©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
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Patriarchy is not the primary cause of domestic violence and there is little to no empirical scientific evidence to demonstrate that it is. Research concerning the issue demonstrates that there are multiple independent variables that, under specific yet varied circumstances, may cause those who profess love for each other, to beat and batter one another. There is no single scientific validation of any single theory can explain the cause of the calamity. However, I suggest that societies general acceptance of the use of force as a legitimate means of attaining an end, is a overlooked social norm that allows many to condone this type of violence.

Throughout history the majority of women were subjugated by and subordinate to most men. History also documents that the majority of men and some women were more than pleased with such a societal structure. An unbiased review of history reveals that most often when one group is powerful enough to control another group and profit from that domination, they will do so regardless of gender. Ambition is gender-neutral and many women have no less a need for power than many men. It was Marie, not Louis who said, "Let them eat cake."
Men have historically been at the seat of power, however, this does not automatically translate to the fact that all men and not any women would or would not systematically beat and batter others in the social hierarchy to retain their socioeconomic, educational, or institutional place. An unbiased review of history demonstrates that the vast majority of men have been subordinate to many other men and some women. Men have been and remain the victim of more violence than women. Historical records demonstrate that males have been more aggressive then females. No one can deny and data documents that men, especially young men, have always been at the heart of violence. Male violence is a historical fact! However, it is also a well documented fact that men are not only and/or specifically violent against women.

Research concerning domestic violence must investigate more closely how human behavior is effected from a Darwinian (the powerful over the weak) perspective and also examine Maslow's hierarchy of needs. We can not ignore nor cast aside the connection between our genes and our behavior. History documents that the strong, regardless of gender, often exhibit behavior that is intended to dominate the weak. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau report, Child Maltreatment 1996: Reports From the States to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, documents that 17,590 children were physically abused by men and 21,757 children were physically abused by women. A study from the National Institute of Justice, Final Report on Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women, documents that an estimated 1.9 million women and 3.2 million men are physically assaulted annually. The same study reports that 40 percent of women and 53.8 percent of men surveyed said an adult caretaker physically assaulted them as a child. The Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Murder in Families, documents that "in murders of their offspring, women predominated, accounting for 55 percent of killers." The first major study of elder abuse, The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study by The National Center on Elder Abuse documents that 53 percent of the abusers were male and 47 percent female. Children, adolescents, people with special needs, and the elderly, regardless of gender, often do not have the physical or economic power to defend themselves against physical assaults and emotional neglect. Indisputable data documents this behavior is exhibited, by the strong against the weak, regardless of gender.

A cursory review of history will reveal that most mores, norms, rules, or codified law customarily serve the needs of the wealthy and powerful, regardless of gender. History documents that the interests of some men are served more than others, the rich more than the poor, high-status males and females more than the low-status males and females. The mores, norms, rules, or codified laws serve the interests of adults more than children, regardless of gender. The majority of Americans still believe that it is appropriate for men and women to hit [spank] children for behavioral modification. The majority of adults, regardless of gender, accept the use of physical force as a proper process for changing or altering the behavior of others. A society that condones and legitimizes the use of physical force as a proper means of behavior modification should not be surprised that many of its citizens will find a rationale for that type of behavior in its interpersonal relationships. Both men and women have become acclimated to the use of force as a right of the powerful. All fifty states approve of the corporal punishment of our young. The majority of Americans still agree with the concept of the ultimate use of force, capital punishment.

There remains a tendency by societies to resort to force when one wants to change or alter the behavior of another society or nation. Societies often legitimize their use of physical force as a means of attaining their perceived "legitimate" goals. When someone is killed during a war they haven't been "murdered." We bomb the village to stop people from hurting each other. We bomb a country to ensure our flow of oil. Is not logical to conclude that societies historical acceptance of the use of force as a legitimate means of conflict resolution continues to influence our behavior concerning interpersonal relationships?    
Feminists and victims' advocacy groups should examine what they have to gain by continuing to claim, without empirical scientific evidence, that patriarchy is the primary reason, men in general hate women and hence many men will beat and batter women to keep them in their economic, institutional, or social place. Clinging to outdated, unsupported and contradicted beliefs hinders rather than helps bring about needed social change. These claims only serves to further fan the flames of the desire in some women and men for further confrontation. It should be the purpose of all of us who desire change, to make men a part of change, not to keep them a part from it. 

The battle for gender equity clouds the issue concerning the criminally violent behavior of those who do batter women and children. There is no question that we have not yet reached gender equity. However, to continue to proclaim that men have been reduced to beating women and children only to maintain their social status is a claim totally absent any factual data. Susan Faludi in her book Stiffed writes on the last page, "And so with the mystery of men's nonrebellion comes the glimmer of an opening, an opportunity for men to forge a rebellion commensurate with women's and, in the course of it, to create a new paradigm for human progress that will open doors for both sexes." Why she does not understand that as long as women continue to paint men in general as demons, that new paradigm will escape us?

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.

Copyright © 2000 Richard L. Davis



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