Domestic violence against men

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Kalighat painting, "Woman Striking Man With Broom," Calcutta, India, 1875

Domestic violence against men refers to abuse against men or boys in an intimate relationship such as marriage, cohabitation, dating, or within a family. As with violence against women, the practice is often regarded as a crime but pressures against reporting complicate issues.[1][2] Laws vary greatly from place to place.

Many men that report their abuse to the authorities often face social stigma as well as possibilities of retaliation and other dilemmas. Shelters and help lines exist in many nations to assist both sexes in getting help. Cultural norms about the treatment of men by women as well as of women by men have varied greatly depending on geographic region and sub-region, even area by area sometimes, and physically abusive behavior of partners against each other is regarded varyingly from being a crime to being a personal matter, with a trend towards fighting domestic violence only starting over the past few decades.[1][2][3]

The prevalence and frequency of intimate violence against men is highly disputed, with studies coming to many different conclusions for different nations and many countries simply not having much data. The true number of victims is likely to be greater than formal law enforcement related reporting statistics. Data from one survey looking at students in thirty-two nations found that "about one-quarter of both male and female students had physically attacked a partner during that year."[4] For example, Northern Ireland police records for the 2012 period listed 2,525 male victims of domestic violence, a large increase of 259 cases compared to the year before, with the jump due to widespread campaigning to spread awareness of the problem.[3]

For the United States, a study by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) in 2000, surveying sixteen thousand Americans, showed 7.4% of men reported being physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, or date in their lifetime. As well, 0.9% of men reported experiencing domestic violence in the past year.[5] That would equate to about 2.5 million victims per year (using the 2000 census). Data about campus rape, such as from a National Institute for Mental Health and Ms. Magazine study, has also found a 1 in 7 sexual assault rate for men at U.S. colleges.[6]


Estimation processes and difficulties[edit]

Determining how many instances of domestic violence actually involve male victims is difficult. Male domestic violence victims may be reluctant to get help for a number of reasons.[7] Some studies have shown that women who assaulted their male partners were more likely to avoid arrest even when the male victim contacts police.[8]

Another study examined the differences in how male and female batterers were treated by the criminal justice system. The study concluded that female intimate violence perpetrators are frequently viewed by law enforcement and the criminal justice system as victims rather than the actual offenders of violence against men.[9] Other studies have also demonstrated a high degree of general acceptance of aggression against men by women.[10]

Some researchers have shown many police officers do not treat domestic violence against men as a serious crime, and often will view the male victim as a "pathetic figure". It is for this reason, and also the view among many law enforcement officers that men are inherently "stronger" than women (and disregarding that violent women tend to use objects to assault more often than men), that male victims are often less likely to report domestic violence than female victims. When and if they do, men are often treated as the aggressor in the situation, and often even placed under arrest.[11]

A 1997 report says significantly more men than women do not disclose the identity of their attacker.[12] As well, a 2009 study showed that there was greater acceptance for abuse perpetrated by females than by males.[1] In a recent study of the judicial attributions of sentences for battered women convicted of killing their male partners, researchers found that judges often minimized previous partner violence, describing discrete episodes of violence, rather than as ongoing patterns of serious domestic abuse.[13]

Estimates of male victimization and reporting data[edit]

As stated before, Northern Ireland police records for the 2012 period listed 2,525 male victims of domestic violence, a large increase of 259 cases compared to the year before with the effects from widespread social campaigning shown.[3] For the U.K. in general, a 2010 article in The Guardian reported that statistical bulletins from the Home Office and the British Crime Survey found that men made up approximately 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004–05 and 2011-12. The 2011-12 bulletin stated: "7.3% of women and 5% of men reported having experienced domestic abuse in the past year, equivalent to an estimated 1.2 million female victims of domestic abuse and 800,000 male victims". [14][15]

A 2014 study that surveyed 1,104 British university students on their use of physical aggression and controlling behavior found that women were more physically aggressive to their partners than were men. There was no significant sex difference in controlling behavior, which significantly predicted physical aggression in both sexes.[16] The main author of the study, Elizabeth Bates, summarized the findings: “This study found that women demonstrated a desire to control their partners and were more likely to use physical aggression than men. This suggests that intimate partner violence may not be motivated by patriarchal values and needs to be studied within the context of other forms of aggression, which has potential implications for interventions.”[17]

A study by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2000, surveying sixteen thousand Americans, found that 7.4% of men reported being physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, or date in their lifetime. Additionally, 0.9% of men reported experiencing domestic violence in the past year,[5] which would equate to about 2.5 million victims per year (using the 2000 census). The likely numbers are, as referred to, even higher.

The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in a 2013 report that a large number of men reported being victimized by a partner. To be precise, about 26% of homosexual men, 37% of bisexual men, and 29% of heterosexual men described being a domestic violence victim. Their analysis looked at 2010 data of over 16,000 U.S. adults.[18]

A thirty-two-nation study of university students published in the journal Children and Youth Services stated that "about one-quarter of both male and female students had physically attacked a partner during that year." Also, 7.6% of males surveyed had been subject to "severe assault". The most frequent pattern was that of "bidirectional violence" in which two partners combated each other.[4]

For New Zealand, a 2009 report by the Journal of Applied Social Psychology evaluated samples of university students (35 female, 27 male), general population participants (34 female, 27 male), and also incarcerated participants (15 female, 24 male). The survey found that 16.7% of total male respondents reported physical abuse (12.9% for students and 15.4% for convicts) while 29.5% reported mutual partner violence (14.5% for students and 51.3% for convicts).[1]

Reciprocal violence[edit]

Findings that women are as violent as men have been termed "gender symmetry".[7][19][20][21][22][23] Researchers into domestic violence, while finding that the practice is common among both sexes across the world with strong action needed in both cases, have hotly disputed whether this symmetry exists. Complicating the issue is the frequent situation of mutual couple brawling.

The thirty-two-nation study of students published in Children and Youth Services, referred to already above, also "revealed an overwhelming body of evidence that bidirectional violence is the predominant pattern of perpetration; and this study, along with evidence from many other studies (Medeiros & Straus, 2007), indicates that the etiology of PV is mostly parallel for men and women." The data involved included a total of 13,601 students surveyed.[4]

A study involving 1,104 young men and women found that "women are more likely than men to be controlling and aggressive towards their partners" and that "women demonstrated a desire to control their partners and were more likely to use physical aggression than men" suggesting that "IPV may not be motivated by patriarchal values and needs to be studied within the context of other forms of aggression, which has potential implications for interventions".[24]

Straus and Gelles found that in couples reporting spousal violence, 27% of the time the man struck the first blow; in 24% of cases, the woman initiated the violence. The rest of the time, the violence was mutual, with both partners brawling. The results were the same even when the most severe episodes of violence were analyzed. In order to counteract claims that the reporting data was skewed, female-only surveys were conducted, asking females to self-report, and the data was the same.[25]

The simple tally of physical acts is typically found to be similar in those studies that examine both directions, but some studies show that male violence may be more serious. Male violence may do more damage than female violence;[26] women are more likely to be injured and/or hospitalized. Female partners are more likely to be killed by their male partners than the reverse (62.1% to 37.9% per Department of Justice study), and women in general are more likely to be killed by their spouses than by all other types of assailants combined.[27] From a data set of 6,200 cases of spousal abuse in the Detroit area of the US in 1978-79, a study found that men used weapons 25% of the time while female assailants used weapons 86% of the time; 74% of men sustained injury and of these 84% required medical care.[28] Other studies report that female perpetrated domestic abuse is more common than male among adolescents.[29][30]

Martin S. Fiebert of the Department of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach, has compiled an annotated bibliography of research relating to spousal abuse by women on men. This bibliography examines 275 scholarly investigations: 214 empirical studies and 61 reviews and/or analyses that appear to demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. The aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 365,000.[31] In a Los Angeles Times article about male victims of domestic violence, Fiebert suggests that "... consensus in the field is that women are as likely as men to strike their partner but that—as expected—women are more likely to be injured than men."[32] However, he noted, men are seriously injured in 38% of the cases in which "extreme aggression" is used. Fiebert additionally noted that his work was not meant to minimize the serious effects of men who abuse women.

In a 2002 review of the research however Michael Kimmel found that violence is instrumental in maintaining control and that more than 90% of "systematic, persistent, and injurious" violence is perpetrated by men. He points out that most of the empirical studies that Fiebert reviewed used the same empirical measure of family conflict, i.e., the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS) as the sole measure of domestic violence and that many of the studies noted by Fiebert discussed samples composed entirely of single people younger than 30, not married couples.[33] Kimmel argues that among various other flaws, the CTS is particularly vulnerable to reporting bias because it depends on asking people to accurately remember and report what happened during the past year. Men tend to underestimate their use of violence, while women tend to overestimate their use of violence. Simultaneously men tend to overestimate their partner's use of violence while women tend to underestimate their partner's use of violence. Thus, men will likely overestimate their victimization, while women tend to underestimate theirs.[34] A review of the controversy surrounding the criticism of the CTS and the dispute between feminist academics and the domestic violence research community Donald Dutton wrote, "It is concluded that feminist theory is contradicted by these findings and that the call for "qualitative" studies by feminists is really a means of avoiding this conclusion. A case is made for a paradigm having developed amongst family violence activists and researchers that precludes the notion of female violence, trivializes injuries to males and maintains a monolithic view of a complex social problem." [35][36]

Similarly, the National Institute of Justice states that some studies finding equal or greater frequency of abuse by women against men are based on data compiled through the Conflict Tactics Scale. This survey tool was developed in the 1970s and may not be appropriate for intimate partner violence research because it does not measure control, coercion, or the motives for conflict tactics; it also leaves out sexual assault and violence by ex-spouses or partners and does not determine who initiated the violence. Furthermore, the NIJ contends that national surveys supported by NIJ, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics that examine more serious assaults do not support the conclusion of similar rates of male and female spousal assaults. These surveys are conducted within a safety or crime context and clearly find more partner abuse by men against women.[37] Murray Straus has argued that the criticism of the CTS by pro-feminists is erroneous, driven by ideological commitments and that despite being critical of the CTS, pro-feminist researchers use a CTS for their research, but one that has been biased in order to minimize female perpetration.[36][38]

In a meta-analysis John Archer from the Department of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, UK, writes:

The present analyses indicate that men are among those who are likely to be on the receiving end of acts of physical aggression.[7] The extent to which this involves mutual combat or the male equivalent to "battered women" is at present unresolved. Both situations are causes for concern. Straus (1997) has warned of the dangers involved—especially for women—when physical aggression becomes a routine response to relationship conflict. "Battered men"—those subjected to systematic and prolonged violence—are likely to suffer physical and psychological consequences, together with specific problems associated with a lack of recognition of their plight (George and George, 1998). Seeking to address these problems need not detract from continuing to address the problem of "battered women."[39]

An issue paper by the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse concludes,[40]

we stress that while the number of studies finding gender symmetry is ever growing, we consider their reliance on the CTS inherently limits the robustness of information produced. We argue that practitioners should have confidence that data available from multiple sources support claims of gender asymmetry in domestic violence. What the data presented here demonstrate is that both men and women perpetrate a range of different forms of aggression in relationships but may have different motivations, including self-defence. Both men and women can experience violence by an intimate partner but their experience of this is likely to be different in terms of the forms of violence experienced, its severity and impact. The severity of physical injury and levels of coercion from all forms of violence in relationships appear to be greater for women than for men.

Causes and related issues[edit]

Gender roles and expectations can and do play a role in abusive situations, and exploring these roles and expectations can be helpful in addressing abusive situations. Likewise, it can be helpful to explore factors such as race, class, religion, sexuality and philosophy. However, studies investigating whether sexist attitudes are correlated with domestic violence have shown conflicting results.[41][42]

Some researchers have found a relationship between the availability of domestic violence services, improved laws and enforcement regarding domestic violence, increased access to divorce, and higher earnings for women with declines in intimate partner homicide by women.[43]

In Norway, researcher Anja Bredal's opinion is that non-Norwegian men are being assaulted by their wives who are of the same ethnicity—who are Norwegian citizens.[44]

Assaults against partners, for both sexes, will sometimes take place in retaliation for adultery or for perceived social embarrassment. Alcohol abuse and psychological stress are co-morbid with domestic violence. Perpetrators, of both sexes, often have emotional control problems and a related inability to communicate while talking through issues. Many perpetrators were victims of domestic violence themselves previously.[1]

Abuse against men in heterosexual relationships[edit]

In the case of heterosexual couples, female violence is less recognized than male violence.[45] When asked, the women generally used indirect ways to express this and suggested that often when they were violent, it was justified because they were previously victims; the idea of a "primary aggressor" comes from this. This relates the violent attitude of the women to the existence of her background as a victim.[46] Nevertheless, researchers could find standard casual causes of violence, such as experiencing this problem during childhood or adolescence and consumption of illicit substances.[47][48]

According to some authors, males do not complain when their female partner is aggressive because society may influence how they feel, or they are afraid of being ridiculed.[49] Within the sociocultural stereotype of masculinity, it is frequent that some of the victims cover or hide their suffering out of fear of being judged negatively by the rest of society, police (if they complain), or by whatever authority is charged with dealing with these abuses.[50] For some men, this evasive behavior could be justified by fear of feeling ridiculed by their friends or coworkers, or simply out of shyness with their peers, in front of women, or out of fear of people saying that the woman is the real victim, the need of assistance to abandon machismo and to act submissively towards the violence they suffer.[51]

Male abuse by other men[edit]

A lack of data about non-heterosexual couples has held back research in this area. However, studies such as a 2013 report by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as mentioned before, have found that victimization of men by other men in the relationship context is a serious problem. Specifically, 26% of homosexuals surveyed reported experiencing intimate partner violence. The study evaluated 2010 data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which involved over 16,000 U.S. adults.[18]

"This report suggests that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in this country suffer a heavy toll of sexual violence and stalking committed by an intimate partner," CDC Director Tom Frieden stated. He also remarked, "We know that violence affects everyone".[18]

Portrayals of domestic violence against men[edit]

Media portrayals of domestic violence against men has often described it in humorous terms, with the violence being inconsequential or justified.[1]

Responses to violence against men[edit]

Police services have expanded their efforts to arrest and prosecute female perpetrators of domestic violence in some nations. For instance, the total number of women prosecuted by the United Kingdom's legal authorities for domestic violence hiked from 1,575 in 2004-05 to 4,266 in 2008-09. As well, shelters specifically for men have been set up, although they are dwarfed by the number of women's shelters. In England and Wales, sixty places exist to house men versus the over seven thousand for women.[14]

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has campaigned to spread awareness of the problem of male victimization and to promote reporting of incidents to the proper authorities. The first crisis shelter for male abuse victims, called 'Men's Aid NI', was opened in early 2013. Men's Aid NI chairman Peter Morris has remarked, "Domestic violence against men can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse ... in heterosexual and same-sex relationships and, as with domestic abuse against females, can go largely unreported."[3]

In the U.S., for example, the Domestic Abuse Project (DAP) of Delaware County has campaigned to assist victims of both sexes for decades. DAP Executive Director Rita Connolly has remarked, "It’s a tough thing for a guy to come in". Around three percent of DAP supported individuals have been men. Conolly has also commented that men that do come in "usually come in to get a female abuser out of the home for the sake of children" rather than for themselves.[2]

Social activist Erin Pizzey, well known as having opened one of the first women’s refuges in the U.K. in 1971, has said that almost as many men as women are victims of domestic violence and found that over half (62%)of the women she admitted were "violence-prone". She also stated that men were in need of a different kind of help than is currently available to them.[52]

There were calls for the passing of a law against domestic violence against men in the Philippines.[53] Domestic violence against men is can be classified on police files. However domestic violence against men in the Philippines remains highly undocumented.[54]

Battered Husband Syndrome[edit]

One of the first studies conducted regarding domestic violence against men was done by Susan K. Steinmetz in the mid 1970s where the concept of "Battered Husband Syndrome" was proposed in the magazine "Victomology" in the 1977 edition.[55] This investigations affirmed that the number of threats of domestic violence from wives against husbands exceeded the threats from the husbands by 20% and they concluded that women have more intentionality of violence than men, but they cannot carry it out. The study was conducted on 57 residential families in New Castle County, Delaware, United States. The result was that 93% of the people used verbal aggression and 60% used physical aggression, like throwing objects or pushing their spouse,to solve marital conflicts. While 39% of men threw objects, 37% of women did the same. 31% of husbands pushed or grabbed their wives forcefully, while for women it was 22%. Steinmetz came to the conclusion that violence was reciprocal between husbands and wives, intentionality was the same in women as in men, and women are more likely to initiate the conflict.[56]

In another study, Susan Steinmetz asked university students to fill out a survey about conflict resolution models in their families. The result was that 95% of people, with no difference between men and women,used insults and verbal aggression, while 30% practiced physical aggression like throwing objects, pushing their spouse, or trying to hit him or her.Steinmetz's arguments were supported or criticized totally or partially by numerous investigators; not counting the debate about gender symmetry.[57][58]

Arguments against Steinmetz[edit]

In some cases, Steinmetz was criticized for not differentiating between verbal and physical aggression or threats between real violence. Another criticism is that she did not differentiate between intentionality and action: wanting to hit was considered the same as actually hitting.

The criticism that David Finkelhart put forward in his studies was that Suzanne Steinmetz used analogies that are unacceptable according to the scientific method. The studies that homologate male and female violence, or violence against children with violence against one's wife,do not differentiate between the mother hitting the child with the hand or a father breaking the mother's ribs, placing all of these on the same level. These analogies are considered inappropriate by David Finkelhor because they were allowed outside of familiar contexts and did not distinguish between abuse and maltreatment. To discipline a rebellious child is not the same as hitting one's wife.[59]

In 1986, Martin D. Schwartzhad already question Steinmetz's study at the presentation of the preliminary results of an investigation in the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. In this, and over 59 000 cases that included both spouses, wives with ex-husbands and vice versa, Schwartz found that 95% of the victims of domestic violence, between 1973 y 1982, were women and 5% men. Additionally it described how men would immediately call the police if they were attacked by their wives while abused women would rarely do that, y if they did it was when their lives or the lives of their kids were at risk.[60]

In a study conducted in 2003 by David Gadd and Stephen Farrallo of the department of criminology at the University of Keele and Damian Dallimore of the University of Sheffield, about domestic violence against Scottish men, investigated why they exists a greater number of male victims in the data contributed bye the Scottish Crime Survey versus the real registered cases in criminology data bases, and they concluded that it can be explained by the different experiences of the genders in the patterns of victimization and presentation of information. Then to study a sample of men originally counted as «victims of the male sex», the others maintain that thse men would exaggerate their experiences when they responded to the Scottish crime survey.[61] s In the studies that appear to show that the men define themselves as victim when the defend themselves, the husbands are the ones that identify as targets of violence by women. Juan Carlos Ramírez Rodríguez believes that, that given socially acceptable model of femininity as submission, passivity and abnegation, whatever behavior that does not follow this stereotype will be perceived in an exaggerated way as abnormal and violent. The women will will be perceived as disproportionately aggressive even if she is defending herself.[62]

In 1977, Murray Straus, who published in 1980 with Steinmetz,presented a study perofrmed in 1975 on a sample of 2,143 married and non-married couples, which held that that women commit on average 3.0 attacks a year compared with 2.5 attacks from men. Strauss used a sclae of 1 to 8 to evaluate the gravity of the attacks.[63]

The principle criticism against Murray Straus is that he only interviewed one member of the couple. She treated the self-evaluations in which the perceptions changed according to whether or not the interviewee was the husband or the wife. He would asked them a used set of questions that could not discriminate between attention and effect. In the Scale of Tactics of Conflict or CTS» defended her self by pushing a man who was pushing her down the stairs against a man and this is qualified as a women being as violent if she was defending her child against sexual abuse from the father as if she initiated the fight. This scale combined categories such as 'hitting', 'trying to hit' and 'attention to hit' despite the difference between them.

Emerson, Russell and Dobash are some of the investigators that questioned the reliability of Murray Straus's work and, there fore, the reliability of the results.[64]

They considered that those that held that there was a symmetry in violence of both genders were exaggerating their encounters y and that it is not possible to compare feminine violence with masculine violence in the payer, that deferred the quality in favor of the quantity. The authors questioned the methodology, the data and the theoretical framework used by investigators that held what they called the 'myth of symmetry'. The aggression perpetrated by men is more grame, there are many in one episode of violence and they have more devastating effects by the caused injuries.[65]

Jack C. Straton, professor at the University of Portland who held that Suzanne Steinmetz had createed the 'The Myth of Battered Husband Synrdrome', criticized Steinmetz's study for lacking, in his opinion, serious methodology, like, that the sample in 1977 57 couples 4 women had been hit en serio, while the husbands had not endured hitting, only threats.[66]

See also[edit]


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