Canadian Report Reveals Some Surprising Facts About Domestic Violence There

I wrote a little bit about the recent Canadian government publication on domestic violence for the year 2009.  There’s enough in the document to warrant discussing it a bit more.  Here it is (Statistics Canada, January, 2011).  It’s entitled “Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile.” It includes data on domestic violence between spouses and non-marital partners, DV against kids and seniors and a special section on DV homicides.  Basically, it uses two sets of data.  First it uses information from police departments that show DV reported to those agencies.  Aware that not all DV is reported to the police, the researchers conducted a telephone survey of a
little over 19,000 households during 2009 to learn their experiences with DV.  Here are a few more or less random findings from the report: men and women report victimization equally; over the past five years, the percentage of DV incidents has remained stable; of those reporting DV victimizations, females (57%) were more likely than males (40%)to report multiple incidents; former spouses were over four times as likely as current spouses to abuse each other; younger partners (between 25 and 34) were three times as likely to be victimized as were older ones (those over 45).  The contrast between data from police reports and those from self-reports is interesting indeed.  The simple fact that people say they’re victims of DV at over four times the rate that they report the same to the police is remarkable to say the least.  That the rate of reporting to the police dropped from 28% in 2004 to 22% in 2009, is as well. And the report documents exactly why people strongly prefer to keep the police out of their lives, even when there’s domestic violence involved.  Go to page 12 of the document and there’s a handy chart that shows their reasons.  Reading that chart, it becomes obvious that people who refuse to report DV incidents to the police do so because (a) they prefer to deal with the matter themselves, (b) they don’t consider the matter important and, in many different ways, don’t want the police and courts involved.  Indeed, the chart lists 11 reasons why people don’t report DV to the police and five of them are the police and criminal justice system themselves. In summary, Canadians who are involved in domestic violence incidents overwhelmingly reject the criminal justice paradigm for dealing with the problem.  They don’t want the police involved because they think they can do a better job of dealing with it themselves, together with their view that the incident wasn’t very important. And on that note, it’s worth mentioning that, among the 22% of people who did report a DV incident to the police, only about 60% of them were “satisfied with the police response.”  In other words, close to 40% of them were not satisfied, and those were the ones who felt well enough inclined toward the police to call them in the first place. When Canadians seek support due to their victimization in a DV incident, they overwhelmingly reject “formal” services in favor of the support of family and friends.  “Formal” services are those provided by, for example, a psychologist or social worker or other trained professional.  Seven in 10 Canadians prefer family and friends. More remarkable still is the overwhelming rejection of DV crisis centers as a source of support.  The report gives no figures for men’s use of crisis centers, likely because there aren’t any, or too few to provide meaningful data.  But of course there are plenty of shelters for women and therefore data on their utilization.  Of the eight sources of support for DV victims listed in the report, women utilize all of them more than they do crisis centers.  Shelters come in dead last among women’s choices about where to turn for help with DV. And, like contacting the police, use of formal services is dropping.  In 2004, 34% of DV victims sought formal services; in 2009, that number had dropped to 28%. Unsurprisingly, men are significantly less likely to seek support for DV vitimization from anyone than are women. As I read it, this report damns the DV establishment in the most powerful terms.  After some 40 years of talking about domestic violence as a vital issue, publicizing it in every conceivable way and directing large sums of public money at the problems Canadians overwhelmingly disagree with elite descriptions of and solutions to DV. What we’ve heard for four decades is that domestic violence is a terrible crime (which it assuredly can be) that must be dealt with as such, i.e. by reporting it to the police and having the perpetrator tried and sentenced by a court of law.  That’s after the issuance of a restraining order.  Punishment often includes exposure to some version of Duluth Model notions of control and victimization. Victims, on the other hand are advised to  seek the formal services of domestic violence shelters and told that they can’t deal with the problem themselves.  That’s in part because, according to the narrative, however minor an incident may be, it inevitably leads to more and worse. That’s been the message for 40 years and, to put it mildly, Canadians aren’t buying it.  Overwhelmingly, they prefer to try to deal with the problem themselves and keep the entire police/courts/TRO/Duluth Model re-education system out of their lives. Unlike DV advocates, Canadians look at most forms of DV as minor, certainly too minor to warrant outside intervention by anyone.  Countless research shows they’re right, but advocates have a way of wanting us to regard every push or shove as “battering.”  Everyday Canadians are not only smarter than that, but they also put into practice their understanding of the situation, instead of what the establishment has tried to inculcate over the years. In short, what this report reveals is a Canadian people who, in the face of relentless propagandizing about domestic violence, have chosen to go their own way.  I’ve long said that most of what we do and say about domestic violence is wrong.  It’s looking like Canadians have figured that out for themselves.  Having rejected the wrong ideas, it’s now time to try to convince them of the right ones.

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