Will wonders never cease? I never thought I’d see the day that The Guardian, liberal house organ of the UK, would run an article like this one (The Guardian, 6/7/11).
Frankly, it’s a sensible, fact-based and accurate discussion of domestic violence by women against men. It’s far from perfect, far from complete. But in her limited space, author Nicola Graham-Kevan gets it right.
The article looks like it was inspired by recent reports that more women than ever before have been convicted of domestic violence in the United Kingdom. Graham-Kevan wonders rhetorically if that’s because of more incidents of female-on-male DV or just greater reporting.
My guess is that it’s a combination of factors, the main one being greater awareness on the part of men and the police of the fact that women commit DV in equal numbers with men. That greater awareness has led to greater reporting by men and a greater willingness on the part of police to arrest women.
Perhaps paradoxically, I would also suggest that the general invisibility accorded female perpetrators by the news media has spurred women to more easily commit DV. They can be pretty certain to get away with it without punishment, so why not? After all, the “dramatic” increase in convictions of women has brought the number to just 7% of all DV convictions.
Such at any rate are my guesses about the higher rate of convictions of women.
Meanwhile, Graham-Kevan reprises some well-known figures on domestic violence. Half of it is done by women, about two-thirds of those injured in a domestic violence incident are women and about one-fourth of people killed by DV are men.
Then she asks the pithy question “why has women’s domestic violence towards men been unreported for so long, and what has changed in the last five years to make it more visible?” Amazing as the article is, her answer is still more so – feminism.
One reason may be the feminist movement. Feminism took up the cause of domestic abuse of women in the 1970s, with the world’s first women’s refuge being opened by Erin Pizzey in 1971. Feminism understood domestic violence as the natural extension of men’s patriarchal attitudes towards women, leading men to feel they had the right to control their partners, using violence if necessary. Feminists campaigned successfully to bring the issue into the public arena, thereby securing resources to establish services to help victims. This activism and advocacy led to governmental and public acceptance that “domestic violence” was synonymous with violence against women.
That’s a pretty bland description of the process of demonizing half the population. She mentions Erin Pizzey, but makes no mention of the fact that Pizzey was hounded out of the women’s DV movement by radical activists. Pizzey even received death threats and perhaps her dog was killed because she’d discovered to her astonishment that women coming to her shelter said “I started it. I initiated the violence. I hit too.”
Pizzey saw from the outset that to stop DV against women meant training those women to refrain from initiating domestic violence themselves. Sensible and fact-based though that was, it was anathema to the radical activists that quickly took over the movement.
To her great credit, Graham-Kevan gently skewers the all-but-spurious claim by some researchers that, because men commit most societal violence, they must commit most of the domestic violence. Truth to tell, making that claim against the massive weight of 36 years of studies showing women and men to be equal abusers suggests desperation on the part of the anti-male crowd more than anything.
Graham-Kevan makes the obvious point that although most societal violence is done by men, it’s also overwhelmingly done against men. Any researcher recognizing that fact could actually learn something about the nature of male violence. But of course those doggedly determined to not recognize it won’t.
What’s also true is that domestic violence is different from other types. It’s different because the psychology and the emotions that produce it stem from intimate relationships. Those intimate relationships are different from all other kinds, like business relationships, casual relationships, friendships, etc. Again, this is not hard to figure out if you have an open mind on the subject; but if you’re determined to paint men as evil and corrupt and women as good and pure, then the facts and figures of DV become your enemies.
Graham-Kevan touches too lightly on perceptions of DV by men and women. It’s surely one of the main culprits in keeping male victims “invisible.” Many studies have shown that women are far more likely than men to consider a particular incident to be domestic violence. For example, Scotland’s survey of over 12,000 people at the end of 2009, shows that 54% of women considered an incident to be DV while only 9% of men did. So women in that study were six times as likely to call a domestic incident “violence.”
That’s surely in part a product of four decades of teaching that men commit DV and women don’t. Women have been taught to view much male behavior as “controlling” and that all such behavior is DV. Men have learned no such lessons about women. “Oh what a tangled web we weave…”
The only real shortcoming of her article is Graham-Kevan’s neglect of the role of the news media in perpetuating the myth that men aren’t victims of DV. Here in the U.S. one of the continuing wonders of DV reporting is that violence by women against men is virtually never called domestic violence. Newspapers report the incidents in which a woman is hauled off to jail for assaulting her husband or boyfriend. But with astonishing regularity, the words ‘domestic violence’ don’t appear.
I reported recently on the ongoing trial of Rosa Hill in the San Francisco Bay area. She’s alleged to have attacked her ex with a stun gun and murdered his grandmother outright. I’ve read three articles on the subject so far and not one has contained the words “domestic violence.”
Most recently, Glamourmagazine did an interview with Vice President Joe Biden about domestic violence. Not once in the entire article was the concept of female-on-male domestic violence mentioned. Not a word.
So I’d like to have seen a bit on the role of the communications media in the invisibility of male victims. Of course she’s writing in The Guardian which is reliably one of the main culprits, so maybe her oversight is understandable. Still, Graham-Kevan gets right what she does say including her conclusion.
Large sums of money have been spent on educational campaigns to encourage female victims to seek help. Until there are similar campaigns for men, it is unlikely that the true number of male victims needing help will be known. If the current trends continue however, women may find themselves increasingly likely to be charged with domestic assault, and men more likely to be offered help and protection.
Hard to argue with that.
The Guardian. It’s enough to make you believe in miracles.