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.
All of the posts relating to this debate are available here.
In Part IV and Part V, Stark and Dutton sparred over numerous issues, centrally the question of whether the DV establishment’s “gender model”–domestic violence is something that men do to women, not vice versa–is the proper way to view DV. Below, Stark responds to Dutton’s latest.
Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers & Families
Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board, Fathers & Families
Stark Responds to Dutton:
Dutton bobs and weaves. I won”t respond to his personal stories except to express my sympathy at not being listened to. I know how it feels.
Here, he reiterates his claim that mandatory arrest is racially biased, roots violence in adulthood in childhood profiles of aggressive boys and girls and in “multi-problem’ families, shows that the “stereotype’ of violent men assaulting “defenseless’ women only describes a small proportion of DV cases and joins Linda Mills in arguing that instead of dividing the world into “perpetrators’ and “victims’ we should be treating these multi-problem families rather than putting a band-aid on the problem based on stereotypes. Again, the villain of the piece is the gender model, but there are some points at which we agree.
This time Dutton quotes Linda Mills quoting Sherman. I”ve reviewed Mills work elsewhere (Violence Against Women 10(11), 2004. 1302-1330) and won”t do so again. Dutton cites Mills” thought experiment: if we take results from Milwaukee, l of the 5 NIJ experiments, assume police disproportionately arrest blacks 3:1 and extrapolate, arrest ends up hurting large numbers of black women. Apart from the absurdity of drawing conclusions from a made up scenario like this, if you extrapolated from other NIJ sites with opposite results, you would think arrest made a huge difference. Both exercises are wrong. In fact:
1. Mandatory arrest has reduced racial bias in arrest as I showed in my last comment. Though more black men were arrested after mandatory arrest policies were implemented, their proportion among all those arrested declined to better reflect their proportion in the population. So mandatory arrest is anti-discriminatory.
2. Since the implementation of mandatory arrest, black and Latina women have significantly increased their use of police and other services so that today they are more likely to call police than white women. This is certainly because they have more confidence something will happen when they call–suggesting they do not feel discriminated against by arrest, but favor it.
3. Although many more men are being arrested for DV, they are not being punished. In the NIJ experiments, fewer than 5% of those arrested went to jail and in some cities, fewer than 1%. So arrest policies reflect the worst of both worlds: we arrest abusers, make them mad, then send them home to re-abuse. My solution is to up the ante by implementing punishment to fit the crime. And I would do this for women arrested for partner assault as well as men.
“[A]rrest laws have protected men far more than they have protected women.”
4. In fact, the arrest laws have protected men far more than they have protected women, no question, and they have protected black men in particular. For instance, according to the FBI, since l976, when we opened the first shelters and introduced arrest in dv cases, the number of men killed by women in intimate relationships has dropped an astounding 71%, much more than the overall drop in homicides, while the number of women has dropped much less, only 26%. And the drop in the black community, as I showed earlier, is even larger, over 80% in the killing of black men.
According to the FBI, in 2004 1, 596 females but only 385 males were killed by partners. While homicide is a relatively rare outcome in domestic violence cases, this is the same ratio we find in domestic violence cases generally, in domestic violence arrests, in reports in medical clinics, in crime surveys or from the National Violence Against Women Survey and so on, Dutton”s claims aside. So, at a minimum, arrest in combination with other interventions has saved thousands of lives, most male.
“[W]omen tend to kill abusive partners when they see no way out, either in self-defense or retaliation…abusive men kill women when they think they will lose control or do so, due to a separation or divorce.”
This strange result reflects the fact that women tend to kill abusive partners when they see no way out, either in self-defense or retaliation. So when they have alternatives, they use them. By contrast, abusive men kill women when they think they will lose control or do so, due to a separation or divorce. So the same protections that help men endanger women. But this not because arrest or shelter are bad, but because we still don”t remove abusers from society in ways that are protective.
“[A]rrest policies in the US discriminate against white women.”
If anything, arrest policies in the US discriminate against white women who are the fastest growing group of offenders arrested.
On arrest generally. Dutton wouldn”t decriminalize DV altogether but, like Linda Mills, would use the law to push families into treatment, particularly where violence is mutual.
I don”t dispute that arrest alone leads to only a modest reduction in partner violence, although these reductions are quite significant when arrest is combined with aggressive prosecution, service to victims and community-based supports. As Andy Klein has shown, the men being arrested for domestic violence are typically repeat offenders who have committed a number of crimes against persons and property. So arrest is not going to solve the problem. We know that. But this doesn”t change my major point, that we arrest people not because we believe it helps people to become better citizens, but because we believe that when persons commit acts that offend rights we hold dear, such as the right to physical integrity or to independence, they should be punished and this may include removal from our society for a time. I don”t decide who should or should not be punished by whether they have psychosocial or behavioral problems.
The other key point, to which I will return in the next installment, is that the abuse the domestic violence revolution was organized to stop is a chronic, ongoing course of conduct crime, not comprised of discrete assaults. I would no more expect spot interventions like an incident-specific arrest or counseling program to stop battering than I would expect not eating meat for a week to prevent heart disease. To looking at “recidivism’ or “repeat offenders’ is barking up the wrong tree. There are almost no cases of abuse where assault is isolated. So we should stop trying to measure of figure out this problem by counting up violent acts.
“Historically, violence against women by husbands or boyfriends was not considered a crime…women”s violence against men was always punished much more harshly than men”s violence against women.”
Historically, violence against women by husbands or boyfriends was not considered a crime. (By the way, women”s violence against men was always punished much more harshly than men”s violence against women). But as women gained economic and political status, women”s physical safety in relationships became a litmus test for the integrity of relationships.
Society”s interest in protecting women was no more feminist than the Supreme Court”s wanting blacks to go to decent schools. If blacks aren”t educated, they can”t do the jobs needed to make the economy prosper. If women”s resources and energies are redirected to serve individual men, they can”t fully contribute to the economy, causing the society to lose a substantial portion of its workforce. This is why we criminalized abusive behavior, not because Newt Gingrich became a captive of the gender model.
Though these changes might not have occurred as quickly or in the ways they did if feminists and other advocates had not fought hard for this change, our societies have recognized that our wives, daughters and mothers are full persons and so entitled to the same protections from assault that we men have historically enjoyed. When Dutton wrote the Domestic Assault of Women over a decade ago, he celebrated this change. Not so any more apparently. Like it or not, this change is here to stay, no matter who checks what boxes on what surveys.
“Current law doesn”t go far enough.”
Current law doesn”t go far enough. Mounds of research now show that a typical abusive relationship involves coercive control, not merely physical violence. In between 60-80% of these relationships, one partner is depriving the other of basic liberties and autonomy, taking their money, regulating their everyday behavior, isolating them from friends and family members, threatening them in a range of ways, restricting their speech and movement, degrading them sexually through rape and inspections. In most of these relationships, about 80%, the abusive partner is also assaulting the victim.
Instead of punishing persons for assault only, however, we should make it a much more serious crime to deprive partners of liberty or autonomy in personal life, the crime of coercive control. This pattern has a range of health consequences that are exhibited by no other population of assault victims, including women assaulted by men, men assaulted by men, men assaulted by women, etc. At present, the evidence is overwhelming that women abused by men suffer entrapment as the consequence of coercive control. Moreover, as I show at length in Coercive Control, women”s performance of stereotypic gender roles is the focus of coercive control–how they dress, have sex, cook, clean, talk to others, care for children, and so on. So it is not feminists who have made gender the target of abuse, but abusers.
“I believe that coercive control is committed almost exclusively by men because it is rooted in sexual inequality and the desire by some men to preserve the privileges they derive from inequality.”
I believe that coercive control is committed almost exclusively by men because it is rooted in sexual inequality and the desire by some men to preserve the privileges they derive from inequality at any cost. Since men cannot be unequal to women in the same way and at the same time that women are unequal, inequality supports men”s capacities to abuse women far more than women”s abuse.
“I do not believe women are any less interested in controlling us than we are in controlling them or less prone to violence or less jealous. I believe battering is a function of opportunity, not just motive.”
I do not believe women are any less interested in controlling us than we are in controlling them or less prone to violence or less jealous. I believe battering is a function of opportunity, not just motive, and that inequality provides opportunities for men to establish and defend privileges in personal life not available to women.
“[C]oercive control has been invisible in plain sight precisely because the types of behavior abusers enforce are part of women”s already degraded default roles as housewives, homemakers and mothers.”
I believe coercive control has been invisible in plain sight precisely because the types of behavior abusers enforce are part of women”s already degraded default roles as housewives, homemakers and mothers. If a woman is responsible for cooking and cleaning anyway, what difference does it make if I give her a strict set of rules on how to clean? If it turns out that a substantial population of women are depriving men of liberty and autonomy on a substantial scale, I would also favor sanctioning them harshly. But I have treated dozens of men and hundreds of women and worked with dozens of abused males as well as abused females. So, when I say it is a male crime primarily, I am reflecting not merely on the data, but on my experience. But it is equality, liberty and autonomy that I am fighting to protect, not women, because I believe these are basic values in our society that merit defending. The difference is that we now defend these values much more vigorously in public life than in personal life.
A major confusion in much of this debate concerns violence. The battered women”s movement of which I am a proud part is not a movement to stop people from being violent, no matter how desirable this may be. It was a movement to prevent the use of violence, as one among many means, used to dominate women. While I generally oppose the use of violence as a means of addressing national or international concerns, I do not categorically oppose the use of violence in families or relationships. To the contrary, I recognize that violence is often an important tool to settle grievances and resolve conflicts, particularly for folks who are denied access to the other resources like money and professional credentials and lack the interpersonal skills to address these issues in other ways.
“[C]laiming that this stereotype of women as passive and helpless is due to the ‘gender model” is just wrong, however much readers of this blog would like to believe it.”
In my child”s school, if you didn”t fight when called out by another student, girl or boy, you ate your lunch in the bathroom. And even that wasn”t safe. I have spent my life living and working in communities where women are easily as capable of violence as men. So I have no illusions about women”s use of violence. The stereotype of women as defenseless is not peculiar to feminists. Most middle-class men and women hold to it and in an era when women were more dependent than they are now on the male as protector and breadwinner, it probably served us well from an evolutionary standpoint. Dutton accuses proponents of the gender model of denying the significance of women’s violence. In fact, the vast majority of research and writing about women’s violence against partners has been done by proponents of the gender perspective he attacks and not by Dutton or the survey researchers on whom he relies. So claiming that this stereotype of women as passive and helpless is due to the ‘gender model” is just wrong, however much readers of this blog would like to believe it.
Dutton claims that abuse is really rooted in early childhood experiences and “abuseogenic’ families. Dutton cites several longitudinal studies that track persons from childhood into adolescence and, in some cases, into adulthood. He claims violent adults could be detected early on and preventive steps taken to help them. But what steps? Which children? Dutton”s interest in real science should tell him you can”t generalize from longitudinal studies to general causality.
First, the research Dutton cites does not deal with abuse as it is generally defined and doesn”t deal at all with coercive control.
Second, longitudinal research tracks behavior forward and so cannot tell us anything about the causes of current behavior in general. We have known for decades, at least since Straus and Gelles first surveys, that children raised in the most violent and disturbed homes were much more likely to become violent as adults. In fact, children raised in the most violent homes are ten times more likely to be violent adults, particularly but not only males, than children raised in nonviolent homes. This tells us a lot about why exposing children to extreme violence can be damaging. But it tells us nothing about adult abuse. This is because:
a. Only a tiny proportion of children, fewer than l%, are raised in these most violent or disturbed homes. And a small proportion of current abusers were raised in such homes. So, yes, if you start with disturbed children and moved forwards, they have lots of problems as adults. But if you start where we actually are, with current abusive adults, fewer than 5% have these backgrounds. This conclusion is based on data from the NFVS, so it may not be completely accurate. But it”s the closest we have. This means that 95% of current violence is not caused by these early onset problems. Some estimates are higher than mine. But even the highest show that, at most, 20% of current violence by adults–and almost none of these studies distinguish partner violence from non-partner violence–is explained by childhood exposures and problems.
b. Although many more children from these homes end up in violent relationships as adults, the vast majority, between 70% and 90% do not. This raises two questions: are the children who are abusive as adults abusive because of these early problems or for some intermediary reasons? And, if it turns out that aggressive children become aggressive adults, what should we do about it? Should we be monitoring childhood aggression? Should we be putting aggression probes into the brains of 5 year olds? Since the vast majority of aggressive or disturbed children do not become violent adults, any attempt to identify risk early and intervene (with medications for ADD or MBD, for instance) would include too many false positives to be acceptable.
Dutton repeatedly cites the relative ineffectiveness of current modes of intervention. What he does not share is that studies of mental health intervention show even less success than current strategies, and are far, far more expensive if provided on a general scale even than arrest and incarceration. If he could convince us that some sort of blanket prevention effort with aggressive children could reduce adult violence, I would support it. But who else would? In the U.S., we still don”t recognize health care as a right? Does Dutton really think we”re about to invest billions in dealing with multi-problem, primarily disadvantaged families in childhood?
“Dutton repeatedly cites the relative ineffectiveness of current modes of intervention. What he does not share is that studies of mental health intervention show even less success than current strategies, and are far, far more expensive if provided on a general scale even than arrest and incarceration.”
I would certainly join Dutton in saturating our communities with programs to send positive messages about respect and nonviolence in relationships, particularly programs that focus on the performance of gender roles. All the evidence of which I am aware in public health shows that families identified as multi-problem are families who are disadvantaged in employment, housing, income supports, child care, health access and the like. So I would also join him in supporting comprehensive family support programs in this regard.
I would replace the child protection system with a family support system, for instance, exactly what liberals wanted in the first place. It was the Right that opposed the state going into families–for some good reasons, I might add–and we who wanted family supports. Child protection was the fall back position. But this has little or nothing to do with partner abuse, which is common in affluent as well as disadvantaged families. In fact, all of the problems identified with abuse, particularly alcohol and drug abuse, are more common in affluent than in disadvantaged communities. Yet no one is calling these families “multi-problem’ or suggesting we probe aggression in these youngsters.
Bottom line: I”m interested in stopping adult “abuse,’ the systematic, ongoing exploitation of one adult by another in personal life in ways that subjugate and entrap them and keep them from fulfilling their dreams and life-projects. We may also want to keep folks from hitting each other, make them non-violent. But in my world, simply using force isn”t abuse, not even when someone is hurt. When Dutton and his colleagues point to surveys on which women and men check boxes acknowledging they”ve used force, my response is that”s interesting, but not why I”m here.
“Abuse involves the use of force and other means to establish or reinforce one”s power over another.”
Abuse involves the use of force and other means to establish or reinforce one”s power over another. And when this happens, someone is victimized. And when persons are victimized, they reach out for help or consider themselves victims. Interestingly, almost no one in the surveys Dutton cites does this. Of the more than 13,000 monographs published on domestic violence since the late 70″s, fewer than a dozen identify any population of “battered men’ seeking help. And, in the one area where they do, arrest, the response has been at least as aggressive as it is when women complain.
“[W]e need to treat exploitation in personal life as a wrong that won”t be tolerated.”
Until we have the magic bullet Dutton believes in, we need to treat exploitation in personal life as a wrong that won”t be tolerated. Yes, folks have lots of problems. And yes, these problems can get mixed up with violence in complicated ways. Right now, at the current level of our understanding and capacity, we can”t do much that is effective to stop these problems. And much of what we do makes things worse. But what we can do is change the norms of behavior so that adult abuse is as unacceptable as smoking, or driving while intoxicated, or child abuse, behaviors that cause a lot fewer problems than abuse. And arrest, prosecution and imprisonment as well as general condemnation and re-education is one of the few ways we have to change norms, as ineffective as they are.
“Neither I nor most of my colleagues deny that women can be as violent and controlling as men. After all, if women were passive, helpless and did what they were told, why would we men expend so much time, thought and effort to control and dominate them?”
I suspect many on this blog will not be convinced that the sort of violent acts recorded by the surveys on which Dutton and those who share his views rely have little to do with the abuse that we want to punish. So, in my next installment, I”ll try to address this issue more directly. But let”s get one thing off the table. Neither I nor most of my colleagues deny that women can be as violent and controlling as men. After all, if women were passive, helpless and did what they were told, why would we men expend so much time, thought and effort to control and dominate them?
Among the claims that seem worth answering, or answering again, are these.
“[Dissident DV authority Linda] Mills’…use of evidence is…quirky and irresponsible.”
To match Dutton”s personal ruminations, here”s mine on Mills. The last time we spoke together, she wowed the audience by telling how, after he was raped by a male friend, she decided not to call police, but to take revenge by having sex with his best friend. Her use of evidence is equally quirky and irresponsible.
Dutton is wrong about the links between behavioral problems, psychopathology and abuse. But even if he is right, this would not change my opinion on arrest. I certainly favor treating persons who are alcoholics or drug addicts or who are mentally ill. But once they commit a crime against another person and are highly likely to do it again, they should be punished, regardless of the context, unless they are legally insane. If a crook or a kidnapper is drugged or drunk when they offend, we don”t excuse them. We give them substance abuse treatment in jail. So too with DV offenders.
The other point I want to reiterate is that arrest is meaningless if there is no punishment. I don”t know how it works in Canada, but in the U.S. arrest is not considered a punishment, though no one likes to be arrested. In fact, its use as a punishment is unconstitutional. In the NIJ experiments, almost no one went to jail. The solution is to use punishment to fit the crime, not to stop punishing criminal assaults. By the way, I would take the same position on women who assault men. In any case, none of this has anything to do with racial discrimination against black women, which was Dutton”s original claim.
So far as arrest is concerned, Andy Klein has shown that arresting and punishing early on has a dramatic effect on subsequent violence. But again, I don”t really care whether arrest stops crime. What I care about is that we send a strong message that persons who commit certain crimes are removed from our society. I don”t think prison is a good place and I know there are almost appropriate services for men or women in prison these days, since I spend a good deal of my time working with men and women in prison. So if Dutton wants to treat these guys while their incarcerated, I take my hat off to him. But just keep them away from their victims.
[Note: All of the posts relating to this debate are available here.–GS]