The Gravy Train pulled into Regina, Saskatchewan this week with a big beautiful new package for Professor Mary Hampton of Regina University. It was from the Canadian government and the package contained $1 million. Read about it here (Regina Leader-Post, 6/13/11). The money is a grant for Hampton to study domestic violence in rural areas of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and the Northwest Territories over a period of five years. The idea is to learn about the unique needs of DV victims in rural areas and develop an action plan to combat the problem. But there’s a catch. (Face it, you knew there was a catch.) Mary Hampton and her colleagues are going to use the money to study only violence by men against women. Male victims of DV along with female perpetrators will be completely ignored. Again.
The money comes directly from the pockets of Canadian taxpayers courtesy of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council which describes itself this way:
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) is the federal agency that promotes and supports postsecondary-based research and training in the humanities and social sciences. Through its programs and policies, SSHRC enables the highest levels of research excellence in Canada, and facilitates knowledge-sharing and collaboration across research disciplines, universities and all sectors of society.
“Highest levels of research excellence.” Does it, indeed? One might ask then why the SSHRC is spending so much money on research that is guaranteed to result in wrong findings and therefore wrong solutions. After all, if one is seriously interested in combating domestic violence, it simply doesn’t make sense to ignore half the perpetrators and half the victims. That of course is what some 300 studies done in the U.S. over 36 years reveal – that men and women commit DV equally. What other research reveals is that, where intimate partner violence is reciprocal, i.e. one hits and the other hits back, women initiate the incident 70% of the time. That comes from a study done for the Centers for Disease Control. So even if one were only concerned about women’s welfare and cared nothing for men, perhaps the first lesson you’d teach women is “don’t hit first.” That lesson alone would save countless women from injury in DV incidents. But when only male-on-female violence is studied, when female perpetrators are ignored, that lesson can’t be taught. So perversely, even those for whom domestic violence is a one-way street, i.e. all perpetrators are men and all victims are women, fail to do the one thing that would ameliorate the problem. And of course if you’re at all concerned about male victims, well, they’re ignored too. So I thought I’d ask Mary Hampton a few questions about her study and why she intends to ignore half the perpetrators and half the victims in the areas studied. Here are the questions in my first email to her:
Will you focus on the needs of male victims of domestic violence? What is your understanding of the gaps in meeting those needs? Will you attempt to measure the incidence of female-on-male violence in the area you study? Will you study how to best treat female perpetrators of violence? Have you decided yet what definition of domestic violence or abuse will be used in your study? If so, what is it?
And here’s her “response.”
Hello, Robert, thank you for your interest in our work. I know the importance of violence against men as well, but our research will be using the WHO definition that focuses on violence against women. If the issue of violence against men is raised in our research, of course we will include these voices. RESOLVE is concerned with ending all forms of violence. All the best to you. Mary H.
For the edification of all, here’s the World Health Organization’s “definition” of domestic violence:
any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Since Hampton answered only one of my questions, I thought I’d try again, so I sent her this:
Prof. Hampton – Thanks for your prompt reply. When you say “if the issue of violence against men is raised…”, my thought is that you would be the person to raise it. If you don’t raise the issue, who would? Since you and your colleagues will be designing the study, do you intend to do so in a way that would elicit information about male victims and/or female perpetrators? Do you intend to interview or otherwise obtain information from men about their victimization in DV incidents? Do you intend to interview or otherwise obtain information from women about their perpetration of domestic violence? If the answer to either of those questions is “no,” why not?
Sadly, she hasn’t responded. I’ve called twice, but haven’t gotten an answer. I’m beginning to think our relationship is on the rocks. The bottom line I suppose is that Hampton seems to know that male victims of DV exist, but doesn’t intend to use any of the taxpayers’ bounty to learn anything about them or the women who abuse them. Nor will her action plan attempt to prevent harm to men or protect them in any way. That’s all of a piece with the WHO’s definition of DV that excludes even the possibility of male victimization or female perpetration. And that in turn agrees with the Leader Post article that nowhere mentions male victims or female perpetrators. My understanding is that there’s been a bit of discontent on the part of some Canadians about the fact that, at this late date, their own government is using their money to fund yet another bit of “research” that’s frankly biased against men and plainly incompetent to address the problem. (You can’t address it when you don’t know what it is; you can’t know what it is when you ignore half of it.) From my perspective, Canadians ought to demand that this study be done right or not at all. It is far past time to stop ignoring what we’ve known for at least 36 years – that women commit domestic violence and men are their victims. Thanks to Ron for the heads-up.