University of New South Wales Ethics Committee Quashes Faulty Domestic Violence Study

April 23, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

It was business as usual for the domestic violence industry in Australia. The industry for decades has tried to convince anyone who would listen that, when domestic violence occurs, it’s overwhelmingly likely that (a) there’s a perpetrator and a victim (b) the perpetrator is a man, (c) the victim is a woman, (d) she took no part in the violence, (e) his violence was part of an ongoing pattern whose purpose was (f) to terrorize and control her. They were puttering right along as usual, peddling the same old snake oil when a funny thing happened.

That was the song they were singing way back in 1971 and it’s the song they’re singing now. In the early 70s, when Erin Pizzey founded the first DV shelter in the United Kingdom, she immediately learned from speaking to the women in the shelter that 60% of them were as violent or more violent than the men they’d left. The nascent DV industry responded to Pizzey’s revelations by threatening her life and probably killing her dog. Pizzey fled to the United States, fearing the violence of the domestic violence industry.

Since then there’ve been literally thousands of studies of domestic violence throughout the English-speaking world and we now know a great deal about the subject. Essentially all of what and is now widely accepted about domestic violence contradicts the claims of the DV industry.

Professor Edward Kruk, in his recent book, The Equal Parent Presumption, summarizes our state of knowledge on domestic violence. His summary includes the following: “A meta-analytic review of family violence research of 250 empirical studies concludes that women and men perpetrate and receive abuse at comparable levels; women are as physically aggressive as men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. Archer’s meta-analytic reviews found that women are more likely than men to use aggression toward their heterosexual partners and more likely to be injured by them…. Whitaker et al also found that half of all partner violence is reciprocal. There is, however, a trend of increasing female-to-male violence being noted.”

Other findings by various researchers cited by Kruk include: “women are six times more likely than men to use severe violence in dating relationships and inflict more severe violence in cohabiting and married relationships;” “violence by women is not primarily defensive, yet is less disapproved of than male-to-female violence. Female initiation of partner violence is the leading reason for a woman becoming a victim of violence herself.” The “central finding” of the Centers for Disease Control in its survey of intimate partner violence “is that men and women inflict and suffer equal rates of interpersonal violence.” Canadian data “indicate that there is twice as much wife-to-husband as husband-to-wife severe violence.” “Intimate terrorism is… relatively rare” occurring “in only 2 to 4% of cases of abuse to which police respond.” “Unilateral severe violence against non-violent partners was three times as common for female perpetrators as for male perpetrators.”

Further: “Men are treated more harshly by the law-enforcement system at every step of the process.” “Criminal justice statistics on family violence thus reflect systemic biases in the way police handle and subsequently record domestic violence.” According to Dr. Donald Dutton, “almost without exception, the research based upon studies utilizing a “gender paradigm” explanation of domestic violence uses samples drawn from battered women’s shelters or treatment groups for men who batter, which are then generalized.” This research methodology is “highly problematic.”

That’s just a small sampling of Kruk’s summary of what we now know about domestic violence. In a nutshell, the domestic violence industry is wrong about most of what it claims about DV and always has been. Back in 1971, that might have been an excusable byproduct of the lack of empirical data on the subject, but that’s no longer the case. Now we have both broad and deep knowledge about domestic violence, who does it, when, how and why. It is far past time that we stopped pretending that the domestic violence industry is either honest about the problem or competent to solve it. If we are truly serious about confronting the problem of domestic violence, we will junk once and for all the notion that it is a “gendered issue.” It’s not.

Once we do that, we can at last begin to take a constructive approach to the problem. Such an approach will surely treat DV for what it is – less a criminal problem than a mental health one. Yes, there are cases in which the criminal justice system needs to be involved. Those are the cases of intimate terrorism, i.e. long-term ongoing violence used by one partner against the other for the purpose of limiting the other’s freedom and autonomy. Those are “2 to 4% of cases.” Otherwise, the sane approach will be via psychotherapy, couples counselling and the like.

And of course the family court system will have to take a sensible approach to the issue. It will need to start vetting cases in which domestic violence occurs or is alleged. Few instances of DV truly indicate an unfit parent, but rather one temporarily stressed by the emotional issues of divorce. For the most part, only those cases of DV that constitute domestic terrorism should result in limiting a parent’s time with a child. And of course false claims of abuse must likewise be treated for what they are – attempts to deny parenting time to the other parent. For that very reason, those false claims constitute child abuse if the parent knows or has reason to believe they’re false. As such, they should be a factor in a court’s considerations regarding parental custody.

But the DV industry’s got its story and it’s stickin’ to it. Never mind 40 years of empirical data showing virtually all of their claims to have been false. The DV industry makes its living saying what it’s always said and politicians, too frightened of some phantom “female lobby” to behave rationally, keep the money flowing to ineffective anti-violence programs and faulty research.

And so it was in Australia. At the University of New South Wales, a “study” was underway conducted by segments of the domestic violence industry known as the Gendered Violence Research Network, White Ribbon Australia and Youth Action NSW. And, given that it was the DV industry that was doing the research, it comes as no surprise that the research is seriously flawed. Again, that’s what these people do, so why would we expect them to change?

But what does come as a surprise is what happened next. As we learn here, men’s health advocates complained to the University’s Ethics Committee and the said committee brought the hammer down on the faulty and biased research (Men’s Health Australia, 4/14/14).

An online ‘domestic violence study’ has been ordered offline by the University of NSW Human Research Ethics Committee.

Flyers published by the survey organisers have been ordered destroyed.

The study, being conducted by the Gendered Violence Research Network, White Ribbon Australia and Youth Action NSW, was found by the Ethics Committee to have breached the University’s code of ethics…

Chair of the Ethics Committee, Professor Heather Worth, found that a quote on the original flyers claiming that “childhood exposure to intimate violence increased the likelihood of intergeneration violence particularly amongst boys” was incorrect. The ethics committee has ordered that the flyers be destroyed and replaced by a new flyer that has correct information, including any quotes.

Professor Worth also found that the participants’ information sheet referred to by the survey was not accessible as claimed. The Ethics Committee has instructed that the survey be suspended until the link is in place.

That’s good news. It turns out that even the DV industry can be held to basic standards of honesty. Well, I guess there’s a first for everything. Up to now, they’ve just created facts out of thin air, written studies citing those facts and then cited the flawed studies to pretend the false facts have an empirical basis. That type of intellectual log-rolling may be coming to an end. The editor of Men’s Health Australia, Greg Andresen said,

“The incorrect statement in question was lifted directly from current White Ribbon ‘Fact Sheets’ that haven’t been corrected.”

For the DV industry, it’s business as usual. But a funny thing happened on their way to coughing up the same old nonsense – someone called them on it. Not only that, but someone with the power to do something about the nonsense had the integrity to put a stop to it.

That’s certainly a template for future men’s/fathers’ rights advocacy. Let’s hope it’s also a trend.


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