Dating Violence and Family Courts

October 17, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The latest news out of Canada is that girls are more likely than boys to physically abuse a dating partner.  That’s news of course only because the survey was recently conducted.  But the fact that girls are more likely than boys to be violent toward a date has been known for decades.

Here’s one article on the Canadian survey (PJ Media, 10/7/18).  In it, the august Warren Farrell recalls his research for one of his books published in the 90s.

“I uncovered eighteen studies of teen dating violence, ranging in time from the early ’80s to mid-’90s. About fourteen of the studies found the women to be more frequently violent, and especially more likely to be violent in more severe ways,” he recounted.

“In one study, by Jan Stets and Debra Henderson (published in Family Relations in 1991), women were 15.8 percent more likely to admit to using physical violence, and were about 8 percent less likely to be victims,” he added, citing this study.

The new Canadian survey contained these findings:

Boys are “50 percent more likely to report physical dating violence” said Saewyc, and that’s “a gap that has been more or less consistent for the last two decades.”

Of course that 50% figure looks huge, but it obscures the fact that actual dating violence is fairly rare.  Just 5.8% of boys reported being hit, slapped, etc. and 4.2% of girls did.  And of course that 1.6 percentage point difference doesn’t amount to 50%, but about 38%.  Plus, the overall trend for both boys and girls is down.

Still, lead researcher Elizabeth Saewyc of the University of British Columbia makes some important points.

“Think about how generally unacceptable for boys and young men to actually haul off and slap a girl. But for girls, there isn’t the same social sanction for hitting a guy, whether they’re dating or not,” said Saewyc.

Violence against men “doesn’t raise the same outrage,” she added.

“So, the other part of this is thinking about for boys, a lot of social scripts say boys are supposed to be stoic, in charge, and tough. If you’re a boy and you’re experiencing physical violence from your girlfriend, there’s a lot of extra shame that goes with that.”

So boys who find themselves in violent relationships may be especially reluctant to tell an adult. “Who’s a young boy facing violence going tell? Who’s going to be sympathetic and supportive instead of shaming?”

Some of those thoughts were expressed in the study of domestic violence by Bates, Graham-Kevan and Archer in 2014.  They said that one possible reason for women being more likely to initiate domestic violence against men (than vice versa) is that males are trained from very early age to “never hit a girl,” but females receive no such messages about boys.  It’s a painfully obvious explanation and only remarkable because it took DV scholarship so long to figure it out.

Saewyc calls her findings “counterintuitive.”  That is, we cling to the preferred narrative of the domestic violence industry that holds a self-evident truth that all, or the vast majority, of DV is perpetrated by men and against women.  That those claims have been debunked literally hundreds of times and no responsible social scientist takes them seriously concerns the DV industry not a bit.  The cottage industry they’ve established over the decades hasn’t wavered in its claims and receives hefty funding from federal, state and private coffers because of it.  Why admit the truth after so long when falsity pays so well?

And it’s that narrative of male perpetration and female victimization that many outside the DV industry itself are all too happy to perpetuate.  I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

For now, suffice it to say that narrative has been so often used to deprive children of their fathers.  It’s a truism of family courts that allegations of domestic violence can be used to enhance a mother’s chances of getting sole or primary custody.  With those incentives and with few if any consequences for false reporting, why wouldn’t a mother shoot off a “silver bullet” or two?

For now though, we’ll keep Saewyc’s survey in the archive and pull it out to counter future false claims of the DV industry and, in so doing, perhaps push the equal parenting ball a bit further down the field.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *