©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
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Last months column concerned the flawed number of women being reported as "battered women." The larger numbers of 60 million, 18 million, or in fact any numbers that seem unbelievable, are most often just that, unbelievable. Some of the numbers reported are simply pulled out of a hat for effect. Smaller numbers such as 188,000, 1.3 million, 1.8 million, 4.8 million or other numbers that do seem possible are often based on fact and are real numbers. However, what accounts for the numerical difference in numbers presented by researchers and the women's rights movement is that they do not necessarily report the number of women who are being systematically battered by a man. Agreement concerning just who is a "battered woman" continues to plague researchers and impede proper intervention. Researchers, professionals, and the women's rights movement have been disputing this definition for years. The actual number of woman who are "battered" still remain in the eye of the beholder. How can we agree on numbers if we can not agree on definition? 

Most researchers and professionals agree that a "battered women" suffers from what is often labeled "patriarchal terrorism." Most researchers and professionals agree that a "battered woman" is a woman whose life is thoroughly, extensively, and completely controlled by a man and her behavior purposely altered to suit a mans desires while they live in a familial styled relationship. The batterer systematically uses physical violence, economic subordination, threats, isolation, and a variety of other behavioral controlling tactics to ensure she does what he wants her to do. The problem with the numbers documented in my June and July articles and often reported elsewhere, is that the vast majority of data that purport to demonstrate the number of "battered woman" do not document the above type of victim or abuser.

     The vast majority of studies used to measure the number of "battered woman" employ some form of the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS) developed by University of New Hampshire in 1971. CTS is the most common measure of non-sexual family violence. It measures three styles of interpersonal conflict in familial styled relationships. It measures, most often through telephone interview, the use of rational verbal agreement and disagreement, the use of verbal and nonverbal aggressive behavior, and the use of physical force or violent behavior. It is not designed to measure in any rational context the reason or motivation for the behavior of either abuser or victim.

     Almost all of the modified versions of the CTS ask questions such as:

  • Did you have something thrown towards you that could hurt if it hit you?
  • Were you grabbed, pushed, or shoved?
  • Were you slapped, hit, bitten, or kicked?
  • Were you hit with an object, choked, or beaten up?
  • Were you threatened with a knife, gun, or other weapon?
  • Was knife, gun, or other weapon used against you?

     The question begged here is, how many of us have not been guilty of, or a victim of, some form of the behavior described by the CTS scale? How does a single yes answer to any one of the above questions document that a victim of an isolated event is a "battered woman" or that the actor is a "batterer?"  And just as important is the fact that the motivational dynamic is rarely asked and hence rarely answered. No one, not the most ardent feminist or male chauvinist, can argue with any degree of reason or certainty that some of these self reported behaviors could not have been motivated by an isolated argument, anger, jealousy or revenge for some perceived prior behavior and/or fueled by an excessive use of alcohol or drugs.

     Simple and cursory research concerning the "battered woman model" document the phenomenon is very real. I believe that most police officers in this nation honestly agree that both the batterer and victim, noted above, exist in their community. None of what I write is an attempt to dispute that fact. My concern is just the opposite. What I proffer is the attempt by many in the women's rights movement to inflate the number of victims and to paint all men as batterers and all woman equally at risk of being battered has resulted in driving many men and woman away from the issue. The victims of battering, the majority who are at the lower end of the socioeconomic, educational ladder, become marginalized because of the claim that all women are equally at risk for battering. All studies document quite clearly that women who suffer social, economic, and educational deprivation and lack family support are at a greater risk of severe battering. These victims are the ones who most need our help and their batterers need sure, swift, and just sanctions.

     The constant attempt by the women's rights movement to paint all men as batterers has caused many men to minimize or deny or ignore this type of behavior even when they suspect a friend might be a batterer. Many men fear being caught in the women's rights legal dragnet for batterers. After all, many in the women's rights movement continue to profess that these witnesses, are men and hence they must be guilty of something. The continued drumbeat by many in the women's rights movement and some researchers that all men are demonic batterers and all woman angelic victims has resulted in the majority of men and women in America, who are not abusers or victims, to ignore the plight of many battered women that lack resources or family support.

     Many women and African American women in particular, during the 1800s, came to distrust white suffragettes led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton because of their repeated attack on marriage and in particular when both turned their support away from the rights of African American women in the South to vote. Today, many men and woman, who are neither batterer or victim, have come to distrust many in the women's rights movement because of their repeated attack on all men and because they continue to present flawed and dramatically differing numbers of abusers and victims simply to support their position. And once again many very real victims are marginalized in society because of their social, economic, and educational status.

Richard L. Davis, the author of "Domestic Violence: Facts and Fallacies", Praeger Publishers, Westport CT (1998), retired after 21 years of service with the Brockton, Massachusetts Police Department, he is a Domestic Violence Intervention and Programs consultant. rldavis@post.harvard.edu

Copyright © 2001 Richard L. Davis



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