November 10, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
When it comes to domestic violence, there’s so much mis/dis-information floating around the news media, blog sites and social media that it comes as a bit of a shock when an article that’s this accurate appears in a major Nebraska newspaper (Lincoln Journal Star, 11/6/13). The piece is by a couple of family lawyers, Chris Johnson and Amy Sherman, who obviously know a thing or two about how claims of domestic violence can be used and misused in child custody cases. To their everlasting credit, they’re going to bat for the truth about domestic violence and, by extension, the right of children to a continuing, full relationship with their fathers post-divorce.
The nominal reason for their article is that, since their last one on the subject, two new studies have come out that lend further support (as if that were needed) to the well-known fact that women commit domestic violence as often as men do and that men are just as often its victims. But first, the authors provide a bit of factual background.
Before we discuss these new studies, let’s summarize what the research shows about domestic violence:
- Women and men commit domestic violence at comparable rates.
- Men and women are victimized by domestic violence at comparable rates.
- Half of all domestic violence is mutual.
- When domestic violence is not mutual, female-only and male-only domestic violence occur at comparable rates.
Those facts have been well-established for decades. Indeed, there’s been essentially no doubt about them among scrupulous researchers since at least the early 1990s. But of course the domestic violence industry has pulled out all the stops to continue their charade that almost all victims are women and almost all perpetrators are men. Up to this very day, those who earn their daily bread by spreading disinformation about domestic violence routinely ignore male victims and female perpetrators. One such highly visible DV activist is Vice President Joe Biden who has never acknowledged the established fact that men are half the victims of DV. Indeed, in the countless words he’s spoken about the subject, I’ve never seen him acknowledge any male victims or female perpetrators.
Still, facts are facts, and they’re starting to catch up with the domestic violence industry. The two new studies Johnson and Sherman report on are just the latest examples.
The two new studies confirm earlier warning signs that women, especially younger women, are perpetrating domestic violence with increasing frequency. The first study was presented to the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in August and concluded that young women are significantly more likely than young men to commit physical dating violence. According to this study, 43 percent of young females reported committing an act of physical dating violence compared to 28 percent of males. Young males and females reported committing sexual violence at comparable rates, 23 percent of males compared to 18 percent of females.
The second study was published in October by the American Medical Association’s journal JAMA Pediatrics, one of the most authoritative sources available. This study found that boys and girls perpetrated sexual violence at nearly equal levels by age 18. According to this study, 48 percent of perpetrators were female and 52 percent were male. The study also found that females tend to assault older victims, while males are more likely to assault younger victims. Perhaps most troubling, the study found females are significantly more likely to engage in group or gang rape types of activity, with 20 percent of females reporting this type of activity compared with only 3 percent of males.
For those who are familiar with the realities of domestic violence, those data come as no surprise. For the general public, steeped in the folklore peddled by the domestic violence industry, they’re likely to come as a surprise, even a shock. I hope so. I hope the general public is shocked awake at the news and the realization that they’ve been sold a bill of goods for so many years.
It’s long been one of my pet peeves that there’s so much social science on various issues that impact child custody matters, but judges routinely ignore it. For example, family court judges decide what family structures will consist of following divorce or separation. Where children are involved, they’re invariably required by state law to make those decisions in “the best interests of the child.” So it’s remarkable to say the least that judges receive essentially no training in what family structure best promotes children’s interests.
In England the idea that judges might actually make better decisions if they knew something about the science of the matter was greeted with only thinly-veiled contempt by the Judicial College, the entity that trains judges there. Here in the U.S., I’ve never heard of a judge who’s read even the basic information on the benefits of equal parenting for children. Academics do the research and publish the papers and books only to have the decision-makers ignore it all completely. So Johnson and Sherman have some suggestions.
These findings are important because many people, including policymakers, judges and social workers, assume most perpetrators of domestic violence are male. These and other studies show those assumptions are not accurate. In fact, they are wildly inaccurate. This means current intervention and enforcement strategies, which are based on the assumption that perpetrators are male, ignore a large (and growing) part of the problem.
Many people also assume most victims of domestic violence are women, despite authoritative research that shows men and women are victimized at near-equal rates.
It turns out that ignorance on the part of “policymakers, judges and social workers” has consequences. (Who’d have guessed?)
This misperception prevents many domestic violence victims from receiving protection and necessary services. According to the Nebraska Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition, the 21 domestic violence and sexual assault programs in Nebraska provided services during fiscal 2012 to 13,264 women, 1,560 men and 8,790 children/youth-undisclosed. That means men made up only 10.5 percent of the adult population served even though they make up half or more of all adult victims.
What Johnson and Sherman neglect to mention is that it’s not just the male victims who are shortchanged by a sexist system, but female perpetrators as well. If a woman’s concerned about her propensity to hit her husband, the affects her behavior may have on her marriage or what her children may be learning from her violence, where does she go to get help? Needless to say, an industry that for decades has denied her existence has nothing to offer her.
Johnson and Sherman don’t overlook the many nefarious uses of our current anti-male system.
Where you have such disparate treatment of domestic violence victims, the system that is designed to protect victims is manipulated easily. Men often are penalized without any real investigation of how the domestic violence transpired. It is not uncommon for male victims of domestic violence to be wrongly charged as perpetrators…
It is common knowledge that women can obtain protection orders more easily than men, even on the same facts, and that female batterers often receive lighter punishment than males for the same conduct.
If we’re truly serious about reducing levels of domestic violence, we’ll drastically alter virtually everything we currently say and do about it. What we do doesn’t work because it can’t work. It can’t work because, as Johnson and Sherman point out, it’s based on claims about DV that have never been true. As long as our approach to the problem is based on the claims of a political ideology instead of sound science, we’re just throwing money away. As long as we pretend that only half the victims of DV are actually all the victims and that only half the perpetrators are all the perpetrators, it’s crystal clear that we’ll accomplish little to combat domestic violence.
And indeed, that’s exactly what we’ve done. Not for nothing did a researcher at the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics remark a few years back that “we have no evidence” that our domestic violence strategy “has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women.”
Nebraskans and Americans generally might want to think about that. Johnson and Sherman make it all the easier to do so.
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