What Does the Evidence Show?

One of the many reasons why I do not support feminism is because of its adherents’ propensity for misrepresenting facts and statistics. While that tendency is not unique to feminism or feminists, few groups engage in it with their frequency.

For example, on Finally, A Feminism 101 blogger tigtog decided to challenge the “faulty understanding or outright misrepresentation of a few studies made” concerning whether women are as violent in relationships as men:

A: No. This is an often repeated claim based on either faulty understanding or outright misrepresentation of a few studies made using the CONFLICT TACTICS SCALE (CTS) or similar self-report surveys. One of the authors of the original study, Richard Gelles, categorically rejects this interpretation of his research, and has done ever since these factoids began to be popularised.

She goes on to list a series of articles from Gelles concerning the issue, however, none of them explicitly demonstrate that women do not initiate violence or are not as violent as men. The first article only objects to the claim without providing any particular statistic or evidence to support the objection. The second article presents an interesting and statistically unsubstantiated claim:

We know that there are two to four million women battered in the United States each year. At least half these women fight back and defend themselves, and about 700 times last year, women killed their husbands or partners.

In the majority of cases, the women act in response to physical or psychological provocation or threats. Most use violence as a defensive reaction to violence. Some women initiate violence because they know, or believe, that they are about to be attacked. A smaller number of women, having been beaten and brutalized for months or years, seek vengeance against a brutal partner. Despite Lorena Bobbit’s much publicized act least year, the majority of violence women do not inflict significant injury on their partners: women are typically smaller than their husbands and less skilled in using weapons.

My bolds. These come across as unsubstantiated because there have been no empirical studies that demonstrate exactly how it is concluded that the violence women commit is in fact in self-defense. The only way this information could be gathered is either by asking the women, which opens up the possibility that women would misinform the researchers, or simply assuming this is the case.

The blogger goes on to criticize the method in which the self-reporting surveys were conducted, apparently not realizing that the criticism would work both ways. For one, male victims (who already face a uphill battle because of people who share tigtog’s views) would also be “hesitant to be frank with interviewers due to fear of their abuser discovering their frankness, especially when the researchers made no effort to ensure that respondents were alone when they called to ask survey questions.” Secondly, the statistics that tigtog cites for violence against women also comes from the CTS surveys.

But perhaps the most staggering part of tigtog’s criticism is the articles she uses to support her position. The majority of the articles are at least a decade old. That is important because in the last ten years there have been greater shifts in the way studies on domestic violence have been conducted, particularly concerning the prevalence of male victims. A significantly large number of studies have come out recently demonstrating that men make up a much larger percentage of domestic violence victims than previously believed and most also state that the number is far more underreported than with female victims. Ergo, the use of dated statistics is quite enlightening.

However, there has been criticism of the information presented in the blogger’s post, especially concerning the actual number of women assaulted and the frequency in which assaults against both sexes occur. The article lists numerous instances where the statistics show that women and men assault each other at nearly the same rate:

National Probability Samples Male Assaults Female Assaults

  • Straus & Gelles (1990) 116 (48%) 124 (52%)
  • Straus & Gelles (1986) 110 (48%) 120 (52%)
  • Elliott et al. (1985) 268 (36%) 471 (64%)
  • Straus et al. (1980) 121 (51%) 116 (49%)

Local/State Probability Samples

  • Nisonoff & Bitman 160 (59%) 110 (41%)

Nonprobability Local Samples

  • Makepeace (1983) 137 (59%) 93 (41%)
  • Brutz & Ingoldby (1981) 146 (49%) 152 (51%)
  • Makepeace (1981) 206 (63%) 120 (37%)
  • Meredith et al. (1986) 220 (55%) 180 (45%)
  • O’Leary & Arias (1988) 340 (45%) 420 (55%)
  • Szinovacz (1987) 260 (46%) 300 (54%)
  • Barling et al. (1987) 740 (50%) 730 (50%)
  • Mason & Blankenship (1987) 18 (45%) 22 (55%)

And it also draws the same conclusion I made above concerning the CTS research:

Some women’s advocates criticize the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS) often used in these studies. What I find interesting about those who find fault with the CTS is that, when it comes to estimating the “projected” number of female victims of domestic violence, these same critics often use data that come directly from the CTS, namely:

  • 2 million women are assaulted by their husbands each year (Straus, 1977).
  • The FBI reports that a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds in this country by her husband (Calif. Dept. of Justice, 1997).
  • 4 million women are assaulted by their male partners each year (Family Violence Prevention Fund, 1997).
  • A woman is assaulted every 9 seconds in this country by her male partner (Family Violence Prevention Fund, 1997).

All of these statements are based on the data that comes from the CTS. Without the CTS none of these statements could be made.

And recently it has been shown by the CDC that the rates are much different than what is often expected:

Furthermore, Whitaker discovered, of the 24 percent of relationshipsthat had been violent, half had been reciprocal and half hadnot. Although more men than women (53 percent versus 49 percent)had experienced nonreciprocal violent relationships, more womenthan men (52 percent versus 47 percent) had taken part in onesinvolving reciprocal violence.

Regarding perpetration of violence, more women than men (25percent versus 11 percent) were responsible. In fact, 71 percentof the instigators in nonreciprocal partner violence were women.This finding surprised Whitaker and his colleagues, they admittedin their study report.

As for physical injury due to intimate partner violence, itwas more likely to occur when the violence was reciprocal thannonreciprocal. And while injury was more likely when violencewas perpetrated by men, in relationships with reciprocal violenceit was the men who were injured more often (25 percent of thetime) than were women (20 percent of the time).“This is important asviolence perpetrated by women is often seen as not serious,”Whitaker and his group stressed.

Indeed, or perhaps it is more often dismissed as self-defense or simply nonexistent. That is one of the many battles advocates for male victims and male victims themselves must fight whenever they try to address these issues. It is because of attitudes like those of tigtog, which unfortunately borders on denying male victims altogether and justifying abuse against them as “self-defense,” that there are so many misrepresentations about the reality of violence between the sexes. The dismissal/denial of male victimization will only change when people stop listening to biased propaganda like what is presented on Finally, A Feminism 101 and they start demanding objective research on these kinds of issues.

Until that happens, more men and boys will suffer in silence while people like tigtog will readily deny it even occurs.


4 thoughts on “What Does the Evidence Show?

  1. TS, thank you for taking tigtog to task. I’ve tried to debate on that site, but as they limit anti-feminists such as myself to 3 posts a day, it’s a laborious process. I’ve had a project on the back burner forever to address some of their basic beliefs and definitions, but as usual I have way more projects than time…

    That reminds me of another project – a notebook for all my ideas!

    I’d like to post a link to your site on my blog. You’re welcome to do the same with mine, if you like.


  2. To be honest, I noticed the post when it was first made, but it took me some time to read it because I had to get enough bread crumbs so I could find my way home. I do not think the premise of the site is a bad idea, but the execution leaves much to be desired. The explanations are so circular and so subjective that the blog is far less informative than it is propaganda. To that extent, the only people it really helps are other feminists who would already agree with the positions of the blog.

    I will be sure to add your blog to my list. I quite enjoy your posts on Glenn Sacks’ blog.

  3. TS,

    Another excellent and well thought out post, thanks.

    One thing I did not read in your post though that I personally believe may lead to false data is the following.

    What man wants to admit that his wife is abusing him? In our society most of us are taught from early on to minimize any physical attack from a female because it might show weakness.

    I believe that many men are shamed by the reality of what is happening in their own home. Most choose to suffer in silence rather than let others know the sad truth.

    By the way can you imagine what a judge or an officer would say to a MAN that used the excuse “I initiated violence because I believed, that I was about to be attacked.”

    They would throw away the key…

  4. Well, my take on the reporting of female abusers is that male victims face a greater likelihood of being arrested if they call the police. The police will not be inclined to believe them. And if male victims are seriously injured, should they go to the hospital they could easily say they were mugged, in a fight or just messing around and no one will bother to question it. Going before a judge is another matter entirely because women have successfully argued that they murdered their husbands because the men made them wear high heels.

    I do recall a few instances of men stating that they struck women in self-defense, but I cannot recall instances in which those men did not end up in prison.

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