Pajamas Media advice columnist Dr. Helen Smith (pictured) is a forensic psychologist who often has an interesting perspective on gender issues. One of Helen’s recent blog posts concerns false information about domestic violence being put out by the Tennessee Department of Health. Apparently the Department is putting forth the you-must-be-kidding claim that “Approximately 98% of documented domestic assaults are committed by men against women.”
Helen’s post is below.
My Efforts at Educating Officialdom
So I received this card in the mail announcing the new domestic violence reporting requirements for the Tennessee Department of Health. I decided to check out their website and found it to be lacking in the recent research on the role women play in domestic violence. I also noticed that the reporting form had the word “female” listed first under “patient” and under perpetrator in the first column listed:
So I sent them this letter:
Division of Health Statistics/DV
4th Floor, Cordell Hull Building
425 5th Avenue North
Dear Domestic Violence Reporting Coordinator:
As a licensed psychologist, I recently received a card on the new domestic violence reporting requirements that states that licensed professionals are now required to report cases of suspected or confirmed domestic violence/abuse to the Tennessee Department of Health. I am writing out of concern after reading the information on your site and noticing that much of this information is not updated with the most recent research on domestic violence.
I am a psychologist who has worked with numerous patients who have been victims of domestic violence over the years. As you may well know, domestic violence is not just perpetrated by men against women, it is also perpetrated against men by women. Many professionals do not know this and it is not apparent in your literature. For example, your information to EMS workers states:
“Approximately 98% of documented domestic assaults are committed by men against women. As a result, throughout this text, we will refer to the perpetrator as ‘he’ and the survivor or victim as ‘she’ even though some domestic violence is initiated by women and some cases involve people of the same sex.”
Recent studies are finding that both men and women act out physically in relationships and in one recent study, women initiated violence in over 70% of cases. Here is some information from the head of the American Psychological Association:
“Several studies of domestic violence have suggested that males and females in relationships have an equal likelihood of acting out physical aggression, although differing in tactics and potential for causing injury (e.g., women assailants will more likely throw something, slap, kick, bite, or punch their partner, or hit them with an object, while males will more likely beat up their partners, and choke or strangle them). In addition, data show that that intimate partner violence rates among heterosexual and gay and lesbian teens do not differ significantly.”
The source is here.
Another recent study in the journal “Violence and Victims” found that nearly twice as many women as men perpetrated domestic violence:
“The study, published in the journal Violence and Victims, also found no independent link between an individual’s use of alcohol or drugs and committing domestic violence. In addition it showed that nearly twice as many women as men said they perpetrated domestic violence in the past year, including kicking, biting or punching a partner, threatening to hit or throw something at a partner, and pushing, grabbing or shoving a partner, said Herrenkohl.”
The source is here.
Psychiatric News also reports a study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development that stated that men should not be overlooked as victims and that reciprocal violence leads to injury in men more often than women:
“Regarding perpetration of violence, more women than men (25 percent versus 11 percent) were responsible. In fact, 71 percent of the instigators in nonreciprocal partner violence were women. This finding surprised Whitaker and his colleagues, they admitted in their study report.
As for physical injury due to intimate partner violence, it was more likely to occur when the violence was reciprocal than nonreciprocal. And while injury was more likely when violence was perpetrated by men, in relationships with reciprocal violence it was the men who were injured more often (25 percent of the time) than were women (20 percent of the time). “This is important as violence perpetrated by women is often seen as not serious,” Whitaker and his group stressed.”
The source is here.
In summary, I would just like to request that professionals receive information on female on male domestic violence and that your website be updated to reflect the findings of current research in the field of domestic violence. My fear is that professionals will only report male on female violence and the men and perhaps children that are victims of domestic violence will be left out of the equation to suffer on their own.
Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this matter.
Helen Smith, PhD, HSP