Researchers: Intimate Terrorism by Women Consistent With that by Men

When considering the sorry history of domestic violence advocacy, one must always remember that the goalposts have a way of moving. In the early 1970s, the concept of domestic violence was brought to the public’s awareness. Erin Pizzey opened the first DV shelter in the United Kingdom with space for all comers – men and women both. From her talks with women in her shelter, Pizzey was astonished to learn how many of them perpetrated DV against their husbands/boyfriends. That suggested an important idea to Pizzey – that most victims seemed also to be perpetrators. That in turn suggested that, far from the victim/perpetrator paradigm that would come into vogue, interpersonal dynamics were responsible.

So much for that. Pizzey was drummed out of the DV movement amid a flurry of threatening phone calls. Those who took over her movement were anti-male extremists who brooked no opposition. For them, all DV was committed by men and all victims were women. They even told us why – because DV is part of men’s control of women. DV, according to those true believers, was a political act. That’s a predictable idea given that it came from a movement that was, first and foremost, a political one. They saw things, DV included, in political terms.

But there was a problem with that. In 1975, responsible social science started coming out that showed beyond doubt that, much as Pizzey had suspected, women and men committed DV equally. That made the notion of DV as political oppression by one sex of the other pretty difficult to sustain.

The first response came in the form of blatant dishonesty. The DV industry produced its own studies and generated their own statistics in a vain effort to prove that its politics corresponded to empirical reality. But try as they might, women kept hitting men as often as men hit women.

What was to be done? One answer was “move the goalposts.” That strategic retreat amounted to “OK, we admit that women commit DV, but they only do it in self-defense; men always start it.” That effort was short lived, however. It died the instant studies came out with data on reciprocal and non-reciprocal violence. Those showed that women in fact “start it” somewhat more often than do men.

Those same studies show that the one who initiates DV is usually the one hurt in the altercation, so the studies showing women more likely to be injured by DV were turned on their heads. Now we know that if women don’t want to get hurt by an intimate partner, they shouldn’t start a fight.

Stymied at every turn by empirical facts, the DV industry moved the goalposts again, which I think brings us up to date. Their latest quixotic sally is once again to try to split DV up into that done by women (acceptable) and that done by men (unacceptable). The new term is Intimate Terrorism. IT is psychological or physical abuse that is intended to – and does – control the behavior of the other partner. According to those who would rather alter definitions than admit the obvious, IT is done by men only for the purpose of controlling their partners.

The retreat has been long and has begun to look like a rout, but IT is the misandrist’s latest attempt to make a stand. Sadly for them, Denise Hines and Emily Douglas of Clark University have laid seige to their latest poorly-defended position. It looks like only a matter of time before the retreat continues. Where will it go next? I can’t begin to guess.

Hines and Douglas have a new study of 302 men who sought assistance because they were victims of intimate partner violence. The two researchers decided to test the theory that IT doesn’t happen to men, and here is the fact sheet they’ve generated to answer the question. (I’ll post something on their other fact sheets and their full study later.)

First, here’s their definition of IT.

Intimate terrorism (IT) is a severe form of intimate partner violence (IPV) in which the physical violence is one tactic in a general pattern of control of one partner over another partner. The violence is frequent and severe, occurring at least on a monthly basis, is unlikely to be mutual and is likely to involve serious injury and emotional abuse.

The researchers compared the behavior of the partners of the men who sought help for domestic violence to that of the community at large. They found that, whereas in the community generally, DV is a 50-50 proposition, among the men seeking help, their female partners were far more likely to use all types of IPV including “severe physical.”

Those same female partners were far more likely than those in the community generally to hit first. The helpseeking men were more likely than either their female partners or men in the community at large to suffer either minor or severe injuries. And the helpseeking men were somewhat less likely than men in the community to use aggressive behavior consistent with IT.

In short, the question posed by Hines and Douglas, “IT by Women Towards Men: Does it Exist?” is correctly answered “Yes.”

Our findings supported the description of IT in the literature and we have concluded that female?to?male IT does exist.

• The female partners of men in the helpseeking sample used more physical IPV,
controlling behaviors, and severe psychological aggression than both their male partners and the female partners of the men in the community sample.

•The helpseeking men were injured more frequently than their partners and men in the community sample.

• The female partners of male helpseekers almost always initiated violence during the last reported physical argument (93% versus 56.9%) and ever (91.7% versus 53.0 respectively).

Not only does female?to?male IT exist, but it is consistent with prior research depicting the patterns of violence reported by clinical samples of women seeking help and living in domestic violence shelters.

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