Recently, Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett wrote a guest post for WeNews which cited Mary Straus’s research findings that women and men tend to instigate violence in roughly an equal number of domestic violence instances. Monica Henry, who holds a master’s degree in gender and peace building and has served as a domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and elder abuse victim advocate for the Quileute Tribe since 2006, wrote a response to Rivers and Barnett’s article, finding flaws in Straus’s research methods and emphasizing that the kinds of violence women and men usually instigate do not equate.
Rivers and Barnett stated that “surveys of U.S. households have found rates of wife-to-husband violence “remarkably similar” to those of husband-to-wife violence. And an early cross-cultural survey did not find that men were significantly more aggressive than women.” However, Henry takes issue with the data they cite, noting several critiques of studies showing similar rates of violence committed by women and men that Jack C. Straton, Ph.D. noted in his article “The Myth of the ‘Battered Husband Syndrome.’”
Straton, in critiquing studies Straus co-authored in 1980, said that researchers used a “set of questions that cannot discriminate between intent and effect. This so called Conflict Tactics Scale (or CTS) equates a woman pushing a man in self-defense to a man pushing a woman down the stairs.” The studies also “excluded incidents of violence that occur after separation and divorce, yet these account for 75.9 percent of spouse-on-spouse assaults, with a male perpetrator 93.3 percent of the time, according to the U.S. Department of Justice,” and did “not include sexual assault as a category although more women are raped by their husbands than beaten only. Adjusting Straus’ own statistics to include this reality makes the ratio of male to female spousal violence more than 16 to one.” Numerous other critiques of the study can be found within Straton’s article. Henry also notes that “[t]he survey’s finding is also based on claims of innocence by friends and family members on behalf of the accused. [However,] [t]here have been several cases where the accused admits to committing domestic violence or sexual assault and family and friends continue to deny it simply because they can’t handle the thought that their loved one could commit such an act.”
While Rivers and Barnett noted that women usually suffer more severe injuries than men in instances of domestic violence, Henry gives more detail to illustrate the severity of the disparity. She states that “[a]fter analyzing the results of the U.S. National Crime Surveys, Straton writes that ‘sociologist Martin Schwartz concluded that 92 percent of those seeking medical care from a private physician for injuries received in a spousal assault are women. That same study shows that one man is hospitalized for injuries received in a spousal assault for every 46 women hospitalized.’” Henry ends her article by stating that “I am very aware that there are male victims of domestic abuse and I strongly believe that we need to provide them with support…I am also aware that people sometimes make false accusations. But neither of these facts should be used to minimize the degree to which girls and women take the brunt of household violence.”
To learn about efforts to end domestic violence in the U.S. and what you can do to help in the effort, visit the National Network to End Domestic Violence website. You can learn about what the Women’s Law Project has done to “improve system responses to violence against women” here.