©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
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     After centuries of ignoring abusive behavior in familial or intimate partner styled relationships, towards the end of the 20th century important progress was made. However, there needlessly continues to be numerous myths, misconceptions, and outright denial that fragment and divide proper understanding of the issue.

     Many advocates individually view domestic violence through a particular and singular lens. They provide different definitions of what domestic violence is and often they reach conclusions based on their personal experience and perspective. Hence, domestic violence, for many, can be more subjective than objective.

     There continues heated disagreement between many women’s and men’s advocates and they often present disparate data. Domestic violence advocates who work in battered women shelters claim that 95 percent of domestic violence victims are women. Criminal justice data from the National Institute of Justice document that 85 percent of victims are women. The National Violence Against Women Survey record that approximately two thirds of victims are women and one third are men. National studies by the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire in 1975, 1985, and 1992 detail that physical abuse rates are approximately equal between husbands and wives.

Too often there seems to be endless argument between many women’s and men’s rights groups concerning domestic violence that:

  • It occurs because of sexism and the power and control men have over women.
  • Both men and women are equally violent.

     Each are red herrings that impede proper progress concerning assistance for victims who are in real need of resources and support. And neither proposition is true.

         Many advocates continue to frame the issue of domestic violence as “battering” behavior exhibited between adult men and women. However, domestic violence by statute law in all fifty states, is child, sibling, spousal, intimate partner, and elder abuse.

     Most researchers and professionals agree that a “battered victim” is a victim whose life is thoroughly, extensively, and completely controlled by an abuser. The victim’s behavior is purposely altered to satisfy the abusers desires while they live in a familial or intimate partner styled relationship. The batterer manipulatively uses psychological methods, physical violence, economic subordination, threats, isolation, and a variety of other behavioral and controlling tactics to ensure the victim does what the abuser wants.

     However, data from the National Violence Against Women Survey documented in the National Institute of Justice report, Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women, reports that most familial or intimate partner assaults are relatively minor. This abusive behavior is not always the result of a well thought out pattern of long term controlling behavior. And data documents this behavior can be exhibited by all family members, regardless of age or gender.

     There are many types of psychological and physical tactics employed by family members or intimate partners, regardless of age or gender, who attempt to “get their way” in a specific or general disagreement. This model of family conflict can evolve from or be exacerbated by anger, anxiety, grief, abusive alcohol or drug use, stress, work issues, difficult medical decisions, and depression.

     Abusers are often people who are self-centered, lack self-control, and tend to seek self-gratification with little concern for the feelings of others. Abusive behavior is not limited to pushing, shoving, grabbing, slapping, hitting and throwing things. Verbal abuse can hurt just as much as physical assault. The verbal abuse can escalate to more violent physical assaults. Often in contemporary society, many accept this type of behavior as “normal.” This conflict is not always violent or injurious and does not involve a specific long term pattern or a carefully crafted motivation by one person to control or alter the behavior of another.

     Contemporary women’s rights movements document that ambition is gender-neutral. Most sociologists agree that, while some “needs” may differ, women have no less a power and control “need” than men. It is apparent that women can be just as tough and demanding (I am women, I am strong) as men. No reasonable and prudent person should dispute and data will document that some men and some women psychology and physically abuse each other.

       The majority of data document and most researchers agree that in violence between men and women, in which the more serious, injurious and sexual assaults are suffered, women are the primary victims. Many studies note that more women than men suffer emotionally and economically. Regardless, this should not be interpreted to mean that women are the only and exclusive victims of domestic violence. All data undisputedly document that some women are abusers and some men their victims. Despite the differences and severity of abuse or the lack of agreement concerning percentages of abusers or victims and regardless of age or gender should not all victims receive our sympathy and compassion? 

     Regardless of these facts, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) continues to sponsor and fund gender isolated and age specific domestic violence interventions. The law is clearly written in gender neutral language so as not to exclude men. Many federal studies document and few will dispute that, at a minimum, fifteen percent of domestic violence victims are men. Although men are eligible for VAWA grant funding, data will document that of the 1.6 billion spent on VAWA I domestic violence interventions, not a single penny was been spent on a specific heterosexual adult male victim intervention program.

     Is it not time agreement is reached that no one, regardless of age or gender, is immune from family or intimate partner violence? Will not inclusion unite us in a common purpose? Proper progress will be rediscovered through the inclusion not exclusion of all abusers and victims, regardless of age or gender.


Copyright © 2001 Richard L. Davis



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