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The hidden half of domestic violence

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Let's Interview Only Cats

The below is emphasized by Dr. Murray Straus in "Physical Assaults by Wives, a Major Social Problem,  in which he points out that information provided by women's abuse centers should not be used in making public policy because the tend to present monocular perspectives and because they misrepresent data.  This study is available on the ACFC website at: http://www.acfc.org/html/study.htm#Domestic_Conflict: ----------------------------------------------------------------- The Irish Times http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/archive/ Opinion Monday, September 18, 2000 Blinkered views on domestic violence ------------------------------------- Imagine a survey about cat and dog interpersonal relations which surveyed only cats. Inevitably, it would suggest that all conflict between cats and dogs is caused by dogs, that cats are always victims and that the solution is to ban dogs from the house. Immediately, of course, dog lovers would protest that cats are deeply duplicitous animals who feign innocence but are actually the cause of most of the difficulty between cats and dogs.  They would say that, whereas dogs are demonstrably stronger than cats, most dogs are extremely gentle in their treatment of cats, and that, if anything, it is cats that seek to take advantage of their alleged weakness to torment and provoke dogs. Moreover, uncommitted observers, having no bias towards either cats or dogs, would immediately point out the manifest unfairness of a system of information- gathering that excluded one of the parties to the alleged discord.  I have no doubt that invoking such an analogy with domestic violence will provoke pseudohysterical complaints about the implicit "offence to battered women" from those with entrenched vested interests in this issue.  But the analogy succinctly objectifies the logic of the domestic violence industry. It is an extraordinary reflection on this society that dogs are more likely than men to find champions and advocates. Because our culture has worked for many generations at teaching us that only women suffer hurt or abuse, we will dismiss even the most irrefutable evidence, rather than face the possibility that our beliefs may be false. Worse, we will point to the consequences of our existing beliefs and offer them as evidence that these beliefs are correct.  Thus, people working within an industry that for years has been pumping out man-hating propaganda offer as "proof" that men are never subjected to violence by women the "fact" that men do not report such abuse. Last Monday, on the The Irish Times letters page, Mr. John McGettrick, describing himself as a family law solicitor working in Belfast for the past 20 years, declared himself "astounded" at my assertion that men and women suffer equally from domestic violence.  He described my recent article on the bishops' document on domestic violence as "trite and offensive to the many victims of domestic violence in both jurisdictions on this island".  He sought to dispute what he called my "claim" that "every independent study has found that domestic violence is roughly a 50-50 phenomenon". Where, demanded Mr McGettrick, "are these studies?" I refer him to British Home Office Study 191 (1999).  This survey, the biggest in the world, canvassed more than 16,000 people during 1996, asking the same questions of men and women.  Despite its feminist gloss, the final report failed to conceal that 4.2 per cent of women and 4.2 per cent of men had been assaulted by a current or former partner in the previous year. Since the mid-1970s, many major national surveys in the US and Britain have produced similar findings.  These include the US National Family Violence Survey, 1975/76, and a repeat survey on the same issue in 1985; the US National Youth Survey 1995; and the British MORI Survey of 1994.  The Amen (Abused Men) website (www.amen.ie) has details of nearly 100 surveys and academic studies, the essence of which is that half of domestic violence is mutual, and the remainder divides approximately equally between male and female aggressors.  It becomes obvious from these figures why studies that survey only women or ask questions that presuppose a feminist analysis find that most victims are female.  Similarly tilted surveys of men would suggest that at least three-quarters of domestic violence is perpetrated by women. At this year's Amen conference in March, the Minister of State for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ms Mary Wallace, said Government funding would be made available for substantial research into domestic violence.  She announced a preliminary phase, looking at the available international data, to be completed by the end of June.  I have heard nothing further about this research.  In his letter, Mr McGettrick wrote that, of "the considerable case load" he has handled in the past 20 years, "no more than 2 per cent were men seeking protection".  Given his attitudes, it is a credit to his other qualities that Mr McGettrick has been able to attract this level of male clientele. While the current climate persists, no man in his right mind would seek to invoke the assistance of agencies or services that believe men are nearly always, and women hardly ever, guilty.  If domestic violence ever came to be seen by the police, the judiciary and the State agencies responsible for family matters as a genderneutral issue relating to the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, family lawyers would have fewer clients.  How many of the women who use the services of refuges to dispose of inconvenient men would go to court in a situation where anything as sordid as proof was required? And since much of the bias in family courts has its roots in the perceptions created on the domestic violence issue, such a change would mean most family problems would end up in mediation, rather than in the adversarial court system. 

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