Former NFL star Steve McNair was shot dead in his sleep last week by a 20-year-old girlfriend, police said Wednesday. While there are over 10,000 media entries on Google News for “Steve McNair,” hardly one of them is paired with the phrase “domestic violence.”
Fathers and Families‘ Ned Holstein, MD, a public health specialist, explains:
Violence by women against their male partners is often ignored or not labeled as domestic violence by the media, law enforcement, the judicial system, and the domestic violence establishment, which are still stuck in the outdated ‘man as perp/woman as victim” conception of DV. This has serious consequences for children exposed to their mothers” violence.
Domestic violence by women against men isn”t rare. Over 200 studies have found that women initiate at least as much violence against their male partners as vice versa. Men comprise about a third of domestic violence injuries and deaths.
The most recent large scale study of DV was conducted by Harvard researchers and published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study, which surveyed 11,000 men and women, found that, according to both men”s and women”s accounts, 50% of the violence in their relationships was reciprocal (involving both parties). In those cases, the women were more likely to have been the first to strike. Moreover, when the violence was one-sided, both women and men said that women were the perpetrators about 70% of the time.
As a result of the tendency to ignore domestic violence by women, many children are placed in the custody of violent mothers instead of non-violent, fit fathers. Yet research shows that women’s violence, like men”s, is tightly correlated with family violence injury risks to all parties– including children. Ignoring female-on-male violence undermines efforts to raise children in violence-free homes.
Holstein, MD adds:
Many commentators are criticizing McNair because his murder revealed that he was apparently having an extramarital affair. This is another double-standard on men & DV–it”s very hard to imagine the media criticizing a married woman who was gunned down by her boyfriend.