It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:
What happens when one is a radical feminist and reads an article showing that men experience more domestic violence than one assumes? Does one challenge those radical feminist views? Does one rethink her understanding of domestic violence? Or does one try to disprove the statistics by playing semantics?
Karen Ingala Smith decided to go the latter route. She attempted to dismiss the finding of the British Crime Survey, a survey that showed a higher than expected rate of domestic violence against men. She got the ultimate smackdown from one of the professionals cited in the above article, but that did not deter Smith. She chose instead to list her problem with the notion that one in three domestic violence victims is male.
Let us break down her arguments point by point:
It is about domestic abuse and/or conflict, not domestic violence
That is simply playing semantics. Abuse is a type of violence. Trying to separate the two is illogical. Nevertheless, the BCS does not use “domestic violence” or “domestic abuse”. It uses the term “intimate violence” and lists the definitions used in the survey on page 84:
Box 3.1 Definitions of abuse in the intimate violence self-completion module
Non-sexual abuse by a partner: physical force, emotional or financial abuse or threats to hurt the respondent or someone close to them carried out by a current or former partner.
Non-sexual abuse by a family member: physical force, emotional or financial abuse or threats to hurt the respondent or someone close to them carried out by a family member other than a partner (father/mother, step-father/mother or other relative).
Sexual assault: rape or assault by penetration including attempts (‘serious’), indecent exposure, sexual threats or unwanted touching (‘less serious’) carried out by any person.
Stalking: more than one incident of obscene/threatening unwanted letters or phone calls, waiting or loitering around home or workplace, following or watching, or interfering with or damaging personal property carried out by any person.
Domestic abuse: this category combines partner abuse (non-sexual), family abuse (non-sexual) and sexual assault or stalking carried out by a current or former partner or other family member.
Intimate violence: this term covers everything contained in the module: partner abuse (non-sexual), family abuse (non-sexual) and sexual assault or stalking by anyone. Due to the irregular nature of what is contained in this category, estimates for total intimate violence are not presented here.
Perhaps Smith skimmed the survey, saw the word “abuse,” and jumped to the conclusion that abuse is different than violence and therefore the BCS numbers are wrong. Yet the above definitions show that the BCS covers the issue Smith wants covered. The researchers simply used different terminology.
The data does not differentiate between cases where there is one incident of physical conflict/abuse/violence or those where violence is repeated. If we look at the data for where there have been four or more incidents, then approximately 80% of victims are women
I could not find the portion about “four or more incidents” in the BCS. The survey does not break the data down by the number of incidents at all. It only counts whether a person reported a type of abuse. Even if the survey did count the number of incidents, Smith’s argument makes little sense because the number of incidents does not mean the incidents were more severe. A woman can report numerous instances of non-physical threats while a man can report one instance of physical assault with a weapon that resulted in hospitalization. The woman’s abuse, while more frequent, is less severe than the man’s one instance of violent assault.
The data does not differentiate between incidents where violence and abuse are used as systematic means of control and coercion and where they are not
That would not matter in the context of the survey. The survey is designed to determine how often domestic violence occurs, not why it occurs. Had the researchers asked that question, they still would not get an accurate data point because the victim can assume there was control and coercion present where there was not. One would need to interview both the victim and the abuser to objectively determine whether there was systematic control and coercion at play, and there is no way to do that while keeping the survey anonymous.
The data does not include sexual assault and sexual violence
Yes, it does. On page 87, the BCS states, “Sexual assault showed the largest difference between the sexes with 19 per cent of women and two per cent of men having experienced sexual assault (including attempts) since the age of 16.”
The data does not take account of the different levels of severity of abuse/violence, ‘gender symmetry’ is clustered at lower levels of violence
Yes, it does. The BCS breaks down the violence on page 91 by the level of severity and sex. Coincidentally, men reported a higher rate of experiencing severe force and stalking than women did.
The data does not take account of the impact of violence, whether the level of injury arising from the violence or the level of fear. Women are six times more likely to need medical attention for injuries resulting from violence and are much more likely to be afraid
Yes, it does. Pages 92 and 93 list examples, as do pages 96 through 98. That women are more likely to report injury does not mean they are more likely injured. The BCS notes that males are less likely to tell the police or seek medical attention compared to women. That could mean that men experience more injury and simply keep it to themselves.
The data does not differentiate between acts of primary aggression and self-defence, approximately three quarters of violence committed by women is done in self-defence or is retaliatory.
Again, the BCS is not designed to address this issue, and could not objectively do so without talking to both parties. The feminist claim that most women’s violence is done in self-defense has no actual statistical or factual basis. It is based primarily on the word of women accused or convicted of abuse or murder. Given that one can reasonably assume an abuser may lie about the reason for committing abuse, one cannot simply take an abuser’s account as inherent fact. More so, there is evidence suggesting that women are as violent as men and initiate violence more often than men.
Smith appears to realize the facts are not in her favor, and therefore resorts to citing criminal reports to prove women are the overwhelming majority of domestic violence victims. Yet the BCS states that men are less likely to report their abuse to the police, rendering the criminal reports useless.
Smith then turns to sexual violence, arguing that men are more likely to report sexual assault than women, citing–of all people–Michael Kimmel. Yet Kimmel relies on two out-dated studies from the late 1980s and one study from 1996 to support his claim, despite that numerous other studies–including the BCS–report the opposite: men are less likely to report their assaults. Most of those results are based on self-reports. In other words, the men themselves state that they did not report their abuse.
The next attempt to undermine the rate of domestic violence against men was looking at “who gets killed.” Yet this is a statistical trick.The majority of homicide victims are male. Even when one looks at familial violence, the victims tend to be male. The only way that more women are killed compared to men is by singling out intimate partner violence. However, that misrepresents the nature of violence in general, and also ignores that women who want to kill sometimes have other people, typically men, do the killing for them.
Smith proceeds to then argue that the police are not influenced by stereotypes suggesting that men are more likely to be the aggressor:
Research by Marianne Hester (2009), found that women were arrested to a disproportionate degree given the fewer incidents where they were perpetrators. During a six year study period men were arrested one in every ten incidents, women were arrested one in every three incidents.
Yet Hester’s research found:
Incidents with women as perpetrators mainly involved verbal abuse, some physical violence, and only small proportions involved threat or harassment. However, women were much more likely to use a weapon, although this was at times in order to stop further violence from their partners. The police descriptions also characterised female perpetrators as to a greater extent having mental health or other health issues. The police were more likely to question whether they had identified the correct perpetrator in instances involving women.
It appears that the police do accept the stereotype that men are actually the aggressor. Hester’s numerical play on the arrest rate ignores that women are less likely to be reported as abusers. The fewer reports could result in the appearance of a disproportionate arrest rate.
Worse, it appears the opposite is true. According to Hester, 47 men (73% of all men reported) and 36 women (56% of all women reported) were arrested during a six-year period. Forty-seven is a higher number than 36, so it is unclear where the disproportionate rate comes from. Hester’s own numbers suggest that there is no real issue:
Men were arrested for threats to kill, but not women. In contrast (and reflecting women’s use of weapons), violence by women resulted in arrests for a wider range of, and more serious, offences involving assault–from common assault (s39), to grievous bodily harm (s18) to grievous bodily harm with intent (s20).
Men appeared more likely than women to be charged or cautioned. This was the case for a quarter of the men (16/63, 25%) and only one in six of the women (5/62, 8%). According to the data available, the charges resulted in three of the men being convicted (for Breach of the Peace, assault and criminal damage), and one of the women being convicted (for Breach of the Peace).
Men are more likely than women to be charged or cautioned, which undermines Smith’s claim there is no bias when combined with the police’s willingness to assume the woman is not the abuser.
Smith again tries to discount violence against men by claiming:
Women overestimate their own use of violence but underestimate their victimization. Woman normalize, discount, minimize, excuse their partners’ domestic and sexual violence against them. Women find ways to make it their fault.
In contrast, men overestimate their victimization and underestimate their own violence (Dobash et al. 1998). Men are more likely to exaggerate a women’s provocation or violence to make excuses for initiating violence and, where retaliation has occurred, in an attempt to make it appear understandable and reasonable.
The claim that men overestimate their victimization is not based on fact, but based on a misrepresentation of male victims. Again, an abuser will likely lie about their role in the abuse, so if one finds a male abuser who claims to be a victim, one can assume he may downplay his abusive behavior and play up his victimization. However, all male victims are not abusers, and to rely on data collected from known abusive men is dishonest.
That dishonesty is unfortunately typical in feminist discussions about domestic and sexual violence against men. Instead of looking at the data objectively and changing one’s views based on the current information, many feminists either ignore, dismiss, or twist it in order to protect their ideological worldview. That is how one gets statements like this:
A radical feminist perspective, based on an understanding of socially constructed gender roles and differences within the framework of patriarchal society does not mean that all men are violent to women, or that men are genetically pre-disposed to violence.
Perhaps. Nevertheless, Smith spent her article dismissing men’s victimization, relying on biased data collected by biased feminist researchers, many of whom used results from research on male abusers to determine what happens to male victims. That makes it ironic when Smith later states, “those who use statistics that overstate similarities between male and female violence are either doing so wilfully, to pursue their own agenda, or because they genuinely haven’t taken the time to – or have failed to – understand the statistics” because it appears Smith fails to understand the statistics.
Acknowledging that more men experience domestic violence than people assume does not deny any violence against women. The two are mutually exclusive. If men are abused, that does not mean no women were abused. Both can happen at the same time without affecting the other at all, not unlike how it can snow on two different continents at the same time on the same day without running out of snow.
Yet Smith did get one thing right: it does not appear that one in three domestic violence victims are male. If one looks at the numbers, 30% of women and 17% of men experienced domestic violence since the age of 16. That comes to an estimated 4.8 million women and 2.8 million men. That comes out to one in two, not one in three. One in three would result in 10% or 1.6 million men.*
Smith ends with:
I have no desire to deny any man’s reality. Denying women’s much greater suffering as victims of domestic and/or sexual violence is a political act. The differences between men and women’s use of violence and experiences of victimization do not need to be denied or minimized for all victims to be deserving of safety and support. It is quite possible to believe that no woman, child, or man deserves to be a victim of sexual or domestic violence (or indeed of any other type of violence) whist maintaining a feminist agenda to end women’s oppression.
No, it is not. In order to believe that women are the vast majority of domestic and sexual violence victims while arguing that woman’s violence against men and boys is done in self-defense, one must think some men and children deserve to be victims. And as a result, one must deny many men and boys’ reality by denying their victimization. There is simply no way to maintain the above feminist position and honestly believe that no one deserves abuse.
That is the fundamental problem so many feminists have with this issue, and it appears few of them will admit it even when faced with concrete evidence of it.
* This was a result of my misreading of how the 1 in 3 statistic was reached. I am leaving it in the post since people have already read it.