Recent research goes counter to what most seem to believe about domestic abuse. The trend today—as exemplified by the “Me Too Movement—is to make domestic abuse a male thing. Research by Sandra Stith begs to disagree.
There seems to be a double standard when it comes to domestic abuse, Stith points out. When men and women get into violent arguments, police generally view the man as the perpetrator of violence and the woman as the victim.
Very often counselors treat the two separately and differently. Usually they are taken to separate room at the police station. The man’s treatment focuses on his supposed control and power issues, while the woman’s treatment focuses on her being a victim. It is viewed as a “black and white” situation. Current stereotypes making males the culprit and females the victim influcence how they are treated.
“State treatment requirements are not always based on research but often ideology and beliefs,” notes Sandra Stith, a professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State University, an expert in intimate partner violence.
Stith, who has authored several studies of domestic violence, contends that standards of treatment often operate on myths, such as the myth that only men are offenders. Because men are more likely to be arrested for violence against a partner, most treatment programs target them.
“In most of our research we find that although women are more likely to be injured by intimate partner violence, both men and women are often violent,” Stith was quoted in a recent article on PsychCentral.com. She notes that too often the female partner in a domestic situation is automatically put in victim services.
In “Preventing Partner Violence: Foundations, Interventions and Issues,” published by the American Psychological Association in 2009, Stith’s research indicated that many women who are victims are also violent themselves. But, she adds that there has been little research on treatment for violent women. Domestic violence, she asserts, is not only about power and control; violence has multiple causes, including substance abuse, depression, and personality disorders.
Stith’s research is backed up by other studies, including one done by John Archer a few years back. He did an analysis of the available database on domestic violence in the United States and found that women were slightly more likely than men to use one or more acts of physical aggression and to use them more frequently, while men were slightly more likely to inflict injury. Overall, 62% of those injured by domestic violence were women, 38% were men.
In addition, studies comparing lesbian relationships with heterosexual relationships have shown that lesbians women are the recipients of even more violent acts than are heterosexual women.
The Centers for Disease Control 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which was released in 2013 reported, in a study on victimization by sexual orientation, that the lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner was 43.8 percent for lesbian women and 35 percent for heterosexual women.
However, men rarely complain about domestic abuse, nor call in the police, because of fear they will be seen in as unmanly if they complain that a woman has physically abused them. It is usually women who do this, and thus they are seen as the victims. The under-reporting of domestic abuse against males probably makes the disparity between male and female abuse and its reportage probably makes incidents even higher.
As Stith asserts in her studies, a new treatment model must be developed to deal with domestic abuse, one in which the problem is seen as coming from both partners, and in which the emotional disturbances of both partners is understood and dealt with. What also needs to be recognized is that even though one partner becomes violent, the other partner may be provoking this violence through some kind of emotional abuse, such as making verbal threats or depriving a partner of sex in a spiteful way or teasing and/or belittling a partner’s sexual performance in a cruel way.
In addition, some view the #Me Too Movement by women as a form of sexual abuse, a way of emasculating and castrating men. Catherine Deneuve and 99 other French women signed a petition criticizing the #Me Too Movement, noting “what began as freeing women up to speak has today turned into the opposite – we intimidate people into speaking ‘correctly’, shout down those who don’t fall into line, and those women who refused to bend [to the new realities] are regarded as complicit and traitors”.
What Deneuve and others are talking about is a different kind of abuse by today’s feminists. It is not physical abuse nor sexual abuse or misconduct per se. It falls under the category of emotional abuse, but is nevertheless very widespread, subtle and traumatic to men.
Perhaps we should coin a new term: emotional sexual violence.