DV Conference Report #2: Distortions of Research on Domestic Violence-the ‘Woozle Effect’

Sacramento, CA–Background: The historic, one-of-a-kind conference “From Ideology to Inclusion: Evidence-Based Policy and Intervention in Domestic Violence” was held in Sacramento, California February 15-16 and was a major success. The conference was sponsored by the California Alliance for Families and Children and featured leading domestic violence authorities from around the world.

Many of these researchers are part of the National Family Violence Legislative Resource Center, which is challenging the domestic violence establishment’s stranglehold on the issue. The NFVLRC promotes gender-natural, research-based DV policies.

I have been and will continue to detail the conference and some of the research that was presented there in this blog–to learn more, click here.

Dr. Donald Dutton is one of the premier domestic violence authorities in the world. He co-founded the Assaultive Husbands Project in 1979 and has published more than 100 papers and books, including the Domestic Assault of Women, The Batterer: A Psychological Profile, The Abusive Personality, and his latest work, Rethinking Domestic Violence. Dr. Dutton can be reached at

At the Sacramento conference, Dutton criticized the way the domestic violence establishment–of which he was once very much a part–has distorted the research to minimize and ignore female and mutual domestic violence. One of the problems he cites is the tendency of establishment researchers to fail to check original sources but instead depend on another researcher’s citation of statistics. These findings are repeated and parroted–including by the media–until they become accepted wisdom, even though they are inaccurate.

As examples, Dutton noted that the American Bar Association Website states that “85% of perpetrators are male,” and, according to the American Psychologist, “studies indicate that more than 95% of abuse perpetrators are men.”

The way these falsehoods are created and spread is dubbed the “Woozle Effect’ after Winnie-the-Pooh, who says, “When going round a spinney of larch trees Tracking Something, be sure it isn’t your own footprints you are following.”

Some of Dutton’s examples of the Woozle Effect are below:

1) A study by Langley & Levy from 1977 (Wife Beating: the Silent Crisis) reported that half the women in the US were abused, and cited a Gelles & Straus study as their basis for their inappropriately extrapolated statistic. The problem? The study had been conducted in a battered women’s shelter.

2) In 1980, Linda Macleod published a book called Wife Battering in Canada: The Vicious Circle in which she claimed that every year one in ten Canadian women in a relationship are battered. However, MacLeod”s figure was apparently based not on a representative sample but instead on the proportion of women that a shelter in Windsor, Ontario said they had to turn away.

3) Arias et al. (2002), quoting Stets & Straus (1992a) as a source, claimed “women were seven to fourteen times more likely to report that intimate partners had beaten them up, choked them, threatened them with weapons, or attempted to drown them.” (p. 157). However, the Stets & Straus study did not say this. There is no action by action analysis reported (such as choking or drowning). More importantly, they concluded that male and female violence rates are identical.

Leave a Reply

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