Woman Comparable to Men in Domestic Violence: Stereotypes and their Consequences

Anti-Stigmatization CategoryIt’s very common to hear about violence against women and about male batterers rather than about violence against men and about female batterers. Like it or not, experts that do not cherry pick their data find a fairly even split when the general public is polled in various ways.

Domestic Violence expert John Hamel, LCSW recently addressed this, with abundant research citations, for a book chapter. I will provide, with his permission, his annotations. But why? First, derogatory stereotypes are bad in principle. Second, the stereotypes cause people to downplay or ignore domestic violence and related behaviors by women. Third, funding for shelters and other services for men who are victims of domestic violence is affected. Fourth, men may end up as victims of the justice system when it turns against them because of the stereotypes.

PoliceConsider these two examples:

A volunteer who presents about male victims was presenting to a police department. She had 200 law enforcement personnel present. At the end, she got a police officer to volunteer a call to a shelter, posing as a male victim. He called a hotline for a battered womens program and asked about services for men, explaining that he was experiencing violence at the hands of a female. The hotline worker said, “You should be in jail.” The officer restated that he needed help because his wife was violent. The hotline worker hung up on him.

In a recent article in the San Diego Metro Weekly domestic violence was mentioned in the context of the California Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage, regarding gay divorce. It says,

And, if any violence has preceded the divorce discussions and say… the local gendarmerie is called in, our boys are subject to domestic violence laws, which are stickier by far than if they were single and decided to box each other on the ears.

This not only assumes there is no violence in lesbian relationships, and there certainly is, I’ve seen it, but it also diminishes the seriousness of it by referring to it as boxing the ears.

Hamel’s Review of Research

Now here is a taste of Hamel’s review of the data. Thank you, John!

Straus et al. (1980); Straus & Gelles (1990). Both National Family Violence Surveys, with a combined sample of more than 8,000 respondents, reported comparable gender rates for not only physical assaults, but verbal abuse as well.

Rouse, Breen and Howell (1988). This survey of 130 dating and 130 married students found that women are more likely than men to engage in isolation behaviors, such as “monitors time,” “discourages same-sex friends” and “discourages opposite sex friends.”

Stets (1991). The male and female respondents in this study of dating students reported equivalent rates of controlling behaviors (e.g., “I keep my partner in line,” “I am successful in imposing my will onto my partner”), as well as psychological abuse (e.g., “Said mean things,” “Degraded him/her”).

Kasian & Painter (1992). The authors surveyed a large sample (1,625) university students. Male respondents reported higher rates of received abuse, as measured by a modified version of the Psychological Maltreatment of Women Inventory, for control, jealousy/isolation, verbal abuse and withdrawal of affection. There were no gender differences in rates of received emotional abuse (“diminishment of self-esteem”).

Feder and Henning (2005). In this study of 317 couples dually arrested for IPV (interpersonal violence), most of them African-American, criminal justice data revealed no differences between the partners in injuries inflicted or weapons use. Interview data revealed no differences in physical assault; women were more likely to use a weapon, but to suffer slightly higher rates of injuries (19.6% vs. 15.0%). There were no gender differences in overall psychological abuse or coercive control tactics.

Stacey, Hazelwood & Shupe (1994). Higher rates of victimization than perpetration were reported by the male subjects in this Texas study of men in batterer treatment on four of the thirteen items from the CSR Abuse Index: “deny rights to privacy,” “deny access to family,” “withdraw emotions to punish,” and “withhold sex to punish.” Although the men reported lower rates of victimization than females on the other items, the differences were usually not large (e.g., “deny freedom of activities” was cited by 71% of men and 72% of women; “deny access to friends” was cited by 57% of men and 63% of women, and “censor phone calls” was reported by 53% of men and 60% of women.) One would have expected much larger differences from this population, considering that the men had been arrested and deemed “batterers,” while their female partners were deemed the “victims.”

Tjaden & Thoennes (2000). The National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS), drawing on a sample of 16,000 men and women, reported that 0.2% of men are stalked each year by a current or former intimate, and 0.5% of women, a ratio of 2.5 women for each man victimized. In addition, .038% of the men reported to having been raped the previous year. Five times as many women (0.2%) said that this had happened to them.

Spitzberg & Rhea (1999). The authors examined a variety of stalking subtypes, collectively known as obsessive relational intrusion (ORI). Results from their sample of college students in Texas revealed a 54% rate of male-perpetrated ORI’s, versus 46% for females.

Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Palarea, Cohen & Rohling (2000). In this college survey, respondents were asked to report on their own ORI behavior, as well as incidents of victimization. There were no overall gender differences in stalking rates. However, men made more unwanted visits to homes and apartments, whereas women left the greater share of unwanted phone messages. Women were also four times as likely to report having been physically threatened.

Meloy & Boyd (2003). The authors reported on 82 female cases from mental health clinics and some who came to the attention of law enforcement. The women were similar to male stalkers in having a history of failed intimate relationships and having cluster “B” DSM IV personality disorders (not antisocial). They were also similar in that 50% — 75% threatened and 50% — 55% assaulted their victim. But they were different in that they more often carried out threats and caused property damage.

Busby & Compton (1997). A large survey of 3,034 engaged couples reported that 6.1% men and 13.0% women had been sexually pressured by their partner.

O’Sullivan et al. (1998). In this survey of 433 dating university students, 18.5% of the men and 42.5% of women reported to having been sexually coerced by their partner.

Muehlenhard & Cook (1988). This college study revealed that men more often than women engaged in unwanted sexual intercourse, at rates of 63% versus 46%. Being taken advantage of when intoxicated was reported by 30.8% of the men, and 21.0% of the women. Among the men, 13.4% had been verbally coerced, and 11.5% of the women said that this had happened to them. The rates were 5.7% for men subjected to nonviolent coercion (e.g., blocking the door, holding the person down), compared with 5.4% for the women. Coercion involving physical assaults was experienced by 1.4% of the men and 2.7% of the women.

Waldner-Haugrud & Magruder (1995). The authors asked a dating population about a range of coercive sexual behaviors. In the previous year, the men had an average of 2.26 incidents perpetrated upon them, and the women 2.86. Persistent touching was reported by 51% of males and 70% of females. Men were twice as likely to report blackmail (8.5% versus 4.2%); women reported a higher incidence of manipulative guilt (30.1% versus 22.5%). The women were twice as likely as men to be restrained or detained, and more threatened with physical force (6.9% to 6.0%); but three times more men had weapons used against th em (4.5% versus 1.4%).

Coker, Davis, Arias, Desai, Sanderson, Brandt & Smith (2002). A re-examination of data of 16,000 respondents from the National Violence Against Women Survey found lifetime male victimization rates of 10.5% for experienced verbal abuse and jealousy/possessiveness, and 6.8% for power/control, compared to rates of 5.2% and 6.9% for women.

Riggs, O’Leary & Breslin (1990). Found a strong correlation between having a dominant and aggressive personality and IPV for both men and women.

Cano, Avery-Leaf, Cascardi & O’Leary (1998). Found a significant correlation in high school dating study for boys and girls between the use of jealousy and dominance tactics and physical assaults.

Hines & Saudino (2003). Using the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale, this survey of 481 university students found comparable levels of physical aggression between the genders. Women were found to have engaged in higher levels of psychological aggression, and the two types of abuse tended to co-exist.

Graham-Kevan & Archer (2005). Drawing upon a community sample of university students and faculty in Lancashire, England, the authors found rates of 13% for female intimate terrorists and 9% for male intimate terrorists, based upon the same criteria as used by Michael Johnson (a combination of physical violence, control, and psychological abuse).

Laroche (2005), and Graham-Kevan (2007). Laroche analyzed a massive Canadian study, the 1999 GSS, involving 25,876 respondents. Respondents were asked about their victimization by a current or previous spouse in the past 5 years. In addition to questions on physical assaults, the survey also asked respondents about victimization from the following psychologically abusive and controlling behaviors by their partner, similar to those in the Duluth Power and Control Wheel: “Limits your contact with family or friends,” “puts you down or calls you names to make you feel bad,” “is jealous and doesn’t want you to talk to other men/women,” “harms or threatens to harm someone close to you,” demands to know who you are with and where you are at all times,” “damages or destroys your possessions or property,” and “prevents you from knowing about or having access to the family income, even if you ask.” For the five year period prior to the study, approximately 3% of the surveyed women, and 2% of the men, were counted as victims of severe intimate terrorism (IT) – defined as having experienced severe and frequent physical violence and high levels of psychological abuse and control, and who would fit Ehrensaft et al.’s “clinical abuse cases” from injuries sustained, fear expressed, and use of police and other services. Graham-Kevan analyzed the results of the same survey, except that she focused on abuse reported for the past year only, and found very comparable rates of intimate terrorism between the genders. This is a remarkable finding, considering the study’s methodology (akin to the NVAWS in t hat its questionnaire framed IPV in terms of personal safety rather than conflict, thus suppressing male victimization rates) and “the inadequate assessment of controlling behaviors suffered by men” (Laroche, 2005, p. 11).

Felson & Outlaw (2007). An analysis of data originally obtained through the NVAWS with a sample of over 15,000 currently married or formerly married adults found that: (1) women are just as controlling and jealous towards their male partners as other way around; (2) the relationship between use of control/jealousy and physical violence exists equally for both male and female respondents; (3) “Intimate terrorists” can be either male or female. (Controlling/ jealous behaviors defined as: “Prevents you from knowing about or having access to family income even when you ask”; “Prevents you from working outside the home”; “Insists on knowing who you are with at all times”; Insists on changing residences even when you don’t want or need to”; “Tries to limit your contact with family and friends.”) Regarding the extent to which men and women engage in “intimate terrorism,” the authors write: “Both husbands and wives who are controlling are more likely to produce injury and engage in repeated violence. Similar effects are observed for jealousy, although not all are statistically significant. The seriousness of the violence is apparently associated with motive, although the relationship does not depend on gender” (p. 404). It should be pointed out that the National Violence Against Women Survey was designed, conducted and analyzed by feminist researchers, who sought to prove that violence against female intimate partners is much more serious than violence against male intimate partners.

Straus (2006). 7.6% of the male respondents and 10.6% of the female respondents interviewed in the International Dating Violence Survey (sample of 13,601 university students in 32 countries) reported having perpetrated severe assaults, and both partners were found to be violent in 68.6% of the cases. Based on 9 items related to dominance on the PRP (e.g., “my partner needs to remember that I am in charge”), the survey found overall dominance scores to be equal across gender, although higher dominance scores were found for women in 24 of 32 countries. It was also found that dominance by either partner increases the probability of severe violence, and that dominance by females increases risk of severe female-only or mutual IPV more than does male dominance.

Robert A. Yourell, MA

Robert A. Yourell, MA, has extensive experience in the mental health and social services dating back to 1975. His training includes Ericksonian communication and hypnosis with John Grinder, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing with Francine Shapiro, PhD, Body Integrative Psychotherapy with Jack Rosenberg, PhD, and solution-focused psychotherapy. He provides free audio experiences on his site that include bilateral sound and Shimmering.
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