of course there’s Lorena Bobbitt who, in 1993, sliced off her husband’s penis at the base with a kitchen knife as he slept.

Although DIY castration is rare, when men are the victims of domestic violence, there’s a much better chance they’ve been physically injured. That’s because, as journalist Philip W. Cook points out in Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, the stereotype of a husband getting a plate thrown at him or being hit over the head with a rolling pin is accurate. “Women were significantly more likely to throw an object, slap, kick/bite/hit with fist and hit with an object,” he writes.

Maureen McLeod, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Stockton College, conducted the most exhaustive examination of police reports on spousal abuse in 1984 and had a similar finding. “Offenses against men are significantly more serious in nature,” she noted. “Whereas just over one-fourth of all spouse abuse incidents involving female victims are categorized as aggravated assaults, the corresponding for male victims is demonstrably higher: 86 percent are aggravated; over two-thirds of these events are serious assaults with a deadly weapon.”

And so, McLeod says, nearly all men injured by domestic violence require medical attention and half of them are hospitalized overnight or longer.

Nor is anything really changing. Case in point: While incidents of domestic violence have dropped more than 50 percent since the 1994 Violence Against Women Act was passed, studies have shown that violence against males has remained steady. Douglas says this demonstrates that we’re not paying enough attention to the issue. “There’s been a longstanding belief here and across the globe that patriarchy is the root cause of domestic violence. That may have been true in another time. It may be true in other parts of the world. It may even account for some of the partner violence we still see here. But it certainly doesn’t explain all of the partner violence today.”

She adds that the methods we’ve traditionally used to tackle partner violence — reaching out to women, public education campaigns, making services available to women — have been effective, but only through one lense. “Those same efforts haven’t been put in place with regard to men. It’s been advocated that men speak out against male violence, but women haven’t been asked to speak out against female violence.”

Shelters like The Family Place are trying to do their part. “We moved gender-neutral at The Family Place 10 years ago because we felt it was a more open-minded way to look at things — and the need was there,” Flink explains. The Taylor House Domestic Violence Shelter for Men in Arkansas, which opened in 2015, saw the need, too. Valley Oasis, a domestic violence shelter north of L.A., provides services to both men and women in a co-ed living space. And all shelters in Illinois now provide services for men.

As a society, Douglas says, we’ve worked hard to have systemic responses to domestic violence, which include educating judges, law enforcement, attorneys and average men and women. “It’s time to make the next shift and start educating that same group of providers, professionals and responders to understand domestic violence isn’t always what it looks like,” she continues. “Stop asking, ‘Are men the real victims, or are women the real victims?’ and just accept that partner violence can exist among all partners, regardless of gender.”

C. Brian Smith is a staff writer at MEL. He last wrote about the status of the “male pill.”

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Can Pop-Up Men’s Centers Help Curb Male Aggression Among Syrian Refugees?
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I Was One of the Earliest Pro-Feminist Men
It was the mid-1970s, a good 40 years before Matt

Domestic violence against men deals with domestic violence experienced by men or boys in an intimate relationship such as marriage, cohabitation, dating, or within a family. As with domestic violence against women, violence against men may constitute a crime, but laws vary between jurisdictions.

Whereas there has been efforts to encourage female victims of domestic violence to report it to the authorities, there have been comparatively few efforts to encourage male victims to report. Men who report domestic violence can face social stigma regarding their perceived lack of machismo and other denigrations of their masculinity.[1]:6[2] Additionally, intimate partner violence (IPV) against men is generally less recognized by society than IPV against women, which can act as a further block to men reporting their situation.[1]:1[3]

The relative prevalence of IPV against men to that of women is highly disputed between different studies, with some countries having no data at all. Some researchers believe the actual number of male victims may be greater than law enforcement statistics suggest due to the number of men who do not report their abuse.[4] However, for both men and women, domestic violence is among the most underreported crimes worldwide.[5][6]

IPV against men is a controversial area of research, with terms such as gender symmetry, battered husband syndrome and bidirectional IPV provoking a great deal of debate. The lines of the debate tend to fall between two basic polemics. The first of these argues that scholars who focus on female-perpetrated IPV are part of an anti-feminist backlash, and are attempting to undermine the problem of male-perpetrated abuse by championing the cause of the man, over the much more serious cause of the abused woman.[7][8] The second polemic argues that IPV against men is a significant problem and underreported, and that it puts women in even greater risk of victimization by abusive men, which domestic violence researchers and radical feminists have ignored in order to protect the fundamental gains of the battered women's movement, specifically, the view that intimate partner abuse is an extension of patriarchal dominance.[9][10][11] One of the tools used to generate statistics concerning IPV perpetration, the conflict tactics scale, is especially contentious.[11]


Estimation difficulties[edit]

Determining the rate of intimate partner violence (IPV) against males can be difficult, as men may be reluctant to report their abuse or seek help.[4][12][13] Male victims of IPV may face socio-cultural issues pertaining to hegemonic masculinity such as judgement by male peers, fear of coming out as LGBTQ, or having their masculinity questioned.[1] IPV against men is generally less recognized by society than IPV against women.[1]:1[3]. For a man to admit he is the victim of female perpetrated IPV necessitates the abandonment of the veneer of machismo which society expects from men, and to admit being submissive to a female partner. For some men, this is an admission they are unwilling, or unable, to make.[14]

On the other hand, many abusive men readily adopt a victim identity. For example, O. J. Simpson often referred to himself as a "battered husband".[15] In cases like this, reporting IPV victimization may lead to exposing themselves as batterers.[16] Male victims may fear people assuming that the woman is the real victim, and must have been acting in self-defense or retaliating for abuse.[2][17]

Researchers have demonstrated a degree of socio-cultural acceptance of aggression by women against men as opposed to a general condemnation of aggression by men against women. Male-on-female IPV has been shown to cause significantly more fear and more severe injuries than female-on-male violence.[18] This can lead to men not considering themselves victims, and/or not realizing the IPV they are experiencing is a crime.[12][19]

Some research has shown that women who assault their male partners are more likely to avoid arrest than men who assault their female partners,[20] due to the fact that female perpetrators of IPV tend to be viewed by law enforcement agencies and the courts as victims.[21] As such, men may fear that if they do report to the police, they will be assumed to be the abuser, and placed under arrest.[22][23]

However, analyses of research indicates that frequently the legal system fails to view women who use IPV against controlling male partners as victims due to gendered high expectations on women to be the "perfect victim" and the culturally pervasive stereotype of the passive, "cowering" battered woman.[24]

Statistics indicate that under-reporting is an inherent problem with IPV irrespective of gender. For example, in England and Wales, the 1995 "Home Office Research Study 191", carried out as a supplementary study to the British Crime Survey, reported 6.6 million incidents of IPV in the previous twelve months, compared with the 987,000 incidents found by the Crime Survey. The difference in the two reports was that Study 191 was a questionnaire of a random representative sample of people, while the Crime Survey attained its figures from crime records, i.e. actual reported cases of IPV.[25] Supplementary studies carried out in 2001 and from 2004 onwards have consistently recorded significantly higher rates of IPV (committed against both men and women) than the standard crime surveys.[26] The 2010–2011 report found that whilst 27% of women who experienced IPV reported it to the police, only 10% of men did so, and whilst 44% of women reported to some professional organization, only 19% of men did so.[27] In a 2005 report carried out by the National Crime Council in the Republic of Ireland, it was estimated that 5% of men who had experienced IPV had reported it to the authorities, compared to 29% of women.[4]

Estimates of male victimization[edit]

In England and Wales, the 1995 "Home Office Research Study 191" surveyed 10,844 people (5,886 women and 4,958 men) between the ages of 16 and 59, finding that for the twelve-month period preceding the survey, 4.2% of men had experienced IPV. Over a lifetime, this figure increased to 14.9% of men. Of the 6.6 million incidents of IPV in 1995, 3.25 million involved male victims, with 1 million incidents resulting in injury.[25] Since 2004, more detailed annual records have been maintained as a supplementary survey attached to the annual Home Office Crime in England and Wales reports. These reports have consistently recorded significantly higher rates of both male and female victims of IPV than the standard crime surveys. In the case of male victims, the figures range from a high of 4.5% in 2007/2008[28] to a low of 3.1% in 2009/2010.[29] In the Republic of Ireland, a 2005 report carried out by the National Crime Council found that 15% of women and 6% of men had suffered severe IPV in their lifetime, equating to roughly 213,000 women and 88,000 men.[30] In Northern Ireland, police records for 2012 listed 2,525 male victims of domestic violence, an increase of 259 cases from 2011.[31]

In the United States, the National Violence Against Women Survey carried out by the Department of Justice in 2000, surveyed 16,000 people (8,000 men and 8,000 women), and found that 7.4% of men reported physical assault by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, or date in their lifetime. Additionally, 0.9% of men reported experiencing domestic violence in the past year, equating to 834,732 men.[32] In 2000, the Canadian General Social Survey found 7% of men had experienced IPV from 1994 to 1999, amounting to 549,000 men.[33] Another Canadian General Social Survey, in 2005, found 6% of men had experienced IPV between 2000 and 2005, amounting to 546,000 men.[34] Data concerning campus rape, such as from a National Institute of Mental Health and Ms. Magazine study, has found a 1 in 7 sexual assault rate for men in U.S. colleges.[35] In 2013, the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that from a sample of 16,000 U.S. adults, 26% of homosexual men, 37.3% of bisexual men, and 29% of heterosexual men had been a victim of IPV, compared to 43.8% of lesbians, 61.1% of bisexual women and 35% of heterosexual women. Although the study found that lesbians experienced IPV at higher rates than heterosexual women, it did acknowledge that the majority of IPV perpetrated against both men and women was carried out by men. CDC Director Tom Frieden stated, "This report suggests that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in this country suffer a heavy toll of sexual violence and stalking committed by an intimate partner."[36]

In New Zealand, the twenty-one year Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, published in 1999, reported that of their sample of 1,037 people, 27% of women and 34% of men reported being physically abused by a partner, with 37% of women and 22% of men reporting they had perpetrated IPV.[37] Also in New Zealand, a 2009 report by the Journal of Applied Social Psychology evaluated samples of university students (35 female, 27 male), general population (34 female, 27 male), and incarcerated participants (15 female, 24 male), and found that 16.7% of the male respondents reported physical abuse (12.9% for students and 15.4% for convicts), while 29.5% reported bidirectional (i.e. both partners commit IPV) violence (14.5% for students and 51.3% for convicts).[12]

The 2006 International Dating Violence Study, which investigated IPV amongst 13,601 students across thirty-two-nations found that "about one-quarter of both male and female students had physically attacked a partner during that year". It reported that 24.4% of males had experienced minor IPV and 7.6% had experienced "severe assault".[38]

In 2012, two Swedish studies were released that showed men experienced IPV at rates similar to women—8% per year in one study and 11% per year in the other.[39][40]

Gender symmetry[edit]

The theory that women perpetrate IPV at roughly similar rates as men has been termed "gender symmetry". The earliest empirical evidence of gender symmetry was presented in the 1975 U.S. National Family Violence Survey carried out by Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles on a nationally representative sample of 2,146 "intact families". The survey found 11.6% of men and 12% of women had experienced some kind of IPV in the last twelve months, while 4.6% of men and 3.8% of women had experienced "severe" IPV.[41][42] These unexpected results led Suzanne K. Steinmetz to coin the controversial term "battered husband syndrome" in 1977.[43] Ever since the publication of Straus and Gelles' findings, other researchers in domestic violence have disputed whether gender symmetry really exists, and how to differentiate between victim and batterer.[10][44][45][46]

Since 1975, numerous other empirical studies have found evidence of gender symmetry in IPV. For example, in the United States, the National Comorbidity Study of 1990-1992 found 18.4% of men and 17.4% of women had experienced minor IPV, and 5.5% of men and 6.5% of women had experienced severe IPV.[47][48] In England and Wales, the 1995 "Home Office Research Study 191" found that in the twelve months prior to the survey, 4.2% of both men and woman between the ages of 16 and 59 had been assaulted by an intimate.[49] The Canadian General Social Survey of 2000 found that from 1994 to 1999, 4% of men and 4% of women had experienced IPV in a relationship in which they were still involved, 22% of men and 28% of women had experienced IPV in a relationship which had now ended, and 7% of men and 8% of women had experienced IPV across all relationships, past and present.[33] The 2005 Canadian General Social Survey, looking at the years 1999–2004 found similar data; 4% of men and 3% of women had experienced IPV in a relationship in which they were still involved, 16% of men and 21% of women had experienced IPV in a relationship which had now ended, and 6% of men and 7% of women had experienced IPV across all relationships, past and present.[34]

An especially controversial aspect of the gender symmetry debate is the notion of bidirectional or reciprocal IPV (i.e. when both parties commit violent acts against one another). Findings regarding bidirectional violence are particularly controversial because, if accepted, they can serve to undermine one of the most commonly cited reasons for female perpetrated IPV; self-defense against a controlling male partner. Despite this, many studies have found evidence of high levels of bidirectionality in cases where women have reported IPV. For example, social activist Erin Pizzey, who established the first women's shelter in the U.K. in 1971, found that 62 of the first 100 women admitted to the centre were "violence-prone," and just as violent as the men they were leaving.[50] The 1975 National Family Violence Survey found that 27.7% of IPV cases were perpetrated by men alone, 22.7% by women alone and 49.5% were bidirectional. In order to counteract claims that the reporting data was skewed, female-only surveys were conducted, asking females to self-report, resulting in almost identical data.[51] The 1985 National Family Violence Survey found 25.9% of IPV cases perpetrated by men alone, 25.5% by women alone, and 48.6% were bidirectional.[52] A study conducted in 2007 by Daniel J. Whitaker, Tadesse Haileyesus, Monica Swahn, and Linda S. Saltzman, of 11,370 heterosexual U.S. adults aged 18 to 28 found that 24% of all relationships had some violence. Of those relationships, 49.7% of them had reciprocal violence. In relationships without reciprocal violence, women committed 70% of all violence. However, men were more likely to inflict injury than women.[53]

In 1997, Philip W. Cook conducted a study of 55,000 members of the United States Armed Forces, finding bidirectionality in 60-64% of IPV cases, as reported by both men and women.[54] The 2001 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that 49.7% of IPV cases were reciprocal and 50.3% were non-reciprocal. When data provided by men only was analyzed, 46.9% of cases were reported as reciprocal and 53.1% as non-reciprocal. When data provided by women only was analyzed, 51.3% of cases were reported as reciprocal and 49.7% as non-reciprocal. The overall data showed 70.7% of non-reciprocal IPV cases were perpetrated by women only (74.9% when reported by men; 67.7% when reported by women) and 29.3% were perpetrated by men only (25.1% when reported by men; 32.3% when reported by women).[55] The 2006 thirty-two nation International Dating Violence Study "revealed an overwhelming body of evidence that bidirectional violence is the predominant pattern of perpetration; and this ... indicates that the etiology of IPV is mostly parallel for men and women". The survey found for "any physical violence", a rate of 31.2%, of which 68.6% was bidirectional, 9.9% was perpetrated by men only, and 21.4% by women only. For severe assault, a rate of 10.8% was found, of which 54.8% was bidirectional, 15.7% perpetrated by men only, and 29.4% by women only.[56]

In 1997, Martin S. Fiebert, began compiling an annotated bibliography of research relating to spousal abuse by women. As of June 2012, this bibliography includes 286 scholarly investigations (221 empirical studies and 65 reviews and/or analyses) "which demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships". The aggregate sample size is over 371,600.[57] In 2000, John Archer conducted a meta-analysis of eighty-two IPV studies. He found that "women were slightly more likely than men to use one or more acts of physical aggression and to use such acts more frequently. Men were more likely to inflict an injury, and overall, 62% of those injured by a partner were women."[58] By contrast, the U.S. Department of Justice finds that women make up 84% of spouse abuse victims and 86% of victims of abuse by a boyfriend or girlfriend.[59]

As both Fiebert and Archer point out, although the numerical tally of physical acts in these studies has found similar rates of IPV amongst men and women, and high rates of bidirectionality, there is general agreement amongst researchers that male violence is a more serious phenomenon, primarily, but not exclusively, because male violence tends to inflict more psychological and physical damage than female violence.[60][61] Male violence produces injury at roughly six times the rate of female violence.[41] Women are also more likely to be killed by their male partners than the reverse (according to the US Department of Justice, 84% of spousal murder victims are female),[59] and women in general are more likely to be killed by their spouses than all other types of assailants combined.[62] In relation to this, Murray A. Straus has written "although women may assault their partners at approximately the same rate as men, because of the greater physical, financial, and emotional injury suffered by women, they are the predominant victims. Consequently, the first priority in services for victims and in prevention and control must continue to be directed toward assaults by husbands."[63]

From 2010 to 2012, scholars of domestic violence from the U.S., Canada and the U.K. assembled The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge, a research database covering 1700 peer-reviewed studies, the largest of its kind. Among its findings:[64]

  • More women (23%) than men (19.3%) have been assaulted at least once in their lifetime.
  • Rates of female-perpetrated violence are higher than male-perpetrated (28.3% vs. 21.6%).
  • Male and female IPV are perpetrated from similar motives.
  • Studies comparing men and women in the power/control motive have mixed results overall.

Conflict tactics scale[edit]

In a 2002 review of the research presenting evidence of gender symmetry, Michael Kimmel noted that more than 90% of "systematic, persistent, and injurious" violence is perpetrated by men. He was especially critical of the fact that the majority of the empirical studies reviewed by Fiebert and Archer used the conflict tactics scale (CTS) as the sole measure of domestic violence, and that many of the studies used samples composed entirely of single people under the age of thirty, as opposed to older married couples.[65] Although the CTS is the most widely used domestic violence measurement instrument in the world,[66] it is also one of the most criticized instruments, due to its exclusion of context variables, inability to measure systemic abuse and motivational factors in understanding acts of violence.[45][67] For example, the National Institute of Justice cautions that the CTS may not be appropriate for IPV research at all "because it does not measure control, coercion, or the motives for conflict tactics".[68]

Kimmel argues that the CTS is particularly vulnerable to reporting bias because it depends on asking people to accurately remember and honestly report incidents which have occurred up to a year previously. Even Straus admitted that the data indicates men tend to underestimate their use of violence, and women tend to overestimate their use of violence. "He attempts to control for this by examining only reports from women. Yet this does not correct the bias, because women also tend to underestimate men’s use of violence. Furthermore, men and women alike tend to overestimate women’s use of violence. Violence by men is expected, so it is not reported; violence by women is not expected, so it is notable and reported."[11] Thus men will overestimate their victimization and underestimate their perpetration, while women will underestimate their victimization and overestimate their perpetration.[65][11] Barbara J. Morse and Malcolm J. George have presented data suggesting that male underestimation of their partner's violence is more common in CTS based studies than overestimation.[69][70]Linda Kelly has noted that even when dividing the data provided by CTS based studies into that given by men and that given by women (such as in the 2001 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health), the rate of female perpetrated IPV remains at roughly the same level.[71] The Dunedin Longitudinal Study interviewed both partners in an attempt to test for intentional bias by the participants but found a high degree of correlation between the two partners. Indeed,

Contrary to expectations, agreement between partners did not vary with the perpetrator’s gender or with the type of abusive behavior.[72]

R. Emerson Dobash and Russell P. Dobash have also criticized the CTS, arguing that it is improper to equate male IPV with female IPV. They question the methodology behind the CTS, the data which stems from it and the theoretical framework used by investigators who champion it, arguing that male aggression is much more severe than female aggression and the two should not be measured by the same tool on the same scale.[73] Such an approach would make it impossible to compare male and female aggression because there would be no common measurement.

Another critic, Kersti Yllö, who holds Straus and those who use the CTS accountable for damaging the gains of the battered women's movement, by releasing their findings into the "marketplace of ideas". She argues that, as sociologists committed to ending domestic violence, they should have foreseen the controversy such statistics would cause and the damage it could potentially do to battered women.[7] Similarly, Nancy Worcester refers to studies which find evidence of gender symmetry and high levels of bidirectionality as part of the "anti-feminist backlash", arguing that studies which use the CTS demonstrate the "limitations and dangers of a gender-neutral approach to anti-violence work".[8]

Straus argues that it is more harmful to women to attempt to tackle the problem of domestic abuse without proper strategy based on facts: "The research shows that this so-called harmless violence by women because a meta-analysis by Stith and colleagues (2004) found that a woman's perpetration of violence was the strongest predictor of her being a victim of partner violence."[46]

Straus responded to criticism of the CTS by arguing that it is driven by radical-feminists who are uncomfortable with any evidence that women can be as violent as men because it undermines their belief that IPV is an extension of men's desire to subjugate women; "one of the explanations for denying the evidence on gender symmetry is to defend feminism in general. This is because a key step in the effort to achieve an equalitarian society is to bring about recognition of the harm that a patriarchal system causes. The removal of patriarchy as the main cause of IPV weakens a dramatic example of the harmful effects of patriarchy."[74] Straus also points out that despite being critical of the CTS, numerous feminist researchers use it for their own research, and that it was CTS based studies which first illustrated and brought to the public's attention the extent of the battered women problem in the 1970s.[46]

Battered husband syndrome[edit]

The most controversial aspect of female perpetrated IPV is the theory of "battered husband syndrome". In reaction to the findings of the U.S. National Family Violence Survey in 1975,[41] Suzanne K. Steinmetz wrote an article in 1977 in which she coined the term as a correlative to "battered wife syndrome".[43] Steinmetz conducted several empirical investigations prior to writing her article. Using a broad-based non-representative sample of fifty-four couples, Steinmetz found male perpetrated IPV at a rate of 47% and female perpetrated IPV at a rate of 43%. She further found that while 39% of husbands had thrown objects, 31% of wives had done likewise; 31% of husbands had pushed or shoved their partner, compared to 32% of wives; 20% of husbands had hit their wives, 20% of wives had hit their husbands; 10% of husbands had hit their wives with an object, 10% of wives had hit their husbands with an object.[75] In another study, using a sample of fifty-two Canadian college students, Steinmetz found male perpetrated IPV at a rate of 23% and female perpetrated IPV at a rate of 21%. Further investigation found that 21% of both husbands and wives had thrown objects; 17% of husbands had pushed or shoved, compared to 13% of wives; 13% of husbands had hit their wives, 13% of wives had hit their husbands; 10% of husbands had hit their wives with an object, 12% of wives had hit their husbands with an object.[43]:501–503 In a third study, using a random sample of ninety-four people, Steinmetz found male perpetrated IPV at a rate of 32% and female perpetrated IPV at a rate of 28%. Further investigation found that 31% of husbands had thrown objects compared to 25% of wives; 22% of husbands had pushed or shoved, compared to 18% of wives; 17% of husbands had hit their wives, 12% of wives had hit their husbands; 12% of husbands had hit their wives with an object, 14% of wives had hit their husbands with an object.[76]

These findings led Steinmetz to conclude that IPV was roughly reciprocal between husbands and wives, with a similar level of intentionality between men and women; "women are as likely to select physical conflict to resolve marital conflict as are men ... women have the potential to commit acts of violence and under certain circumstances, they do carry out these acts".[43]:505[77] According to Malcolm J. George, Steinmetz' article "represented a point of departure and antithetical challenge to the otherwise pervasive view of the seemingly universality of female vulnerability in the face of male hegemony exposed by the cases of battered wives".[78]

Steinmetz' colleague, Richard J. Gelles, publicly addressed confusion caused by the research and father's rights groups "significant distortion" of the data in his public response Domestic Violence: Not An Even Playing Field, "Indeed, men are hit by their wives, they are injured, and some are killed. But, are all men hit by women battered? No. Men who beat their wives, who use emotional abuse and blackmail to control their wives, and are then hit or even harmed, cannot be considered battered men. A battered man is one who is physically injured by a wife or partner and has not physically struck or psychologically provoked her."[79]

Steinmetz' claims in her article, and her use of the phrase "battered husband syndrome" in particular, aroused a great deal of controversy, with many scholars criticizing research flaws in her work. In particular, she was criticized for not differentiating between verbal and physical aggression or between intentionality and action (wanting to hit was considered the same as actually hitting). For example, David Finkelhor argues that Steinmetz' methodology was unacceptably unscientific. He argues that her work looks at all violence as fundamentally similar; there is no differentiation between male and female violence, or violence against a child and violence against a wife, such as a mother spanking a child and a father breaking a mother's ribs. Finkelhor sees this as especially important insofar as it does not allow a differentiation between ongoing systemic abuse and once-off violence, or between disciplining a child and beating a partner.[80]

Causes of female-perpetrated IPV[edit]

The question of what causes female perpetrated IPV is another controversial subject. Donald G. Dutton and Tonia L. Nicholls write that traditional feminist theory "views all social relations through the prism of gender relations and holds, in its neo-Marxist view, that men (the bourgeoisie) hold power advantages over women (the proletariat) in patriarchal societies and that all domestic violence is either male physical abuse to maintain that power advantage or female defensive violence, used for self-protection".[81] In this sense, any IPV committed by women against men is by way of self-defense. Linda Kelly writes that "in conceding that women do engage in acts of domestic violence, female use of violence is justified as self-defense—a lifesaving reaction of women who are being physically attacked by their male partners. The development of the battered woman syndrome as a defense for crimes committed against abusive male partners, including homicide, evidences the wide acceptance of a woman's use of violence as self-defense."[82] The theory is that when women commit IPV, it is probably justified because they were previously victims and, therefore, the male was the "primary aggressor." Thus, the woman's violent behavior is caused by her background as a victim.[83][84] Juan Carlos Ramírez explains that given the socially accepted model of femininity as one of submission, passivity and abnegation, whatever behavior does not follow this stereotype will be perceived in an exaggerated manner as abnormal and violent. Thus, women will be perceived as disproportionately aggressive even if merely defending themselves.[85]

Meta-analyses of the research find that the overwhelming majority of women's IPV against male partners is in the context of being victimized.[16][86] Several studies have found evidence that only a small proportion of women identify their IPV as self-defense. For example, in a 1996 study of 1,978 people in England, 21% of women who admitted to committing IPV gave self-defense as a reason. More prevalent reasons were "Get through to" (53%), "Something said" (52%) and "Make do something" (26%).[87] In a five-year study of 978 college students from California, concluded in 1997, Martin S. Fiebert and Denise M. Gonzalez found an IPV rate amongst women of 20%. Within this group, perpetrators were asked to select reasons as to why they assaulted their partner, with the option to choose multiple reasons. The breakdown of reasons had "my partner wasn't sensitive to my needs" as the most prevalent (46%). Also found more frequently than self-defense were "I wished to gain my partner's attention" (44%) and "My partner was not listening to me" (43%).[88]Such reasons may possibly reflect women's attempts to stop their partners' psychological abuse.[citation needed]

Looking beyond self-defense, studies have found a range of causes for female-perpetrated IPV. Writing of the feminist theory which regards reinforcement of patriarchy as a primary cause of IPV, Murray A. Straus writes "Patriarchy and male dominance in the family are clearly among the causes [of IPV], but there are many others. However, with rare exceptions, current offender treatment programs are based on the assumption that the primary cause is male dominance. Thus, they proceed under an erroneous assumption. Illustrative of this fallacious single-cause approach are the state-mandated offender treatment programs that forbid treating other causes, such as inadequate anger management skills."[89] In 2006, Rose A. Medeiros and Murray A. Straus conducted a study using a sample of 854 students (312 men and 542 women) from two American universities. They identified fourteen specific risk factors common amongst both males and females who had committed IPV; poor anger management, antisocial personality disorders, borderline personality disorders, pattern of dominating relationships, substance abuse, criminal history, posttraumatic stress disorders, depression, communication problems, jealousy, sexual abuse as a child, stress, and a general attitudinal approval of partner violence.[90] In 2014, a study involving 1,104 male and female students in their late teens and early twenties found that women are more likely than men to be controlling and aggressive towards their partners, more likely to demonstrate a desire to control their partners, and more likely to use physical aggression in ensuring that control. The main author of the study, Elizabeth Bates, wrote "this suggests that intimate partner violence may not be motivated by patriarchal values and needs to be studied within the context of other forms of aggression, which has potential implications for interventions."[91]

Other explanations for both male and female-perpetrated IPV include psychopathology, anger, revenge, skill deficiency, head injuries, biochemical imbalances, feelings of powerlessness, lack of resources, and frustration.[92] Researchers have also found a correlation between the availability of domestic violence services, increased access to divorce, higher earnings for women, and improved laws and enforcement regarding domestic violence with declines in female perpetrated IPV.[93]


Many critics have rejected the research cited by men's rights activists and dispute their claims that such violence is gender symmetrical,[94][95][96][97][self-published source] arguing that MRAs' focus on women's violence against men stems from a misogynistic political agenda to minimize the issue of men's violence against women[97] and to undermine services to abused women.[96][98]

Current literature on IPV has alternative viewpoints in relation to gender symmetry theory. A 2008 review published in journal of Violence and Victims found that although less serious situational violence or altercation was equal for both genders, more serious and violent abuse was perpetrated by men. It was also found that women's physical violence was more likely motivated by self-defense or fear while men's was more likely motivated by control.[16] A 2011 systematic review from the journal of Trauma Violence Abuse also found that the common motives for female on male domestic violence were anger, a need for attention, or as a response to their partner's own violence.[86] Another 2011 review published in the journal of Aggression and Violent Behavior also found that although minor domestic violence was equal, more severe violence was perpetrated by men. It was also found that men were more likely to beat up, choke or strangle their partners, while women were more likely to throw things at their partner, slap, kick, bite, punch, or hit with an object.[99]

Researchers have also found different outcomes in men and women in response to intimate partner violence. A 2012 review from the journal Psychology of Violence found that women suffered disproportionately as a result of IPV especially in terms of injuries, fear, and posttraumatic stress.[100]:42–45 The review also found that 70% of female victims in one of their studies were "very frightened" in response to intimate partner violence from their partners, but 85% of male victims cited "no fear".[100] The review also found that IPV mediated the satisfaction of the relationship for women but it did not do so for men.[100]

Gender asymmetry is also consistent with government findings. According to government statistics from the US Department of Justice, male perpetrators constituted 96% of federal prosecution on domestic violence.[101] Another report by the US Department of Justice on non-fatal domestic violence from 2003–2012 found that 76 percent of domestic violence was committed against women and 24 percent were committed against men.[102] Dr. Ruth M. Mann of the University of Windsor, an expert on sociology and criminology, stated her opposition to the gender symmetry theory of domestic violence on the grounds that women as well as children are the main victims in the "annual pile up" (Coyle, 2001) of victims being murdered by intimate partners and fathers throughout Canada (AuCoin, 2005; Ogrodnik, 2006).[103]


Police services in several locations have expanded their domestic violence programs and response units in an effort to deal with IPV against men. Shelters specifically for men have been set up in the UK; as of 2010, there are sixty refuge places available to men throughout England and Wales, compared to 7,500 places for women.[104]

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has also campaigned to spread awareness of the problem of male victimization and to promote reporting of incidents. The country's first shelter for male abuse victims, Men's Aid NI, opened in early 2013. Chairman Peter Morris has remarked, "Domestic violence against men can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse. It can happen in heterosexual and same-sex relationships and, as with domestic abuse against females, can go largely unreported."[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abcdLupri, Eugene; Grandin, Elaine (2004). "Intimate partner abuse against men"(PDF). National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. Archived from the original(PDF) on January 4, 2009. Retrieved June 21, 2014. 
  2. ^ abMigliaccio, Todd A. (Winter 2001). "Marginalizing the Battered Male". The Journal of Men's Studies. 9 (2): 1–18. doi:10.3149/jms.0902.205. Retrieved June 20, 2014. (subscription required)
  3. ^ abDas Dasgupta, Shamita (November 2002). "A Framework for Understanding Women's Use of Nonlethal Violence in Intimate Heterosexual Relationships". Violence Against Women. 8 (11): 1364–1389. doi:10.1177/107780102237408. Retrieved July 2, 2014. (subscription required)
  4. ^ abcWatson, Dorothy; Parsons, Sara (2005). Domestic Abuse of Women and Men in Ireland: Report on the National Study of Domestic Abuse(PDF). Dublin: National Crime Council of Ireland. p. 169. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  5. ^Strong, Bryan; DeVault, Christine; Cohen, Theodore (February 16, 2010). The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate Relationships in a Changing Society. Cengage Learning. p. 447. ISBN 978-1133597469. Archived from the original on January 10, 2017. 
  6. ^Concannon, Diana (July 11, 2013). Kidnapping: An Investigator’s Guide. Newnes. p. 30. ISBN 978-0123740311. Archived from the original on January 10, 2017. 
  7. ^ abYllö, Kersti (1988). "Political and Methodological Debates in Wife Abuse Research". In Yllö, Kersti; Bogard, Michele. Feminist Perspectives on Wife Abuse. Thousand Oaks, CA.: Sage. pp. 40–47. ISBN 9780803930537. 
  8. ^ abWorcester, Nancy (November 2000). "Women's Use of Force: Complexities and Challenges of Taking the Issue Seriously". Violence Against Women. 8 (11): 1390–1415. doi:10.1177/107780102762478055. Retrieved June 22, 2014. (subscription required)
  9. ^Dutton, Donald G.; Nicholls, Tonia L. (September 2005). "The gender paradigm in domestic violence research and theory: Part 1 — The conflict of theory and data". Aggression and Violent Behavior. 10 (6): 680–714. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2005.02.001. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  10. ^ abStraus, Murray A. (June 2010). "Thirty Years of Denying the Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence: Implications for Prevention and Treatment"(PDF). Partner Abuse. 1 (3): 332–362. doi:10.1891/1946-6560.1.3.332. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  11. ^ abcdLoseke, Donileen R.; Gelles, Richard J.; Cavanaugh, Mary M. (2005). Current Controversies on Family Violence. SAGE. ISBN 9780761921066. 
  12. ^ abcRobertson, Kristen; Murachver, Tamar (July 2009). "Attitudes and Attributions Associated With Female and Male Partner Violence". Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 39 (7): 1481–1512. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2009.00492.x. Retrieved June 28, 2014. (subscription required)
  13. ^Sullivan, Vince (July 10, 2013). "Help domestic abuse victims for 35 years". The Delco Times. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  14. ^Fontena Vera, Carol; Gatricia Duhart, Andrés. "La Violencia Doméstica hacia el Varón: factores que inciden en el hombre agredido para no denunciar a su pareja" (in Spanish). Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  15. ^Jacobson, Neil S.; Gottman, John Mordechai (1998). When Men Batter Women: New Insights Into Ending Abusive Relationships. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780684814476. 
  16. ^ abcSwan, Suzanne C.; Gambone, Laura J.; Caldwell, Jennifer E.; Sullivan, Tami P.; Snow, David L. (2008). "A Review of Research on Women's Use of Violence With Male Intimate Partners". Violence and victims. 23 (3): 301–314. doi:10.1891/0886-6708.23.3.301. PMC 2968709. PMID 18624096.
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