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©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
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DON'T LET THE FACTS GET IN THE WAY

I often read claims, similar to the one that appeared in a recent Battered Women's Justice Project training manual. The Battered Women's Justice Project is a resource center and it provides information and training in certain areas of the law and is concerned with training, practices, and policies about domestic violence issues. Many police officers attend training sessions held by this organization and have this manual. The manual is titled, "Criminal Responses to Domestic Violence: Emerging Issues and Promising Practices.

Dr. Fernando Mederos is a domestic violence consultant and trainer from Boston, Massachusetts. In his article, Domestic Violence and Probation in the manual he writes, "In reality men who batter are broadly representative of the general population of men, many are solid citizens with no criminal records, no substance abuse history, and long term employment." He and too many others like him chose to ignore or are not aware of the fact that there are reams of data that document that the vast majority of men who violently physically batter women and children have backgrounds of family adversity, extensive juvenile and adult criminal records, and histories of criminal violent behavior. The majority have backgrounds primarily of poverty and poor school achievement, long term unemployment, mental illness, substance abuse problems, etc, etc. Much of this recent data is gleaned from civil restraining orders. This information is not solely from criminal justice sources of men who are arrested, as thousands upon thousands of these orders are issued by probate courts where no arrest takes place.

There is no question, as data demonstrate, that some men who batter women do represent a cross section of the social, educational, and institutional strata. However, by writing of batterers that "many are solid citizens" when it is almost impossible to find any empirical scientific data that will allow for an estimation of just what is meant by "many are solid citizens" misleads us. Emerge, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the oldest batterers intervention program in the nation claims that as many as one third of their clients are professional men but, when asked for data to demonstrate the accuracy of those numbers they provide little to no documentation. In fact it seems that no one nationwide has provided concrete numbers concerning percentages that document just how many, "solid citizens" are "broadly representative" of batterers?

A study in New York by Maria Roy proffers that "ninety percent of abusive men do not have a criminal record." I have no idea why that study is still being quoted as the vast majority of researchers no longer except that number as valid. In fact there is little to no data to document the accuracy of that number. Again, there is no question that doctors, lawyers, researchers, etc. do abuse However, what is needed is a percentage of a total percentage of men for any number to be relevant. What is the percentage of the total populace of men who are "solid citizens" who batter or of male batterers in particular who are "solid citizens?" I suspect, because scientific empirical evidence and not anecdotal tales are needed for proof, that it is a very small number. If that is true and the number of "solid citizens" who batter women and children are small and the truth is that the vast majority of men who are "broadly representative" of batterers is from a subsection of some men in particular and not men in general, the theory that patriarchy causes men in general to batter women in particular can not be valid.

If we are to find the right cure, we must find the right cause. There is little to no question that various forms of patriarchy did/do exist, however, how do you provide empirical documentation that patriarchy is the cause of battering? We need empirical evidence that leads us in the right direction. And for the sake of so many women and children who are abused we need to be going in the right direction.

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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