Domestic violence and the DV policies of family courts and law enforcement is a multi-faceted issue that has an enormous impact on American families. Fathers & Families is hosting a debate between two of North America’s leading domestic violence authorities, feminist DV expert Professor Evan Stark, Ph.D, MSW, and dissident DV expert Dr. Donald G. Dutton.
Evan Stark, Ph.D, MSW (pictured, right) is a forensic social worker who has served as an expert in more than 100 criminal and civil cases, consulted with numerous federal and state agencies, including the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control, and won a number prestigious awards for his work.
Dr. Donald G. Dutton, Ph.D. (pictured, middle right) has published over one hundred papers and ten books, including Rethinking Domestic Violence, The Abusive Personality, Domestic Assault of Women: Psychological and Criminal Justice Perspectives, and The Batterer: A psychological profile.
The debate will run in several segments and will be posted on both www.fathersandfamilies.org and www.glennsacks.com. Readers are asked to keep comments respectful and on topic. Our rules of moderation can be seen here.
Professor Stark began our debate on Monday here. Below is Dr. Dutton’s response.
Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers & Families
Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board, Fathers & Families
Fathers & Families’ Question #1: The Obama administration recently appointed Lynn Rosenthal as the first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. Vice President Biden, who wrote the Violence Against Women Act, said that creating the post will help the White House focus on stopping domestic violence. The mainstream domestic violence establishment arguably now has the most sympathetic administration ever. What should the administration do to improve how the United States deals with the problem of domestic violence?
If I were to give President Obama one piece of advice on domestic violence it would be this: stick to the principles of engaging in social policy that has empirical support. Well-intended domestic violence legislation has run off the rails.
Larry Sherman”s research shows that mandatory arrest discriminates against African-American women (citation 1, 2) because men with little “stake in conformity’ ( i.e. undereducated and under employed) have a higher likelihood of recidivism when arrested. Research on criminal justice policy consistently shows iatrogenic effects when “zero tolerance’ policies are enacted (3). So called “psychoeducational policies required by VAWA as the only intervention’ permissible through court process, is shown repeatedly to have a minimal or zero effect on recidivism (4-6). Evidenced based policy says “get rid of them.” Replace them with couples therapy or real psychological treatment.
“Gender policy advocates [teach] that helpless female victims often tell no one about their victimization, so it’s not unusual for them to “remember’ past assaults on the brink of a custody dispute.”
It is time that criminal justice personnel, including police and judges, were given discretion back. It is also crucial that they stop being “educated’ by gender policy advocates who pretend to have some mystical truth about domestic violence; it is only committed by males (at least the only serious kind–coercive violence), that it is motivated by male power needs, is a political act against women, and that helpless female victims often tell no one about their victimization (so it’s not unusual for them to “remember’ past assaults on the brink of a custody dispute).
The truth is, our conceptualization of domestic violence is wrong. It is not solely male perpetrated violence to control women. Two large sample studies (7, 8) show that the most common form of domestic violence is bilateral violence, matched for level of severity, and that this constitutes 50% of all domestic violence. What happens is a called a coercion trap, with both partners becoming increasingly angry and violent.
It is unclear in this form of violence who starts it, escalates it, etc. Even the combatants frequently don”t remember. Women are injured more by this form of violence than by unilateral male violence (so-called wife battering) (8). However, this increased risk to women goes untreated because accepting two–way violence as a fact violates the gender paradigm: the belief that all domestic violence is male instigated.
“Women are injured more by [bilateral] violence than by unilateral male violence…a domestic violence policy group [asked] me to come to Chicago to do a workshop on spousal homicide. When I sent along a Powerpoint showing how risk prediction could be improved by including women”s violence in the predictive equation, they cancelled the talk immediately”; that was victim blaming.”
A domestic violence policy group in Chicago persisted in asking my workshop co-ordinator, for me to come to Chicago to do a workshop on spousal homicide. When I sent along a Powerpoint showing how risk prediction could be improved by including women”s violence in the predictive equation, they cancelled the talk immediately”; that was victim blaming. Mr. President, make empirical studies the basis for legal and public policy. If bilateral violence is the most common form of domestic violence, treat it as such–use martial therapists and focus on reciprocal negative reciprocity as a cause of severe domestic violence. Do not feed stereotypes of all domestic violence as reported by shelter houses. Recognize too, that men are injured by domestic violence (9).
“[After bilateral violence], the second most frequent form of domestic violence is unilateral violence by women against non-violent males.”
This becomes important when we realize that the second most frequent form of domestic violence is unilateral violence by women against non-violent males. The Center for Disease Control study by Whittaker (8) found that 70% of unilateral violence was female perpetrated, yet another finding that contradicts the “innocent female’ paradigm where women only use violence in self defense.
In fact, violent women are traceable from their early years (10). Lisa Serbin”s longitudinal studies at Concordia found patterns from aggressive girls in public school through to women”s whose children suffered more physical injuries. Yes, women are the most likely perpetrators of physical child abuse (11). A huge survey by Health and Human Services found mothers involved in 64% of all physical child abuse. The plight of these children is caused by a gender paradigm that lumps “women and children’ together into government bureaucracies and teaches custody assessors that the only risk to the child is from the “abusive father.”
“[W]omen are the most likely perpetrators of physical child abuse…an empirically based policy…would preclude misleading paradigms being used as weapons in family court.”
An empirically based policy, Mr. President would preclude misleading paradigms being used as weapons in family court, would recognize the potential danger to children from both parents, and would develop preventive policies to alter the developmental trajectories of aggressive girls and boys.
The debacle in family court is simply that judges are being brainwashed with the gender paradigm policy. A recent Wingspread Conference on Domestic Violence and Family Courts congratulated itself on opening a dialogue between scientists and practitioners. In fact, the “dialogue’ was biased in the usual way.
Papers by Michael Johnson and Peter Jaffe developed models for custody assessment based on Johnson”s dichotomy: mild DV is two-way (common couple violence), serious DV is male perpetrated ( coercive violence). This model was based on asking women in transition houses about violence perpetrated by their male partner towards themselves or their children. Johnson never asked them about their own use of violence. It did not attempt to test other samples drawn with different self selection criteria. If one does either, the results change dramatically. Instead of the sole risk to children coming from the male, it now clearly stems from both mother and father.
“[A researcher] asked women in shelter houses about their own use of violence. Sixty seven percent reported using severe violence against their male partner.”
Renee McDonald did the unthinkable in Texas–she asked women in shelter houses about their own use of violence. Sixty seven percent reported using severe violence against their male partner. This 67% is completely off the screen in Johnson”s work–he never asks the question.
Not asking about female violence is the norm in the gender paradigm; Ed Gondolf”s ‘multi-site’ studies (12, 13) on the effects of psychoeducational intervention on male recidivist violence found that 40% of the men in treatment were partnered with women who hit them first (according to the woman). Of course, you have to look hard at the fine print of Gondolf”s method section to find this out–he is solely focused on the male (14).
Neil Jacobson went Gondolf one better- -he published a book on male batterers called “cobras’ and “pitbulls’ and even went on Oprah and got her to tout the book. Of course, in Jacobson”s fine print there is also a statement that 40% of his sample showed severe violence by females. Johnson, Jaffe, Gondolf and Jacobson avoid female violence because it is dismissed as infrequent, reactive and inconsequential.
“The majority of child homicides are perpetrated by women and [researcher] Renee McDonald found children were 2.5 times as likely to be exposed to violence by their mothers than their fathers.”
In fact, it”s injurious both to male partners and to children. The majority of child homicides are perpetrated by women(11) and Renee McDonald found children were 2.5 times as likely to be exposed to violence by their mothers than their fathers (15) .
These data surprise professionals whether they are police, custody assessors or judges. The surprise stems from the gender paradigm-categories for conceptualizing domestic violence that views it as solely male perpetrated. The categorical expectations are so strong that experimental variations of actions are described as abusive when depicted as perpetrated by men, as non- abusive when the same action is perpetrated by women. This is true for both the general public (16) and psychologists (17).
“The categorical expectations of custody assessors and judges have been distorted.”
For example, “X asks Y where they have been’ is abusive if a male asks but not if a female asks. The categorical expectations of custody assessors and judges have been distorted even more. The Jaffe and Johnson “gold standard’ for custody assessment is based solely on samples of women in shelter houses. The obvious self-selected bias of this sample is ignored. When other samples are used, women commit coercive violence as much as men (18, 19 20, 21).
It is for this reason that Evan Stark”s suggestion for the policing of coercion is a blueprint for totalitarianism–the state decides how families should make everyday decisions? Police and custody assessors who are already trained in the gender paradigm to be suspicious of males, would now be making determinations about coercive control? That would be the final straw in a feminist police state and something that must be avoided at all costs.
What would happen is that male forms of control would be criminalized and female forms of control overlooked same as with domestic violence now. The research findings that males and females use control in intimate relationships equally (21, 22) would be ignored. This should never happen.
“We need to develop preventive programs that recognize that both boys and girls can grow up to be violent, get rid of stereotyping posters depicting boys as future batterers.”
Mr. President, we need to develop professional groups to triage domestic violence without the preconceived notions of the gender paradigm. We need to develop preventive programs that recognize that both boys and girls can grow up to be violent, get rid of stereotyping posters depicting boys as future batterers. We need to ask research questions of both partners in community samples and use these as the basis for generalization to custody groups. The gender paradigm did bring domestic violence to the public view but it is a very skewed perspective.
[Note: All of the posts relating to this debate are available here. Dutton’s citations are after the page jump.–GS]
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