Two Domestic Violence Updates

Here are a couple of domestic violence updates.

First, it seems that Amber Portwood has finally been charged with criminal misbehavior for her battery of boyfriend Gary Shirley on nationwide television back in September.  Read about it here (Eonline, 11/18/10).  Portwood is one of the featured mothers on the TV reality series “Teen Mom.” 

Her slapping, hitting and kicking Shirley occurred in the spring, but the feature only aired six months later.  But, faced with video-recorded evidence, the Anderson, Indiana police neither arrested nor charged Portwood until now.  I’ve been trying to figure that one out and my best guess is that they wanted to look at the out takes of the filming to be certain that the event wasn’t staged. 

Apparently they’ve satisfied themselves on that subject and have charged Portwood with two felony and one misdemeanor count of battery and domestic violence.

For her part, Portwood said,

“I didn’t hit Gary in front of Leah so there are no felony charges,” she told “None of this is true, there’s nothing against me. They can’t charge me if they don’t have proof.”

Uh, Amber, remember you were on television.  The whole thing was recorded.  Your assaults, your battery, your obscenities – they’re all on tape.

Well, as I’ve said before, since her conduct didn’t cause Shirley any apparent injury, what Portwood needs is therapy, not prison, and previous reports have said she’s getting it. 

I’m glad to see that the police apparently aren’t giving her a break because she’s a woman, or for any other reason, but we need to take a more sensible approach to DV.  It’s time we stopped pretending that all DV is “battering.”  It’s not; the vast majority of it is either completely non-injurious, or results in very minor injury.

As such, it shouldn’t be a subject for the police and courts; it should be dealt with as the emotional disorder it is.  American and Scottish statistics show that injury more serious than a “minor cut or bruise” is fairly rare.  In the U.S. 61% of women and 75% of men said they had incurred no injury whatsoever in the DV incident asked about by researchers; in Scotland 80% of men and women said they had either not been injured at all or had received only a minor cut or bruise.

In those cases, the police are not the answer, mental health professionals are.  And perpetrators and victims alike must get help.  DV is overwhelmingly a “family affair” in which both partners play a role, so both partners need help; it does no good to treat just one.

In the second case here, Scotland has reported that three times the number of men are reporting being the victims of domestic violence as did so a decade ago (Scottish Sun, 11/18/10).  That’s probably because of heightened awareness of domestic violence on the part of men and their greater willingness to report it rather than greater levels of violence among their partners.

The hard data are that, in the previous 12 months, there were 51,926 incidents of domestic violence reported, of which about 16.6%, 8,604 were reported by males. 

Now, as I’ve said before, Scotland did a study last year that showed that men are about one-sixth as likely as women to view a particular DV incident as a crime and about six times as likely as women to say that an incident is “just something that happens.”  My guess is that those figures correlate pretty closely with men’s tendency (or lack thereof) to report DV incidents to the police.

If so, that would mean that the 8,604 reports by men represent about 51,000 incidents which, if women had been the victims, would have been reported to the police.  In other words, there’s rough parity in victimization between the sexes.  And that of course is about what you’d expect since the same study recorded 5% of men and 5% of women saying they’d experienced DV victimization in the previous 12 months.

Thanks to John for the “Teen Mom” heads-up and thanks to Ed for the info on male DV victims in Scotland.

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