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.
Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers & Families
Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board, Fathers & Families
Stark’s Response to Dutton:
In this reply, I respond to two of the three fact based claims Dutton makes–that mandatory arrest discriminates against black women, and that batterer programs based on the Duluth model aren”t effective. Whether male abuse by women should be taken as seriously as male abuse is the topic of question #2 of this debate.
Everyone I know supports evidence-based policy, so I won”t reply to Dutton”s allegations that his claims are based on ‘science” while ours are not. Hiding behind the mantle of science is a classic strategy of the ideologue. Put your evidence on the table, say what you think it means, and let”s argue. I”ve read most if not all of Dutton”s work, and when he does this, he has some important things to say, particularly about the psychology of male batterers.
“Dutton claims that my proposal to define coercive control as a distinct crime is an invitation to totalitarianism… [yet] coercive control involves a malevolent course of conduct that deprives victims of basic resources…and rights”
Dutton claims that my proposal to define coercive control as a distinct crime is an invitation to totalitarianism. Perhaps he doesn”t understand that coercive control involves a malevolent course of conduct that deprives victims of basic resources (such as money, transportation or food) and rights (such as the right to speak freely, move about, socialize, etc.), as well as violating their physical and sexual integrity.
“Coercive control approximates making a partner a hostage at home.”
The typical way in which this is done is through the micro-management of everyday life according to stereotypic gender roles, such as how a partner dresses, talks on the phone, even to how much time they spend in the bathroom. He would presumably not object to arresting terrorists and persons who take hostages. In Coercive Control (Oxford, 2007), I use dozens of examples from my forensic caseload to show that this pattern approximates making a partner a hostage at home.
One major difference is that hostages can look forward to returning to their families, whereas victims of coercive control are imprisoned within their family. I don”t need citations to tell me that women can be as controlling or violent as men. I have no problem with applying this law to women as well as men, though I have seen no evidence that female partners subjugate men by depriving them of basic liberties and resources on any substantial scale.
“Dutton will get no quarrel from me about the ineffectiveness of current counseling approaches.”
Dutton will get no quarrel from me about the ineffectiveness of current counseling approaches. Batterers” programs can help female and male victims in a variety of ways, particularly by reinforcing the normative belief that abuse is unacceptable. But there is no evidence that they provide any long-term benefits for offenders or victims.
Nor is it merely the feminist Duluth model that is ineffective. In Coercive Control, I review the evidence that shows that no model of counseling abusive men has been shown to significantly end violence, let alone control, or to improve the long-term prospects of victims.
“[A] little over half of the men we are currently arresting for domestic violence are not physically living with their victims…Would Dutton recommend couples” work in these cases?”
Nor does research support the use of couples counseling an antidote, except where the parties want to work on their dynamics. For one thing, a little over half of the men we are currently arresting for domestic violence are not physically living with their victims, and the victims at highest risk for severe injury and fatality in domestic violence cases are females or males who are separated or divorced from their assailants, not married or living together. Would Dutton recommend couples” work in these cases? Would he, as Linda Mills advocates, force couples into therapy even where the victimized party refuses? To my knowledge, counseling is not a front-line response for any other crime, so why here?
“I would support ending referrals to counseling as an option available to judges in domestic violence cases.”
Or is Dutton suggesting we decriminalize partner abuse? I would support ending referrals to counseling as an option available to judges in domestic violence cases. This would force courts to choose between setting perpetrators free or imposing sanctions. While some men or women who could be helped or should be punished would be set free by this approach, it would also force communities to come to terms with whether they want to treat partner abuse as a crime or a psychological malaise.
Dutton”s main factual claim involves mandatory arrest. He challenges the wisdom and efficacy of mandatory arrest policies and cites evidence from Larry Sherman, a criminologist, that unemployed black men may actually be more violent after they are arrested.
The background for mandatory arrest policies was the consistent failure by police to arrest perpetrators of partner assault, leaving their victims and children at risk. The same Larry Sherman Dutton cites as opposing arrest conducted the original Minneapolis study showing that arrest was more effective in reducing violence than other interventions.
This research contributed to the adoption of these policies by the states alongside law suits against police departments in New York City and Oakland, California; a large settlement against a local Connecticut police department because its officer stood by while an abusive husband beat his wife so badly she became paralyzed; and recommendations by President Reagan”s Attorney General”s Task Force that all states adapt such policies.
“As a practical matter, mandatory arrest allows police to make arrests without a warrant for crimes normally considered misdemeanors.”
The assumption was that, since assault is a crime, that perpetrators of this crime should be treated in the same way whether they are intimate with their victim or not, a basic requirement of the “equal protection’ clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As a practical matter, mandatory arrest allows police to make arrests without a warrant for crimes normally considered misdemeanors.
Following the adaptation of mandatory arrest policies, the National Institute of Justice sponsored “replication’ studies in five other cities. Whether or not these studies proved the efficacy of arrest is hotly debated. Suffice it to say here that in Milwaukee, one of the replication cities, Sherman found the result Dutton cites. Sherman himself did not believe race was the issue here or that discrimination was involved.
Although racial bias in policing is widespread in the U.S., there is no evidence that mandatory arrest policies discriminate against blacks. To the contrary, these policies had two effects that led to increased use of police and other services by black women: they substantially increased the number of perpetrators arrested, including the number of black perpetrators; and they brought the proportion of blacks arrested in line with their proportion in the general population, the opposite of discrimination.
These effects have been demonstrated in New York City and Duluth, Minnesota, two areas that are far apart demographically. Indeed, whereas black and Latina women were less likely to call police before these policies, today, they call in greater numbers than any other groups, hardly results we would expect if arrest was discriminatory.
An unintended effect is that, as black women gained access to police protection and shelters, they have been far less likely to retaliate to abuse with fatal violence, leading to an unprecedented drop in the killing of black men. Mandatory arrest policies have also led to many more women being arrested for domestic violence and to high proportions of “dual arrests.’ But young, unmarried white women suffer most from dual arrests, not women of color.
“At present, according to my calculations, fewer than one domestic violence assault in a thousand results in an arrest or serious sanctions, hardly sufficient to deter crime.”
We do not normally determine whether someone should be arrested or punished for criminal acts based on whether they are likely to re-offend. If we did, we would not arrest most offenders, since recidivism rates hover around 70% for most crimes. We arrest, prosecute and incarcerate criminals as a way to enforce the normative values we share. If punishment deters crime, as it sometimes does, all the better. But this is not the justification for punishment. Recent evidence shows that crime is more likely to be deterred if there is a relative certainty that its commission will result in an arrest rather than because of the sanctions imposed. At present, according to my calculations, fewer than one domestic violence assault in a thousand results in an arrest or serious sanctions, hardly sufficient to deter crime.
“In the typical case that prompts victims to seek help for abuse, there is a long history of frequent, but low-level violence punctuated by sexual assault or severe episodes and accompanied by other abusive tactics.”
In the typical case that prompts victims to seek help for abuse, there is a long history of frequent, but low-level violence punctuated by sexual assault or severe episodes and accompanied by other abusive tactics. Domestic violence laws target specific assaults, making no distinction when there has been an abusive course of conduct. Since the law is focused on discrete incidents and since the vast majority of abusive incidents are trivial from a medical or criminal justice perspective, it is not surprising that the vast majority of domestic violence arrests are resolved without punishment. But the problem here is the law, not the focus on arrest.
A number of comments on www.GlennSacks.com question the evidence of sex discrimination I present. Letter writers cite official statistics that women earn 81 centers to each dollar men earn and argue that women make less because they choose to stay home while men are the real breadwinners. Since I believe sexual inequality is at the heart of the issues we”re debating, these data are worth looking at more closely.
The source of the figures I cite is a study by economists Steve Rose and Heidi Hartmann. Official figures are only based on the earnings of men and women who have worked full-time for a full year prior to the survey. Rose and Hartmann looked at how much income men and women actually bring to the table in their peak earning years regardless of whether they worked full or part-time or left the workforce or raise children or care for sick family members. Over the 15 years they studied, women earned $273,592 while the average working man earned $722,693, a gap of 62%, three times as high as official figures and more than sufficient to support the sort of power differences that are enforced through abuse.
“Much of this difference [between men’s and women’s wages] is the result of differential job opportunities…not because women ‘stay home” while the male fulfills the breadwinner role as several commentators claim.”
Much of this difference is the result of differential job opportunities. For instance, whereas 10% of male managers are in the top decile of all earners, women occupy only 1% of these top positions and only 6% of the top two deciles. But this is not because women ‘stay home” while the male fulfills the breadwinner role as several commentators claim. Today women”s overall labor market participation rate is just slightly less than men”s and is actually higher among younger women, aged 25-34, the very group that would have left work to care for children in earlier generations. By 2000, for instance, 79% of mothers with children aged 6 to l7 years were in the workforce and 56% of women with children under age 1.
“Women typically assume the “second shift’ of housework and childcare by default, not by choice.”
Women”s educational attainment is equal to men”s. So, however attractive the stereotype, the reality is that women typically assume the “second shift’ of housework and childcare by default, not by choice, despite the fact that far fewer women than men have sick leave, vacation leave or flexibility in their hours. It is not surprising that the typically male perpetrators of coercive control not only use abuse to exploit these inequalities, but to reinforce with force what has become increasingly hard for them to get in other ways–women”s deference.
[Note: All of the posts relating to this debate are available here.–GS]
 This evidence is summarized in Evan Stark, Race, gender and woman battering. In Violent Crime: Assessing Race and Ethnic Differences. Ed. D. Hawkins. (Cambridge U. Press, 2003) 171-197. See also Richard Peterson, Comparing the Processing of Domestic Violence Cases and nonDomestic Violence Cases in NY Criminal Court; Final Report. (NYC Criminal Justice Agency, 2001).
 Stephen Rose and Heidi Hartmann, Still a Man”s Labor Market:The Long-Term Earnings Gap (Washington D.C., IWPR, 2004).