Falsification of DV statistics by radfems
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The Missing Persons of Domestic Violence: Male
J. Gelles, Ph.D., Joanne and Raymond Welsh Chair of
Child Welfare and Family Violence
School of Social Work
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104215.573.7133
Alan and Faith nearly 25 years ago. I was in the process of
interviewing men and women on what were then both a taboo topic and an
issue that had been treated as an unmentionable personal trouble-violence
in the family. I was one of the first researchers in the United States to
attempt to study the extent, patterns, and causes of what I then called
conjugal violence," and what today advocates label "domestic
There was precious little research or information to guide my study-the
entire scientific literature was two journal articles. With the exception
of the tabloids, the media and daytime talk shows had not yet discovered
the dark side of family relations. Both Alan and Faith discussed their
experiences with violence in their intimate relations and marriages. The
violence was sometimes severe, including a stabbing and broken bones. And
yet, Alan and Faith ended up as mere footnotes in my initial book, The
Violent Home (Sage Publications, 1974). I admit now and knew then that I
had overlooked the stories of Alan and Faith. The reason why their stories
were relegated to mere notes was they did not fit the perceptual framework
of my research. Although I titled my study an examination of family or
conjugal violence, my main focus, the issue I hoped to raise consciousness
about, was violence toward women. Alan, as it turned out, had never hit
his wife. The broken bones and abrasions that occurred in his home were
inflicted by his wife. Faith was a victim of violence; her husband,
ex-husband, and boyfriends had struck her and abused her numerous times.
These events were dutifully counted and reported in my book and subsequent
articles. Faith's situation was the focus of my article "Abused Wives:
Do They Stay?" However, Faith's violence, which included stabbing her
husband while he read the morning paper, was reported as a small quote in
my book, with little analysis or discussion. In my first study of family
violence, I had overlooked violence toward men. I would not, and could
not, ever do that again.
My recognition of the issue of violence toward men came about in a strange
way. Two years after my initial study of family violence, the American
Sociological Association included a session on "Family Violence" as
of the association's annual meeting program. This was the first time this
scholarly association had devoted precious meeting time and space to this
topic. However, unlike most sessions, which are open to anyone registered
for the meeting, this session required a reservation. I wrote the day I
received my preliminary program to request admission to the session, and
was subsequently informed that the session was "filled." I do not
I stopped to consider how or why a session could be completely filled as
soon as it was announced. I was desperate, however, to link up with others
in my field who were interested in the rarely studied topic of family
violence. So, uninvited, I went to the session anyway and sat in the back
of the room, hoping to hear what was going on, but avoiding being labeled
a "gate crasher."
The session was held in a small ballroom, and there were about 20 persons
in attendance, all sitting in a circle. The room was far from overflowing.
The session was chaired by two sociologists from Scotland who were about
to publish their own book on family violence, titled Violence against
Wives: A Case against Patriarchy. Much of the session focused on the
application of feminist theory, or patriarchy theory, to explaining the
extent and patterns of violence towards wives, both in contemporary
society and over time and across cultures. Much of the discussion was
informative and useful. However, eventually someone raised the question of
whether men were victims of domestic violence. The session leaders and
many others in the group stated, categorically, there were no male victims
of domestic violence. At this point, I raised may hand, risking being
discovered as a gate crasher, and explained that I had indeed interviewed
men and women who reported significant and sometimes severe violence
toward husbands. I was not quite shouted down, but it was explained to me
that I must certainly be wrong, and even if women did hit men, it was
always in self-defense and that women never used
violence to coerce and
control their partners, as did men.
Alan and Faith were suddenly no longer footnotes, but I did not fully
appreciate the significance of this until two years later.
The research I conducted for The Violent Home was a small study, based on
80 interviews conducted in New Hampshire. That research pointed to the
possibility that family violence was indeed widespread and the probability
that social factors, such as income and family power, were causal factors.
But the study was too small and too exploratory to be more than
suggestive. In order to build a more solid knowledge base and
understanding of family violence, my colleagues Murray Straus and Suzanne
Steinmetz and I conducted the First National Family Violence Survey in
1976. The survey interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,143
individual family members. The results were reported in a number of
scholarly articles and, finally, in the book Behind Closed Doors: Violence
in the American Family (1980, Anchor Books). What surprised my colleagues
and me the most was the high rates of violence towards children, between
siblings, toward parents and between partners that were reported by those
we interviewed. Up until this point, estimates of child abuse and wife
abuse were placed in the hundreds of thousands and no higher than one
million. But our study, based on self-reports, placed the rates in the one
to two million range.
The most controversial finding, as it would turn out, was that the rate of
adult female-to-adult male intimate violence was the same as the rate of
male-to-female violence. Not only that, but the rate of
female-to-male violence was the same as the rate of abusive male-to-female
violence. When my colleague Murray Straus presented these findings in
at a conference on the subject of battered women, he was nearly hooted and
booed from the stage. When my colleague Suzanne Steinmetz published a
scholarly article, "The battered husband syndrome," in 1978, the
the professional journal published, in the same issue, a critique of
The response to our finding that the rate of female-to-male family
violence was equal to the rate of male-to-female violence not only
produced heated scholarly criticism, but intense and long-lasting personal
attacks. All three of us received death threats. Bomb threats were phoned
in to conference centers and buildings where we
were scheduled to present.
Suzanne received the brunt of the attacks-individuals wrote and called her
university urging that she be denied tenure; calls were made and letters
were written to government agencies urging that her grant finding be
rescinded. All three of us became "non persons" among domestic
advocates. Invitations to conferences dwindled and dried up. Advocacy
literature and feminist writing would cite our research, but not attribute
to use. Librarians publicly stated they would not order or shelve our
The more sophisticated critiques were not personal, but methodological.
Those critiques focused on how we measured violence. We had developed
an instrument, "The Conflict Tactic Scales." The measure met all
scientific standards for reliability and validity, so the criticisms
focused on content. First, the measure assessed acts of violence and not
outcomes-so it did not capture the consequence or injuries caused by
violence. Second, the measure focused on acts and not context or process,
so it did not assess who struck whom and whether the violence was in
self-defense. These two criticisms, that the
measure did not assess
context or consequence, became a mantra-like critique that continued for
the next two decades.
While the drumbeat of criticism continued, Murray Straus and I conducted
the Second National Family Violence Survey in 1986. We attempted to
address the two methodological criticisms of the Conflict Tactics Scales.
In 1986 we interviewed a nationally representative sample of 6,002
individual family members over the telephone. This time we asked about the
outcomes of violence and the process and context-who started the conflict
The findings again included surprises. First, contrary to advocacy claims
that there was an epidemic of child abuse and wife abuse, we found that
the reported rates of violence toward children and violence toward women
had declined. This made sense to us, as much effort and money had been
expended between 1976 and 1986 to prevent and treat both child abuse and
wife abuse. Female-to-male violence showed no decline and still was about
as frequent and severe as male-to-female violence.
The examination of context and consequences also produced surprises.
First, as advocates expected and as data from crime surveys bore out,
women were much more likely to be injured by acts of domestic violence
then were men. Second, contrary to the claim that women only hit in
self-defense, we found that women were as likely to
initiate the violence
as were men. In order to correct for a possible bias in reporting, we
re-examined our data looking only at the self-reports
of women. The women
reported similar rates of female-to-male violence compared to
male-to-female, and women also reported they were as likely to initiate
the violence as were men.
When we reported the results of the Second National Family Violence Survey
the personal attacks continued and the professional critiques simply
ignored methodological revisions to the measurement instrument. This round
of personal attacks was much more insidious-in particular, it was alleged
that Murray had abused his wife. This is a rather typical critique in the
field of family violence-men whose research results are contrary to
political correctness are labeled "perps."
Up until now I have focused only on our own research. However, it is
important to point out that our findings have been corroborated numerous
times, by many different researchers, using many different methodological
approaches. My colleague Murray Straus has found that every study among
more than 30 describing some type of sample that is not self-selective (an
example of self-selected samples are samples of women in battered woman
shelters or women responding to advertisements recruiting research
subjects; non-select selective samples are community samples, samples of
college students, or representative samples) has found a rate of assault
by women on male partners that is about the same as the rate by men on
female partners. The only exception to this is the U.S. Justice Department
's Uniform Crime Statistics, the National Survey of Crime Victims, and the
U.S. Department of Justice National Survey of Violence against Women. The
Uniform Crime Statistics report the rate of fatal partner violence. While
the rate and number for male and female victims was about the same 25
years ago, today female victims of partner homicide outnumber (and the
rate is higher) than male victims. The National Crime Victims Survey and
National Survey of Violence against Women both assess partner violence in
the context of a crime survey. It is reasonable to suppose both men and
women underreport female-to-male partner violence in a crime survey, as
they do not conceptualize such behavior as a crime.
It is worth repeating, however, that almost all studies of domestic or
partner violence, agree that women are the most likely to be injured as a
result of partner violence.
Two new studies add to our understanding of partner violence and the
extent of violence toward men. First, David Fontes
conducted a study of
domestic violence perpetrated against heterosexual men in relationships
compared to domestic violence against heterosexual women. The "Partner
Conflict Survey" sample consisted of employees from the California
Department of Social Services. Altogether, 136 surveys were returned out
of 200 surveys distributed to employees in four locations (Sacramento,
Roseville, Oakland, and Los Angeles). Not only did men experience the same
rate of domestic violence as did women, but men reported the same rate of
injury as did women.
More recently, a survey conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison
Psychologist Terrie Moffit in New Zealand also
found roughly the same rate
of violence toward men as toward women in intimate relationships.
Most journalistic accounts of domestic violence toward women and many
scholarly examinations include descriptions of the horrors of intimate
violence. Reports of remarkable cruelty and sadism accompany reports on
domestic violence. Fatal injuries, disabling injuries, and systematic
physical and emotional brutality are noted in detail.I
have heard many of
these accounts myself and reported them in my own books, articles, and
The "horror" of intimate violence toward men is somewhat different.
are, of course, hundreds of men killed each year by their partners. At a
minimum, one-fourth of the men killed have not used violence towards their
homicidal partners. Men have been shot, stabbed, beaten with objects, and
been subjected to verbal assaults and humiliations. Nonetheless, I do not
believe these are the "horrors" of violence toward men. The real
the continued status of battered men as the "missing persons" of
domestic violence problem. Male victims do not count and are not counted.
The Federal Violence against Women Act identified domestic violence as a
gender crime. None of the nearly billion dollars of funding from this act
is directed towards male victims. Some "Requests for Proposals"
U.S. Justice Department specifically state that research on male victims
or programs for male victims will not even be reviewed, let alone funded.
Federal funds typically pass to a state coalition against domestic
violence or to a branch of a state agency designated to deal with violence
Battered men face a tragic apathy. Their one option is to call the police
and hope that a jurisdiction will abide by a mandatory or presumptive
arrest statute. However, when the police do carry out an arrest when a
male has been beaten, they tend to engage in the practice of "dual
and arrest both parties.
Battered men who flee their attackers find that the act of fleeing results
in the men losing physical and even legal custody of their children. Those
men who stay are thought to be "wimps," at best and "perps" at worst,
since if they stay, it is believed they are the true abusers in the home.
Thirty years ago battered women had no place to go and no place to turn
for help and assistance. Today, there are places to go-more than 1,800
shelters, and many agencies to which to turn. For men, there still is not
place to go and no one to whom to turn. On occasion a shelter for battered
men is created, but it rarely lasts-first because it lacks on-going
funding, and second because the shelter probably does not meet the needs
of male victims. Men, who retain their children in order to try to protect
them from abusive mothers, often find themselves arrested for "child
The frustration men experience often bursts forth in rather remarkable
obstreperous behavior at conferences, meetings, and
forums on domestic
violence. Such outbursts are almost immediately turned against the men by
explaining that this behavior proves the men are
not victims but are
Given the body of research on domestic violence that finds continued
unexpectedly high rates of violence toward men in intimate relations, it
is necessary to reframe domestic violence as something other than a "
gender crime" or example of "patriarchal coercive control." Protecting
only the female victim and punishing only the male offender will not
resolve the tragedy and costs of domestic violence. While this is
certainly not a politically correct position, and is a position that will
almost certainly ignite more personal attacks against me and my
colleagues, it remains clear to me that the problem is violence between
intimates not violence against women. Policy and practice must address the
needs of male victims if we are to reduce the extent and toll of violence
in the home.
The Independent (London)
March 28, 1999, Sunday
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 6
LENGTH: 815 words
HEADLINE: PIZZEY MAKES A STAND FOR THE BATTERED MAN
BYLINE: Sophie Goodchild
ERIN PIZZEY, pioneer of the battered wives refuge, has launched a
attack on the feminists who so enthusiastically endorsed her crusade
domestic violence. The "sisters" she says, have suppressed
evidence that men are
In her new role as a champion of the abused male she has singled out
Charles as the prototype "battered husband".
Women, she claims, are as violent in the home as men and many get a
thrill" from beating their partners. On BBC2's Counterblast on
she will blame many of the ills of today's society on the feminists of
Sixties and Seventies. Prominent feminists, in turn, say she is talking
In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Ms Pizzey
elaborated on her
views. She claims violent women have often been abused themselves and
continue this destructive cycle in their own relationships.
The Princess of Wales was a typical example in that she was physically
attacked by her own father, said Ms Pizzey,
who used the Spencer family as the
inspiration for her novel of aristocratic violence, King of the Castle.
"I wept the day Diana married Charles because she should have got
She was physically abused by her father who was very violent and she
that pattern in her own relationship.
"My understanding is that Diana threw Raine
Spencer down a flight of stairs.
If Charles had attacked her it would have been national news. The
Wales never had a chance."
In denying the dark side of women, the problem will continue unabated.
women I met in the hostels had often chosen to be prostitutes and there
pattern of violence. They were physically or sexually abused as
are addicted to rollercoaster relationships with men and physical
damage is a
form of sexual intercourse. A woman achieves a great deal of sexual
this way, but this is too dark for women to talk about."
To support her views, Ms Pizzey has engaged
the help of male academics
including Professor John Archer, who claims a third of domestic
referred to in academic literature show men need medical attention
She may find further support in new research by sociologist Dr Michele
Burman of the University of Glasgow into
teenage girls' attitudes to violence,
which reveals a widespread belief that fighting, particularly with
"entirely appropriate" and "useful" for girls.
The women's movement has a lot to answer for, said Ms Pizzey: by labelling
men as aggressors, it has helped to destroy family life. But such
has long been her soulmate. After setting up
the first women's refuge in
Chiswick, west London, in 1971, she said that women were not always
Death threats followed and she was ostracised by many feminists. She
on such women and the causes they espoused.
"We are going to look on the feminist movement as a tragedy,"
"Women have become career slaves and a whole generation will never
marry or have
children. Marriage protects women. All the pill has done is liberate men because
it allows them to have casual sex. I saw the feminist movement as
family but it wasn't."
Of the first feminist wave she singles out Germaine Greer, whom she
"brilliant woman" who got it wrong when she said women were
exactly like men.
She attacks Bea Campbell and Andrea Dworkin as
man-hating "gender" feminists.
The response to Ms Pizzey's outburst is
scathing in return. "You would have
to be mad to think this," said writer and broadcaster Ms Campbell,
professor of women's studies at Newcastle University.
"She is saying feminism is mad, bad and dangerous. This attitude
disrespectful to women who have been abused and will divert attention
the more important issues."
Sheila Rowbotham, a research fellow at
Manchester University and another
early feminist, is equally dismissive. "Sometimes women like
casual sex, too.
"It is ridiculous to say that the women's movement is a tragedy -
been incredibly important. She had a husband who worked in the media so
lot of attention focused on her when there were a lot of other unsung
also set up refuges. It's dangerous to overstate the fact that women
domestic violence. She's talking nonsense."
Anna Coote , a former adviser to Harriet Harman and prolific writer
women's issues, was equally dismissive. "She demonstrates her own
simplifying the feminist movement," Ms Coote
said. "She falls into the trap of
so many people of saying feminism is one thing when in fact it is very
and has many strengths and weaknesses.
"The statistics speak for themselves in that men are the main
of domestic violence. I don't think anyone takes her seriously."
GRAPHIC: The dark side: Pizzey has attacked
feminists for demonising men and
denying that women can be as violent DAVID SANDISON
[As with Gelles and his
researchers, Erin Pizzey and each of her research
group received death threats when she publicised her research results; that
62 out of the first 100 women who came to her Chiswick refuge were as violent
as the men they had left. She received police protection, but left the
country for fifteen years. When I visited her, it was at a secret address. – Ivor Catt. 12mar02]