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©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH

I don't pretend to be the brightest bulb in the circuit when it comes to the issue of domestic violence. I am after all, a former Marine, a retired police officer, and a man. However, a recent landmark research report, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, that was jointly sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leads me to believe that I might be on to something. The report documents findings from the National Violence against Women (NVAW) Survey concerning intimate partner violence in the United States. If you are truly interested in the issue of domestic violence this report is a must read. It's on the Web at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij or email askncjrs@ncjrs.org and ask that they mail you a copy. It clearly demonstrates that intimate partner violence is a very real problem for millions of Americans. However, it also documents that many have reached wrongheaded conclusions concerning data presented. Sadly, I must begin with a disclaimer, as often what I write is misinterpreted and misunderstood by many feminists and victims' advocacy groups.

Unbiased research continues to demonstrate that in violence between men and women, in which the greater physical and emotional injuries are suffered, women are the predominant victims of severe injuries. Reams of data demonstrate that the more violent the incident the greater likelihood that the victim is a women. In fact, women are 8 times more likely to be the victim of rape or sexual assaults than men. All data documented by the various agencies of the U.S. Department of Justice clearly indicate that men exhibit more violent behavior than women. I agree with the authors of this report when they write that, ". . .physical assaults committed against women tend to be more chronic and more injurious." However, this report quite clearly and concisely documents data that is almost never revealed by the national media. There are millions of men who are also victims of domestic violence. I don't understand the need to keep this information in the closet.

This year the President once again proclaimed October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I would think domestic violence awareness would include all victims of intimate partner violence? The President in part proclaims, "According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, each year in the United States approximately 1.5 million women are raped and/or physically assaulted by their current or former husbands, partners, or boyfriends. As unsettling as these statistics are, it is also disturbing to realize that the children of battered women frequently witness these attacks, thus becoming victims themselves." The President then documents the billions of dollars spent through the Violence Against Women Act.

The President is right and the report documents that 1.5 million women were raped or assaulted by partners. However, in the very same sentence the survey reports 834,732 men were also raped or assaulted. Why was the sentence cut short and that information left out by the President?  The authors of the report write, "Given these findings, intimate partner violence should be considered first and foremost a crime against women, and prevention strategies should reflect this fact. The fact is, as the authors know quite well, almost all of the monies and efforts, both public and private, are being spent for the prevention and study of violence against women by men and almost nothing is spent for the prevention and study of violence against men. It is after all, the Violence Against Women Act.

The report documents that nearly 25 percent of surveyed women and 7.6 percent of surveyed men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime. Further it states 1.5 percent of surveyed women and 0.9 percent of surveyed men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a partner in the previous 12 month. The report estimates that approximately 4.8 million women and 2.9 million men suffer from intimate partner physical assaults annually. It reports that 41.5 percent of women and 19.9 percent of men were injured during their most recent assault. Most intimate partner victimizations are not reported to the police and men report less than women. The report estimates approximately 503,485 women and 185,496 men were stalked by a former partner in the previous 12 months.

The report indicates that the number of male rape victims was insufficient to reliably calculate an annual estimate. However, a 1998 study by these same two agencies reports that 302,100 women and 92,700 men are forcibly raped each year. The authors also note that in a forthcoming study, Final Report on Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women, data indicates that 40 percent of surveyed women and 54 percent of surveyed men said they were physically assaulted as a child by an adult caretaker.

Regarding criminal prosecution 7.5 percent of women who were raped and 7.3 percent of women who were physically assaulted were criminally prosecuted. Only 1.1 percent of the men who were physically assaulted said their attacker was criminally prosecuted. A comparison of police response to domestic violence incidents showed that police officers were much more likely to take a report and to arrest or detain the perpetrator if the victims were female.

This brings me to the point of this article. The authors write, "Although it is unclear from the survey data why police respond differently to reports of physical assaults involving female than male victims, it is possible they do so because physical assaults committed against women tend to be more chronic and more injurious." That is a fact that my 21 years as a police officer allows me to agree with. However, I can not believe that the authors of this report don't know or understand that for the last two decades police officers have been trained that it is women who are the victims of domestic violence, not men. The President in what is supposed to be an "awareness month" can't even bring himself to mention that, as this report indicates, one out of every three victims of domestic violence is a man. The authors of this report, over and over again, attempt to dismiss the numbers of male victims. They conclude that intimate partner violence is perpetrated primarily by men. That is a fact that most street level police officers have known for many years, and research has demonstrated over and over again to be true. However, why is it that male victims are almost always rendered invisible, just as the President has done? Why were the male victims so easily dismissed by the author's of this report, when their own data indicate that as children, males suffer more domestic violence than females? What is the logic in dividing men and women into two different camps? Indisputable data in their own research demonstrate that millions of men are victims. Why do they write, "Given these findings, intimate partner violence should be considered first and foremost a crime against women, and prevention strategies should reflect this fact.?" The authors know only too well that in stranger violence the victims are primarily men. Does this mean we should have prevention strategies that first and foremost reflect that fact at the exclusion of prevention programs for women?

I believe the majority of feminists and victims' advocacy groups will dispute the fact that more than half as many men (2.9 million men - 4.8 million women) are the victims of intimate partner violence. Where is the logic in dismissing men as victims of domestic violence in the very same report, by the very same authors who factually demonstrate that women need help? Women need help with this issue and because of a myriad of issues, often need more help than men. However, this should not be to the complete exclusion of men. It is time we understand that there are men who need help. The acceptance of that fact would truly make this October a authentic Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Please read Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, and let me know your opinion of the report.

EDITORíS NOTE:
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 © 2000 Richard L. Davis

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