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Domestic Violence: Women Abusers On The Rise?
June 22, 2009 3:36 AM   Subscribe

To date, focus of most research into Domestic Violence has been on instances of violence against women by men based on the arguably sexist premise that it is more prevalent than instances of violence by women against men. However numerous books and studies have contradicted this premise, showing that men and women suffer domestic abuse in similar and sometimes equal rates. Despite this, preconceived ideas of gender roles still lead many to believe it would be virtually impossible for a woman to physically abuse a man, an attitude which Men's Rights advocates say often leads to many battered men hiding in shame, fearful of being ridiculed, or even prosecuted.

Because men are less likely to report instances of DV perpetrated against them by women, very little is known about the actual number of men who are in a domestic relationship in which they are abused or treated violently. "In 100 domestic violence situations approximately 40 cases involve violence by women against men. An estimated 400,000 women per year are abused or treated violently in the United States by their spouse or intimate partner. This means that roughly 300,000 to 400,000 men are treated violently by their wife or girlfriend", although one advocacy website puts the figure in the US alone at around 835,000. And it appears as though many women who batter men are better able to get away with their crime, with one site arguing that female DV offenders benefit from gender bias.
posted by Effigy2000 (190 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
My (four years younger, possibly mentally ill) sister would verbally abuse and hit me for no good reason when I was visiting the family. Theoretically I could have defended myself but knowing her she would have gone around starting rumors how I 'beat her up', possibly causing me even greater grief- so I would just leave. I ended up having to tell my parents I couldn't visit them anymore if she was going to be present.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:20 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sadly, there's very little to these groups that's rational and well-meaning. A serious and good-intentioned effort to reduce interpersonal violence would largely be welcome within the DV community, but as far as I've seen, that's not what's going on here. Instead, these "advocacy groups" all use the same self-reinforcing studies to arguing against the aggressive prosecution of male batterers in some twisted logic that I still don't get. In effect, these groups are the equivalent of a white power group arguing "white people are the biggest victims of hate crimes so we shouldn't have civil rights laws at all."

There are lots of men working to fight interpersonal violence and the idea that shelter workers and other dv community members are wedded to "preconceived ideas of gender roles" and ignoring part of the problem is unfair, especially compared to the people making the claim. Let's not forget the significant problem of DV in the LGBT community, where male victims are routine. Of course, you're not going to find much of a discussion about this problem from "men's rights" groups because they are almost always "conservative white male rights" groups intending to narrow the scope of domestic violence treatment, not broaden it.

There are legit, non-ax-grindery studies that discuss these problems rationally, but of course those rarely get discussed by these "men's rights" groups. Those peer-reviewed articles would likely disagree with your unsupported claim that claim that men are less likely to report instances of DV against them. It's easy to make such a blanket statement, but the studies are far less conclusive. That's how a lot of these websites and pamphlets work.

And that's what gets me the most. This claim, that men are equal victims of DV and nobody knows it, plays off latent anti-feminist and anti-activist sentiments in a fairly intellectually lazy audience. The idea that women have ruined the court system and things are now biased against men is not a hard sell to the conspiracy-minded or those inclined to dismiss the idea that there is significant violence in our society. What's really driving these groups, as far as I've been able to see in the few times I've met with members, is the idea that there's no way DV is really a problem. The old anti-feminist sentiment that "if it's that bad it can't be happening and it's happening, it can't be that bad." Instead of fighting DV, these groups fight the idea that it's a gendered problem, and they do that by making it seem equal in its distribution and therefore less of an imbalance.
posted by allen.spaulding at 4:31 AM on June 22, 2009 [117 favorites]


Four years ago I was living with someone who was a manipulative violent bully. I still have a small scar on my left shoulder, due to her punching me with a set of keys in her hand. Her outburst was due to me not emptying the bins correctly. For a long time I believed her point of view and thought that if only I could behave better, then she would change. I was wrong.

I was maybe too proud or scared to talk to anyone about what I was going through; so it was just a two person view of the world and she was very persuasive, I was scared that I didn't have enough energy to break free from the situation. Scared that I couldn't express myself to other people, unsure that they would believe me.

But, even I could see that having a t shirt ripped and being called stupid because a bag of rubbish was in the wrong place, was undeniably crazy. Being shouted at by someone that had so much anger, her face was red and literally foaming at the lips was enough.

I had lost contact with friends, family had been pushed away, I was unsure of who to contact. I decided to contact my dad, who met me at work. I was shaking as sat in my car and told him what had happened and explained how I'd got the cuts on my hands from defending myself the day before.

He was understanding and I will always be grateful. We went to the police and filed a complaint against her, the police too were understanding and calmly noted everything I was saying without judgement. They said that male domestic violence is far more common than people believe.
posted by ben30 at 4:43 AM on June 22, 2009 [13 favorites]


I've got to say that the stats in the US don't back up this contention, even while they make room for the idea that women batter men.
In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. In recent years, an intimate partner killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.

Callie Marie Rennison, U.S. Dep't of Just., NCJ 197838, Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief: Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, at 1 (2003), available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/ipv01.pdf

# 84% of spouse abuse victims were females, and 86% of victims of dating partner abuse at were female.
# Males were 83% of spouse murderers and 75% of dating partner murderers
# 50% of offenders in state prison for spousal abuse had killed their victims. Wives were more likely than husbands to be killed by their spouses: wives were about half of all spouses in the population in 2002, but 81% of all persons killed by their spouse.
Etc. And the thing about the actual death statistics is that they aren't really subject to that great bugaboo, under reporting, in the same way that battering might be. So while I'm sure women are abusing men, the vast majority of people being killed by their spouses and partners are women (by men). This suggests that there might be something else going on with male reports of abuse.
posted by OmieWise at 4:47 AM on June 22, 2009 [14 favorites]


allen--

Yeah, well, domestic violence isn't a gendered problem. If it makes it easier for you, there are mothers who beat their daughters. It happens.

And what the heck is this?

There are legit, non-ax-grindery studies that discuss these problems rationally, but of course those rarely get discussed by these "men's rights" groups. Those peer-reviewed articles would likely disagree with your unsupported claim that claim that men are less likely to report instances of DV against them.

Likely disagree? Who are you to call people intellectually lazy, when you're not only failing to cite adequate counterevidence, but you're not even asserting clearly that the evidence backs your position? I smell a No True Scotsman fallacy -- no non-axegrindy study would show significant non-reporting, so any study that does show it must be axegrindy.
posted by effugas at 4:54 AM on June 22, 2009 [13 favorites]


the vast majority of people being killed by their spouses and partners are women (by men).

I'd hazard a guess that many of those are jealous fits by guys at the end of relationships, when the woman has moved on & found another partner - so, in other words, only technically spouse murders.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:55 AM on June 22, 2009


Uburoivas, you would be wrong.

Sheesh, just pick up the paper and keep track of the deaths....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:59 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Omie--

Or it may be that women are rather less likely to accidentally kill their mates than men.

Look, let me take this from another angle. Suppose 99.9% of abuse was male on female. What would the experience be for that 0.1% in which the pendulum swung the other direction? How hard would it be to stop, address, let alone prosecute the abuse? Nobody would possibly take it seriously.

99.9% of abuse isn't from guys. But the more the imbalance, the harder it is for those few who find themselves on the receiving end.
posted by effugas at 4:59 AM on June 22, 2009


effugas - Your first point makes no sense. Just because some women beat other women doesn't mean that domestic violence isn't gendered. I'm sure there are some examples of black people discriminating against other black people in the workplace. Does that mean there isn't a racial component to workplace discrimination? Some of the earliest court cases about sexual harassment were of men harassing other men. That doesn't mean that sexual harassment isn't gendered either. As a whole, domestic violence serves as a form of gendered social control.

I didn't link to any cites b/c 1) It's 8AM and I'm at home, 2) the burden of production isn't on me, given that the original claim against orthodoxy was unsupported, and 3) this is MeFi, not an academic paper. If you would like me to link you to DOJ and other studies later, I can.

Again, there is serious interpersonal violence directed against males, both within heterosexual and homosexual relationships. This is something very serious and those who wish to combat it are heroes. I know of almost nobody who works on DV issues who disagrees. Most people who support "men's rights" groups are not actually interested in that cause, but are more interested in taking down feminist achievements. They're often father's who've lost custody rights after being accused of abuse who are out to take down what they believe is an unjust system by playing the victim card.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:01 AM on June 22, 2009 [14 favorites]


UbuRoivas - Even if your guess was true (I doubt that it is), how would those situations only be "technically" domestic violence? It'd be pretty clear that the murderer was attacking an intimate partner to control/dominate/hurt. Indeed, the time period after a victim immediately leaves a batterer is usually the time where the most serious injuries and murders occur. Furthermore, what's complciating those studies more is that they do not disaggregate self-defense. There have been a few researchers that have gone and tried to show that a large part of women who kill their male partners do so out in self-defense, in substantially higher proportions than the men who kill their female partners (again, this is all within a heterosexual paradigm). If this is true, then the numbers are even worse than as presented.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:09 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd hazard a guess that many of those are jealous fits by guys at the end of relationships, when the woman has moved on & found another partner - so, in other words, only technically spouse murders.

I think I'm probably going to try to keep out of this thread to the extent possible, but this statement 1) makes no sense, and 2) seems to highlight the disturbing premise here. If more women than men are being killed by partners or former partners, that's all there is to it. There's no technicality that changes that statistic, as the same technicality applies to murders of men by women. But the desire to find a technicality that would obviate this statistic suggests that this isn't about taking an honest look at the numbers.

I have no doubt that it's hard for men to be taken seriously when they're being abused, but that isn't the only thing this post suggests. It argues that the rates of abuse are comparable. The crime statistics in the US, those that are least amenable to under reporting because they rely on cause of death, convincingly suggest otherwise.
posted by OmieWise at 5:10 AM on June 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


Really? REALLY?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:13 AM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


allen, I'm going to stop short of calling you a misandrist because I'd hate to be the kind of person who throws around such a label with wild abandon. But why do you constantly feel the need to use quotation marks for the words 'mens rights'?

I mean, I get that you're saying these mens rights groups are fronts for anti-feminist men, but what if somebody were to start doing the same for the words 'womens rights' and implying they were nothing but fronts for feminazis? What label would that person then likely have attached to them?

I don't want you to prove you're not a misandrist. But I do want you to recognize the attitude you're displaying is very much the attitude that many of the mens rights activists you so malign are talking about, namely being dismissive of the issue of men battering. You probably don't see it but then many mysoginists don't see their behaviour for what it is too.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:16 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have been a victim of domestic violence at the hands of a woman. It happens. I would even go so far as to say it happens more than many people think, and that the victims can in some cases have trouble finding support or help because of that.

But most domestic violence is perpetrated by men. There exists *reams* of unbiased evidence supporting this. It's 2 AM here and I'm going to bed, but I'd be happy to dig up a host of studies on the subject when I get up if no one else has done so yet.

I have nothing but praise for people who want to draw attention to the plight of male victims of DV, or victims of female-on-female DV -- as I also do for people who want to help, say, male rape victims or male sex slaves. I have nothing but suspicion for anyone who claims that the number of male victims of DV is anywhere close to the number of female victims of DV -- and I would have the same suspicion for anyone who wanted to make that claim about male rape victims or sex slave, as I saw happen in one Metafilter thread a few years back.

The problem exists. But the numbers are *not* the same. Nowhere close.
posted by kyrademon at 5:17 AM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


OmieWise: In recent years, an intimate partner killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.

This data alone don't mean much of anything regarding a balance or imbalance in gendered domestic violence. It's possible that there are vastly more men murdered each year than women (I'm not saying it's true, just that your data needs support). It's also possible that far more male-perpetrated domestic violence ends in murder than does female-perpetrated, even if there is more female-perpetrated domestic violence overall (again, this isn't my contention, but it is possible given this information).
posted by shakespeherian at 5:18 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


You left out the first sentence that had the raw numbers for 2000. In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner.
posted by OmieWise at 5:25 AM on June 22, 2009


Eh, I just put that phrase in quotation marks because I just don't think that MRAs (self-deigned Men's Rights Activists) actually are helping men and I really hate ceding the title. In my own experience, MRAs and these groups are mostly about fighting domestic violence and family law, not about men's health, men's well-being, etc. It's a small point, and not one worth fighting over. Yet the men and women I know who work with male victims of abuse within the gay community would never use the term. And if these people aren't men's rights activists, then I don't know why someone who hangs banners across the city saying "sole custody is child abuse" should get to use the title.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:26 AM on June 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


I can see this isn't going to end well, but I'll weigh in anyway. What does it matter if female-on-male abuse happens less often than male-on-female abuse? It is still a serious problem and the victims deserve to be taken seriously. I do think that our system is currently skewed, but that will change with greater awareness. So far, that is all I've seen men's advocates ask for. We currently have a lot of programs for female victims of abuse. We should work on making comparable resources available for battered men. I am sure that once we have a program to provide aid to men in these circumstances we will be able to come up with more concrete numbers.
posted by domo at 5:27 AM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


I should say that the views expressed in the links of my posts do not neccessarily reflect the views of the author (me) HOWEVER I did think they made good food for thought and debate.

In the interest of debate, to those like Allen and Omie who say that cause of death rates are a good argument to prove violence against women by men is more prevalent, is this argument not in and of itself evidence that the claim of gender bias assisting female perpetrators of domestic violence in getting off of these charges has some weight too it?
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:28 AM on June 22, 2009


allen--

There are women out there who have straight-up lied about domestic violence at home in order to procure favorable custody arrangements -- arrangements that leave a lot of men in a lot of pain. It happens, not all the time, but more than we'd like to admit ,and it's very tragic. A lot of judges -- with no clear evidence in either direction -- genuinely have to make the Hobson's choice of horribly depriving a parent to potentially protect a child from abuse.

If you were one of those parents, you'd be in a right's group tomorrow.

I think your problem is that you really, truly do not grasp how tragic the issues of abuse are, how deep they run and how ill suited they are for facile comparisons of "men vs. women". People do terrible things to one another. Some victims receive significantly more support than others. This is reality. Sucks, but it's true.

You're right. This isn't an academic paper. But welcome to learned discourse -- you've stated that there are credible studies that debunk the assertion that there's a strong reporting bias for DV against (presumably heterosexual) men. You have stipulated that there are studies from the Men's Right's groups that show otherwise, but question their veracity in comparison to the superior studies you've seen, which you believe back up your position.

OK. Sounds like an offer. I think I will take you up on it. I could certainly be proven wrong.
posted by effugas at 5:31 AM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


(me): "In the interest of debate, to those like Allen and Omie who say that cause of death rates are a good argument to prove violence against women by men is more prevalent, is this argument not in and of itself evidence that the claim of gender bias assisting female perpetrators of domestic violence in getting off of these charges has some weight too it?"

To make that clearer, I mean insofar as they say the reported reason the woman killed the man was because of self-defence from domestic violence, whereas the reported reason the man killed the woman was because it was domestic violence?
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:36 AM on June 22, 2009


This claim, that men are equal victims of DV and nobody knows it, plays off latent anti-feminist and anti-activist sentiments in a fairly intellectually lazy audience.

You mean like... you? As explained in the links, very little is known about DV rates for men, as there's a lot of evidence that it's underreported.

My guess is that this is the part where you (or someone else) accuse me of intellectual laziness, reasoning that I can't possibly know if it's underreported if it's, well... underreported. To which I respond that the rate of male-on-female DV cases dismissed for mutual combat (in jurisdictions where that's a defense) would indicate female-on-male hitting occurs more often than we'd otherwise think.

The death statistics mean little for domestic violence. Men are larger and stronger than women. Assuming DV rates were exactly equal, we would still expect to see more women casualties than men casualties. Women are more likely to die of domestic violence, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're more likely to be victims of domestic violence. (I happen to believe that they are more likely to be victims, but you cannot conclude that based on the death statistics.)

As for the sexism discussion, I really think it's off-topic. The only sexist thing in this thread is users' response that caring about male victims is sexist. Adhering to some nonsense drivel that somehow only women, not men, can be victims of gender stereotypes is just a disgusting level of discrimination. Ordinarily I'd say that I'm surprised and ashamed that such ostensibly progressive people could feel that way. But this is Metafilter, so I'm only ashamed.
posted by jock@law at 5:40 AM on June 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


(Utterly tangential: I was once denied a position (unpaid!) with a DV clinic because I was a guy, and "guys aren't DV victims," and many of the women we'd see would be afraid of me. Those were the reasons the interviewer gave me.)
posted by jock@law at 5:44 AM on June 22, 2009


effugas - I do know some of those references off the top of my head (or at least have cited them elsewhere so they're accessible to me now. You are correct in saying that there is deception in family court, but the numbers are heavily skewed. Fathers are substantially more likely to make false accusations than mothers. One study found that 21 % of father's claims of abuse during custody hearings were intentionally false, comapred to only 1.3 % of mother's claims see Bala and Schuman, “Allegations of Sexual Abuse When Parents Have Separated,” 17 Canadian Family Law Quarterly. That's not even close to parity. Obviously all false claims are problematic, but they need to be seen in context. Many of these false claims by fathers are a continuation of ongoing abuse, with a custody battle just a further attempt to establish control over their former partners. Jaffee, et. al, Custody Disputes Involving Allegations Of Domestic Violence: Toward A Differentiated Approach To Parenting Plans, 46 Fam. Ct. Rev. 500, 503 (2008).

And seriously, how you think I don't understand these issues is beyond me. This is part of the work I do professionally and I take these issues very seriously. For decades women have been told that abuse isn't a gendered concern because it's personal and private. That's sort of what I feel you're saying. Of course many people have been hurt by IPV and DV, including victims, children, peers, neighbors, etc. That doesn't mean it isn't a societal problem that can be studied and addressed as such.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:45 AM on June 22, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'd hazard a guess that many of those are jealous fits by guys at the end of relationships, when the woman has moved on & found another partner - so, in other words, only technically spouse murders.

Murdering a woman because she found another partner is a crazy, abusive, controlling reaction. There is nothing "technical" about labeling this domestic violence, nothing that separates it from other instances of domestic violence.

It's possible that there are vastly more men murdered each year than women (I'm not saying it's true, just that your data needs support).


Right, this is actually true; more men than women are murdered, in general. But the other data is not subject to the same criticism: "wives were about half of all spouses in the population in 2002, but 81% of all persons killed by their spouse." Yes, it's possible that women do most of the sub-fatal beating, while men do almost all of the murdering, but the numbers for who is the victim in abuse cases generally (84% women, according to the DOJ's numbers) match up pretty darn well with who is the victim in murder cases. It is far more likely that intimate-partner abuse occurs at the same proportionality as intimate-partner murder, given that there is no reporting problem with murder, and the statistics show the same proportionality for abuse.

Finally, no one should dismiss or downplay violence in an intimate relationship. It is always wrong. Men experience the same cycle of self-blame and fear as women. And I am so glad that the commenters here so far who have described abusive relationships are out of them.
posted by palliser at 5:46 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Eh, I just put that phrase in quotation marks because I just don't think that MRAs (self-deigned Men's Rights Activists) actually are helping men and I really hate ceding the title. In my own experience, MRAs and these groups are mostly about fighting domestic violence and family law, not about men's health, men's well-being, etc.

Aren't "mens health" and "men's well-being" taken care of by the vast majority of laws and political thought by default? I think there are obviously some issues where there's something of a zero-sum game in terms of men and women (such as what happens in divorce)
posted by delmoi at 6:00 AM on June 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


I seem to have insomnia. So, here's some links:

Here’s a study (pdf) which found that 25 percent of women, compared with 8 percent of men, were raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate, and that 93 percent of women and 86 percent of men raped or assaulted since age 18 were attacked by male perpetrators.

This compilation of statistical data (pdf) found that 840,000 women experienced assault at the hands of an intimate annually, as compared to 150,000 men.

Here’s a similar one (pdf) showing that intimate partner violence made up 20% of all nonfatal violent crime experienced by women (about 600,000 total) and 3% of the nonfatal violence against men (about 100,000 total).
posted by kyrademon at 6:07 AM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Some more stats from the DoJ:

* About one third of female murder victims were killed by an intimate.

* About 3% of male murder victims were killed by an intimate.

* Of all female murder victims, the proportion killed by an intimate has been increasing.

* Of male murder victims, the proportion killed by an intimate has dropped.

Intimates are defined to include spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends.
posted by rtha at 6:07 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is fight-picking, and that's what's so frustrating about this post and many of the MRA (or "MRA") articles/speeches/blog posts/comments out there. It is never about finding a solution, or saying, "hey, did you know female-on-male partner violence exists and should be addressed?" For one, because it IS addressed, though certainly more education and resources would be a good thing for those men. But as many pointed out, the DV-fighting community is fully aware of this issue, and would support such efforts.

But as this post describing the actions and influence of many who style themselves men's rights advocates attests, the actual goal seems to be to shut down women's shelters and other resources, not to add resources for abused men.

Jock@law, while your interviewer was uninformed about male victims, most female DV victims would be afraid of a male. It's not fair or right, but it's an unfortunate reality. Do you really blame them and think that the injustice of being denied this one position is somehow equivalent to what DV sufferers went throught? Seriously?

To those new to these discussions, I would ask, why is this seen as zero-sum by so many men's-rights advocates? The shelter that was attacked in the previous link also helped male DV victims, but because it was largely a women's shelter, was put under attack by groups that purport to help and care about male victims. Why?

There are lots of men, like the one who wrote my first link, who work in DV, who do good work and are honored and appreciated for it, by women. And women who don't just help other women in abusive situations, but their children (including boys) and when they can, men too. There is no denial and no battle, there is plenty of room for men to jump in and help other men, and recruit women to do the same. No one is stopping them from having fundraisers, putting up billboards, and doing all the other hard money-gathering work that allows women's shelters to scrape by and provide services to as many people as they can.

But what is it about, this strange statistic-protesting bit, why is it so important to convince others that women are not any more abused than men? Why is that part of the battle to get men services....why is it not enough to simply point out that men get abused and need help, if that is the real aim...why is casting doubt on the reality of abuse of women somehow a necessary component? It's suspicious as hell. And not helping male abuse victims one bit to be used as Trojan horses that will take down women's shelters and DV services.
posted by emjaybee at 6:15 AM on June 22, 2009 [32 favorites]


Previously,
National (Canadian) Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Intimate Partner Abuse Against Men
aardvarc.org, Abused Men.

Decreasing the stigma against male victims first needs for the existence of male victims and female offenders, whether in hetero or LGBT relationships, needs to be rendered visible and taken seriously. (eg, in the course of putting together that previous domestic violence post, I concluded that using gender-neutral pronouns when discussing the topic would help that goal.) The goal can coexist with the need to take seriously the disproportionate number of serious injuries and deaths of female victims of male offenders. See DOJ and mincava ("Factoid from right of center").

on preview, kyrademon and rtha got there first.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:18 AM on June 22, 2009


I wonder how many people who are participating in this thread, and talking about how important it is to take violence against men just as seriously as violence against women, have ever laughed at a joke about prison rape or Lorena Bobbitt.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:25 AM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Probably none of them.
posted by Grangousier at 6:30 AM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Likely disagree? Who are you to call people intellectually lazy, when you're not only failing to cite adequate counterevidence, but you're not even asserting clearly that the evidence backs your position?

I must second this. This situation has replayed itself far too many times. I will stop here for fear of turning a general complaint into a personal attack, but: if you are quick to disparage the research of others, please make an effort to do some of your own. It is all too easy to buoy up a popular opinion on a cloud of favorites and clinking glasses, and to answer an unpopular one with a categorical wave of the hand. Try harder.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:30 AM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


In the interest of debate, to those like Allen and Omie who say that cause of death rates are a good argument to prove violence against women by men is more prevalent, is this argument not in and of itself evidence that the claim of gender bias assisting female perpetrators of domestic violence in getting off of these charges has some weight too it?

No. Using death as a proxy for the whole range of assault and injury is a bit of a leap, but a plausible one. The chain "Because more women are killed by their partners than men, that shows that women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence than men, which means that people are likely to think of them as victims rather than perpetrators, which means that they are more likely to escape punishment for perpetrating such violence," contains three likelys and one fact, which is pretty damn vague, to my mind. I can get you to the moon and back with three likelys and a fact.
posted by Diablevert at 6:32 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


OmieWise: You left out the first sentence that had the raw numbers for 2000. In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner.

Oh, I see. Sorry, it was early and I can't do word problems and the math worked in an order I wasn't expecting. Carry on then.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:34 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]



I wonder how many people who are participating in this thread, and talking about how important it is to take violence against men just as seriously as violence against women, have ever laughed at a joke about prison rape or Lorena Bobbitt.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:25 AM on June 22

Probably none of them.
posted by Grangousier at 9:30 AM on June 22


Let's change the hypothetical. How many times in mass media have you seen violence by women against men treated as comical or trivial, compared to the reverse? The underlying reason these are acceptable to both most women and men is also the underlying reason male victims don't report abuse - the perception is that women can't hurt men, so it becomes humiliating for men to admit to others when they are hurt by women.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:41 AM on June 22, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't believe for a second that domestic violence isn't a gendered problem. All violence is a gendered problem. Men are much more violent than women in their homes and in the world. I would imagine that men do under report domestic violence on the part of women but at least part of this makes sense to me. I've had an ex who got mad at me over forgetting to mail a cable bill and she hit me. She slapped me and hit me in my chest not playfully and it was sort of scary in a "what's going on here ?"of way. She left a small bruise. I told her it was unacceptable and it didn't happen again but we still parted ways soon after.

I didn't report it because I didn't have to. I was much much stronger than her. I would never say that a woman hitting a man is appropriate (except in self defense) I would never trivialize the fact that a man could be caught in an actual physically or emotionally abusive relationship. Still sexual dimorphism being what it is in humans I had little reason to be afraid of her. I had 30 lbs on her and was physically much stronger. And that matters. This isn't about being macho, this about acknowledging that while she could hit me, she could never beat me. What happened to me was probably by the letter of the law domestic violence. I don't really care, I know that psychologically my experience was pretty trivial, it's easy for me to laugh it off as a crazy ex. Had the roles been reversed even if I had pulled punches and only hit her as hard as she hit me her experience would have been different in important ways that would have made the transgression far more serious.
posted by I Foody at 6:46 AM on June 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


I Foody: This isn't about being macho, this about acknowledging that while she could hit me, she could never beat me.

That certainly isn't true for all pairings of men with women, though.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:52 AM on June 22, 2009


I just can't be too upset about this? Really there are not tons of dudes out there getting beaten up by their wives.

Where prosecutions of women falter in domestic violence is child abuse.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:53 AM on June 22, 2009


The death statistics mean little for domestic violence.

That is the most ridiculous statement I've read at MeFi this year. Minimizing the enormous discrepancy in rates of death between men and women at the hands of partners and ex-partners as "well men are bigger and so accidentally kill women more when they fight" is frankly shocking. Many of these episodes of murder come after long periods of threats, controlling and stalking, and many of them involve guns.

The huge difference in rates of murder between male and female partners "mean little" for domestic violence? Jesus, you're living in a dream world.

Which doesn't mean there's not systematic unfairness to men in custody battles, or women battering male partners, or significant under-reporting of female-on-male domestic violence. I think there's truth in all three of those statements. But "death statistics mean little for domestic violence" is just plain disgustingly ignorant.
posted by mediareport at 7:02 AM on June 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm suprised the viable figures (not the ones via "Men's Rights" groups) are as close as they are, but they aren't equal. Men are worse.

At the same time, describing it as a percentage of murders is deceiving, because men are more frequently murdered than women, typically by other men. About four times as many men are murdered than women. See http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/gender.htm
posted by mobunited at 7:05 AM on June 22, 2009


I understand the murder statistics, and I'm not really inclined to attempt to interpret them except to note that it would be easier for a man to accidentally kill his wife, on average, than for a woman to accidentally kill her husband.

What gets me are the statistics for other forms of abuse and assault. Murders get reported nearly all of the time, but it's shameful to admit that you got hit by, or abused by your wife if you're a man, so a lot of times it goes unreported. It seems very likely that a larger proportion of domestic violence against men goes unreported than the proportion against women. People just don't believe it happens, or even that women can do it. In this very thread, Ironmouth just said:

I just can't be too upset about this? Really there are not tons of dudes out there getting beaten up by their wives.

When men hear this, and feel ashamed about it, they won't report it. That, and domestic violence is not just a full-on assault-and-battery. Psychological attacks, and other mistreatment amount to domestic abuse, domestic violence is not always "physical violence."
posted by explosion at 7:10 AM on June 22, 2009


At the same time, describing it as a percentage of murders is deceiving, because men are more frequently murdered than women, typically by other men. About four times as many men are murdered than women.

I think that this is incorrect. Yes, if you simply take the percentage of men dying of murder attributable to IPV then the statistic is a bit hinky because of the hugely disproportionate number of men who are murdered in other situations. The truly shocking thing, however, is to look the other way, at the staggering percentage of murdered women who die from IPV. 33% of all murdered women die as a result of IPV. That's the shocking statistic in about female murder victims in my view. The shocking stat about male murder victims is precisely how disproportionately many more men are murdered than women.
posted by OmieWise at 7:13 AM on June 22, 2009


I've had a very disturbed woman stalking and harassing me for years; whenever I called the police they seemed not to understand what the problem was--unless the problem was that I wasn't man enough to handle the situation myself. I filed for a restraining order but when the court date came around she was a no-show (she said she was never served a summons). The judge asked if I wanted to file for an extension and I said Nah, fuck it. I felt shamed by the policemen's condescension--they were right, I should be able to take care of this situation on my own. I wrote her a letter saying that if she would just leave me alone I would leave her alone, but if she keeps harassing me I will do whatever it takes to see her locked up for a long time. The police showed up at my door, saying if I didn't stop sending her harassing letters they would throw me in jail.

This has been going on for almost ten years. She was here yesterday, banging on my door.
posted by Restless Day at 7:16 AM on June 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


At the same time, describing it as a percentage of murders is deceiving, because men are more frequently murdered than women, typically by other men.

Yes, but a statistic such as "Males were 83% of spouse murderers" does not suffer from the same problem.
posted by palliser at 7:18 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


comment from a MeFite who would prefer to remain anonymous.
I consider myself a feminist. I also consider myself to have once been a woman who abused her partner.

I was fairly young -- my early 20's - and the guy I was with managed to push my buttons in a way no one ever has before or since. But that still wasn't why it happened. The real problem was that I had never known that I had had that much of a capacity for violence and anger within me, and this was the first time it had been triggered by anyone -- and I was totally unprepared for it and had no way to cope or no way to handle it. So I would react to it by slapping him in the face. A lot. Mostly he just took it, but a couple times towards the end of our relationship he hit me back. It was him hitting me back which finally woke me up and made me realize that the fact that anyone was hitting anybody was truly fucked up, so I broke up with him.

And then I tried getting help. I tried talking to friends, telling them that "holy shit, I was hitting the guy. I need some serious help here, with anger management or something like that." And that is where I started running into some unexpected gender bias, in the way people reacted to my news. When I told people that I had hit him, people either soothed me by saying "oh, he must have really done something to push you to it" or wrote it off by saying "you probably didn't really hurt him, don't worry about it." My best friend listened to my news that I had hit my boyfriend, and then recounted a story about some near-violence in her own relationship -- in which she was the victim, though. I just felt like she was so completely disconnected from what I was saying that she had somehow heard that he had hit me instead of the other way around.

People who are abusers in relationships need help. They need help realizing that they need help, and they need help coping with their anger. Men who admit they are abusers and go to seek help have a lot of resources available to them. But when I, a woman, tried to ask for help, people were in denial that I even needed it - and I had to do all that work entirely on my own. Somehow I managed to do that; it took a long time and a lot of false starts and backtracking, but I'm comfortable with my control over my anger now, and I haven't hit a single person in anger ever since.

I can't say for sure whether or not the groups advocating for men as victims of domestic violence are or are not a feminist backlash as such. But I can definitely say that there is a double standard when it comes to women as perpetrators -- and I definitely think this needs to be corrected.
posted by jessamyn at 7:23 AM on June 22, 2009 [27 favorites]


it would be easier for a man to accidentally kill his wife, on average, than for a woman to accidentally kill her husband.

Define "accidentally."

This is willful blindness in the extreme. We're talking about an enormous disparity here -- 85/15 is not waved away with mere guessing games.
posted by palliser at 7:30 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


But I can definitely say that there is a double standard when it comes to women as perpetrators -- and I definitely think this needs to be corrected.

You describe talking to friends, and say that they didn't take it seriously. Did you talk to people who actually work in domestic violence? Did they tell you, "oh, don't worry about it, sometimes we get mad and slap people"?

I'm absolutely certain there are friends of men out there who, upon hearing that their friend hit his girlfriend/wife, would say, "She must have really pissed you off." People are generally inclined to excuse and justify their friends.
posted by palliser at 7:35 AM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Women kill slowly, subtly, and with absolute impunity, worldwide.

If I saw any man beating any woman, I'd try to stop it, and advise one or both of them to get out of the relationship. But you might rarely or never even see that; you can see mental and verbal abuse every day though, without even looking for it. It's the stuff of comedy and has been for a long time. That only a third of murdered women were killed by intimates should seem remarkably low.

Yeah yeah, WHATEVER. Numbers are one thing and a lifetime of observation is another.
posted by rahnefan at 7:39 AM on June 22, 2009


Ignoring the researched statistics AND silencing people: What a great way to end DV.

Of course, as initially mentioned, that's not what this is about. It's about men being uncomfortable with the topic that they live in a society where women are tortured and society is ok with it, and they're standing by doing nothing.

Good job guys.

Or you know, you could try working at a shelter. Men and women need you there.
posted by yeloson at 7:47 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


They're often father's who've lost custody rights after being accused of abuse who are out to take down what they believe is an unjust system by playing the victim card.

And if the accusation of abuse is false - as it was when my wife went to the police after we separated - how would I be playing the "victim card" by trying to restore some balance to the judicial system? Didn't my wife use that victim card to trump my right to see my child? Her ploy was only temporarily successful, but it took a lot of time and money to get normal visitation rights.

I see your statistic that men make false abuse claims more often than women. Do you also have statistics that those claims are accepted on their face, as my wife's was, or are they in fact investigated more often? Do you have statistics that support your claims that men's rights groups are all right-wingers trying to close women's shelters? I've never joined such a group, but their claims that the justice system is gender-biased sure do jibe with my experience.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:49 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


rahnefan, physical violence is not an answer to emotional/mental violence. I sympathize with the argument, I've felt it before for sure--"if you really want to break me why don't you put up your fists and we'll do this".

But when X hurts Y emotionally, mentally, Y doesn't get a right to hit back physically. Y can press back verbally, scream, etc. But the basic issue is that you're letting them hurt you. Cut off the convo, cut off the relationship, whatever. Work it out or disengage.

This sounds like a lecture for second-grader but I'm just writing it out because I understand your point of view, truly. Women get hurt emotionally too. Doesn't mean they get to stab you. Can't work that way.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 7:50 AM on June 22, 2009


How many times in mass media have you seen violence by women against men treated as comical or trivial, compared to the reverse?

Oh, I would certainly agree with that, in fact I'd probably go a lot further. The amount of open contempt for men in general that goes unquestioned in popular culture is extraordinary, apart from anything else.

I was a tad peeved by what seemed to me an attempt to unfairly impugn the credibility of female commenters on this thread, which is somewhat different.
posted by Grangousier at 7:51 AM on June 22, 2009


The problem with a lot of male rights movements is that there is a gradation from genuine reasons for grievances to flat-out old school misogyny. Often some (not all) people will use the misogynists to show how Any Mens-rights movements are bat-shit insane women haters.

People do this all the time. Think of Israel Palestine, Red-state blue state etc.

I think this feeds into the idea that women' s rights or women's emancipation is somehow a zero-sum game. It shouldn't be, but alas, it is.

I also think that, no matter how well-intentioned it might be, campaigns like the recent father's day campaign to "teach your sons that violence is bad" causes some of the, shall I say it "misogyny" backlash.

After all, even if more abusers are men, which I agree with, I think most men, like most women, are basically decent, non-violent people, and the presumptiom in SOME (not all) ads or DV literature that having 23rd pair of chromosomes as XY is practically a marker for abuse, is well, bigoted. I am a man. I think the presumption should be that I would never abuse anyone, and that I have my emotions under control. And I kind of resent the idea that as a man, I must take a clear unapologetic stand against DV. I am a Jew, MUST I take a clear unapologetic stand against white-collar crime simply because of Bernie Madoff? Perhaps as a human being, I should take a clear stand against both?


The relationship between men and violence is complicated. Men for millenia have been taught to "be men" and to bottle up their emotions. Even now, you hear phrases like "man up" or no whining. Men *even now* even in hip places like the coasts, are given less lead to kvetch, or express their emotions. I think this is one reason why men die younger. * They bottle it up, Often times when the bottle cracks under pressure, it explodes into violence. I am not excusing it, I am just saying that when men are violent they are often more violent because they are not taught, and even in the enlightened aughts, actively discouraged from expressing emotions.

So to wit, for those who read this far.
DV is a problem, yeah men do it more to women, but DV is a problem for male victims too, so lets address a *societal* problem and while we're at it, let's stop the zero-sum game and allow men to be house-husbands, to cry, to be vulnerable, to get off the career track, to stop being real-life Willie Lomans. Attention must be paid! **

* data point about why some men are angry. Men die a decade younger than women. I read about six months ago how the problem of all these Widows, who are lonely is a problem society must deal with and which more attention should be paid. Well, shee-it, perhaps the problem is that men die younger? Maybe that is the problem society should care about?
** I always wanted to say that in an on-line discussion, forgive me ;-)

posted by xetere at 7:54 AM on June 22, 2009 [9 favorites]



Or you know, you could try working at a shelter. Men and women need you there.

this.

RestlessDay, that's terrible, and a nice illustration of the ways patriarchy often victimizes men too. jessamyn, thanks for passing along that mefite's story; that's the kind of thing that's needed.

You know, without the DV resources out there for women, what are the chances that any other kind of DV would receive exposure? Exposing DV and addressing the causes regardless of gender and not as some sort of zero-sum battle of the sexes, has a great deal of potential for helping men as well as women.
posted by emjaybee at 7:57 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


jock@law I was once denied a position (unpaid!) with a DV clinic because I was a guy, and "guys aren't DV victims," and many of the women we'd see would be afraid of me.

I got the same exact answer when I volunteered at a local animal shelter. Ironically, one of the women volunteers showed up with a black eye
posted by Restless Day at 7:57 AM on June 22, 2009


I am a woman and a feminist, and I have known a number of young women who abused their male partners. These girls grew up around violence and did not understand that any sort of violent contact was a bad thing. They all knew very clearly that if the guy ever hit them it was bad, but they didn't get that hitting the guy was equally bad.

One girl in particular was 5'5" and maybe 120, she was with a guy who was 6'5" and possibly twice her weight. She'd get pissed off at him and slap him or even once, she tried to scratch his eyes. When he grabbed her wrists and held her hands, he left bruises. She promptly had him charged with DV. Fortunately there were witnesses to testify that he was only trying to prevent her from hurting him further. But the cops and social workers both said that if that hadn't been the case, the fella would have been in jail.

It's just very difficult and both genders need to be taught that ANY violence in a relationship is not acceptable.
posted by teleri025 at 8:03 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I got the same exact answer when I volunteered at a local animal shelter. Ironically, one of the women volunteers showed up with a black eye

I don't understand. You volunteered at an animal shelter and were sent away because you were a man and someone (the animals?) would be afraid of you? Then, ironically (?) a woman volunteer had a black eye?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:05 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think that a significant quantity of female on male domestic abuse goes ignored and unreported, and the tendency to dismiss men who are battered as being incapable of being true victims is an inherent problem in the way that humans structure society. After all, while we talk about men as the bringers of violence, it's conveniently ignored that males are also more likely to be murdered. Not by other women, but mostly by other men.

The other night a scary man showed up on my balcony. As a female I had resources, including my boyfriend's parents taking me in for the night (just in case) and a society that at the moment, understands it's dangerous for me. There just isn't the same social support if say, a scary man shows up on a man's balcony. He can have the man charged for trespassing, but he's not allowed to be scared the man wants to rape and murder him.

For lack of a better shorthand, I tend to refer to this as the patriarchy, because much like polygyny practicing cults that eject surplus young men, the way things are put together there is little space for softness and the only people profiting are people who don’t get culled. The violence becomes self re-enforcing: as a man, if you don't engage in aggressive behaviors you're put at a disadvantage.
posted by Phalene at 8:08 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thank you but I didn't defend violence. Just saying the real surprise ought to be how little of it you actually encounter. It seems like there is a double standard that allows (encourages?) women to seek to control their partners but condemns men who run out of options and react with the lizard brain. And while we can all easily identify a bruise, we can't see a doggone thing that came before it.

Not DV but a quasi-related ponderable thing: I got in a scuffle with someone once in school and was sent to the principal's office; he took note of the obvious redness on my fair skin and the lack of any mark on the other guy (my opponent was black, and showed no mark). I wonder if the visible mark gave my story unfair credibility? He didn't have any idea what could have led up to that fight or who got hurt more than the other. But the other guy was punished and I was not.

But yeah the topic is male victims of DV. I think most any guy would step in to defend a woman if they saw her being hit, but would you do it if it were the other way around? Would that not make him feel even worse?
posted by rahnefan at 8:11 AM on June 22, 2009


Women get hurt emotionally too. Doesn't mean they get to stab you.

See, this is not what I've been told...
posted by LordSludge at 8:12 AM on June 22, 2009


Precisely. We're told "hell hath no fury" and "man up" etc.
posted by rahnefan at 8:15 AM on June 22, 2009


- the perception is that women can't hurt men, so it becomes humiliating for men to admit to others when they are hurt by women.

Pastabagel,
Yes, yes, yes, yes. I totally agree.

So why does the implicit humiliation so often seem to be the stalling point?

It's as though the guys affected by this - collectively - can't see this next step. Get organized. Soberly collate the evidence. Start anon groups. Do all the heavy lifting that female DV awareness groups had to do to alter the public perception of black eyes as something to do with obnoxious broads.

I sometimes wonder whether I dreamed this. But once on a plane I watched an ancient, isolated I Love Lucy episode. Lucy made a joke about "wearing" black and blue bruises inflicted by her husband (it was a fleeting reference, but the wry context was that Lucy's aside was something the "gals" would understand.)

I remember being staggered. It reminded me that, yes, wife battering was truly once seen as the stuff of (awkward) comedy.

Perceptions can change. But it takes hard work.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:17 AM on June 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Kirth Gerson I don't understand.

At the volunteer orientation we were told that many of the animals in the shelter had been abused and statistically men abuse animals way more than women do, so the animals would be afraid of all men in general. Actually they made an exception in my case because of my background as a veterinary technician.

The woman volunteer with the shiner may not have been a DV victim, but it was the left eye . . . it's usually the left eye
posted by Restless Day at 8:20 AM on June 22, 2009


rahnefan, your implication seems to be that most domestic violence (regardless of gender) is the natural response to emotional control or nagging or similar. Frankly, I find that to be not only false but a fairly reprehensible allegation without evidence.
posted by miss tea at 8:22 AM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


RestlessDay, that's terrible, and a nice illustration of the ways patriarchy often victimizes men too.

Discrete social and legal institutions, certain gender roles, fine, but Patriarchy does not victimize men. For if it does, Patriarchy is indeed the most ill-conceived word for it. A model should not be treated as so central, so Ptolemaic, that even its contradictions should be swept underneath. To use this word to account for discrimination against men is to approach the subject with discrimination against women as the fixed central concern; and while some may desire to take this perspective, there is no assurance that it will always hold true.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:23 AM on June 22, 2009


Patriarchy does not victimize men


Patriarchy can't have actions, since it's an idea. But the idea of patriarchy and the assumptions it brings with it find expression in the social and legal institutions and gender roles in a society. Patriarchy, the idea, forms the often-unexamined bedrock on which "the way things are" is built, and creates justifications for why things don't need to change. Yes, male violence against other males, and discrimination against men, is part of a system in which different values and powers and expectations are ascribed to each gender, and one set of behaviors is considered standard or superior: aka patriarchy. I don't see the quibble.

I can definitely say that there is a double standard when it comes to women as perpetrators

That honestly doesn't sound like a double standard, simply the standard for laypeople. When seemingly 'nice' people commit acts of violence, their friends generally do rush to support and enable the person they see as a protagonist. It happens to men, too, when they are abusers. I agree with whomever said that the professional support services community would more likely have understood the seriousness than one's friends.
posted by Miko at 8:42 AM on June 22, 2009


I wonder how many people who are participating in this thread, and talking about how important it is to take violence against men just as seriously as violence against women, have ever laughed at a joke about prison rape or Lorena Bobbitt.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:25 AM on June 22 [1 favorite +] [!]

Probably none of them.
posted by Grangousier at 9:30 AM on June 22 [1 favorite +] [!]


Well, I'm male and very sympathetic to the basic point being made in this thread (that DV against men should be taken more seriously), and even I can admit I've laughed at those jokes. So "none of them" isn't correct -- there's at least one.

It's not so much that I think there should be a rule against laughing at the jokes -- which would probably be futile anyway since you can't stop people from finding something funny. All I'm saying is we should think about the consequences of having an unwritten rule that DV and rape against men are things you laugh at. Meanwhile, imagine someone laughing uproariously at a mention of DV/rape against women! Anyone who does so would run a significant risk of coming across as a sexist, terrible person. It's considered utterly normal that Lorena Bobbitt was fodder for stand-up comedians, but no one would dare make a joke about a man chopping off part of a woman's body. That's a pretty extreme bias against men.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:43 AM on June 22, 2009


So I was challenged before to provide the data for my claim that peer-reviewed studies do not support the claim that men under-report IPV. The basis for most of the analyses comes from the DOJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics, page 24, available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/fvs.pdf :

"The likelihood of family violence being reported to police did not differ significantly between male victims and female victims. Females’ 60.1% reporting rate was not significantly greater than the males’ 55.9% rate."


This information itself ought to be read in context of the preceding sentence:

52.3% of all violent victimizations of females were reported to police, compared to 43% of those of males


Some theorists have argued that the 10% point gap of all crime, when compared to the 4% point gap for IPV shows that men are more likely to report IPV than other crimes, both relatively and overall. Indeed, the second point is uncontested, as men are far more likely to report IPV crimes than the aggregate of all other crimes. Others say this is not a meaningful comparison and that only the first quoted sentence matter, that men slightly underreport IPV relative to women. Some think these studies are completely bunk. See Linda Kelley, Disabusing the Definition of Domestic Abuse: How Women Batter Men and the Role of the Feminist State, 30 Fla. St. U.L. Rev. 791 (2003).

Everyone agrees that these reporting rates are far too low. Some have argued that women underreport because they do not believe that the police will protect them from their abuser, whereas men underreport because they do not believe they will be taken seriously. These are related but distinct problems each with separate solutions. There have been accusations that these numbers need to be weighted, that the overall numbers need to include intensity of abuse. If the police respond to a domestic violence call where a man has been brutalizing his wife for years and he claims she slapped him during a fight, they both will be recorded as incidents. Clearly they are not equal. Some believe that mandatory arrest and no-drop policies encourage both men and women to file spurious claims like this, with disagreeing theorists arguing that these policies cut both ways. See Kristin Miccio, A House Divided: Mandatory Arrest, Domestic Violence, and the Conservatization of the Battered Women's Movement, 42 HOUS. L. REV. 237 (2005), Martha Minow, Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Feminist Responses to Violent Injustice, 32 NEW ENG. L. REV. 967, 977–80 (1998).

Most importantly, these are actively debated issues. I've met one of the people who put together the BJS report and the models used to determine reporting rates were heavily debated. Within the legal academy, people constantly argue about the success of various models of intervention and interdiction. What's hot now is a queer theory assault on no-drop and victimless prosecutions, arguing that feminists need to reassert a privacy right in the hope and keep the state out. See Phyllis Goldfarb, Describing Without Circumscribing: Questioning the Construction of Gender in the Discourse of Intimate Violence 64 GEO. WASH. L. REV. 582, 601–05 (1996), Jeannie Suk, Taking the Home, 20 Law and Literature 291 (2008). This has led to some nasty arguments and plenty of conference. As far as I can tell, all of these participants are truly dedicated to reducing IPV and DV and that includes violence against men. There's no conspiracy. The MRAs don't really participate in these discussions. There are many men who work in these communities, who work at shelters, who advocate for more resources to help battered men. They don't consider themselves MRAs, which are seen as a fringe movement of very angry unstable people. Just poke around their websites. They share much more in common with new-wave white power groups who hate civil rights than they do active participants in a legitimate academic debate.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:51 AM on June 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


This has been a fairly civilized discussion, considering the topic. I can empathize with most of the viewpoints expressed here. Men are definitely abused more often than "conventional wisdom" would have us believe. Emotional abuse takes a terrible toll and does not show up often in statistics.

It is also true that some of these men's groups have axes to grind which are unacknowledged. On the other hand, although women's groups have been instrumental in exposing the once acceptable practice of wife-beating, they sometimes have their hidden agendas as well.

The denigration of men in the media is sad, and is related to the under-reporting of abuse at the hands of women. "Man up!" is quite a weighted phrase!

That said, although different sides can pull out six-packs of different stats, I would say men are a hell of a lot more violent than women. And they are stronger and better-armed.

Although we have presumably been talking about Europe/America here, the male-on-female violence problem is even worse elsewhere. For example, in the news recently has been the horrific problem of rape in South Africa. Words fail me...
posted by kozad at 8:53 AM on June 22, 2009


Meanwhile, imagine someone laughing uproariously at a mention of DV/rape against women!

Bang, zoom, straight to the moon. I sure nailed that reference. I tore it a new one. It's a good thing too, because I just got totally raped by this exam.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:54 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sometime in the mid 80's I was the victim of a male-on-male DV attack, in New York state. I called the cops, for sure. LOL! Those bastards couldn't even conceive that this was a problem, much less something warranting their attention. But it wasn't part of a pattern (actually, it was, but the pattern was how HE was being systematically abused by his aged mother).

DV against women gets tons of attention. People know about it and react to it. It is easy to find material on the subject, it gets plenty of air time. It's a problem, but a well known problem.

DV against men doesn't get tons of attention. People don't know about it. If they react, it is not uncommon for the victim to be blamed, or told their "manhood" is lacking.

Anyone here familiar with the old cartoon Andy Cap? Typical image of the strip is the misbehaved star coming home to find the Mrs. waiting for him, rolling pin in hand. Isn't that hilarious? LOL! It wasn't the only place one saw this. I think rolling pins were the usual weapon of choice, but sometimes it was frying pans. Ouch! LOL! DV is such a hilarious comedic routine!
posted by Goofyy at 8:56 AM on June 22, 2009


no one would dare make a joke about a man chopping off part of a woman's body. That's a pretty extreme bias against men.

Hm, perhaps not. But perhaps it finds plenty of expression through other channels; perhaps that's because the entire slasher movie genre and much prime time television. exists to provide the entertainment of watching men chop off parts of women's bodies. The paradigm seems to be that male-on-male violence is funny (because men should be tough enough to defend themselves or dominate others, not be dominated), while male-on-female violence is grippingly, dramatically and satisfyingly awesome entertainment (because the women are helpless and the men - attackers and rescuers - always eventually dominate). The common theme remains that men should be dominant, but there's nothing inherently funny in dominating the (theoretically) more easily dominate-able gender, because that's the way the power structure is supposed to be. Humor results from the unexpected juxtaposition, not from observations that are completely supported by audience expectations.
posted by Miko at 8:56 AM on June 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


Men and women who are abused in their intimate relationships are not, at the time, members of subgroups with socio-political agendas. They are victims of violence who deserve our recognition and sympathy. Men and women who abuse in intimate relationships are not, at the time, asserting socio-political agendas. They too are victims - of themselves, and of a violent culture - and those who choose a different path deserve our support and (as difficult as it may be) our forgiveness.

Contrary to what many have said on the blue recently, I don't think sympathy is a limited resource. Sympathy is a cultivated one: the more I cultivate for men who are abused, the more I have to share with all victims of domestic violence, women included.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:00 AM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Recent comments raise a couple of questions:

1. What can be learned by examinations of partner violence in same-sex couples? Incidence, severity, the state of the helping professions in understanding and dealing with it?

2. What can be learned from cross-cultural comparisons? Looking at nations in which laws or mores more strictly codify the rights/behavior of each gender, how do disparate rights structures affect incidence/reporting?

3. I appreciate hearing of the research about incidence/reporting and charges being filed that establish victim/perpertrator roles. But when I've encountered domestic violence as a neighbor, and called the police, more often that not no charges are filed. The situation is defused and everyone moves on. Can anything be learned from police response records about what is actually going on out there? Or is that data too soft, too protected, or too weighted with the officer's perception if no one is willing to press charges?
posted by Miko at 9:02 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're right, Jaltcoh, but the "Anyone who does so would run a significant risk of coming across as a sexist, terrible person" is incredibly recent (in the U.S., at least), and isn't, I think, as widespread an attitude as you or I would like to believe. Marital rape wasn't a crime in all 50 states until 1976, for instance.

And yes, there is bias against men when it comes to taking domestic violence against them seriously, whether it's committed by a male or female partner. But the solution to that is not closing women's shelters or rabid denial (as by some in the links above) that the statistics are as skewed as they are. The solution is to partner with existing anti-domestic violence organizations in order to educate and legislate, which is what the founders of the anti-DV movements did. The fact that cops, prosecutors, and/or judges in some or many places will not take a man's complaint of being abused by his partner seriously is a serious, serious problem. It needs to be addressed. And addressing it does not actually need to come at the expense of women who are abused by their partners.
posted by rtha at 9:02 AM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, l33tpolicywonk, but if we ignore the societal context we ignore the structures that teach and train people what appropriate expressions of anger and appropriate respect for others are. I agree with your statement about sympathy, but definitely not that socio-political roles are unimportant. Human beings grow and learn within these broader structures, they are factors in behavior, and to ignore them is to give them permission to continue unchanged.

In addition, it's largely because of the "socio-political agenda" of victims of violence themselves and health professionals who became concerned about them that we even have ways of understanding and assisting victims of violence. In 1900 there were no hotlines for victims of abuse. As a result of political activity by people acting in common cause, today we have them.
posted by Miko at 9:05 AM on June 22, 2009


Just as a quick aside - rtha's point on marital rape is a little off. It wasn't until NC changed its laws in 1993 that marital rape was a crime in all 50 state. Many states still have heightened evidentiary requirements and more than half treat it as a lesser crime than other forms of rape. The more you know...the more you get depressed.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:11 AM on June 22, 2009


Miko: "Yes, l33tpolicywonk, but if we ignore the societal context we ignore the structures that teach and train people what appropriate expressions of anger and appropriate respect for others are. I agree with your statement about sympathy, but definitely not that socio-political roles are unimportant."

Agreed. Still, "violence by women against men is wrong" and "violence by men against women is wrong" are hardly mutually exclusive - in fact, they work from largely the same premises. I don't understand what about this conversation has to be adversarial.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:12 AM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Patriarchy, the idea, forms the often-unexamined bedrock on which "the way things are" is built [...] Yes, male violence against other males, and discrimination against men, is part of a system in which different values and powers and expectations are ascribed to each gender, and one set of behaviors is considered standard or superior: aka patriarchy. I don't see the quibble.

To offer patriarchy as shorthand for a collection of cultural biases regarding gender - both those that hurt men, and that help them - is to cling to a word meaning "male supremacy" or "male privilege" even in circumstances which show men as anything but beneficiaries. This is poor nomenclature - hardly a better bedrock than 'turtles all the way down' - unless one wants to sustain a lazy subtextual drama where male dominance lies at the root of every gender issue. It does not, no more than some nebulous 'White privilege' lies at the root of all racism against both Blacks and Whites.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:27 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


So why does the implicit humiliation so often seem to be the stalling point?

I believe the humiliation IS the entire point: the cutting down of one's self-esteem is the greater part of the damage here, not the physical suffering, and it's a less harm strategy, after the fact, to allow the bruises to heal than to out yourself as a punk who can't stand up for himself and incur a further self-esteem hit. (Conversely, low self-esteem is why people are abusive to begin with -- this, according to LordSludge's Universal Law of Social Dynamics.)

Right now I have a knot on the side of my head, bruises on my biceps, and a nice welt on my shin. I got 'em from jiu jitsu** and I don't care who knows it. I've suffered way worse from snowboarding, wakeboarding, rock-climbing, even friggin baseball... But it's okay, because I'm a manly, manly man! RAWR!!

Now if I'd gotten those exact same bruises from an abusive lover, you'd better believe I'd be keeping my mouth shut. It's stupid, it only perpetuates further physical injury, but it's human nature.

** It's a non-striking sport, but white belts can... lack finesse. (I should know -- I'm one of 'em!)
posted by LordSludge at 10:16 AM on June 22, 2009


See, kid ichorous, I do think it works as effective shorthand. But I was brought up on a strain of feminism (I call it the "Free to Be You and Me" strain) that tried or tries very hard to expose how damaging patriarchy is to both men and women. To me, "patriarchy" doesn't solely mean male privilege. It's a cage that traps men and women both, although it does privilege men in some fairly obvious respects. At least, it privileges men who fit the patriarchy's definition of what a man is; it severely punished men who do not fit that definition - men who are beaten by their female partners, or who like to have sex with men rather than women. It punishes boys who would rather read than play sports. And so on.
posted by rtha at 10:35 AM on June 22, 2009 [8 favorites]


Still, "violence by women against men is wrong" and "violence by men against women is wrong" are hardly mutually exclusive - in fact, they work from largely the same premises. I don't understand what about this conversation has to be adversarial.

The conversation does not become adversarial at the point when everyone is saying "violence is wrong, period." It becomes adversarial when self-styled men's rights advocates say, "Violence by women against men occurs at an equivalent rate, and equivalent severity, as violence by men against women, and therefore our spending of resources on domestic violence should reflect that parity."

Doubling spending is not really an option. So to achieve parity, it would be necessary to cut services that are currently being disproportionately spent on women, and spend them on men instead, somehow. That's why it's adversarial.
posted by palliser at 11:32 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just want to say really quickly that, if we look beyond the straight number of intimate homicides to the historical trends, it's pretty obvious that the "accidental murder" explanation is downright silly. I can't find the exact study I read last week (really need to start archiving this stuff), but here's a link that shows that over the last 30 years (between 1976 and 2004), the number of women killed by intimate partners has witnessed a 27% decrease while the number of men killed by intimate partners has decreased by 72%. Unless you'd like to argue that in the past, spouses were equally capable of "accidentally" murdering each other.
posted by muddgirl at 11:36 AM on June 22, 2009


Perhaps the term "kyriarchy" is more palatable? Whatever word you choose to use, it comes down to the power-over structure of society and the reification of that power structure, and hostility and often blindness toward that which does not fit.

I have seen DV in hetero couples and queer couples, with men and women as both perpetrators and victims. In my experience (yes, only anecdotal, not statistical), it is often true that men and/or masculine partners are less likely to be believed, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be treated contemptuously (rather than patronizingly) for their perceived weakness, and less likely to have access to support that is equipped well for them and their situation.

I have a male friend who is a DV victim right now. His partner, a woman, stabbed his left arm a few weeks ago. He's a left-handed tattoo artist, and had she gone any deeper or aimed a little differently, she could have prevented him from being able to earn a living in his chosen career. He's no angel. He drinks too much, has been known to do drugs, sometimes says some pretty mean things, especially when drinking. He doesn't hit her. He could. He's stronger, has plenty of experience fighting other men. She tells him that it's his fault, that if only he __________, she wouldn't hit him, wouldn't yell at him that he's worthless, wouldn't cut him for hogging the cigarettes.

It's a load of bull, just like it is anytime a man says it to a woman. There is nothing he could do, short of physically assaulting her so she needed to protect herself, that could justify her hitting or stabbing him. And like with many other abusers, she has a history, a trail of other victims she's treated the same way. And my friend will not report. He rationalizes that he should behave differently so he doesn't set her off. He makes excuses about not wanting her daughter to go to foster care (she has a father who is actively seeking custody). He asserts that the police won't believe him if he reports, or that she will retaliate. He is just like any other DV victim, except his sex is not the one we expect the victim's to be in hetero abuse dynamics.
posted by notashroom at 11:40 AM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


no one would dare make a joke about a man chopping off part of a woman's body.

What do you call a woman with both of her arms chopped off by a man and both of her legs chopped off by a man and set, by a man, against a wall built by a man?

Eileen.

What do you call a man with both his arms chopped off by a person of either sex and both of his legs chopped off by a person of either sex and with a hundred rabbits of either sex somehow up his bum?

Warren.

posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:09 PM on June 22, 2009


your implication seems to be that most domestic violence (regardless of gender) is the natural response to emotional control or nagging or similar

Not at all. But I did anticipate at least one response like this one, hence the "yeah yeah whatever."

What I'd hoped would be implied was that one form of abuse is visible and even measurable, and the other not; and that makes the former reprehensible and the latter arguably immaterial. It should be easy to guess which one I think is more common...and that I do not necessarily believe that one is worse than the other. But that is all the implication you can logically take from it.
posted by rahnefan at 12:26 PM on June 22, 2009


Oh yeah -- "without evidence" -- do you see what you did there?
posted by rahnefan at 12:28 PM on June 22, 2009


I don't really understand the ferocity of the debate here. I think most of us would agree that both men and women are the victims of domestic violence, that women are victims more often, and that DV in general, but probably especially towards men is underreported.

What I see more and more is a situation in which one person become violent with their partner, the partner tries to defend themselves (or simply becomes violent in response), the police are called and they both go to jail. In fact, I have heard several stories recently in which a both people served time in jail for abusing each other.

So one thing I know is that police are tired of making the judgement call on who started what. The solution they seem to have implemented is to arrest both people if there's any evidence they were both involved. I can see how that seems to be "fair," but it also raises a lot of problems for victims of DV who try to defend themselves or who finally snap under abuse and fight back. Personally, I know if a man got violent with me, I'd respond in kind and probably twice as hard. And I would probably end up in jail.
posted by threeturtles at 12:49 PM on June 22, 2009


What I see more and more is a situation in which one person become violent with their partner, the partner tries to defend themselves (or simply becomes violent in response), the police are called and they both go to jail. In fact, I have heard several stories recently in which a both people served time in jail for abusing each other.

In some jurisdictions, this is official policy and/or law. This was the case when I lived in Pierce County, Washington almost 20 years ago, and may still be. The result was that I and other military wives I knew would not call the police for help, period.
posted by notashroom at 12:53 PM on June 22, 2009


palliser: "Doubling spending is not really an option. So to achieve parity, it would be necessary to cut services that are currently being disproportionately spent on women, and spend them on men instead, somehow. That's why it's adversarial."

One thing I neglected to mention, which has been highlighted well in the thread, is DV by men against men and by women against women. I think this underlines well (as many upthread have) that DV isn't about gender per se, but about exercising power over an intimate partner. Will services (save counseling services which gender-segregate for the purposes of avoiding triggers short term) truly be less effective if they aren't gender specific?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:20 PM on June 22, 2009


These services aren't gender-specific now. They just happen to serve predominantly women because, as the DOJ stats show, women are predominantly the victims of DV. If, on the other hand, you force these services to serve as many men as women, you'll miss a lot of victims of DV, because they're predominantly women.
posted by palliser at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2009


Most of what I would like to say has been said already - just adding that I was a victim of F-to-M violence (and emotional abuse which was arguably even worse). What kept me from leaving immediately was the belief that it was just a psychological problem that if we worked on it, it would get better - which also made it more of a private issue in my mind. The whole "you should be with the first person you have sex with" stuff from my youth probably wasn't helping either. There may be a lot of reasons why men don't speak out more - and even when they do, it may be only as necessary. For some, I believe there's a perception that they need to have everything under control.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 1:33 PM on June 22, 2009


I'd hazard a guess that many of those are jealous fits by guys at the end of relationships, when the woman has moved on & found another partner - so, in other words, only technically spouse murders.

Hm, one comment & then disappearing from the thread may have seemed trollish, especially considering the negative reaction to the comment.

Sorry, I went off to watch Shameless then go to bed.

I was just trying to make a distinction between murder within a relationship v murder at the collapse of a relationship, which is, of course, all part and parcel of an abusive, controlling mentality; albeit with a slightly different bad flavour. Not a point that really needed to be made, though.

posted by UbuRoivas at 2:00 PM on June 22, 2009


palliser: "These services aren't gender-specific now. They just happen to serve predominantly women because, as the DOJ stats show, women are predominantly the victims of DV. If, on the other hand, you force these services to serve as many men as women, you'll miss a lot of victims of DV, because they're predominantly women."

I don't see anyone upthread suggesting that. I do see the suggestion that additional effort should be made to ensure men take advantage of available services for victims (and, that women aren't talked out of seeking help when they think they are abusers).
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:06 PM on June 22, 2009


Coincidentally, in Shameless last night, Mimi Maguire was up on charges for beating up the abusive ex-boyfriend of her daughter, Mandy.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:06 PM on June 22, 2009


“Discrete social and legal institutions, certain gender roles, fine, but Patriarchy does not victimize men. For if it does, Patriarchy is indeed the most ill-conceived word for it.”

It is an ill-conceived word for it. But any form of discrimination victimizes both parties. Sexism in economics as an example – e.g. women get paid less for the same job. What the employer is doing is giving a man more money than a woman for a job, but gets away with giving the man and the woman less than what the job is worth because the man sees he’s getting “more.”
Granted he’s ‘less’ of a victim – but he’s still the stalking horse and it’s still a rigged game. Same deal with racism, etc. etc.

I disagree with allen.spaulding that the main problem is the stirring up of latent anti-feminist and anti-activist sentiments in an intellectually lazy audience.
I won’t deny this doesn’t exist. And I agree it is a problem.

But one of the big reasons many shelters target more women than men – beyond the humiliation factor for men - is economics. Many women who are abused don’t have jobs. And often they’re isolated from other supports such as a network of friends, etc.

I’d suggest another reason there is some underreporting, at least in less affluent quarters, is that men don’t have the time to pursue this and have to be at work while women don’t.
Bit of a catch-22 there as well.
On the one hand for women, they have nowhere to go but back to the house where they’re being abused because they don’t have the resources to support themselves (and often they’re prevented from working, going to school, etc. as part of the pattern of abuse).

On the other hand, for men, they can’t go to services because they’re expected to be the breadwinner and can’t take the time off work, which too, means humiliation but with a very tangible economic effect. Many jobs, socially at least, men are expected to have a certain degree of decisiveness, self-reliance, forcefulness – whatever turn of phrase one might fit – and even seeking psychiatric services might be seen as a weakness and lead to less effectiveness on the job, lessen chances of promotion, etc. etc.

Most of the focus is on women and should be, beyond the greater numbers because – insofar as practical concerns go – they often can’t support themselves. That this is often by design of an abuser – and that this situation too limits access for men who are, still, expected to be the main (if no longer the sole) support for the family is another tangle in the web.

Domestic violence has, as has been pointed out above, many facets. But I do agree with the sentiment above that abusers need help as well. In part because they’re victims – I’ll grant one’s sympathies may be marginal – but often they’re helpless before their own internal issues as well. Again – abuse often points both ways.

The problem is seeking a ‘fault’ here or assigning blame and attempting to weigh that in determining services – to which the anti-feminism and any other sort of agenda seeking is a sub-set.

One has to address the problem without moral condemnation in order to halt perpetuation, and this does, as mentioned above, take a sober description of how it operates.

Women feel shame for being abused as well. That kind of humiliation is a pretty common human trait. Why it should be questioned as the stalling point in men is beyond me when it’s just as big a stalling point in women.

I remember rape was well underreported for years. Everyone said this was a big problem and when rape statistics went up, most of the law enforcement community said, guardedly, that this was a good thing because the actual number had not increased (because they knew rapes were occurring but charges had not been pressed) but that the reporting of them had increased. Which meant more prosecution and more money for services – or at least a legitimate basis for asking for more money, many politicians seem to have their heads up their asses on this.

So why the male part of the equation should be marginalized – why the question is brought as to why men feel humiliated, etc. etc. – is just as condescending a question when posed to why women feel humiliated and don’t report the same thing.

Why then is underreporting by women in domestic violence, rape, etc- because of shame and humiliation understandable, but when it comes to men underreporting is not the main problem?

Again – as far as I’m concerned there are real and practical reasons beyond just basic gender (albeit gender related) to focus more services on one group rather than another. The economics are simply structured that way (which is again a whole other gender discussion), as are the numbers and some other factors.

But not knowing is a very big problem and there are plenty of ways in which that displaced aggression – to which all humans are vulnerable to – can show up.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:51 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


rtha: It's a cage that traps men and women both, although it does privilege men in some fairly obvious respects. At least, it privileges men who fit the patriarchy's definition of what a man is; it severely punished men who do not fit that definition - men who are beaten by their female partners, or who like to have sex with men rather than women. It punishes boys who would rather read than play sports. And so on.

Rtha, it is because I agree with you on the relevance of certain gender roles that I disagree on the value of patriarchy. I do not think that the reality of being bullied, or being threatened with the prospect of prison rape, requires me to shed an equally real maleness, or even an alterable or symbolic one. I never felt this thing slip from my shoulders when I took a punch, or felt it boomerang back after I learned to throw one. This whole path is too girded with circular logic.

It's the True Scotsman again. Patriarchy comes too close, for me, to warping language just to keep a model intact. One can be both culturally male and be the victim of sexism; if not, we must always peer through the polarized eyes of some patriarch, assume a male gaze, and continually redefine maleness itself to the point of contradiction. Any time a male is the victim of sexism, by any means or agency, we can complete an invisible circuit by which the sin is returned to his sex. And when we do this, it will feel like we are really saying to men: no matter who, no matter what the proximate cause, you are the reason this is happening to you.

We can follow this logic elsewhere. We can bequeath to the critical theorists the power to both give and take away race at will, such that one cannot hold certain political views without having his/her Blackness called into question. A criticism of homophobia within Dominican-American culture can be redirected, automatically and always, to an ultimate White puppeteer; and the economic advantages (or high suicide rate) associated with Asian Americans can be shortcut back to White privilege by way of model minority. We can continually redefine such that all racism is White, all sexism Male.

Making patriarchy the collective noun for the singular gender role is not only a little unfair to men, but is I think more broadly dissonant with the very concept of gender roles. Shorthand is substitution, algebraic speed, and the ability to think in scale. But in this case, shorthand elides away too much, including any small possibility that something other than a historical pattern of male dominance is at work. It itself follows a gender role, a categorical assumption, that the driving forces of our world are aligned and patriarchal. A word that, classically, defines societies in which women are in bondage, are chattel; leap onto the funeral pyre; tell sons to return with shields or on them. It does not really surprise me that an artifact of the second wave, who I think were among the first critics to confront gender as their central study, takes such a strong position against men. But that doesn't mean it's right, up-to-date, logically sound, useful, or kind. Of the populations I'd name as most estranged from their Equal Protection - the homeless, the insane, the enemy combatant, the sex offender, the convict, and (to a lesser extent) the homosexual or bisexual resident of most US states - maleness is a very strong correlative with four. I'm sorry, but patriarchy gives us no purchase to their pain. And sometimes it comes on like someone wringing Dworkin into Orwell footnotes and telling me that all these torture photographs equal pornography, all this prison rape equals violence against women, if I could only see clearly the inverted and invented powers that reign.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:54 PM on June 22, 2009 [5 favorites]


(And, side note, I have had a woman slap me. I had asked her on several occasions not to and on the last occasion told her never to do it again. So my response was to begin to end the relationship right there. She said “you get worse in a ½ hour at the gym.” I said “That’s consensual. Were you inviting me to go full contact? Or were you counting on me not responding physically.” Degenerated into me not really being a tough guy, etc. So those preconceptions are there in some people. Maybe she really did want me to hit her. Such people exist. Certainly in BDSM, which is of course not the same thing as ‘real time’, but some victims of abuse do want to reenact the patterns of abuse they grew up with. Displaced feelings of affection and attention, etc. But there are limits I can’t and won’t cross. Being harmed by violence, for me, doesn’t matter as much as the intent. Which might be a result of a training mindset – I mean, people who hit me as hard as they can in the gym are doing so with an intent to help me. I’ve had ribs broken, broken toes, etc etc.(if you train, you know the injuries). Someone who doesn’t leave so much as a scratch, but has ill-intent is the same as any other real life attacker. Whether they hurt you physically or not, they’re trying to beat you down. That’s unacceptable in any relationship. I’d made that clear, so I left. But I know I had that luxury. Some women are trapped by economics, etc. in those relationships – so too – some men are as well – but more often from the other side e.g. they want to be good fathers, maybe keep up appearances, support their kids, etc.)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:08 PM on June 22, 2009


The BDSM thing doesn't even cover it though, Smedleyman. Even if someone takes it to the ultimate 'real time' extreme of, "slap me at random times", that's still built upon the trust of affection. On the other hand when someone slaps you and says, you're not a real man if you complain, it's salt on a wound; they don't do it to turn you on—they want to undercut you. And you're exactly right that you can't launch a big defense without becoming, you know, pejoratively feminized by a woman. Which, maybe it's unfortunate, but if a woman is like "you're such a girl" it affects me more than if a guy says it--who cares what he thinks? Why and how someone hits makes all the difference.
"Such a queer dream, King-Post, I never had. You know the old man's ivory leg, well I dreamed he kicked me with it; and when I tried to kick back, upon my soul, my little man, I kicked my leg right off! And then, presto! Ahab seemed a pyramid, and I, like a blazing fool, kept kicking at it. But what was still more curious, Flask -- you know how curious all dreams are -- through all this rage that I was in, I somehow seemed to be thinking to myself, that after all, it was not much of an insult, that kick from Ahab. "Why," thinks I,"what's the row? It's not a real leg, only a false leg." And there's a mighty difference between a living thump and a dead thump. That's what makes a blow from the hand, Flask, fifty times more savage to bear than a blow from a cane. The living member -- that makes the living insult, my little man." …
"In old England the greatest lords think it great glory to be slapped by a queen, and made garter-knights of; but, be your boast, Stubb, that ye were kicked by old Ahab, and made a wise man of. Remember what I say; be kicked by him; account his kicks honors; and on no account kick back; for you can't help yourself, wise Stubb."
Moby-Dick
posted by Non Prosequitur at 3:30 PM on June 22, 2009


Someone who doesn’t leave so much as a scratch, but has ill-intent is the same as any other real life attacker. Whether they hurt you physically or not, they’re trying to beat you down. That’s unacceptable in any relationship.

Absolutely agree. I can call to mind two occasions when (different) girlfriends have hit me in anger, and both times my response was the same: "If you ever do that again, you're dumped on the spot, no questions asked & no recourse" - because it's no more acceptable for them to hit me than it would be for me to hit them, even taking into account the possible disparity in the ability to hurt.

(which probably isn't all *that* great, anyway, considering my partners are typically a similar kind of size to me - it's not like I'm John Wayne's father's boss like Smeddo over there, uprooting trees with my bare hands and casually tossing dumped tractors back over the fence where they belong)
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:43 PM on June 22, 2009


"The BDSM thing doesn't even cover it though, Smedleyman. Even if someone takes it to the ultimate 'real time' extreme of, "slap me at random times", that's still built upon the trust of affection. On the other hand when someone slaps you and says, you're not a real man if you complain, it's salt on a wound; they don't do it to turn you on—they want to undercut you."

Well, yeah. Difference of the same expression in kind. Intent. Etc.

And yeah, s'what I think makes it all the worse UbuRoivas. Lots of folks don't understand violence at all and yet use it, sometimes regularly. Any disparity is irrelevant to the act (degrees aside) but folks do get distracted on size, gender, and other matters.
Yeah, doesn't matter who hits who it's completely unacceptable in any relationship (given intent, etc. and the BDSM thing aside, etc).
I think once folks, men especially, get that part of it, it'd be a lot easier to get past this.
And perhaps reporting would go up. Because, as a man, you're not saying "I'm afraid of her" or "She hurt me" you're saying "She needs help" and "I don't want this relationship to be this way." etc.

So deemphasizing the physical component of DV might be a way to go.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:14 PM on June 22, 2009


But in this case, shorthand elides away too much, including any small possibility that something other than a historical pattern of male dominance is at work. It itself follows a gender role, a categorical assumption, that the driving forces of our world are aligned and patriarchal. A word that, classically, defines societies in which women are in bondage, are chattel; leap onto the funeral pyre; tell sons to return with shields or on them.

Yes, I agree. I find the shorthand useful, but I will be more careful when using it outside the confines of my head, where I know what I mean and where I'm coming from.


Someone who doesn’t leave so much as a scratch, but has ill-intent is the same as any other real life attacker. Whether they hurt you physically or not, they’re trying to beat you down. That’s unacceptable in any relationship.

Yes, yes. And yes.
posted by rtha at 4:23 PM on June 22, 2009


Domestic violence isn't just physical violence. It includes verbal and emotional abuse, too. Women do a lot of this. Some (most?) of them learned to do it from violent families. The same goes for men. Abused children become abusers.

My significant other was repeatedly attacked by his ex-wife in every one of these ways. She grew up in a violent family. He didn't.

But if you push him hard enough for long enough, just like pretty much any other person he would try to defend himself from her. I tend to believe what he says because I've been with him for a year and although I've seen him get angry, it's always been verbal and always been about the evil lies and attacks from his ex-wife. We've barely argued during our time together, and the only thing he gets angry about quickly is his ex-wife as even after years she is continuing to attack him every way she can to try to keep him from seeing their kids.

It's the most difficult thing in our relationship because he's so depressed at times from her harassment and how she's been able to keep doing it for years. His stress levels are sky-high each time she attacks him, but he doesn't snap or bark at me. Actually I'm more likely to insult him under such circumstances, usually because I get stressed out too from him being so upset over what his ex does to him. Even though he's got every right to be upset given what she's done to him, it is a downer and make me upset, too.

As an example of how she was a domestic violence abuser even early in their relationship, she would get mad at him for not doing what she wanted or when she got stressed out. He says she always initiated the domestic violence, and was usually the one who turned it physical, too. Usually she would initiate it by belittling him incessantly, putting words in his mouth to make him sound absurd, and refusing to stop her verbal attacks.

Even walking away from her was not a solution -- she'd follow him around and continue attacking him. He told me that he repeatedly tried to leave the house. Sometimes she would physically block him. So he'd have to push her out of the way to escape from her attacks. She'd "make him pay" later. Trying to defuse a fight by leaving for a couple of hours is a reasonable thing to do, but she wouldn't allow it. When he'd return, she'd berate him for weeks over him having left and been disrespectful. Apparently "respect" in her sick mind is allow oneself to be verbally abused for hours. So he became afraid to leave, too.

Once she was angry at him because they had both gone shopping and bought the same food. She was enraged that they were wasting their money. She bit him on the arm hard and wouldn't let go. He couldn't get her off of him, and she wouldn't stop biting despite his pleas for her to stop. He said it felt like she was gong to take a chunk out of his arm. He didn't want to hit her but was in pain and wanted to keep her from injuring him, so he choked her with his free hand until she couldn't breathe, forcing her to stop biting. When she finally stopped biting, then he let go and didn't follow as she ran off screaming so loud the neighbors called the police. The cops showed up and handcuffed him. They couldn't find any injuries on her, but he had a big deep bite mark on his arm. They wouldn't arrest her even though there was evidence she attacked him and no evidence that he did a thing to her.

Violence begets violence. She's a violent woman, and she learned to be that way due to child abuse. People who have been around women's DV shelters know that a lot of these "abused" women are actually abusers themselves. Erin Pizzey is one of the more famous such women. She grew up in an abusive family, too, being abused by both of her parents. But apparently she is bright enough to recognize that domestic violence is wrong and that most women who claim to be abused are abusing their partners themselves.

Her opinion on this is backed up by other research that shows most relationships with physical domestic violence have both partners doing it to each other and of those feature just one physically violent partner, it is the woman who is violent about 70% of the time.
DOMINANCE AND SYMMETRY IN PARTNER VIOLENCE
In the 35 years since I began research on partner violence, bit by bit, I have seen these assumptions about prevalence and etiology contradicted by a mass of empirical evidence from my own research and from research by many others. Consequently, I have gradually come to a much more multi-faceted view of partner violence. This view recognizes the overwhelming evidence that women assault their partners at about the same rate as men, and that the motives for violence by both males and females are diverse.
Women commit more than 70% of single-partner DV
Harvard Medical School just announced a national survey by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control that examined 11,000 men and women ages 18-28 and found 24% of heterosexual relationships have had violence in them, half of it reciprocal and half non-reciprocal, and women committed more than 70% of the non-reciprocal violence and were more likely to hit first in the reciprocal violence. Both sexes suffered significant injuries.
posted by June at 4:51 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't see anyone upthread suggesting that.

You see it in the links. And why else would anyone argue, in the face of statistics like the DOJ's linked above, that DV is a problem that is as frequently and as severely woman-on-man as it is man-on-woman? It's why they strrrrrretch the figures so hard to achieve some semblance of parity, because the basic motivation is to undercut DV services by presenting them as fundamentally sexist, rather than necessarily and justifiably predominantly used by women.

Look, your question was why this conversation is adversarial at all. The answer is because, as allen.spaulding laid out so thoroughly right at the beginning of this thread, the arguments in the links are being made in bad faith, and for a bad purpose. It means something to say that DV is just as much a problem for men, and that the fact that current services are mostly used by women means that the whole system is sexist. I disagree with those statements and the motivation that underlies them, and that is what makes this conversation adversarial for me.
posted by palliser at 5:08 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


most women who claim to be abused are abusing their partners themselves.

Well, thanks, June! I was getting all blue in the face trying to explain to l33tpolicywonk why this bullshit about male-female parity in DV gets right up my ass, and here you are to demonstrate for me! Should've previewed and saved myself all kinds of typing.
posted by palliser at 5:17 PM on June 22, 2009


Part of what has men so upset about domestic violence is that false allegations are used in child custody battles as a tactic to gain custody. Since people wrongly tend to believe that men are the abusers as a rule, men are easily victimized by this dishonest tactic. Some men use it, too, but it is far more commonly used by women.

It is a very common tactic. The California Family Bar Association even comments about it being a growing problem.
Family Law News

Protective orders are increasingly being used in family law cases to help one side jockey for an advantage in child custody…[they are] almost routinely issued by the court in family law proceedings even when there is relatively meager evidence and usually without notice to the restrained person….it is troubling that they appear to be sought more and more frequently for retaliation and litigation purposes.
It takes nothing but the mere accusation of domestic violence to put in place a "temporary restraining order" that severely curtails the rights of a person who in many (most?) cases has never been charged with any violent crime. That's right, no evidence is required to obtain a TRO. The court will usually require some evidence to obtain a permanent restraining order, but often these TROs are left in place for months or more without any proof to substantiate the reason why they were issued.
Restraining Order 911

The way restraining orders work in the United States is for all purposes a violation of the US Constitution. You are presumed guilty until proven innocent, are punished without a trial, have no right to face your accuser in court prior to your punishment, and often do not get a speedy trial, either. You can end up listed in state and federal databases as a spousal abuser or child abuser, all without any trial or proof.

If you make the mistake of not showing up to defend yourself, thinking that you don’t want to see that nasty party who lied to get the restraining order anyway, you may find out that you will no longer be allowed to see your children, can’t get your property back, and can end up paying to maintain a home in which you cannot live or even approach without the nasty ex calling the police to have you arrested. In short, a restraining order can destroy your life and the lives of your children in short order.

Under the California Domestic Violence Prevention Act of 1994, even if you have never been charged or prosecuted for domestic violence, you can end up permanently losing the custody of your children and either have no contact or be forced to use expensive “supervised visitation centers” that often cost more per hour than the “client” (that’s what they call the person forced to use them) makes.

All it takes for this to happen is for a family law court with its weak “preponderance of evidence” standards to find that you the accused committed an act of domestic violence. People who have jobs related to children or law enforcement may lose their jobs. Immigrants may be kicked out of the country. These are all very serious consequences being decided by family law courts in which perjury is commonplace and judges routinely fail to read court filings and violate due process and court rules while applying appallingly weak judicial standards.
If you were banned from seeing your children, kicked out of your home, your income taken, and forced to defend yourself against false accusations made without any proof which you know to be lies, wouldn't you be upset?

The use of TROs has to be curtailed by requiring some credible 3rd party evidence to get one and fining somebody who files for one who is later showed to have lied to obtain it.
posted by June at 5:19 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


June, that's a pretty slanted link introducing that study

AngieMedia title: Women commit more than 70% of single-partner DV
HMS Title: Domestic violence: Not Always One Sided
Article title: Differences in Frequency of Violence and Reported Injury Between Relationships With Reciprocal and Nonreciprocal Intimate Partner Violence

A few more pullquotes
Violence was more frequent when both partners were involved, and so was injury — to either partner. In these relationships, men were more likely than women to inflict injury (29% versus 19%).
and
The authors say they have no intention of minimizing the very real problem of serious domestic violence — the classic male batterer. The survey did not cover the use of knives, guns, choking, or burning, and it was not concerned with the kind of situation that can drive a woman to seek shelter outside the home. The view of the authors is that most intimate partner violence should not be equated with severe battering. Domestic disputes that turn physical because of retaliation and escalation do not have the same causes or the same consequences as male battering. Couples counseling is generally regarded as ineffective for batterers, but if the violence is moderate and the injuries are minor, both partners are involved, and they want to stay together, it makes sense for a therapist to work with both of them.
Angiemedia's gloss of that article makes me feel that they are not, in good faith, trying to present the findings but rather to promote their own agenda. It's a really interesting study that deserves more than their facile pullquoting. Here's a link to the entire article. The major conclusion: "The context of the violence (reciprocal vs nonreciprocal) is a strong predictor of reported injury. Prevention approaches that address the escalation of partner violence may be needed to address reciprocal violence." The study also addresses its own limitations and notes
The use of a nationally representative sample greatly increases the generalizability of the findings, but this particular sample is of limited range in age (18–28 years) and likely does not include the most severely abused victims who are subjected to extreme control by their partners and may be unable or unwilling to participate in research."
posted by jessamyn at 5:22 PM on June 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


One of the links above is to Cal State Long Beach professor Martin Fiebert. Here's a mildly ironic story about Fiebert's push for a Southern Poverty Law Center investigation of his faculty colleague Kevin MacDonald. "I think exposing bigotry and cultural insensitivity is a good thing to do...The most troubling development lately has been that [MacDonald] is widely cited in neo-Nazi and white supremacist web pages. Some of their issues were framed around his willingness to say that being anti-Semitic is a sort of badge of courage," Fiebert argued.

But I'm sure that no fringe hate groups could possibly use Fiebert's work in a bigoted and culturally insensitive manner. (Anyone think an FPP on MacDonald's scholarship would meet with a warm reception?)
posted by transona5 at 5:26 PM on June 22, 2009


You're right, Jaltcoh, but the "Anyone who does so would run a significant risk of coming across as a sexist, terrible person" is incredibly recent (in the U.S., at least), and isn't, I think, as widespread an attitude as you or I would like to believe. Marital rape wasn't a crime in all 50 states until 1976, for instance.

OK, so the biases have recently become realigned. That doesn't change the fact that they are currently aligned in the way they are.


But perhaps it finds plenty of expression through other channels; perhaps that's because the entire slasher movie genre and much prime time television. exists to provide the entertainment of watching men chop off parts of women's bodies. The paradigm seems to be that male-on-male violence is funny (because men should be tough enough to defend themselves or dominate others, not be dominated), while male-on-female violence is grippingly, dramatically and satisfyingly awesome entertainment (because the women are helpless and the men - attackers and rescuers - always eventually dominate). The common theme remains that men should be dominant

This still reinforces the norm that society cares more about protecting women's physical security than men's.

I agree with you about the movies showing men as dominant, but it's another question whether that's an unalloyed advantage for men. There should really be a whole other thread just to talk about how men and women are portrayed in the movies, since it's too complicated to get into here.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:57 PM on June 22, 2009


Nobody is saying that DV doesn't happen to women. What people like Erin Pizzey and those two studies I quoted are saying is that it happens a lot to men, too, and that most of the violence is being committed by both partners against each other.

It's very interesting that the two studies, independent of each other and using entirely different data sets, both come to similar conclusions of roughly about 50% of DV is mutual, 33% is female-on-male, and 17% is male on female.

The Strauss study was done internationally with college students participating. You could argue that perhaps they would be better educated and less violent. But it's interesting to see how the females use violence to control males. The study shows this clearly if you read the whole thing.

I'm not as familiar with the Harvard Study that I quoted, but it is a US-only study.
posted by June at 6:13 PM on June 22, 2009


Part of what has men so upset about domestic violence is that false allegations are used in child custody battles as a tactic to gain custody. Since people wrongly tend to believe that men are the abusers as a rule, men are easily victimized by this dishonest tactic. Some men use it, too, but it is far more commonly used by women.

This is demonstrably false, as I documented above. The article I cited reviews many of the major studies of the issue and the numbers are extremely clear. Men lie about abuse in custody hearings at a rate almost 20 times more than women. I'm glad that you're upset about this issue, it's always a problem, but get the facts right, or even close.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:14 PM on June 22, 2009


Also, Strauss has been researching DV for a long time. He initially bought into the men are abusers, women are victims thinking, too. But he changed his mind as the data doesn't back up that conclusion.

I think anybody seriously interested in this topic should read the Strauss study really carefully. It is fascinating to see that even much more male-dominated countries than the US still show a significant amount of physical DV committed by women.

It's my personal belief that DV can't be stopped without stopping child abuse. I think that the reason why both genders commit DV is because they both grow up seeing it happen in abusive homes. Maybe men tend to be more physically aggressive and women verbally aggressive, but both behaviors can become extreme enough to be counted as domestic violence. However, the two studies I mentioned seem to be only considering the physical DV, not counting verbal and emotional DV.
posted by June at 6:18 PM on June 22, 2009


Again, I don't see why I or anyone should trust June's interpretations of the Straus study, especially given the boldfaced assertion of something that is demonstrably false. There is an interesting discussion to be made about dating violence, which is one of the newest areas of focus for DV and IPV researchers and one that has a lot of unexplored complexities.

Furthermore, the Straus study used self-reporting (with prompts, if I remember that one correctly) and was done tested by college students, which is a remarkably different method of data gathering than police records. What individuals consider to be abuse can be deeply gendered, even when presented with prompts. If there is a background normalcy of male sexual violence, a tolerated residuum, as Duncan Kennedy put it in Sexy Dressing, then we would expect that men would only identify extraordinary behavior as abusive. This is especially true when it comes to self-reporting; nobody thinks of themselves as an abuser just as nobody likes to think of themselves as a rapist, no matter how many IAT tests they take. Women, on the other hand, would be more likely to report their own abuse against this background, because there is not the same cultural backdrop that excuses and accepts these actions.

Finally, the Straus study fails to consider intensity of abuse in its "both" category, a concern I listed above. If I abuse my partner every day and then finally he fights back, it's totally unclear that this ought to be categorized as mutual abuse. There are a number of interesting approaches to that question, but you're just looking to justify your own opinion, as far as I can tell.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:43 PM on June 22, 2009


Thanks, Rtha.

I am having some trouble corroborating such high false report rates for either men or women. One Court Review article did seem relatively well-cited, and noteworthy in that it vigorously downplays the factor of abuse accusations (by either mother or father) in divorce cases. Quoted in part, emphasis mine:

It is commonly believed that false allegations of sexual abuse in the context of divorce are epidemic, that most allegations made in the context of divorce are made by vindictive mothers and that these allegations are almost always false. These beliefs are not supported by scientific evidence. [...]

While it is popularly believed that all allegations of sexual abuse in divorce involved the mother accusing the father, that was not the case. Mothers accused biological fathers in only 48 percent of the cases. Stepfathers were accused by mothers in 6 percent of cases. Fathers accused mothers or mother’s new partner in 16 percent of cases and dads accused third parties in another 6 percent of cases. The remainder of accusations were made by third parties.

Half of the allegations of sexual abuse among the custody/visitation dispute group, overall, were considered founded. In 33 percent of cases, no abuse was believed to have occurred and in 17 percent no determination could be reached.10 These figures are about the same as validation rates for cases reported to child protective agencies.11 Mother’s allegations against father were considered likely to have been accurate in 49 percent of cases and unlikely in 33 percent. Father’s allegations against mother were considered likely in 42 percent of cases and unlikely in 41 percent. The remainder of the cases were indeterminate.

To get a different view of this issue, consider that approximately 1,000,000 divorces are granted per year. About 600,000 of divorcing couples have minor children, but only about 90,000 have custody disputes.13 If only 2 percent of disputed custody or visitation cases have allegations of sexual abuse, then only about 3 out of every 1,000 divorces involving children have allegations of sexual abuse. This is not an epidemic.

Research in Australia has had similar findings. Allegations of sexual abuse were present in only 1.7 percent of custody or visitation dispute cases.

posted by kid ichorous at 7:51 PM on June 22, 2009


Interesting discussion coming out of adversarial FPP....thanks.
posted by agregoli at 8:24 PM on June 22, 2009


I want to thank allen.spaulding for his contributions here. They've been really information and well thought-out.
posted by Ms. Saint at 8:38 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


kid ichorous - The article you cited to is not peer-reviewed nor is it directly on point - it focuses on accusations of sexual abuse only and not domestic violence in general. The article I gave above, Bala and Schuman, “Allegations of Sexual Abuse When Parents Have Separated,” 17 Canadian Family Law Quarterly (2000) contains all the information you need, as does a companion piece, Trocme and Bala, "False allegations of abuse and neglect when parents separate," 29 Child Abuse & Neglect 1333-1345 (2005). These are peer-reviewed and far more comprehensive. Furthermore, they distinguish between proven allegations, allegations which are not able to be proven, and allegations which are proven false. It is the final category, the outright falsehood, where men predominate at a rate of 20 to 1. This ought to be the most outrageous to you and these surveys (and the surveys they analyze) are widely accepted (while still being a subject of debate). You might not like the fact that men lie about IPV and abuse at far higher levels than women, but that's what the studies show.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:47 PM on June 22, 2009


Would you mind providing a link? Your study was the very first thing I attempted to look up.

And as for what I'd not like (without too much personal girning), I'd prefer not to make of this a play-by-play of certain earlier conversations, in which the onus kind of fell upon me to dig up sources and methodologies that could actually be read. I do make it a point to follow your posts, and appreciate your perspective on the law; but there's a kind of self-assured reliance upon memory and personal expertise that does not translate very well to this medium. Remember that you have not been so forgiving of those tendencies in others. And remember that not all of us can flash a Gibsonian cortical feed to Lexisnexis...
posted by kid ichorous at 9:11 PM on June 22, 2009


I apologize. And you are correct, that I ought to have been more charitable throughout this conversation. I have pdfs of the studies that I can send if you would like. The second one I just cited can be found here: here. While I dislike many of the MRA groups, I feel that most people here are interested in the kind of debate that can be rare in this field and it's been a great to have an open exchange.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:21 PM on June 22, 2009


It's okay. I formally invite you to reprise the Sweden argument sometime. While I could not find the Bala and Schuman, I have found what appears to be the same paper by Bala and Trocme. It references the former study, as well as a number of others. Mirror. (False Allegations of Abuse and Neglect When Parents Separate, kidsindistress.org.au)

Here's what I got from my readthrough. Note that I'm writing this in the grip of insomnia, and so my facts and derivations might be skewed. Let the red pen fly if so.

This article challenges some of the misperceptions about the frequency and characteristics of intentionally false allegations in child welfare investigations and their relationship to custody and access disputes, based on a study of 7,600 child welfare investigations conducted across Canada. The rate of intentionally false allegations is relatively low, though it is somewhat higher in cases of parental separation than in other contexts. It is more likely that a non-custodial parent (usually the father) will deliberately fabricate an allegation of abuse than for custodial parents (usually mothers) to fabricate such an allegation.

This supports your point, but also suggests that custody, rather than gender, is the causal line, and that gender is the consequence. Still, Method Man cries out: how high? I searched the paper for any sign of a ratio for deliberately false reports by custodian vs non-custodian.

Research on intentionally false allegations of abuse has been primarily conducted in three contexts: studies on the accuracy of children’s recollections of abuse (Ceci & Bruck, 1993; Roberts, Kim, Powell, Martine, 2001); research examining adult’s false allegations or false memories of child sexual abuse made by adult “survivors” (Brown, Scheflin, Whitfield, 1999; Flathman, 1999); and studies examining false allegations in the context of custody disputes (Bala, Paetsch, Trocmé et al. 2001). Research in the first two areas has already been extensively reviewed.

Research on false allegations of abuse made in the context of parental separation disputes falls into two categories: studies of divorce custody and access disputes where allegations of abuse arise, and studies of child protection investigations involving custody disputes. Five studies in the former category have examined intentionally false allegations of abuse arising in the context of a custody or access dispute. Rates of intentionally false allegations range from 23% (Bala and Schuman, 2000) to 4.7% (Faller and Devoe, 1995), with three studies falling into a narrower 9% to 15% range (Brown, Frederico, Hewitt & Sheehan 1998; Faller, 1991; Thoennes, 1988).

Three out of five of these studies only examined sexual abuse allegations, while the study with the highest rate of intentionally false allegations (Bala and Schuman, 2000) also included physical abuse allegations. It should be noted, however, that these studies are based on small samples of custody or access disputes where allegations of abuse had been made. Most of these studies involve cases that required litigation or further non-child welfare assessment to resolve. These types of cases are most likely to include those which child welfare investigations had difficulty in determining the validity of the allegation or in which there has been a deliberately false allegation that the child protection workers were unable to discover in the course of their investigation, requiring further independent assessment or litigation to resolve. This may explain why the rates of false allegations are higher in these studies than in the present paper


This is ostensibly the voice of Bala himself, vir ipse, loquituring to us about why his Schuman data lies so far afield. It is not a repudiation of the Schuman data, but it does encourage us to piece it into a larger picture.

If one considers studies based on larger samples of cases in which parents separate, the rate of deliberately false allegations of abuse is significantly lower. Thonnes and Tjaden (1990) review of a sample of 9,000 court files involving parental separation or divorce and identified only 196 cases (2%) with allegations of sexual abuse. The child protection or court-based assessors involved in these cases believed that 50% of these 196 cases actually involved abuse, 33% were unsubstantiated and 17% could not be determined.

These numbers are not so incompatible with those provided by the Court Review article, but, as you pointed out, do concern sexual abuse in specific. Accusations of that are relatively rare. Onward.

Approximately 1% of reports from the police and schools were considered to have been intentionally false, while 25% of reports from anonymous sources and 15% of reports from non-custodial parents being classified as intentionally false reports, though only 2% of reports from custodial parents were classified as intentionally false (χ2 =501.87, df=7, p=.001). The fact that a report was considered to be intentionally false did not necessarily mean that the reporter was dishonest, as it is not uncommon for a professional or other person to make a report in good faith, which on subsequent investigation proves to have been disclosed to the reporter with the intent of deceiving that person and others.

Here, among total sources of false reports, if we were to assume that all non-custodial reports came from fathers, and all custodial reports from mothers, it seems like our ratio would be about 7.5 to 1 as a crude upper-bound.

Table 6 provides a further breakdown of intentionally false reports by source of report and by custody dispute. Non-custodial parents were responsible for 43% of intentionally false reports in cases involving custody or access disputes, with relatives, neighbours, or acquaintances accounting for another 19% of these cases. Custodial parents (14%) and children (2%) were responsible for relatively few intentionally false allegations in cases arising in a context in which there was an on-going disagreement over custody or access. This indicates that the problem of deliberate fabrication by non-custodial parents (largely fathers) is more prevalent that deliberate fabrications of abuse by custodial parents (largely mothers) and their children

Focusing in on what appear to be more overt or protracted custody disputes, if we assume that all non-custodians are men, we get an upper-bound of about 3:1.

Intentionally false allegations in the context of parental separation are not as prevalent as suggested by some fathers’ rights advocates and critics of the child protection system.

This supports your claim at the beginning of the thread.

The findings presented in this paper nevertheless indicate that high rates of unsubstantiated maltreatment may be a problem requiring further examination, especially in situations involving custody and access disputes. Nearly half of the investigations involving custody or access disputes proved to be unsubstantiated. Most of these appear to be reports made in good faith in response to circumstances that indicated that abuse or neglect may have occurred. In the conflictual and emotionally charged environment of a custody or access dispute, communication between the parents is likely to be poor and one might expect a higher likelihood of misunderstanding or misinterpretation leading to such allegations. Although not necessarily instigated in a malicious fashion, investigations in these cases are nevertheless intrusive and may further complicate a difficult situation.

Conclusions:

I. The authors did choose to distinguish between non-custodial and custodial parents, rather than between fathers and mothers; this indicates that they consider custody as causal to the disparities, and gender as consequent.

II. Between all non-custodial and custodial parents, we see an overall ratio of 7.5 false reports to 1. During disputes, we see a ratio of about 3 to 1. Why is this lower? Note also that in both cases, anonymous and third parties (neighbors, relatives) are much greater sources of intentionally false reports than the parents.

III. I could not find an indication that these ratios ever go as high as 20:1. It may be observed in The Schuman and Bala study, but that study is admittedly singled out as a statistical outlier.

IV. This entire matter is, even according to the people who study it, subject to unnecessary speculation, sex-abuse alarm, gender militancy (both sides, now), and rumor-milling, and the welfare of the participants comes as a sad secondary to this. Like most scientists, they probably see themselves as the paladins of an afterthought, championing certain raw numbers and brandishing chi-squares that are, in the topology of Google Pagerank, sunk behind a metric fuckton of keyboard noise. Go ahead, search around. You will find that Yahoo Answers stands between you and this paper. By writing this post I have in all likelihood just buried it deeper. I may just be angry that it took me over 30 minutes to find the very thing you linked in your response.

So, in retrospect: it's higher than I expected, but it's also less than 20:1, less (directly) about men and women than about custody, and about the welfare of those exposed in a parental and legal judgment of Solomon.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:04 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hello, MetaFilter! I emerge blinking from the shadows to make my first comment.

I've skimmed (exhausted and busy, like many of us) most of this discussion with interest, and as a neophyte latecomer posting at 2 AM would like to pick a very small bone (or couple of bones) with kid ichorous on the subject of patriarchy.

Making patriarchy the collective noun for the singular gender role is not only a little unfair to men, but is I think more broadly dissonant with the very concept of gender roles.

Hmm. The queer activist within me says "wait a minute, patriarchy ≠ gender role," and the classics student chimes in with "hey yeah, and patriarchy? That's got arkhein (to rule) in it, that's got to be about more than gender roles!" It's not just the people in my head either, the OED backs me up - "A form of social organization in which the father or oldest male is the head of the family, and descent and relationship are reckoned through the male line; government or rule by a man or men."

I don't think the concept of patriarchy is at all dissonant with the concept of gender roles, but rather that the one provides the framework in which the other is able to take root and exert influence. Perhaps an overly nice distinction, but I feel an important one.

A word that, classically, defines societies in which women are in bondage, are chattel; leap onto the funeral pyre; tell sons to return with shields or on them.


Well, in a word ... yes. That is indeed the way in which societies have been classically defined, and certainly the ways societies have been made up for centuries influences the way they are currently structured.

It does not really surprise me that an artifact of the second wave, who I think were among the first critics to confront gender as their central study, takes such a strong position against men. But that doesn't mean it's right, up-to-date, logically sound, useful, or kind.

No, it doesn't mean it's right, or kind. But up-to-date, logically sound, and useful? I'd say that the concept of "patriarchy" resoundingly fulfills all three criteria, and thus an ingrained mistrust/fear of men might be a sadly logical starting point for women in modern Western society.

... if I could only see clearly the inverted and invented powers that reign.


Yes, if only you could ...

Again, first comment. Please be harsh enough to open my eyes wider, but not so harsh as to drive me back into my cave.
posted by Devika at 11:23 PM on June 22, 2009 [3 favorites]


P.S. AGH I am such a MeFi fangirl I angsted so much over that post holy jeez what if it's the only one I ever make and I become a One-Post Wonder or what if everyone's really mean hey does this mean I get to go to the meetup am I overthinking a plate of beans here??

*deep breaths*

Carry on, everyone ...
posted by Devika at 11:35 PM on June 22, 2009


Goddamn it, Devika. I have just suffered through an extensive internet-crawl. I was invited, from the Fermat sector of a Yahoo page, to clothe something called a Zwinky. It is, apparently, a hydrocephalic mannequin that will live as a Dickens pauper unless we all intervene. Graphically. Now I feel like the finger of some terrible numen has touched me, so I'm going to stop arguing for now, and cry myself to sleep.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:42 PM on June 22, 2009


So after a shower I realized that a semiconscious rant is not a very good welcome. So, welcome. Argument to be continued. And now I shove off to bed.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:00 AM on June 23, 2009


I do know some of those references off the top of my head (or at least have cited them elsewhere so they're accessible to me now. You are correct in saying that there is deception in family court, but the numbers are heavily skewed. Fathers are substantially more likely to make false accusations than mothers. One study found that 21 % of father's claims of abuse during custody hearings were intentionally false, comapred to only 1.3 % of mother's claims see Bala and Schuman, “Allegations of Sexual Abuse When Parents Have Separated,” 17 Canadian Family Law Quarterly. That's not even close to parity. Obviously all false claims are problematic, but they need to be seen in context. Many of these false claims by fathers are a continuation of ongoing abuse, with a custody battle just a further attempt to establish control over their former partners. Jaffee, et. al, Custody Disputes Involving Allegations Of Domestic Violence: Toward A Differentiated Approach To Parenting Plans, 46 Fam. Ct. Rev. 500, 503 (2008).

From personal experience, I don't believe the figures you quoted from that study for many reasons. I was able to find what I think was the study at False allegations of abuse and neglect when parents separate and did read it.

The first and weakest reason I don't believe it is applicable on its own is that it is a study in Canada, not the US. Maybe Canadians don't lie as much in court? I don't know how to determine that with any reasonable certainly, but am very aware of Americans lying in court a lot. The judges in family law courts long ago gave up punishing perjury.

More importantly, this study is based upon CPS agencies differentiating provable intentionally fabricated false allegations from unsubstantiated allegations. Seeing first and second hand how CPS works, discussing it with forensic child psychologists and lawyers, and reading multiple grand jury investigative reports of some CPS agencies, it is clear these types of agencies are gender and sexual preference biased and dishonest. If there's an accusation against a man, it is by default assumed to be true. If the accusation is against a woman, the default assumption is that it is false. This happens over and over again. It is a consequence of 70%+ of the CPS social workers being females. It may also be affected by a larger than representative percentage of them being homosexual females as appears to be the case with the CPS agency with which I am most familiar.

Of even more importance, repeated investigations into CPS agencies have found that their social workers lie, perjure, and fail to investigate cases in objective manners. So you are putting weight on a study by a defective system that has been shown repeatedly to be dishonest and inaccurate.

Compounding this further, the evidentiary standards for anything to do with child abuse and CPS are almost nothing. It comes down CPS making "findings" with no judicial review and no due process. When something does get to court, the evidentiary standard is essentially 51%. It if seems like it is more likely than not that something happened, based of course in part on the testimony and statements of CPS social workers who are often liars, then the court will find it did happen. This is how it works in much of the US.

If you think "innocent until proven guilty" is a respected Constitutional right of American citizens, you are sadly misinformed when it comes to anything to do with child abuse. The real standard in the US is "guilty until proven innocent" for men. And given how CPS will go so far as to put the child witnesses into brainwashing for a year or more to get them to falsely accuse a parent, no parent is safe. If you doubt this, go read about what was done to rape victim Alicia Wade and her father James Wade who did not commit the crime.

Wikipedia: Alicia Wade

Torture of the Wade Family by San Diego CPS

PC Kidnappers (see page 4)


Then consider the Dale Akiki case. The man was prosecuted maliciously for supposedly having slaughtered elephants and giraffes in front of Sunday school kids. How he got large animals to the premises and what he did with the carcasses didn't matter, what mattered is the kids made outrageous claims and therefore this disabled man deserved to be persecuted and prosecuted without adequate investigation. Akiki won a $2 million law suit against San Diego County and the people who participated in this atrocity. There was a grand jury investigation of this case, too. See Dale Akiki case investigation report for more information.

You would think that after 20+ years of these kinds of problems with police and CPS child abuse investigations and prosecutions in San Diego that they would clean up their act. But they haven't. Here's the latest report from May 2009 showing that the system still is flawed with inadequate oversight and allowing social workers to pretty much do whatever they want by manipulating "risk assessment" to back whatever their position is. And they can "handle" anybody who questions their decisions readily by removing the child from the home and then refusing to do further investigation, leaving a parent banned from seeing his or her children despite a possibly incompetent investigation.
ENHANCING OMBUDSMAN’S RESPONSIBILITIES WITHIN CHILD WELFARE SERVICES

The Grand Jury undertook this investigation after Jurors noted that CWS is the current recipient of complaints of a similar nature to those covered in previous Grand Jury reports. The current Grand Jury investigation indicates that decisions made by CWS personnel are not subjected to significant oversight although they are subject to limited internal review of the case file. Additionally, employees of CWS testified that they “have the ability to consciously manipulate the Risk Assessment tool for the purpose of supporting any decision [they] …. make.”
...
Based on recent newspaper articles and citizen complaints, there is a public perception that CWS’s internal investigations are biased in favor of the agency. Interviews with CWS managers revealed that internal investigations are limited to a review of the case file and no additional field investigation occurs. When specifically asked if they sought out the truth, managers indicated that once a child was no longer in the home, active investigation of the initial circumstances of a case ceases.
This is just one county in the US having such severe problems that don't get fixed. Later I provide links to other high-profile child abuse cases that obtained convictions by prosecution misconduct and government witnesses lying.

Even when you disregard everything about the defective CPS agencies and just think about lying and divorce and mental health, the study you quote is implausible and flawed.

From a divorce psychology point of view, the plausibility of only 1.3% of mother's claims of abuse being lies is preposterous because the percentage of litigants who are personality disordered liars and the quantity of lies they generate would far exceed 1.3%.

Consider that between 2% and 6% of the population has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) depending upon what studies you read. These people are well-known for repeated lying, total disregard for rules and laws, having problems separating themselves from their children, and abandonment paranoia that drives them to do bizarre things to try to get sole custody. Just those people alone should account for far more than 1.3% of child abuse accusations being lies. If you have not had experience litigating with a Borderline or seeing how they function from being up close and personal with one so you know what the facts are, you don't have any idea of what you're talking about in terms false allegations and dishonesty during a divorce.

Experts with cross-field experience such as Bill Eddy (both a lawyer and a licensed clinical social worker with psychology training) estimate that about 40% of high-conflict divorce cases involve people with personality disorders. BPD behavioral traits represent a is a major one of these personality disorders, possibly the most prevalent in divorces. Until recently, it was believed that 75% of BPD victims were female, that was under the 2% figure. Now it is believed that the percentage split is more equal, but 6% of the population suffers from BPD and many of the men end up in prison. BPD is not the only "high conflict personality" disorder in family law courts, NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is also highly common. When you start to add up all the lying-prone personality disorders that tend to be present in high-conflict divorces, you're heading towards 20% of the population and relatively even gender division overall. From a psychological angle, I don't see how "1.3% of accusations are false" is even remotely plausible for either gender.


Here are some written documents and quotes backing up my statements above:

How Personality Disorders Drive Family Court Litigation

Up to 3,000 fraudulent child abuse claims in Santa Clara County?



Vindicated, but Still Not Freed From Court’s Injustice

In the late 1980s, in the midst of a nasty divorce, Mr. Baba-Ali’s wife had accused him of raping their daughter during a custody visit at his Queens apartment. At nearly every turn, Mr. Baba-Ali’s case became a study in the miscarriage of justice, according to the Court of Claims. Under District Attorney John J. Santucci, Queens prosecutors obtained an indictment of Mr. Baba-Ali in 1988 on charges of rape, molestation and incest, and he was convicted in November 1989. But prosecutors ignored medical evidence that appeared to prove his innocence, then failed to disclose it to the defense until a few days before the trial, the courts have said.

The conviction of Mr. Baba-Ali, Judge Melvin L. Schweitzer of the Court of Claims wrote in his decision, released on Monday, “was procured by prosecutorial misconduct that was tantamount to fraud.”



McMartin preschool trial
The trial lasted seven years and cost $15 million,[35] the longest and most expensive case in the history of the United States legal system, and ultimately resulted in no convictions.[2][5][22] The McMartin preschool was closed and the building was dismantled and several of the accused have died. In 2005 one of the children (now an adult) retracted the allegations of abuse.[18][36]
Never did anything to me, and I never saw them doing anything. I said a lot of things that didn't happen. I lied. ... Anytime I would give them an answer that they didn't like, they would ask again and encourage me to give them the answer they were looking for. ... I felt uncomfortable and a little ashamed that I was being dishonest. But at the same time, being the type of person I was, whatever my parents wanted me to do, I would do.[18]
In The Devil in The Nursery, Margaret Talbot for the New York Times summarized the case:
When you once believed something that now strikes you as absurd, even unhinged, it can be almost impossible to summon that feeling of credulity again. Maybe that is why it is easier for most of us to forget, rather than to try and explain, the Satanic-abuse scare that gripped this country in the early 80's — the myth that Devil-worshipers had set up shop in our day-care centers, where their clever adepts were raping and sodomizing children, practicing ritual sacrifice, shedding their clothes, drinking blood and eating feces, all unnoticed by parents, neighbors and the authorities. [2]
Mary A. Fischer in an article in Los Angeles magazine said the case was "simply invented," and transmogrified into a national cause celebre by the misplaced zeal of six people: Judy Johnson, mentally ill mother who died of alcoholism; Jane Hoag, the detective who investigated the complaints; Kee MacFarlane, the social worker who interviewed the children; Robert Philibosian, the district attorney who was in a losing battle for re-election; Wayne Satz, the television reporter who first reported the case, and Lael Rubin, the prosecutor.[5]



FAMILIES IN CRISIS
A REPORT SUMMARY
A CRISIS OF PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN THE JUVENILE DEPENDENCY SYSTEM


BACKGROUND OF THE PROBLEM
For the past four years the San Diego County Grand Jury has spent considerable time on examination of the Juvenile Dependency System. The Jury has issued numerous reports, starting with the 1988-89 overview report, "Children in Crisis". Some of the recommendations from that comprehensive Grand Jury Report were implemented, some were not. Had more been implemented, and had that report provoked an honest and thorough self-examination within the Department of Social Services (DSS), perhaps the inquiry of the sitting Grand Jury would not have been necessary.

The 1989 investigation which resulted in "Children in Crisis" started with a single complaint about a child who died of abuse after being returned to a natural parent. While that case may have been the genesis of the investigation and the major case studied in that report, the report covered a much broader area. It addressed the randomness of Departmental action, abuse of social worker authority, and failure of leadership to take responsibility, more than a single (and unusual) child fatality incident.

Many of the Juvenile Dependency System (System) problems noted in the 1989 report not only still exist but have become more deeply entrenched. This report reasserts many of the findings and recommendations of "Children in Crisis".

It will also make additional specific recommendations. While a change in philosophical direction is certainly needed (a need acknowledged by some at the highest levels of the Department), the time has passed for broadbrush approaches or mere philosophical debate. Corrective action must be implemented promptly.

In too many cases, Child Protection Services cannot distinguish real abuse from fabrication, abuse from neglect, and neglect from poverty or cultural differences. Each of these requires a different response; yet the current system all too frequently fails to differentiate.

In particular, the system must recognize that removing a children from his/her home even temporarily (for "only" 48 hours) is a serious and traumatic event for both child and family. Therefore it should be considered only when there is clear and convincing evidence that there is present and serious danger to the child which can be alleviated in no other way.

...

ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL ABUSE DURING CUSTODY DISPUTES
Allegations of child abuse or sexual molest made during custody disputes should receive special timely attention by social workers highly trained in this area. Divorce litigants should be admonished that contamination of children by a spouse seeking revenge will be dealt with promptly and harshly by the court. At this time the system appears to reward a parent who initiates such a complaint. The Jury has numerous cases before it in complaint form. Some have gone on for years, and the alleged perpetrator has been denied any contact with his children.

Some of these involve allegations which are so incredible that authorities should have been deeply concerned for the protection of the child from the contaminating parent. Contamination of a child's mind by a vengeful spouse is a protective issue. The damage is frequently irreversible, as alleged perpetrators can rarely re-establish real relationships with these severely contaminated children. In some of the cases the Jury has reviewed, the social workers and therapists played pivotal roles in condoning this contamination. They were helped by judges and referees who suspended their independent role as fact-finder.





A Report by the 1991-92 San Diego County Grand Jury June 29, 1992 - CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE, ASSAULT, AND MOLEST ISSUES


FALSE ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL MOLEST DURING CUSTODY DISPUTES
There is no dispute within the Juvenile Dependency System that false allegations of sexual molest during custody disputes occur and that the system fails to deal with them properly. There is, however, considerable dispute about how to handle these cases. The Jury has found that a parent making a false allegation of abuse or molest during a custody dispute is very likely to achieve the desired result. These accusations are made primarily to avoid visitation and joint custody provisions and the accuser frequently succeeds.

Particularly with allegations of molest, visitation will almost certainly be at least temporarily terminated. The longer the accused parent goes without visitation, the more difficult resolution of the case becomes. The Jury has studied numerous cases of allegations of molest in custody disputes which have never been at Juvenile Court and where the father has had no further visitations. Parents who knowingly make false allegations generally seek to contaminate the child's relationship with the other parent. The children are subjected to a range of contamination starting with simple personal deprecation and escalating in the worst cases to brainwashing. Parents who do this are not stable, not protective, and doing permanent harm to the child.

The Jury has studied many of these cases. Not one of them has been resolved despite years of conflict. Because all of these cases involve mothers who made allegations against fathers, we will speak in those terms. It does happen the other way around, and is, of course, equally damaging to the child. (emphasis added)

Family Court Services has recognized the seriousness of this problem and has instituted the Family Court Case Study Team to try to help resolve some of these long term cases and to reestablish fathers' visitations wherever possible. Unfortunately, by the time a case gets to that point the child is usually so contaminated that (s)he fears the father and psychologists are loathe to force the child to see a feared parent. Furthermore, only a fraction of such cases stay in domestic court where they reach the attention of this team. Most of the cases end up in Juvenile Court where there are no resources to redress the problem.

...

SEXUAL MOLEST CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY
Guilt or innocence is not determined in Juvenile Court. That is a standard of criminal court. Perpetrators of in-house molest are sometimes charged in criminal court and tried by a jury. A verdict of not guilty in a criminal court will not effect the "true finding" in Juvenile Court because that finding is based on a different and lower evidentiary standard.

The Jury finds that the criteria for criminal prosecution is also less than objective and consistent. Law enforcement submits cases to the District Attorney for prosecution. The District Attorney has a special Child Abuse Unit. The official criteria for filing a criminal case is whether the evidence will support a determination of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in the case of Alicia W., the case was ranked as very weak by the District Attorney and prosecuted anyway. Other prosecuted child abuse cases were also very weak and seemed to have more of a personal flavor to them than an objective decision to take the worst cases and prosecute.

In sexual abuse cases there appears to be a prosecutorial reliance on the likelihood that a charge will produce a plea to a lesser offense. The penalties for conviction are very high, and the cost of a defense prohibitive. Further, a criminal proceeding against a father keeps the reunification process from proceeding. Pleas are often structured to salvage a "minor" guilt admission for the prosecution.

Numerous defense attorneys testified that they allow and even encourage their clients to plea to a minor charge even when they are certain of the client's innocence in order to facilitate the reunification of the family and to avoid a trial. Defense attorneys feel it is in the client's best interest to avoid a trial because of public sentiment about allegations of molest.

In one case investigated by the jury, the father was accused of 13 felonies. After 18 months in Juvenile Court and personally bankrupt, he decided, upon the advice of counsel, to plea to a single misdemeanor. After reunification with his family, he asked to have his case reexamined. He contacted a ranking detective in the Child Abuse Unit and asked how he could do this. It was suggested that he take a polygraph exam. He did. He followed other procedures recommended to him. The detective began to believe that this man was innocent. He talked to the Deputy District Attorney on the case who treated the exonerating evidence as irrelevant and refused any action.

In the case of Alicia W., the first DNA results returned indicated that the father was not the perpetrator and that the identified and previously convicted serial attacker was within the 5% of males who could be the perpetrator. A repeat test to confirm these results was pending. The Department of Social Services had responded rapidly to a Grand Jury request to look at the new evidence and stop the pending proceedings in Juvenile Court. In response to a motion from DSS, the court ordered the hearing for the termination of parental rights vacated, ordered unsupervised visitation with the mother and supervised therapeutic visitation for the father. The District Attorney refused to lift the "no contact" order.

There was apparent proof that the father had not raped his child. Moreover, there was very strong evidence pointing to the person who had. Instead of "letting go", even the District Attorney's office looked for unsubstantiated scenarios in which the father could be involved.

The most specious statement was made by the head Deputy District Attorney of the District Attorney's Child Abuse Unit. "We have a believable child saying her Dad did it." This child gave a very credible description of another man for over a year. A detailed description was given to law enforcement on the day of the rape. That description was even used by a another Deputy District Attorney to obtain physical evidence to aid in the prosecution of another sexual assault perpetrated by the man described by this child. During the intervening year Alicia was in twice a week therapy with a therapist who believed the father was the perpetrator. She was isolated from anyone who would believe her other story. The therapist and the social worker blocked defense efforts for her to see the judge on the case, have an independent psychological evaluation, and be placed with relatives.

This same head Deputy District Attorney had provided the Jury early in its investigation with a copy of the Child Victim Witness Protocol which she had helped develop. This protocol clearly states that the earlier uncontaminated statements are the most reliable. It cautions against employing multiple interrogations. Why was the child not believed when she told her early story but believed implicitly more than a year later when she told a story implicating her father?

The Jury believes that personnel within the District Attorney's Child Abuse Unit subscribe to many myths about the dynamics of sexual molest which were described in this report under Allegations of Molest. The District Attorney's Child Abuse Unit needs to maintain strict objectivity in its decisions to prosecute and to maintain a protocol of cooperation, but a distinct separation from the Child Protection system.
posted by June at 3:26 AM on June 23, 2009


Devika, you could go to a meetup even without a user account one suspects. So yeah, just act like you've been here forever. It's the only way to act in life. lol.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 5:19 AM on June 23, 2009


June - this is exactly what I'm talking about in my first post here. When presented with a peer reviewed study, you just dismiss it and start ranting about CPS, insisting that everyone is a liar and that the world is conspiring against men. You rely on high-profile anecdotes and innuendo with no actual data. If the best you can come up with is "Canadian women lie less and Canadian men like more" with no justification, despite the fact that the discussed studies include American data, well, I think you aren't participating in good faith.

You seem to really appreciate Straus' 180 degree change when he was confronted with data that disproved his preconceptions, but when presented with data that challenges your beliefs that women lie about abuse more than men, you insist it cannot be true because it doesn't jive with what you believe about the world. This isn't how any headway will be made into fighting IPV.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:16 AM on June 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow, a lot of reading. Thanks all.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:29 AM on June 23, 2009


Allen,

I think we both agree that IPV, DV, and child abuse are problems that need to be solved. My personal view is that child abuse and mental illness are the root causes for IPV, high-conflict divorces, and yet more child abuse. Regardless of the gender of the abuser, my experiences and reading indicate that this is a basically a sound general conclusion. Of course there may be exceptions. If the goal is to solve IPV, DV, and child abuse, then I don't think this study to which you referred does much to help do that whether it is valid or not.

I don't agree with your assessment that fathers intentionally lie vastly more than mothers about child abuse allegations. If the differences were smaller, it would be far more plausible. But that still wouldn't change that the study is flawed to the core for many objective reasons. I'll pick apart the study in more detail below.

Even if I did agree with the study's conclusions as you do, I would then be forced to question why would noncustodial parents lie about child abuse accusations more than custodial parents. I can see two answers: they are bad parents and are noncustodial for a reason, or they are tired of being victimized and want to be part of their children's lives and feel that if they have been victimized that perhaps that's what they have to do to the other parent to regain a role in their children's lives. There may be other reasons, too, but those are the ones which come to mind. The study does nothing to discuss possible motives, however.

Also, I'd like to note that you've twisted what I wrote. I didn't write that Canadian women lie less and Canadian men lie more, I speculated that perhaps Canadians lie in court less than Americans do and so the applicability of the study to the US may be suspect. In general, I am more positively impressed by Canadians than Americans. They seem to be better educated and more ethical.

This study has little objective foundation because it does nothing to verify the underlying data. Further, it leaves out important statistics while making generalizations that are unsupported by the data presented. Therefore the study's conclusions are suspect.

The study consistently makes use of the phrases "noncustodial parents (usually fathers)" and "custodial parents (usually mothers)" without providing one iota of real statistical data on the distribution of mothers vs. fathers in each of the noncustodial and custodial groups. Taking this to an extreme, it could be that 49% of the noncustodial parents were mothers and 51% were fathers and their statement would still be accurate. Yet the study's conclusions go on to imply that all reports from noncustodial parents are from fathers and all from custodial parents are mothers:
Results: Consistent with other national studies of reported child maltreatment, CIS-98 data indicate that more than one-third of maltreatment investigations are unsubstantiated, but only 4% of all cases are considered to be intentionally fabricated.Within the subsample of cases wherein a custody or access dispute has occurred, the rate of intentionally false allegations is higher: 12%. Results of this analysis show that neglect is the most common form of intentionally fabricated maltreatment, while anonymous reporters and noncustodial parents (usually fathers) most frequently make intentionally false reports. Of the intentionally false allegations of maltreatment tracked by the CIS-98, custodial parents (usually mothers) and children were least likely to fabricate reports of abuse or neglect.
There is no way to make a conclusion about fathers vs. mothers given the data presented. Since they didn't present the gender data at all, not even in a simple table showing a breakout of custodial and noncustodial parents by gender, there is no basis for their generalizations. It is irresponsible, academically negligent, and smacks of bias for them to generalize the results as they have done.

CPS doesn't just "conspire against men" (your biased choice of words to make me sound nutty), it often does it to any parent who is an easy target. I'm not saying that all CPS social workers are bad news. There are some good ones, and I'm sure they sometimes really do help kids in obvious trouble. But when it comes down to difficult cases, I think they revert to "CPS strategies for success" training which means they want to "provide services" to a family even when none are required. In the US they get "bonus points" for helping their agency obtain federal funding for "providing services" (taking kids from a parent, forcing parents to go through "classes", etc.) by forcing those services on families even when they are not warranted. There's also a certain amount of wanting to take the "easy way out" which is definitely going after whomever is the easier target.

Men are easier targets than women because of social stereotypes.

Most CPS workers are female. That's a fact that you can check.

People of the same gender are more likely to psychologically identify with each other on a casual basis given prevalent social stereotyping. (I believe this to be true, but can't "prove" it any more than you can prove that it is not true.)

Given these points, it seems CPS social workers would be more likely to psychologically identify with the mothers. If the study did some consistent independent verification on the CPS reports, this problem could be overcome. But the researchers didn't do that.

The study clearly states that it undertook no effort to independently verify any of the reports. This is hugely important because it means that any bias in the data set caused by the CPS investigators would not be detected and would bias the study conclusions.
It is important to note that in this study the finding of a false allegation is a clinical judgment made by the investigating child welfare worker. Despite their best intentions, an error in clinical judgment may occur both with respect to the worker’s perception of the reporter’s intentionality, and also in terms of verifying that the allegation is indeed false.

The judgment of veracity and intentionality of the allegationswas not independently verified. Similarly,
information about custody disputes was provided by the investigating worker and was not verified through court records.
So let's pretend we're the typical victim feminist trained female social worker working a case in which the mother has accused the father of sexual abuse because the kids, ages 2 and 5, are wetting their beds sometimes. Is there any physical evidence? No. Is there any medical doctor stating this is evidence? No. What do the kids say? They get upset talking with me, but don't accuse their father of anything. What did the father say about it? Don't know, didn't bother to speak with him -- he's a man, who cares what he thinks. How would I know if it was intentionally false? Kids wet beds, don't they? Well, I'm going to mark down this case as unsubstantiated.

Next let's pretend what happens when the father reports a problem for the same kids. Let's say it is a burn from a possible neglect incident. I go out a couple of months after the report to investigate. There's no physical evidence. Did a doctor see it? Well, there are all kinds of medical records showing the kid had skin infections and diaper rash. I get confused with all these records, geez these two sound alike because they are skin cultures. Hmm, the one for the kid who wasn't claimed to have been burned says it was negative, guess there was no burn. (In my "confusion", I suppressed the report that said the child who was claimed to have been burned tested positive for an opportunistic skin infection typical of AIDS, cancer, and burn victims.) I interview the kids. They are too young to speak much or claim to not know what is going on. I call the father. He's concerned about the burn and other injuries to both kids and says there are medical reports, voicemails, etc. that show the mother is lying about medical care for the children, withholding medicines, etc. I tell him that we won't accept audio recordings and don't want his pictures of injuries. He says that possibly it's not the mother who is causing these injuries, he thinks the burn may have been caused by a roommate, somebody about whom the kids have been making odd comments and who looks like she's on drugs. I tell him that I don't care about this, I won't investigate the roommate. Then I tell him that unless the kids are dead or hospitalized, I won't do a thing. I mark this one down as the father made an intentionally false report. The bastard is wasting my time.

Do you think these examples are ludicrous? They are, but they are unfortunately real incidents that happened with the ages slightly tweaked and names removed. And the comments about "we won't do anything unless they are dead or hospitalized" have been repeatedly told to this father while accusations far less serious made by the mother via manipulating doctors, therapists, etc. (so she can say "I never filed a CPS report") are routinely investigated by these same CPS social workers.

Here are some more details about the two "pretend" scenarios based upon real reports:

1) There really are audio recordings and medical reports that prove the mother was lying about the children's medical care.

2) The roommate was a convicted drug felon who was addicted to painkillers. She was providing childcare for the kids. She later died from what appears to be a drug overdose that was not adequately investigated by police because they considered it a "NHI" (no human involved) case and are happy to see one more druggie off the streets.

3) The father got pissed off enough at the CPS social workers incompetence and bias that he filed a complaint against them. It was investigated and his allegations were substantiated. Days after the investigation was closed, they took away the kids from the father based upon yet another false allegation of the mother. Once they took away the kids, then they passed off the matter to the police. The police screwed around for more than a year trying to make a case against him, in part because the father pissed them off. He was so suspicious of the government workers given the gross incompetence and bias from CPS and previous police involvement that he requested to record any conversations with them. The detective assigned got upset and refused to allow it, so the father hung up the phone on him. The detective became irate and then took a "personal interest" in the case including making threats against the father including destruction of property, repeatedly attempting to incite a fight to give reason to arrest or physically harm the father, violating his civil and Constitutional rights, illegally seizing property to which the police had no legal right to take but which would interfere in the child custody case, and so forth.

4) This case still isn't resolved even after multiple years. A lot of the best evidence of CPS misconduct was taken by the police and suppressed. Why? It could be personal vendetta by the detective. It could be that the detective has close connections with the CPS social workers given that they all investigate child abuse cases together, attend the same training seminars, etc. It could be that they are covering each other's backs by hiding evidence and persecuting the father to teach him never to complain about them again.

5) This isn't a high profile case, at least not yet.

Bias in CPS is very, very real. And it goes to the core of this data set. And there is nothing, not one thing, that the study authors did to ensure that there was any independent verification on any of these cases on which they report. It's garbage in, garbage out and you cannot prove otherwise without independent verification when there is so much subjectivity and obvious bias in the behaviors of individual CPS social workers.

Do you know how the CPS reporting system works and how it is used by false accusers? I can't speak for Canada with certainty, but do know what happens in the US. The report makes the Canadian system sound similar to the US system, but doesn't discuss any differences so I won't claim to know what they are.

"Anonymous complaints" are the rule in the US. Even when complaints are filed by professionals who are mandatory reporters, they show up in CPS documentation without identifying the source. The source is referred to as "RP" standing for "Reporting Party". If you are familiar with the case, you may be able to figure out the source. There is no way these study authors had enough time to become familiar with 7600 cases to the point that they can be clear on which reports are coming from which parties and why. They don't claim to have done it, either. They base their results on surveys completed by the same potentially biased CPS social workers.

The study to which you refer says:
Results of this analysis show that neglect is the most common form of intentionally fabricated maltreatment, while anonymous reporters and noncustodial parents (usually fathers) most frequently make intentionally false reports. Of the intentionally false allegations of maltreatment tracked by the CIS-98, custodial parents (usually mothers) and children were least likely to fabricate reports of abuse or neglect.
Many false accusations are filed by "anonymous complaints" which are professional reporters being manipulated by a person with malicious intent. They are required to file the reports. Many of these mandatory reporters lack the understanding of what they are hearing to judge if it is true or not. But they must report it.

The study talks about 65% of these reports coming from people other than the mother and father:
More than half (65%) of all reports of child abuse and neglect in the study sample were from professionals or staff involved in providing services to children and families, with schools (23%) and the police (12%) providing the largest proportion of reports (Table 2). Over a quarter (31%) of reports were from family members, including postseparation custodial parents (7%), noncustodial parents (4%), relatives (17%), and the children themselves (3%).
One of ways in which false allegations are made is by manipulating mandatory reporters. The lying parent goes in to a therapist and starts to complain about something to make the other parent sound bad. Next there's a child abuse report filed against the parent. So long as some of the details are verified or sound plausible (the kids wet the bed, there was a scratch on a leg, etc.) the CPS social working may decide to mark the case as "unsubstantiated" and not mark it "intentionally false" even though there have been 20 such reports like this from people manipulated by the lying parent.

The study also says:
This article challenges some of the misperceptions about the frequency and characteristics of intentionally false allegations in child welfare investigations and their relationship to custody and access disputes, based on a study of 7,600 child welfare investigations conducted across Canada.
7600 cases sounds like a lot and on the surface seems like it should be statistically valid. But this assumes the underlying dataset is good in the first place. Consider the source of the data. It is CPS agencies. To make this argument crystal clear by being extreme, if some KKK fan were to come in here and start saying that blacks make 72 times the false allegations of whites and this is proven by a study of 9,384 allegations researched by 29 different KKK branches, would you give it any credibility? I wouldn't. If you understand how CPS agencies work, you wouldn't give their datasets much credibility, either, especially for difficult cases involving child custody conflicts.

The data set is even further suspect because of these comments in the study:
While the CIS-98 is the most comprehensive national child maltreatment dataset available in Canada, it is important to note that the study did not track: (1) incidents that were not reported to child protection authorities; (2) reported cases that were screened out by child protection workers before being fully investigated; (3) new reports on cases already open by child protection authorities; (4) cases that were only investigated by the police; (5) cases involving separated parents who proceeded through the family courts without having full child welfare investigation.
Here are some hypothetical interpretations that blow huge holes in the study because of these comments.

Item #2 could mean the women were less convincing liars than the men, so their reports aren't included in the study.

Item #3 could mean that women keep making false report after false report, but that even 100 false reports would only be counted as one.

Item #4 could mean that women tend to make false reports to police, hoping to get an immediate arrest to throw the guy into jail. The police harass the guy then decide this is bogus for whatever reason (e.g., mommy can't keep her story straight but daddy can), so it never goes to CPS.

Item #5 means that unless CPS took notice of the case, the case isn't even in the study. So all false allegations made in court only are discounted entirely. I misunderstood this earlier as having some data included from courts, but was wrong about that. It has none. And I really do mean that. CPS doesn't go back and update their investigations based upon family law court hearings that show allegations were false. So even if it was proven in court that an allegation was false and/or malicious, the CPS records wouldn't show this unless the CPS social worker decided it was the case.

This study is almost worthless. But you like the results, so you gloss over its glaring flaws.

And you'll counter with that I'm discounting it because I don't like the results. The results don't match the behaviors I've seen and heard described from people I trust about CPS social workers and their actions, nor do they match legal documents in court cases. There are so many solid reasons to question the validity of this study and its conclusions. I suspect you will not address them, but just accuse me of being biased and having a closed mind.

So maybe it isn't worthwhile to argue about this study. Perhaps a better use of time is discussing how to stop IPV, DV, and child abuse.
posted by June at 3:44 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would then be forced to question why would noncustodial parents lie about child abuse accusations more than custodial parents. I can see two answers: they are bad parents and are noncustodial for a reason, or they are tired of being victimized and want to be part of their children's lives and feel that if they have been victimized that perhaps that's what they have to do to the other parent to regain a role in their children's lives. There may be other reasons, too, but those are the ones which come to mind.

You neglected the most obvious reason: power. Noncustodial parent wishes to exercise power over custodial parent. The kid actually has nothing to do with any of this. He or she is a pawn. I won't be all TMI, but my dad (noncustodial) tried this with my mom, and I witnessed it in some of the families of other friends I had. My dad wasn't actually that interested in me.

I thought that "kids as pawn in divorce battle" was a trope so obvious as to be trite at this point.
posted by rtha at 4:25 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Allen,
Again, I don't see why I or anyone should trust June's interpretations of the Straus study, especially given the boldfaced assertion of something that is demonstrably false. There is an interesting discussion to be made about dating violence, which is one of the newest areas of focus for DV and IPV researchers and one that has a lot of unexplored complexities.
I didn't make a "boldface assertion of something that is demonstrably false." Your beloved study is fatally flawed for the reasons I have described.

I also don't really care if you trust my interpretation of the Straus study. People should read it themselves. Straus already provides an interpretation which mostly makes sense, but as with so many sociological studies still has gaps and weaknesses.
Furthermore, the Straus study used self-reporting (with prompts, if I remember that one correctly) and was done tested by college students, which is a remarkably different method of data gathering than police records. What individuals consider to be abuse can be deeply gendered, even when presented with prompts. If there is a background normalcy of male sexual violence, a tolerated residuum, as Duncan Kennedy put it in Sexy Dressing, then we would expect that men would only identify extraordinary behavior as abusive. This is especially true when it comes to self-reporting; nobody thinks of themselves as an abuser just as nobody likes to think of themselves as a rapist, no matter how many IAT tests they take. Women, on the other hand, would be more likely to report their own abuse against this background, because there is not the same cultural backdrop that excuses and accepts these actions.
If I am understanding you correctly, you're trying to say that people blow off men being violent because of some social norms. I don't think that's true, but regardless of what I think, I can demonstrate an example of people blowing off women being violent because of social norms.
Author David Thomas expands upons Farrell’s work in his book Not Guilty: The Case in Defense of Men. He adds statistics, cases, and quotes from real people to further build the case that Western society has an unfair double standard against men. For instance, one of those quotes is a female DV worker justifying why it’s OK for her to abuse her fiance:

I argue with my fiance, I’ve slapped him round the face…
But I’m five foot five and he’s six foot three.


When female workers in domestic violence justify their own violence against men, it’s clear there is a serious problem.
The Straus study seemed to be showing fairly consistent reporting between female and male viewpoints. That's apparently how he was trying to control for gender bias.
Finally, the Straus study fails to consider intensity of abuse in its "both" category, a concern I listed above. If I abuse my partner every day and then finally he fights back, it's totally unclear that this ought to be categorized as mutual abuse. There are a number of interesting approaches to that question, but you're just looking to justify your own opinion, as far as I can tell.
Your comment about the pattern of violence is a very good one. For instance, if a partner A berates, threatens, and follows partner B for an hour and partner B keeps trying to disengage and escape to no success but finally "loses it" and strikes partner A, how do you count that? It's vastly different than if partner A opens the door to say hello and partner B slugs partner A in the face.

Your last comment shows your inability to judge intent. You seem to be very judgmental towards me. It's hard not to be judgmental back at you.

I have some concerns with the Straus study, too. Mostly they have to do with how the international comparisons work out. Take page 25 of the study, for instance. It is counterintuitive to expect high female on male DV rates in Islamic countries, for instance, given their generally strenuous suppression of women's rights and willingness to kill women based upon nothing more than accusations of them being raped. And I was shocked at Taiwan showing 37.8% female-on-male only violence vs. 2.7% the other way. Traditional Chinese culture is very male-biased, so this is really surprising on the surface.
posted by June at 4:30 PM on June 23, 2009


You neglected the most obvious reason: power. Noncustodial parent wishes to exercise power over custodial parent. The kid actually has nothing to do with any of this. He or she is a pawn. I won't be all TMI, but my dad (noncustodial) tried this with my mom, and I witnessed it in some of the families of other friends I had. My dad wasn't actually that interested in me.

Good point. I think this may be true for some fathers, but certainly not all. It's probably true of some mothers, too. I don't find it intuitive to not care about children, so didn't think of it.

This problem is probably encouraged by the way child support and custody are determined. If there was more even sharing of children in the first place, it might be less common for such problems to occur.
posted by June at 4:32 PM on June 23, 2009


So maybe it isn't worthwhile to argue about this study. Perhaps a better use of time is discussing how to stop IPV, DV, and child abuse.

That is rich, coming from someone who wants to pretend the majority of DV doesn't exist. Someone whose sole purpose for being here is to use suppositions and assumptions about DV workers ("homosexual females" in particular, wtf) to obscure the stunningly vast predominance of women among DV victims. Don't try to cloak yourself in the mantle of abuse-fighter. Your motives and goals are clear: dismantle the current, "sexist" system, and set up one in which men and women are equally likely to be identified as abusers. That is a system in which women would be vastly under-protected.

Look, your wonderful boyfriend shoved and choked his wife (as far as you know) and was arrested for it. And now you spend your time constructing a vast edifice of blame for everyone but your boyfriend. That's rather a personal interest of yours, and not one you can expect anyone else to be converted to.
posted by palliser at 6:14 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is a court order requiring California domestic violence shelters to stop discriminating against men. Be sure to read the factual background of the case, which include a 13-year history of armed spousal abuse perpetrated by a wife against a husband, and a stabbing of a boyfriend by a girlfriend, which preceded a campaign of threats, intimidation, harassment, and property crimes. Those victims, as well as the other plaintiffs in the case, contacted the King Drew Medical Center, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition, and other agencies, only to be told "they did not help men."

Oh, and on the subject of false allegations of abuse, I offer the following. In Massachusetts, divorce cases before the 1980's used to routinely involve a hearing on a contested motion to vacate the marital home-- an attempt by one spouse to get the other out of the house, against their will. Nowadays, almost no such motions get filed. Why, you ask? They've been almost completely obviated by the availability of domestic violence abuse prevention complaints under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 209A. Restraining orders under ch. 209A typically involve not just an order to vacate the marital home (for up to a year, much longer than the 90 day maximum for outmoded motions to vacate the marital home during a divorce), but can also include compelled financial support. Plus, any history of 209A orders must be considered by a judge when making child custody decisions later in the divorce proceedings.

Family law practitioners, as a matter of course, advise clients of the relative benefits to be had from a 209A restraining order versus a motion to vacate the marital home, which I'd suggest is part of the reason the latter filings have almost disappeared and the former filings have exploded. After all, why not? If you make a false allegation of abuse in a 209A claim and get sued for abuse of process, the courts will automatically dismiss the suit against you, with an award of costs.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 6:22 PM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


[comment removed - this thread shouldn't be anyone's personal 3500-word essay farm about the topic, it's for community discussion. Leave personal attacks out of it or go to MetaTalk.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:38 PM on June 23, 2009


June - you looked to the wrong study, and I find your deconstruction to be problematic. You may not like it, but the study I linked to is available on West and is frequently cited (I can count a few in LRJ alone and even more in sociology and social work journals). These authors and their various studies appear frequently in Family Court Review and other widely available journals and the data I discussed is not limited to only Canada. I didn't put up a PDF file because I'm unclear that I could defend a full reposting in this forum as fair use and I can't edit out MeFi posts. Again, if you want it, I can email it to you. Your focus on the custodial/non-custodial concern is addressed in “Allegations of Sexual Abuse When Parents Have Separated,” which was the original source of the statistics.

It's clear you're not in the research community, but that's fine. I think it's important to have outsider participation, especially in something that directly impacts so many lives and is an issue of public concern. I think it's unfortunate that more of these studies aren't publicly available. Furthermore, academic language can be obscure and distancing (sometimes intentionally) and I do not expect third-party participants to use exacting terminology and to be on top of major debates within the field. Part of this is my own problem; nearly all researchers are familiar with Duncan Kennedy's theory of the tolerated residuum of abuse, but it's not something that I should drop in without explanation (although lord knows these posts are too long). I realize I and others need to work better. That said, I think this is an area where multiple voices must be welcome and where the lived experience of those who have negative encounters with the judicial system must be heard and privileged.*

And most researchers I know try their absolute hardest to listen to these voices, to understand these problems, to look critically at data, and so on. They participate in spirited debate and publish often. Then there is a small fringe movement, consisting mostly of men who have lost custody, who believe that everyone else is a liar, that nobody listens to them, that all the studies but their own are false, and that the whole system has conspired to exclude and debase them. They are often disruptive (there's graffiti near my house that says "Father's have no rights in Massachusetts") and you can spot them a mile away. They do not participate in these exchanges openly and honestly, even with the very broad discretion due to outsiders and non-academics described above. Their blogs and books and studies cite only each other, or outside studies insofar that they support their main contentions; there is no room for skepticism, uncertainty, or ambiguity in this worldview. These people are very similar to Ron Paul types who cite only Lew Rockwell or 9/11 Truthers who cite only Prison Planet.

Based on your reaction to the one piece I linked to, and given the sites to which you linked, I just can't help but see you as someone aligned with such groups. Your reactions are not particularly insightful nor do they discredit the study (especially given that you selective attack a piece that was not used for the proposition that disturbs you). Your counter-reasons, at least the ones that are somewhat plausible, are all discussed in that piece and in others by the authors. Furthermore, you ignore the reasons they give and the obvious ones discussed here (and immediately after your post). Control.

The control motive is currently the leading theory explaining most DV; batters abuse to establish control and dominance over their victims.** When victims file for separation and custody, abusers get infuriated. This is why the single most dangerous time for a battered woman is immediately after separation. This simple fact is why we have battered women's shelters - because when the woman's life is in the most danger, the criminal justice system cannot keep her safe.*** Orders of protection are largely toothless and woman lack the ability to insist upon their enforcement if and when police officers look the other way.****

Given the control motive, custody hearings became a great way for abusers to continue this form of domination. Infuriated that *their* family is being disrupted and *their * privacy is being infringed upon, these abusers cast themselves as victims, refusing to see themselves as having done everything wrong and claiming that the abused is the real problem. Victims of long-term hierarchical abuse are less likely than average to fight back, let alone make counterclaims. Believe me, abusers know exactly how much their victims are likely to fight back. Most people in the DV community do not believe that abusers lie with the ultimate aim of getting custody; they lie and get custody in order to continue to harass and control their victim. If you believe in this model, it's pretty clear why men would be more likely than women to file demonstrably false claims.

There's another obvious reason why people like in custody hearings. Their lawyer told them too. Non-custodial parents are more likely to lawyer up for a number of reasons, including that men have more access to resources, on average, than women, and because those without custody are more likely to believe they need a lawyer. Lawyers frequently advise their clients to make any possible claim in order to influence the proceedings and to wear down their adversary.

Making all of this worse are the MRAs who often encourage men to lie in court, conceivably to level what they see as an uneven playing field. If you think I'm crazy, read Alec Baldwin's book, A Promise to Ourselves. He literally encourages men to make false claims about their wives in a custody hearing, feeling that there's no way for men to get a fair shake otherwise. Plenty of "men's rights" groups repeat this mantra in public and in private. I cannot stress this enough: this is not the behavior of reasonable participants in a debate, this is fringe lunacy similar to tax protesters and far-right militia types. I'm not saying Alec Baldwin is a domestic terrorist (30 Rock is pretty great, don't get me wrong) but for fuck's sake, people need to knock this shit out.

The actions of MRAs and these "father's rights" attorneys is perfectly consistent with the control motive theory. Abusive men believe that their family is their own business and nobody has a right to tell them how to treat their wife or children. When she leaves and he loses control, he gets infuriated and while some take matters into their own hands, beating up or killing their intimate partners, others act out in court, fabricating lies. The simple fact that *their* woman can leave and deprive him of control unhinges him further, the fact that he cannot control the legal proceedings makes him listen to MRAs who convince him that there's a conspiracy out there. These damn feminists and liberals have polluted his woman's mind, first making her act up (which is her own fault and why she had to be hit) and then to leave (how dare she).

Of course, even without this fringe element, the debate is fascinating. I presented the issue of intensity as an open question which I'm still really puzzled about. You presented a similar situation and I would suggest that escalation and retribution can make it hard to determine how to classify instances of abuse as mutual or not. Even if we describe this as a spectrum, coding these incidents is very hard. And this assumes there is no evidentiary dispute and that both parties agree on the facts - which is a vast oversimplification. Figuring this out in person is extremely hard, building complex models and theories to describe this behavior in order to craft realistic interventions is even harder. Now you can believe that the whole academy is biased and tone-deaf, that your criticisms of these studies are novel and without precedent, that anything which disagrees with your assessment of CPS and other agencies must be wrong. That's quite an edifice you've built and its unfair to the many people, women and men, who study these issues for a living (and the thousands of social workers, volunteers, attorneys, counselors and the like who work to improve difficult situations).

I've told you time and again that I, like many others, take violence against men seriously, that I think that non-academics need to participate in these discussions, that the very real experiences of people who encounter the judicial system must be the basis of any attempts to improve what is an admittedly imperfect and flawed series of processes. I just don't think MRAs and people behind sites like angiemedia actually care about any of these things, let alone the truth. I think these people are infuriated that someone dare speak back to them and will do whatever they can to dismantle any limitations on their ability to dominate their spouses.


* There's a term for this: it's called feminist consciousness raising. People hated it then too, when women dared talk with each other about their own abuse.
** If anyone is really that interested, I can send them my own work that goes after the control motive theory a bit. I think it's a little overly simplistic and needs to be updated in light of modern mind-science research, but now we're getting really obscure and it's totally tangential to the argument here.
*** Sadly, the shelters cannot always keep her safe either. There's a few cases ever years of wife-beaters hunting down their exes in a shelter and killing them and often their children.
**** See the Supreme Court case Castle Rock v. Gonzales, where a woman was barred from suing the state of Colorado under a state statute that required Orders of Protection to be enforced. It's a real mindfuck of a case.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:42 PM on June 23, 2009


Ah crap. Here's hoping Jessamyn holds hard-and-fast to the 3500 word count rule. Sorry for taking up so much server space, I hope you don't have to delete a really deserving lolcat.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:43 PM on June 23, 2009


Allen,

I agree that the "control theory" you mention explains a lot of behaviors. It explains them for abusive women, too, like my boyfriend's ex. I think you're disregarding this to a large extent and keep harping on women being victims and men being abusers.

The Straus study points to the physical IPV risk being highest for people in a domineering/controlling situation. The study shows the physical IPV risk is the highest of all in situations in which women are using domineering/controlling tactics.

But why is control so important to abusers? I think it stems from their abusive childhoods. They want to control everything around them to minimize the chance of being hurt again, and were shown how to use violence, threats, intimidation, and other control tactics to exert this control. They are mentally ill with long-term problems (e.g., personality disorders) and make other people mentally ill (depression, anxiety, paranoia, PTSD, etc.) because of how they treat others.

The "control theory" explains what has happened to my boyfriend, too. His ex was losing control over him as he saw her increasingly destructive behaviors towards their children and him and was increasingly afraid of her and not wanting to spend time around her. He was fine taking the kids out, putting them to sleep, etc. as he loves their kids. He slept in a separate room with a dresser blocking the door, afraid of what she might do while he was asleep to either him or to hurt their baby who was too young to talk and then blame it on him. He says she threatened to report him to police and there was no cause for her to be doing this. She would pick fights for no apparent reason, start trying to get the kids involved to take her side, and then threaten to report him to the police for him simply sounding agitated by her treating him so badly.

I've read the police reports, court filings, listened to recordings, etc. She's a liar and perjurer, there's no way around it. There is simply too much evidence that is solid physical evidence including photos, recordings, and 3rd party reports that show she lies so often that believing much of anything she says is silly. You really have to approach her from the standpoint of everything is a lie unless proven otherwise. This is very strange, I have never seen somebody lie so much and so brazenly and never imagined a person could get away with it for so long.

The problem is getting anybody to look at the evidence is nearly impossible. He once tried to show the court how dishonest she was by going through one of her declarations sentence by sentence and writing a response that showed how nearly everything she wrote was somewhere between an exaggeration to outright fabrication. He included exhibits to back up his statements. The judge wouldn't even read it and just complained about the length. I read it, and hers, too. I came away wondering if she even knows what the truth is about anything. Her lies are convincing in part because they following the "man is abuser" rhetoric. But when you look at her statements and the objective evidence, there's no way she is telling the truth.

Even if you want to imply that he's not telling the whole truth or understating something, that wouldn't change a thing in terms of her being a controlling liar who knows very, very well how to play this system. She can only play it like this because of the bias in the system. I don't just mean bias against men, but also bias in favor of liars and the rewards they reap from their lies.

I agree with his reasoning that she's got Borderline Personality Disorder or something like it. She shows nearly all of the behavioral characteristics for Borderlines in atypical ways. By this I mean that it isn't just an occasional oddity that everybody might show, but that it has been repeated many times in extreme ways.

For instance, she seems to lack a grasp on reality and lets her emotions determine her truths. In a single police report, she presents about three vastly different versions of events. His version is always consistent in the details but maybe varies in the tone based upon whether he is upset in the moment or more detached at a later time. When she gets deposed and writes in court declarations, yet more versions appear. The woman is not credible to anybody who spends enough time listening to her.

But for the most part, the police and CPS won't do that. Instead they jump all over him nearly every time she cons a doctor or therapist into filing another false abuse report. Her lawyers keep spewing her lies all over court documents and other venues. He's not afraid of the truth or the facts. But he is literally afraid of talking with any of these people because of the way they have unfairly and dishonestly treated him. From what I've seen it is with ample cause because they dismiss everything he says and twist what other people say about him, too. He's agreed to talk with them with a recording or a lawyer, but they refuse. Then they write in their reports that they mailed him offers for interviews and tell the court they did so, yet he never received anything. His lawyer requested they produce proof of their claims. But they wontt, probably because they lied to the court and never did what they claimed they did.

To illustrate how extreme this is, she was alleging he was sexually abusing the kids while he was in supervised visitation with them. He was being watched by people and video recorded at all times. Her "proof" is that they had potty accidents and copies of the previous court papers she filed with more lies in them. The doctor she contacted filed a mandatory child abuse report against him due to her manipulation, apparently not aware this was "happening" in supervised visitation because she didn't mention that according to the medical reports. Ironically, he was protected by the supervised visitation because there's no way what she claims was happening could be happening.

Because of the bias of this system, their children and my boyfriend are suffering from the terror she creates. She gets away with illegal and harassing conduct. She does it because she wants control over the children and control over him. He wants to never see her again, for her to leave him alone, and to have time with their kids. She won't accept it. He increasingly is afraid she will never stop until he's dead.

When her strategy of running away with the children, money, and records and having him kicked out of their home with a falsely obtained restraining order didn't work because the court mediator investigated and found she's not credible, she then fired her attorney and started plotting more destruction. She violated a restraining order and tried to frame one of his relatives for a crime. But she couldn't keep her story straight in those police reports, either, so no charges were ever filed. Even though it is irrefutable by her own statements and those of witnesses that she violated the restraining order on her, nobody will do a thing about it.

He tried to get her family to help to do something to get her the help she needs. She viewed this as an attack, and attacked him back by spreading altered police reports and false statements to child care providers, doctors, schools, and churches. Then these people would attack on her behalf because they "know" he must be a nasty person because she says so and has "papers" to "prove" it.

She doesn't hand out the court mediation report, however, that says her abuse allegations are not credible and that she's emotionally unstable. Nope, she hands out police reports she edited to eliminate the detective follow-up, leaving just her accusations. Most people see things like this and think he's a bad guy, not even realizing the report is just her accusations with all the investigation removed because it didn't support her statements. He found out she was doing this and tried to make it stop by contacting the people they both knew to tell them somebody (he didn't say who) is spreading lies about them and the divorce case and to not believe it and to not spread those lies on. This backfired on him, too.

He can't defend himself against her. Any time he tries, she finds a way to spin and distort it into him being a bad person. And she won't stop attacking. We all think it is because she is mentally ill.

There are too many people he or I have run across who have had divorces due to mental illness with false child abuse accusations to accept that this is unusual. He thinks that most divorces are caused by mental illness. From the ones he lists, it seems he's right, but the sample size of course is too small to be able to make a general conclusion. But when you toss in Bill Eddy's writings, it seems pretty clear there is substantial reason to believe that most of the high-conflict divorces like his are due to mental illnesses.

Erin Pizzey's reasoning on these problems makes a lot of sense. She says abused women were usually abused as kids and have come to expect and demand a certain level of violence and will make that happen. They view violence, whether it is physical or verbal or emotional, as means to assert control.

In the studies you have presented, there is a distinct absence of discussion about psychology and previous child abuse. I don't believe these studies present a coherent picture of what is going on unless they start to explain the why because I believe the why will separate out a lot of the subsets of people in these studies. They need to collect more historical data on the participants in these studies to understand their family and mental health backgrounds and find a way to integrate that into the studies.

Some of the MRA people may be too rabid. But there are victim feminists groups which are too rabid, too. They even deny that parental alienation ever happens. Women have their children alienated against them, too, but apparently the victim feminists are willing to sacrifice many women and children for "the greater good" of holding true to their lies of women always being victims and men always being abusers. Trish Wilson is one of these irresponsible vicious feminists who comes to mind. She makes even the rabid MRA people look good.

I think you're wrong about a lot of the sites like angiemedia.com, thepsychoexwife.com, bpdcentral.com, etc. They are focusing on screwed up divorces and child custody battles and mental illness, not beating up on women. They come right out and point out that abuses like parental alienation happen to women, too, and cite legal cases about it sometimes and say that it's wrong whether it happens to a mother or father and hurts the children in every case. Maybe they harp on more of the dysfunctional psycho mothers, but from their perspectives that's reality and given how so many other people want to keep lumping people like this into some heap of men who are abusers, you can hardly blame them for wanting to show that women are abusive, too. I remember reading some articles on angiemedia.com in which the author pushed hard for people to never lie in court, to make sure whatever statements they make in TRO applications are factual and backed up with evidence, and for courts to hold liars and perjurers accountable. Maybe some other sites advocate lying in court, but I don't think that one does.

I had a relationship with a man whom I thought was charming but he turned out to be a really nasty narcissistic man who was abused as a child. He's just like my boyfriend's ex except for gender. What drives many of the people who write these websites up the wall is that they are attacked endlessly, always blamed because they are men, and very few people will listen or understand unless they have been through similar experiences with mentally ill people. "Charm" is just another control tool for people like them. If you do what they want, they won't ruin you. If you disagree with them, then they get vicious. And it seems like there is no way to escape it other than to disappear. My boyfriend struggles with that every day. He can't stand the thought of abandoning their kids to her insanity, but doesn't see any way she will ever stop what she does unless she gets exactly what she wants because the government won't step in and do what is best for everybody to get her the help she needs and protect everybody else from her.

If you have never been in a relationship with somebody who has BPD or NPD, imagine that you are usually being put down, blamed, threatened, insulted, and controlled. Even when they are "nice" to you, it is only to control you to get something they want. These people treat you like these videos, except often worse.
posted by June at 12:28 AM on June 24, 2009


Wow, that video is something else. Does this really ring true to you? You really don't think this is animated by garden-variety woman hatred? I'm kind of speechless. And pointing out that there is a cycle of violence and that children learn these behaviors from their parents is hardly a radical proposition. The papers don't assert the parallel postulate either, nor would it make sense. Nothing I discussed tried to explain the origins of these behaviors, they were merely trying to model their prevalance and patterns.

Anyway, if you think that that video, or much of what you wrote is in any way on point, I worry. I mean, I understand how individuals can feel powerless or that a legal system isn't responding to their needs, but just step back for a bit and try to look at these institutions and individuals as part of larger systems. I'm not saying that there aren't huge problems and individualized instances of injustice, of course there are. Our whole legal system is riddled with them. Seriously, an incredible amount of people face substantial injustices and incredible barriers every day when encountering the legal system. This does not excuse the problems that privileged white males face when accused of abuse in any way. Yet when the language used is not only blind to the privilege but can be equally read as a rage about its loss, perhaps overwhelming the actual inequity faced, you can see why people raise eyebrows. It's sort of like the richest man in town yelling "The emperor has no socks! Why isn't anyone listening to me! This is the worst thing ever!"

When I watch videos like that and read the websites you cited, I see people who are used to dominating others encountering, perhaps for the first time ever, a system of power that doesn't automatically privilege their voice and defer to their own worldview. I'm know hat some have legitimate problems and I continue to work to solve them. Yet so many of these voices express rage at not being able to dominate the system, or their exes anymore. And my God, that animation is ludicrous. You might not want to link to that outside of certain kool-aid drinking societies.
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:50 AM on June 24, 2009


Oh man, I just read more of the blog you posted. This is a definite highlight (from the post 10 Warning Signs You’re Dating or Married to a Female Mahmoud Ahmadinejad)


Many people can’t fathom what’s taking place in Iran. However, men who are married to women with Narcissistic Personality Disorder or traits experience the same control techniques as the Iranian citizens on a daily basis. Instead of being machined gunned to death in the streets of Tehran, they suffer death by a thousand cuts in their 3BR, 2BA homes behind closed doors.


I nominate this for an honorary Hoekstra award (previously)
posted by allen.spaulding at 12:58 AM on June 24, 2009


One of the things that convinced me that the self-styled men's rights movement was nothing I wanted anything to do with was their emphasis on feminism being the cause of all of their problems.

This was particularly jarring since my first encounter with it was my curiosity about custody rights. Something (probably a metafilter thread) made me decide to research the subject. It seemed plausible that there might be a bias towards giving women custody; I thought it might also be possible that women got custody more often because they tended to be custodial parents more often. So, I poked around.

Now, if there is a tendency towards giving women custody, it seemed plainly obvious to me that it was most likely a holdover from 19th-century style "women automatically make better nurturers" thinking. That's why it seemed plausible; I felt it entirely likely that a judge with an old-fashioned mindset might unconsciously or even consciously believe that children would be better off with their mother in most circumstances.

But when I hit the men's rights pages, they were essentially screaming FEMINISM IS WHY WOMEN ARE STEALING OUR BABIES!!!! It didn't even make sense. What was the connection? Feminism? Huh?

As I read more, I found out that feminism was being blamed for pretty much everything. Every woe that any man anywhere ever suffered, feminism was somehow at fault.

That is what convinced me, as some have said above, that the men's rights movement is more interested in keeping women down than it is in finding equity for men. Any attempt by women to gain rights or power was seen as an attack. Finding the pages filled with dubious studies, anecdotal evidence, and bizarre bias was just icing on the cake after that.

I still, of course, believe in men's rights, since I believe in human rights. I still have an open mind about the custody thing. But the men's rights movement, as it currently exists? Can find itself some new spokespeople and a new focus, or as far as I'm concerned it can drop dead.
posted by kyrademon at 1:22 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Devika: The queer activist within me says "wait a minute, patriarchy ≠ gender role," and the classics student chimes in with "hey yeah, and patriarchy? That's got arkhein (to rule) in it

But we are really talking about patriarchy as a term of art here. Hesiod and the OED are less relevant to this discussion than citations from feminist literature.

Thus women continue to be intimidated by the label anti-male. Some feel a false need to draw distinctions, for example: "I am anti-patriarchal but not anti-male." The courage to be logical - the courage to name - would require that we admit to ourselves that males and males only are the originators, planners, controllers, and legitimators of patriarchy. Patriarchy is the homeland of males' it is the Father Land, and men are its agents. Mary Daly, The Meta-Ethics of Radical Feminism, p. 28

Here is a rendition of patriarchy as a thing of almost conspiratorial male design: for us, by us. And maybe Hesiod's relevant to her.

[...] contemporary feminists use 'patriarchy' in a variety of senses. Some have argued that the problems with the concept are so great that it should be abandoned. To follow such a course would mean that, to the best of my knowledge, feminist political theory would then be without the only concept that refers specifically to the subjugation of women, that singles out the form of political right that all men exercise by virtue of being men. Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract, p. 20

Here is patriarchy as the complex of a 'male privilege.'

[Joan of Arc's] intractable male identification, expressed not in the usual female submission to the male but in an attempted coequal bonding with him, was central to her quest for freedom. Under patriarchy, men have freedom because they are men. To want freedom is to want not only what men have, but also what men are. This is male identification as militance, not feminine submission [...] Joan's unselfconscious and unrepentant assumption of a male role (both martial and heroic) was the crime against male supremacy that cost her her life. Andrea Dworkin, Intercourse, p. 124

Dworkin is referring to Deuteronomy 22:5, the most ironic of the metaphysical chinks in Joan's armor - it was the armor.

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

Dworkin casts the figure Joan in a sort of miracle play of crossing an electrified gender line. What is patriarchy? It is what Joan put on. Her heroism, it is implied, and the scale of her life and death, are nothing more than what is historically withheld from her sex. It is the whole reason why this one line is so warded and charged, and why she should die just for crossing it and putting on a shirt, like the poisoned shirt of Nessus.

But up-to-date, logically sound, and useful? I'd say that the concept of "patriarchy" resoundingly fulfills all three criteria

Other than the review of Bala and Schuman, my participation in this thread has mostly aimed at the statement that patriarchy hurts men too. I find too many contradictions and longshots here. That in the union of Pateman, Daly, Dworkin, MacKinnon, etc - and in a word that boils down to "male rule" - we have a good and sincere construct for talking about discrimination against men? That a system we've variously defined as working entirely for and by men is also the one best model to reach for when they are victimized? A patriarchy that hurts men is not far from a completed set, a catch-all that joins Pateman's Contract to its logical complement. It is poorly-defined, and this is what I mean by calling it a pluralized gender role. What excludes any role I feel like attributing to it?

We can look as television's far-off spectator at an acid attack, or a dowry killing, and see back in time; the effect is not completely erased when looking at the close and present. We all do relive some portion of that history. But we can also see dark ages in our prisons, witchfinders with databases, torture discussed as public and plain as a stockade. And some of these are things that disproportionately afflict men and that, even if they come out of the past, don't necessarily come out of patriarchy.

thus an ingrained mistrust/fear of men might be a sadly logical starting point for women in modern Western society.

It is sad that the circumstances of one's birth or sex should make them an object of fear or mistrust, but I will never agree that it is logical.
posted by kid ichorous at 5:41 AM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, that video is something else. Does this really ring true to you? You really don't think this is animated by garden-variety woman hatred? I'm kind of speechless. And pointing out that there is a cycle of violence and that children learn these behaviors from their parents is hardly a radical proposition.

There were two videos on that post. I can't really comment on the second one completely because I didn't finish watching it, but it seemed like the nonsense argument for argument sake kind of stuff my boyfriend has described with his ex. The one with the British accented guy about the beach and sunscreen, that one especially rings true to my boyfriend. He says he had similar conflicts with his ex-wife except that she'd do it in front of the kids at home, not at his office behind a closed door.

For example, his ex would go out and spend thousands of dollars on something like training seminars in a business she wanted to start, then a few days later would be ranting at him how he is so controlling he would not allow her to buy underwear.

She'd do this after she gave away lots of good clothes to charity, some that she never even wore and were brand new or close to it. And she'd be sure to start the argument in front of the kids. He pointed out that what she was saying made no sense considering she's spent far more money on replacing some old but still working kitchen appliance few days earlier, etc. and underwear is only a few dollars for a package, a fraction of what she spent on other things that she never discussed with him until after she bought them. She'd act like she had to ask permission, then she'd turn to the kids and start telling them how he's a bad daddy and try to get them to join in the fight.

Knowing that there is no way to reason with her, he'd walk away from this as nothing good could come of it, especially not in front of the kids.

He was really upset about how she would instigate fights in front of the children, apparently that is what got him to thinking she needed therapy. Unfortunately, that backfired because the therapist caused even more damage because like many therapists, she isn't trained on treating personality disorders and turned her into an even more aggressive and deceitful person.

He said a couple of times he overheard her after these kinds of incidents telling the kids how they were going to leave and never see him again because he was a bad daddy. The older one who could talk would sometimes tell other people about it matter-of-factly right in front of my boyfriend. It was something like "Mommy says daddy is so bad, she's going to take us and move us away so we don't have to ever see daddy again." When asked if she thought daddy was bad, she'd say no. But that's what mommy said, so she was saying it, too. She apparently used to greet him when he walked into a room by saying "bad daddy" and smiling. This is part of why he's so worried about his ex being a parental alienator. She can't separate her needs to ruin him from the kids needs to have two parents in their lives.

He's definitely not sexist or controlling. His ex had more education than him and a good job and he was fine with that. What he was not fine with was her picking fights and creating conflicts out of thin air on a regular basis and involving the kids when she did this. He was also upset how she would routinely distort and take out of context things he said, even from years before, to pick fights or make him sound like a nutcase. He said when she gets going like this, it is like she can't hear anything he says even if he tried to compromise or agree with her. She would just attack and attack. If he did nothing and said nothing, she'd just keep right on going anyway, or maybe get even worse because she wasn't getting a reaction. If he left to escape it, there would be hell to pay that was far worse than staying and being verbally abused.

He says it got worse and worse after they had kids. He wondered for a while if it was because of sleep deprivation. He took over taking care of the baby during the night so she could sleep all night with no disturbances in another room, but even after months of that she just got worse and worse anyway. Like I mentioned, he became afraid of her to the point of barricading himself in the room to be safe from her doing something to him or the baby when they were sleeping. He would wake up early enough to remove the barricade so she wouldn't discover it because he thought she'd go nuts if she found out.

The BPD theory for her behavior came from a lawyer who was too busy for his case, but she was worried about their children and how his ex would affect them and wanted to discuss it with him even though she couldn't take his case and wasn't going to be paid anything for the discussion. He was skeptical about BPD as he had never heard of it before, but did some reading on it right away and it was like a deja vu experience -- like a biography of their married life.

He had some other lawyer familiar with BPD divorce cases who was out of state and couldn't take the case talk with him for free about what to expect. I think he said something about expecting all sorts of false accusations and that if he thought he was being paranoid, he was not paranoid enough. Part of the problem, however, was that his ex pulled her disappearing act with the kids and money and filed her false TRO shortly before a holiday and it was very hard to get any attorney in time for the first hearing. So he wasn't getting this advice from these people until after that hearing.

As for the Iran comparison for NPD, I hadn't read it before you mentioned it. But it sounds about right, also. NPD is usually talked about as being a little more common in men than women, and BPD more common in women than men. But studies this last couple of years are showing that maybe they are more gender equal and that the men with BPD weren't showing up as much because they get tossed in prison. The dividing line between BPD and NPD isn't very strong. They are often co-morbid as this post points out:
NPD is commonly present in people who also suffer from BPD. The chance of having NPD in people who have BPD is 7 times higher than those who do not.
I've read a lot of psychology books in the last year or so. I'm reasonably suspicious that my ex had NPD. He was an abused child himself. He played a lot of mind games and liked to claim I was paranoid or crazy and rave about how wonderful he was. My ex and my boyfriend's ex are two of a kind. They are both promiscuous, had affairs, lie compulsively, alienate their children from the other parent, and break the law without any sense of guilt. If you didn't know what they looked like and their names, but only their behaviors and attitudes, you might confuse them for the same person, or maybe related people. I joked that the two of them should meet and marry and make each other miserable, but my boyfriend was really alarmed by that as he's terrified their kids are going to be screwed up by their mother and is hoping that some decent guy will come along and marry his ex to keep an eye on the kids. But then he says it wouldn't be fair to that guy, however.

When I watch videos like that and read the websites you cited, I see people who are used to dominating others encountering, perhaps for the first time ever, a system of power that doesn't automatically privilege their voice and defer to their own worldview. I'm know hat some have legitimate problems and I continue to work to solve them. Yet so many of these voices express rage at not being able to dominate the system, or their exes anymore. And my God, that animation is ludicrous. You might not want to link to that outside of certain kool-aid drinking societies.

It is a ludicrous video, but it is realistic. This is part of what I've been trying to get across. There really are some very abusive mentally ill women who know how to play the system and get away with it because men have zero credibility with the government people to whom these women resort to manipulating as agents of harassment. People who know him know that he'd bend over backwards to help other people out and is nothing like she describes. He was upset for a while about being so stupid and gullible and not realizing how somebody could act like she has done.

BPD is really, really common. It's more common that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia combined. NPD has similar prevalence rates. If you don't account for these kinds of personality disorders in an understanding of IPV, DV, abuse, etc. then it is like leaving out any mention of gasoline and oil from a paper on the development of the internal combustion engine. Or neglecting to list the apples and cinnamon in a recipe for apple cinnamon pie.
posted by June at 6:29 AM on June 24, 2009


Kyrademon,

There are multiple kinds of feminism. Most of the people I know, including most educated men under about age 60 or 70, support the "gender equality" feminism or "individualist" feminism. Feminists like Wendy McElroy fall into this camp. Equal pay for equal work, equal rights, equal protection under the law, etc. are a part of this.

Confusingly, there seem to be many names for these different brands of feminism. I think that ifeminism, individualist feminism, and gender equality feminism mean the same thing and that gender feminism, victim feminism, and radical feminism also mean the same thing.

Blaming "Feminism" for modern problems is kind of like blaming "Communism" for problems during the Cold War. Marx and Engle might have been well intentioned, but their philosophies got hijacked by people like Stalin who were not at all well intentioned.

The mantle of Feminism was taken over by radical feminists some time ago and they sullied its name, much as Stalin and people like him eternally damned Communism's name. These people aren't for equality, they are for female dominance and blaming men for everything as some kind of revenge. That's what upsets most men with whom I've discussed this.

Maybe you can see what I'm talking about if you go read some Wendy McElroy articles. Here's one:

Ifeminism versus Gender feminism

If you're a woman with a son and you are a radical feminist, you are basically agreeing with a philosophy of male-bashing that will hurt your son. Fortunately for sons, it seems a lot of the radical feminists don't want kids in the first place.
posted by June at 6:54 AM on June 24, 2009


The mantle of Feminism was taken over by radical feminists some time ago and they sullied its name

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Silly. Feminism has not been "taken over" by anyone, and the name is not "sullied." Like most abstract words, the word has a history of debate, discussion, and use by different people, but it's ridiculous to suggest that people like myself, for instance, don't use and aren't reflected in the word "Feminism."

If you're a woman with a son and you are a radical feminist, you are basically agreeing with a philosophy of male-bashing that will hurt your son. Fortunately for sons, it seems a lot of the radical feminists don't want kids in the first place.

Wow. Your views seem pretty narrow, biased, and judgemental; it's now hard for me to read your postings as even close to objective.
posted by Miko at 9:13 AM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


The mantle of Feminism was taken over by radical feminists some time ago and they sullied its name, much as Stalin and people like him eternally damned Communism's name. These people aren't for equality, they are for female dominance and blaming men for everything as some kind of revenge. That's what upsets most men with whom I've discussed this.

You clearly know very little about feminism or feminist history or the current status of feminism today. There's a huge range of feminist theory and thought and it's a complicated subject that you seem to have personally oversimplified and gotten angry with. This is obviously something you feel strongly about and I guess I'd suggest possibly learning more about it, because with this sort of approach you're basically alienating the very same people who I would think you'd like to appear informed and approachable to.
posted by jessamyn at 9:25 AM on June 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


June, I think you have a very important point to make about the intersection of mental illness and domestic/interpersonal violence - and, heck, throw custody issues into the mix - and I think that's very much worth talking about. But your observation that these factors play a significant role is weighted down with a lot of very personal experience from which no one else can generalize, and idiosyncratic gender ideology, which combine to obscure your basic, real, and significant point.
posted by Miko at 9:35 AM on June 24, 2009


Maybe I'm too steeped in the buzzwords she's been using from the beginning of this discussion -- a parent has worked in domestic violence for almost my entire life -- but I'm surprised that the community's anger is directed at June's characterization of feminists and feminism, and not at her characterization of "most" DV victims as crazy liars.

I mean, her statements about feminism are ludicrous and ignorant, but this statement -- "abused women were usually abused as kids and have come to expect and demand a certain level of violence and will make that happen" -- is as disgusting a thing as I have ever seen on MetaFilter.
posted by palliser at 11:47 AM on June 24, 2009


No, I agree, palliser; I think a lot of the rhetoric is unsupported and offensively simplistic, too. But I've been leaving those arguments to those with professional knowledge of the issue, who have been very enlightening.
posted by Miko at 12:10 PM on June 24, 2009


When was the last time a garden-variety Dworkinite was worried about "approaching" anyone? She's right that there is such a thing as "gender feminism." It's a subset of (or at least strongly related to) second generation feminism. People subscribing to it can always overreach. (I don't think it's "wrong" or involves a victim complex etc.)
posted by Non Prosequitur at 12:18 PM on June 24, 2009


there is such a thing as "gender feminism."

Only if you believe in the specific ideology of the people who coined that term and use it to contest forms of feminism they disagree with. I don't happen to accept that ideology or even really recognize the term itself as anything other than an attempt at critique. It's an abstract concept of debate, not something with an existence independent of a specific point of view.
posted by Miko at 12:28 PM on June 24, 2009


There's a huge range of feminist theory and thought and it's a complicated subject that you seem to have personally oversimplified and gotten angry with.

But I've been leaving those arguments to those with professional knowledge of the issue, who have been very enlightening.

Yes, June has backed many of her positions with anecdote and personal experience. But I would point out that this entire conversation opened with a categorical dismissal of "men's rights" advocacy in DV based on, like it or not, personal experience. Even if it were a true appraisal, it was summarily agreed with by just about everyone before the pieces even hit the board.

We only seem to demand hard evidence - numbers rather than degrees, titles, and stories - when the opinion is unpopular. Remember that professional experience - and I do not doubt in the least allen's experience in this area - is what gave you 20:1 men versus women; and that an actual look at the numbers gave you something an order of magnitude smaller, and between custodians and non-custodians.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:48 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


kid ichorous, you're ignoring the official government crime statistics, which is what forms the basis of the conviction that women are appropriately the focus of efforts to combat DV. We ask hard evidence from whoever wants to contest that hard evidence -- showing between an 80-20 and 85-15 ratio between female and male victims of DV.
posted by palliser at 1:27 PM on June 24, 2009


Again, kid ichorous, I don't think you disproved the statistic, you just looked at the wrong study. Here is the direct quotation:

"Of the allegations made by custodial mothers against non-custodial fathers, 23 per cent were considered substantiated by the child protection workers, 27 per cent were suspected and 50 per cent were unfounded, but only 1.3 per cent were considered to be intentionally false. The police investigated in 30 per cent of the cases, and criminal charges were laid against the suspected male abuser in 7.6 per cent of the cases.

In cases in which the father alleged that the custodial mother had abused or neglected the child, only 10 per cent were considered by child protection workers to be substantiated, 18 per cent were suspected and 72 per cent were unfounded, while the rate of reports believed to have been maliciously made was 21 per cent. No abuse-related criminal charges were laid against mothers."

This does not ignore sex and use custody as a proxy. Obviously custody plays a role, but that does not disprove anything I said above. This is a direct quotation from a peer reviewed study that is citing hard data. There are plenty of reasons to wonder whether scrutiny given to male claims of abuse is higher, causing more of them to be found intentionally false, etc. Yet you cannot say the data isn't there or that I was in any way misleading.
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:29 PM on June 24, 2009


you just looked at the wrong study

Sorry if there's something I missed. If that is the Bala and Schuman study you're quoting now, the Bala and Trocme study not only finds lower numbers, but specifically criticizes the Schuman study - and situates it in a much larger data set. I'm not sure how that makes it wrong. By all appearances, it makes it more believable.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:41 PM on June 24, 2009


palliser I mean, her statements about feminism are ludicrous and ignorant, but this statement -- "abused women were usually abused as kids and have come to expect and demand a certain level of violence and will make that happen" -- is as disgusting a thing as I have ever seen on MetaFilter.


Bessel vander Kolk
posted by Restless Day at 2:32 PM on June 24, 2009


palliser I mean, her statements about feminism are ludicrous and ignorant, but this statement -- "abused women were usually abused as kids and have come to expect and demand a certain level of violence and will make that happen" -- is as disgusting a thing as I have ever seen on MetaFilter.

Nobody else has even commented on Erin Pizzey's opinions that match this very well. You can't criticize her background in DV, she started the DV shelters in the UK and has worked in the field for decades. And she believes that a very large number (perhaps about half) of the women who come to shelters are "violence prone" and "emotional terrorists" who are just as abusive or even more abusive than the men they call abusers.

This fits in very well with the mental illness, child abuse, domestic violence cycle.
posted by June at 2:51 PM on June 24, 2009


You clearly know very little about feminism or feminist history or the current status of feminism today. There's a huge range of feminist theory and thought and it's a complicated subject that you seem to have personally oversimplified and gotten angry with. This is obviously something you feel strongly about and I guess I'd suggest possibly learning more about it, because with this sort of approach you're basically alienating the very same people who I would think you'd like to appear informed and approachable to.

Representing feminism as an amorphous aggregation of constantly-shifting faces that is somehow always "different" from the iteration of feminism currently being criticized is a disingenuous way of divorcing an institution from its negative actions. If someone said that all the attacks on the Republican party posted to MF were off-base, because "real" conservatism doesn't encompass Reagan-Bush economics and suicidally aggressive foreign policy, but instead is "really" the Barry Goldwater conservatism of yore, which MF'ers need to "educate themselves about," I wouldn't expect many MF'ers to credit that argument and abandon their criticisms. If someone said that, to them, the Catholic Church is something completely different than plenary indulgences, political meddling, and patterns of indifference to child molestation, I'd expect the same result would follow.

So too with feminism. Maybe Andrea Dworkin, Valerie Solanas, Sheila Jeffreys, Mary Daly, and Catherine MacKinnon don't represent feminism for you, but they're still a significant point of contact with feminism for a large number of people, male and female, in this culture. Feminism needs to accept responsibility for what those people do in its name to the same extent that it claims ownership of the suffragette movement, sex positivism, and support for women's rights in the Middle East.

Furthermore, a not-insignificant number of contributors to metafilter have done things to reinforce the negative perceptions of feminism by their actions on this site. Someone in this very thread has announced their agreement with, and offered an apology for, universal suspicion and distrust of men. They're not the first MF feminists to make such remarks. This discussion includes many examples of attempts to heap scorn and derision on a well-sourced argument that there are many male victims of domestic violence who do not receive comparable attention and services to those offered to women. Other feminists on this site have responded to past challenges to their beliefs by saying "fuck him" to the challenger, or calling proponents of adverse positions assholes. It's that pattern of conduct that's produced the views of feminism articulated above. A haughty, dismissive imperative to those people to "educate themselves" about what feminism "really is" or furious insistence that MRA's are all crazy, is not going to rehabilitate that reputation.

Lastly, holding up the kooks and nut jobs that are part of every political movement as the representatives of MRA philosophy is as just as dishonest as disavowing the negative examples of feminism. Try reading about this and this representative, instead. They'll probably not lend themselves as easily to the straw man caricatures people here are using to dismiss the entire MRA philosophy wholesale.
posted by Law Talkin' Guy at 3:25 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


kid ichorous, you're ignoring the official government crime statistics, which is what forms the basis of the conviction that women are appropriately the focus of efforts to combat DV. We ask hard evidence from whoever wants to contest that hard evidence -- showing between an 80-20 and 85-15 ratio between female and male victims of DV.

I've participated in this thread enough already, but I will take a final swing at this. This piece of information was not exactly relevant to my involvement in this thread. It does keep with the popular imagining of domestic violence, mine included. I bring nothing new here.

But if you want me to acknowledge this statistic in an interesting way, how about this: since you believe that male victims constitute a rough 15-20 percent minority of DV cases, are you confident that this same fraction of public services is directed to their needs? Does the male victim enjoy his fair fifth in the DV debate, in the crafting of its legislation? In media representations of DV? On Law & Order, on Cops, in the gestapo hour of nighttime cable that cribs from a news hour just as artificial, as sensational? In short, is Metafilter asking the same careful questions of this minority population as it does when other such populations are concerned?
posted by kid ichorous at 3:34 PM on June 24, 2009


This piece of information was not exactly relevant to my involvement in this thread. It does keep with the popular imagining of domestic violence, mine included. I bring nothing new here.

You were criticizing early contributors for only requiring hard evidence for propositions that contradict their previously held beliefs. Those early contributors were talking about the prevalence of DV, which is what the FPP was talking about, too: "numerous books and studies have contradicted this premise, showing that men and women suffer domestic abuse in similar and sometimes equal rates." If that's not what you were talking about, fine, but that was the thrust of the FPP, and it was what the other commenters were talking about. They had the hard evidence, in the form of government statistics. So your criticism was off-base.

As for your second point: Even if male victims are 15-20% of DV cases, they still will not necessarily need the same fraction of public services, if they are better positioned to provide for themselves upon exiting the abusive relationship, and are less likely to suffer injury. If you look at the Straus study, you'll find that even he acknowledges both these practical realities and therefore that women will be more in need of public services, whatever the relative prevalence of DV is. So no, I'm not concerned about making sure men are getting their "fair fifth" of resources devoted to DV.
posted by palliser at 4:22 PM on June 24, 2009


You clearly know very little about feminism or feminist history or the current status of feminism today. There's a huge range of feminist theory and thought and it's a complicated subject that you seem to have personally oversimplified and gotten angry with. This is obviously something you feel strongly about and I guess I'd suggest possibly learning more about it, because with this sort of approach you're basically alienating the very same people who I would think you'd like to appear informed and approachable to.

Everything we've discussed in this thread is oversimplified. Feminism isn't the primary issue in any of this, and certainly not the "equal rights" style feminism. Searching through this thread, I didn't even use the word feminism until replying to a post by Kyrademon more than a 100 posts into the thread. Maybe others think feminism is the major issue here.

I think it is the cluster of related problems of child abuse leading to mental health problems, divorces, child abuse, and repeating the cycle. Feminism really comes into play mainly because the so-called "MRA" people are at adds with the radical feminists and people, including myself, keep falling into the trap of the gender wars that prevent these problems from being solved.

I agree with you that there is a huge range of feminist thought. For the purposes of this discussion, I really don't care to care into the details of pro-pornography feminists and other branches. Some of them seem pretty weird to me and might be worth discussing in another thread, but they have nothing to do with this discussion so why include them in it.

The feminist thought that matters for this discussion is specifically how feminism has affected the law in regards to DV, child abuse, family law, and relations between men and women. The main area that matters is therefore the parts of feminism that affect equal protection under the law, due process, innocent until proven guilty, and societal stereotypes that affect the perception and execution of laws and outcomes related to these areas.
posted by June at 8:46 PM on June 24, 2009


So too with feminism. Maybe Andrea Dworkin, Valerie Solanas, Sheila Jeffreys, Mary Daly, and Catherine MacKinnon don't represent feminism for you, but they're still a significant point of contact with feminism for a large number of people, male and female, in this culture. Feminism needs to accept responsibility for what those people do in its name to the same extent that it claims ownership of the suffragette movement, sex positivism, and support for women's rights in the Middle East.

I'm apparently too young to know about some of these radical feminists from the news and didn't learn about them in history. But I just spent some time reading about them now. I'm glad I didn't know about them before. These people are deeply disturbing individuals who by their very beliefs and behaviors show themselves to be at best very sexist ranging all the way to murderous and severely mentally ill. I already disagreed with radical feminism, but after reading about these people it is hard to view them as anything but dangerous nutcases and very difficult to comprehend how they could have ever been influential.

In particular, Andrea Dworkin and Valerie Solanas are poster cases for child abuse and mental illness. They amply illustrate my point that child abuse leads to mental illness which leads to more abuse and crime.

Valerie Solanas shot (as in attempted murder with a gun!) Andy Warhol and an art critic , and would have shot Warhol's manager if her gun hadn't jammed. Warhol nearly died and never fully recovered, bleeding from the wounds for the rest of his life. She only got a measly 3 years in prison for her premeditated attempted murders. That's nothing. People get tossed in prison for drug possession for longer than that.

Solanas wrote about killing all men and creating an all-female society. She stalked Warhol for years until she was arrested again. This women is a dangerous mentally ill person who belonged in a psychiatric institution, yet radical feminists regard her as a hero:
Valerie Solanas (from Wikipedia)

Feminist Robin Morgan (later editor of Ms. magazine) demonstrated for Solanas' release from prison. Ti-Grace Atkinson, the New York chapter president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), described Solanas as "the first outstanding champion of women's rights."[6] Another member, Florynce Kennedy, represented Solanas at her trial, calling her "one of the most important spokeswomen of the feminist movement."[6]

After her release from prison in 1971, she was regarded by some as a martyr. When she persisted in stalking Warhol and others over the telephone, however, she was arrested again. An interview with her was published in the Village Voice in 1977. She denied that the SCUM Manifesto was ever meant to be taken literally.[7] Solanas drifted into obscurity and was in and out of mental hospitals.
If a man were to write about killing all women and creating an all-male society today, what do you think the reaction would be? He'd be regarded an utter and total nutcase and thoroughly discredited and maybe tossed into a psych ward on 5150 basis. Yet the radical feminists of the era tried to defend and support her!

It's quite bizarre that so many of them worked as prostitutes and were involved in pornography.

The other ones aren't nearly as reprehensible, but still are obvious sexists. For instance, favors the demise of most of the men on the planet:
In an interview with What Is Enlightenment? magazine, Daly said, "If life is to survive on this planet, there must be a decontamination of the Earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in a drastic reduction of the population of males."[14]
If you were to refer to her as a lunatic hag witch, she'd apparently approve:
Daly says it is the role of women to unveil the liberatory nature of labels such as “Hag”, “Witch”, and “Lunatic”.
Sheila Jeffreys apparently expects that all feminists should be lesbians:
In 1979, Jeffreys helped write Love Your Enemy? The Debate Between Heterosexual Feminism and Political Lesbianism, a pamphlet that offered a definition of a political lesbian: "We do think... that all feminists can and should be lesbians. Our definition of a political lesbian is a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men. It does not mean compulsory sexual activity with women."
If a woman wants to be a lesbian that's fine by me, but to state that feminists can and should be lesbians is to basically deep-six feminism.

Catherine MacKinnon is apparently the most normal and reasonable person in this group. At least I can understand why she doesn't like pornography and she isn't advocating killing men or actually attempting to do it.

If people think of these women as representative of feminism, it is no wonder why it would have a bad reputation. I've never seen any MRA writings that approach this level of blatant sexism and bizarre ideas. Maybe I'm just missing it, but where are the radical men's rights activists who compare with this group of radical feminists?


posted by June at 9:32 PM on June 24, 2009


I'm apparently too young to know about some of these radical feminists from the news and didn't learn about them in history. But I just spent some time reading about them now. I'm glad I didn't know about them before. These people are deeply disturbing individuals who by their very beliefs and behaviors show themselves to be at best very sexist ranging all the way to murderous and severely mentally ill. I already disagreed with radical feminism, but after reading about these people it is hard to view them as anything but dangerous nutcases and very difficult to comprehend how they could have ever been influential.

So, before you even heard of, say, Andrea Dworkin, you already had an opinion about "radical feminists" and then, after less than a day of research, think you fully understand them?

If you want to critique these "radical feminists," you'd best actually study them, as well as how they fit into the history and culture surrounding the women's movement. It's probably best to do that research before either critiquing or psychoanalyzing them.
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:23 PM on June 24, 2009


I didn't bring up feminists to begin with. I don't claim to fully understand them. And I don't think they are the primary problem with any of this in the first place.

But I do now see why people writing about mental illnesses like personality disorders have described radical feminists as behaving as if they have personality disorders. Dworkin and Solanas both have life histories and behaviors that fit decently with a range of personality disorders.

People who go around attempting to murder other people who haven't done anything "worthy" of being killed and then are proclaimed as heroes of their political movement are nothing but a discredit to themselves and their political movement.

Please explain to me what Andy Warhol did that the radical feminist movement thinks is enough to warrant killing him and two other people associated with him?

Where are those supposed extreme MRA writings that compare in genocidal and sociopathic thinking to these radical feminists heroes?
posted by June at 10:49 PM on June 24, 2009


I feel like the point I was trying to make was completely missed.

Obviously, there is a crazy radical fringe to pretty much every movement. It's sort of irrelevant to what I was talking about. (Incidentally, the number of modern prominent feminists who consider Valerie Solanas to be a "hero" can probably be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.)

My comment was regarding the fact that the "men's rights" movement -- pretty much universally, as far as I could tell -- decried the sometimes rather nebulous notion of feminism as being The Problem. Even in cases where this made no sense and there was no logical connection, even to the most radical of radical feminism. Even in situations where the political power of the feminist movement is dwarfed by long-held tendencies to give men privilege. Even in cases where the problem seemed clearly to be a holdover of antifeminist strict social gender-role ideas *backfiring* and screwing over men who no longer wanted to play that game either.

This made them come off as more anti-woman or anti-feminist to me than anything else. It seriously torpedoed their credibility, as far as I was concerned.
posted by kyrademon at 11:49 PM on June 24, 2009


The idea that X feminist is irrelevant because the feminist ideology has changed really bothers me because if you went to bat with X during her ascendant period, you'd be rhetorically body-slammed as a misogynist freak, but now that women have hit back at her suddenly it's okay to disagree with her. What's up with that? If she's wrong now she was wrong then. Maybe the solution is to spend relatively little mental time within the insular world of how much X hates you. It's easier with other ideologies because you can hold the line against X without feeling like you're the agent of Beelzebub holding down half of humanity.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 12:44 AM on June 25, 2009


Oh, for the love of ... Valerie Freakin' Solanas was considered a lunatic then and is considered a lunatic now. By 99.9% of feminists. A couple of out-of-context quotes from Wikipedia that apparently are sourced from Solanas' own writings -- not the writings of the other feminists mentioned -- do not make the author of the S.C.U.M. manifesto a former wise woman of the movement who has fallen out of favor with the passage of time.

And plenty of people, myself included, have ALWAYS disagreed with Dworkin, MacKinnon, etc.

And it's still irrelevant to what I was saying.
posted by kyrademon at 1:02 AM on June 25, 2009


I wasn't really talking about what you were saying regarding MRAs etc. For what it's worth I agree that their point is better made discussing iniquities in the law rather than by complaining about a feminist bogeyman. I was talking more in general, so your "for the love of.." angst is weird. I guess you're right though that rarely are self-described women's rights advocates in lockstep agreement and that's what makes things easier than the scenario I described.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 1:15 AM on June 25, 2009


I'd merely like to point out that the use of the word 'radical' in the term 'radical feminism' does not mean 'fringe element' or 'extreme.' Radical feminism is a specific branch of feminist thought that differs from other branches such as liberal feminism and Marxist feminism. Radical feminism focuses on how societal gender relations result in patriarchal culture, thus causing feminist problems-- as opposed to focusing on legal problems, class problems, etc. as the root of feminist issues. My guess is that the vast majority of posters on MetaFilter are radical feminists, whether they would describe themselves as such or not.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:43 AM on June 25, 2009


So...the quest for equal rights for women has a side effect of punishing men in custody battles and increasing the incidences of female-on-male violence? It doesn't make any sense, which is why the complaints of some of these "men's rights" groups are puzzling and more than a little suspect. And I'm not understanding June's argument either - if the majority of these women are mentally ill (something which has not been substantiated here in any way that I've seen), shouldn't MORE services go towards helping these women overcome their mental problems?
posted by agregoli at 6:48 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Poorly developed impressions of what "radical feminism" is and has done have become an enormous red herring in this thread. It's just not particularly relevant, and is bound to become a clumsily handled maul in the hands of those who don't have context for it. Those who legitimately bear the title have confined most of their activism to theoretical debate, and have never become powerful enough to affect the court system.

As agregoli suggests, let's refocus on the question of whether the pursuit of equal rights and self-determination for women (as well as men) can be shown to have any directly deleterious effect on the rights of men, as a class, in court. It should be possible that men and women can both pursue fair treatment under the law, while recognizing that for various cultural and historical reasons the incidences of violence may not occur with complete symmetry on both sides of the gender divide.
posted by Miko at 8:29 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Miko: Poorly developed impressions of what "radical feminism" is and has done have become an enormous red herring in this thread. [...] let's refocus on the question of whether the pursuit of equal rights and self-determination for women (as well as men) can be shown to have any directly deleterious effect on the rights of men, as a class, in court

It might have been better to take this approach from the start, rather than digress immediately into a discussion of men's rights activism. It is only consistent that a conversation that begins with a criticism of MRA, however valid, should later touch upon feminist activism. It would be strange to find one on-topic where the other was not.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:45 PM on June 25, 2009


I'm attempting to get this back to the DV discussion and away from feminism.

Here's a short excerpt from an article by Valerie Porr, founder of a national support organization for families of BPD victims, about how males with BPD often have domestic violence problems:
From Grief to Advocacy: A Mother's Odyssey

Males with borderline personality disorder are prone to domestic violence and rage attacks. They make up a large percentage of the prison population and seem to be resistant to treatment as usual.
Borderlines often develop their mental illness in part because of childhood exposure to domestic violence or child abuse outside of their families. So it's not surprising that they would learn to be abusive themselves as children tend to imitate adults. This applies to men and women, and to other similar personality disorders such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Histrionic Personality Disorder.

Since these people commit abuse because they were conditioned to do so as children and personality disorders are difficult to treat effectively, what reason is there to think the reason for the abusive behavior (the personality disorder and the resulting behaviors) is going to be fixed by tossing them in jail when they become abusive?

Would putting them into outpatient mental health programs be more effective and less expensive?

More importantly, it seems the key to breaking the abuse cycle is to support the kids in these families with therapy and ensuring that they are not left in homes in which abuse continues to be a common event.

Unfortunately, it appears that many violence-prone families don't "get fixed" because everybody in the family is violence-prone in some way and simply removing the man (whether or not he was really the main cause for the violence) and tossing him in jail leaves the kids living with a violence-prone woman who is going to be violent on her own or find another violence-prone man to bring into the home.

This is the essence of much of Erin Pizzey's argument, one that I agree with fully.

If you haven't already, you really should read her "Emotional Terrorist" essay.

She's not excusing men from being physically violent, as this quote clearly indicates:
In my experience, men also are capable of behaving as family terrorists but male violence tends to be more physical and explosive. We have had thousands of international studies about male violence but there is very little about why or how women are violent. There seems to be a blanket of silence over the huge figures of violence expressed by women. Because family terrorism is a tactic largely used by women and my work in the domestic violence field is largely with women, I address this problem discussing only my work with women.
She's making the point that you cannot just consider physical violence in families if you are to solve the problems of violence and abuse. Emotional and verbal violence is just as important. You take a person and subject them to day after day of extended verbal abuse and at some point, that person is likely to crack and even if the person has no history of physical violence, they reach the end of the rope regarding the threats, insults, control tactics, and misery and feel like cornered animals and strike back.

When the default position is to take the man and blame him for all the problems, it prevents any progress with the women. Moreover, if the man really was innocent or not the primary aggressor (i.e., the female emotional terrorist finally drove him over the edge to use physical violence), now you've created an extreme dislike and distrust in that man for all the services the family may need to escape from the cycle of violence. Further, you may have just removed the more sane parent from the family, leaving the children to be emotionally terrorized and having no way to defend themselves.

People who are wrongly blamed and persecuted tend to hate their false accusers and the government that helps them. I think this is only natural, regardless of gender or race.
posted by June at 10:28 PM on June 25, 2009


It is only consistent that a conversation that begins with a criticism of MRA, however valid, should later touch upon feminist activism

This is just incredibly intellectually dishonest. It's like saying that any discussion about the Large Hadron Collider would inevitably lead to a discussion of intelligent design. Except those who believe in intelligent design are smarter than the MRA types we're discussing here. Which is pretty fucking amazing, I think we can all agree. The incessant need to badmouth feminists is just fondant on the icing on the cake. It seems no matter how low you set the bar, someone will inevitably register a MeFi account to troll below it.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:57 PM on June 25, 2009


This is just incredibly intellectually dishonest. It's like saying that any discussion about the Large Hadron Collider would inevitably lead to a discussion of intelligent design. Except those who believe in intelligent design are smarter than the MRA types we're discussing here.

Is it more or less dishonest than employing argument by analogy and calling people stupid?

Man, this thread. It's about time for Atropos and her scissors.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:58 PM on June 25, 2009


An argument by analogy is a perfectly good argument form. Please, let's not disparage innocent argument forms that never meant to upset anybody.
posted by Ms. Saint at 12:15 AM on June 26, 2009


An argument by analogy is a perfectly good argument form.

It's like butter.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:34 AM on June 26, 2009


Yes, allen.spaulding, everyone in this thread registered solely to upset you.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 3:10 AM on June 26, 2009


As we're on the topic of intelligent design, Darwin's argument for human evolution was based heavily on an argument by analogy from plant and animal evolution. DISHONEST. Paging the ID advocates.
posted by palliser at 5:16 AM on June 26, 2009


Several posters have blasted me for being unreasonable about criticizing radical feminists. How can you NOT criticize people like Dworkin and Solanas who make up crime reports, attempt murder, and advocate killing half of the human race because of gender?

Writer allen.spaulding claimed that Alec Baldwin advocated that men should lie in court to make false claims against their wives.
Making all of this worse are the MRAs who often encourage men to lie in court, conceivably to level what they see as an uneven playing field. If you think I'm crazy, read Alec Baldwin's book, A Promise to Ourselves. He literally encourages men to make false claims about their wives in a custody hearing, feeling that there's no way for men to get a fair shake otherwise. Plenty of "men's rights" groups repeat this mantra in public and in private. I cannot stress this enough: this is not the behavior of reasonable participants in a debate, this is fringe lunacy similar to tax protesters and far-right militia types. I'm not saying Alec Baldwin is a domestic terrorist (30 Rock is pretty great, don't get me wrong) but for fuck's sake, people need to knock this shit out.
One of my friends recently read the book, and I asked her about that claim that Baldwin encourages men to lie in court. She says it doesn't say this anywhere in the book that she can remember.

Judging by the way some of the writers in this thread have spun things that I wrote into totally inaccurate "re-statements", I can't help but wonder if this is a habit of people who are stuck on a particular position.

Why is it that so-called "MRA extremists" are used to color the whole discussion about correcting gender bias in family and DV law? Where are these MRA extremists anyway? Where are the ones stating that no man ever hurt a woman? Where are the ones calling for killing all women, filing false police reports against women, and actually attempting to murder women and then being made into heroes for it?

Just because "popular wisdom" by so-called "experts" says that something is true and another thing is not does not make it so.

Go back to the early 1980's and think about what scientists thought caused ulcers. They thought stress and spicy foods caused them. Along came Robin Warren and Barry Marshall and said that conventional wisdom was all wrong, that ulcers were caused by helicobacter pylori infections in the stomach. Most of the scientific community belittled and ignored them. Gradually some other researchers came to the same conclusion. By 1994, a decade after their paper on helicobacter pylori infections, the NIH concluded that they were right. In 2005, they won the Nobel Prize for their discovery.

That series of events happened in a reasonably objective and simple scientific problem. The topic we've been trying to discuss is far more subjective and complex.

I question whether sociological statistics, as they are being applied so far in this debate, are even capable of getting to substantive underlying truths about the causes for DV, let alone finding solutions. Many years ago, I had a class on sociological statistics that also delved into some epidemiological statistics. I was really impressed by some of the interesting medical inferences that can be made from databases on deaths, births, etc. From what I learned, I'm confident that the theories and tools (especially the computer tools like SPSS) in this area can be very powerful and capable when applied appropriately. But that's relatively objective and simple evidence being examined for medical sociological studies.

The DV researchers have trouble even trying to develop models and figuring out how to code the data for analysis. They can't even agree on what DV is. Most of them narrow it down to physical violence because measuring any other kind of violence is "too difficult". The data in the first place is very subjective, even when you limit it to physical violence. Is it abusive physical violence if you punch somebody after they hit you over the head with a book or throw a vase at you and hit you?

It's not like you're analyzing people's levels of C-reactive proteins and ages, both of which are objective and easily determined, and finding that there's a correlation between increasing age and increasing C-reactive protein levels. That's easy by comparison.

What these DV researchers are studying is largely driven by individual and small-group psychology, not large scale social trends, biological processes, or happenings that don't appear to have a strong individual psychological component.

The situation with DV, child abuse, mental illness, and divorce is much the same today as the helicobacter pylori ulcer controversy in the 1980's. Conventional wisdom about men being the primary abusers and causing the vast majority of domestic violence is a load of hogwash. The "powers that be" in this "discussion", just like mainstream scientists in the 1980's, refuse to seriously consider that their data and theories don't explain what is going on and aren't going to help fix the problems.

Erin Pizzey and people with opinions like her are similar to the Robin Warren and Barry Marshall team. They have new ideas which appear to make sense but are looked down upon because they challenge the conventional wisdom. It's time to listen to and consider these ideas seriously.

Further, it's also time to consider that the family law system and the laws it enforces are causing a lot of the problems. Take for instance the temporary protective order or temporary restraining order.

A temporary protective order isn't really going to do anything to protect somebody from a truly violent person. But when you get one against somebody who wasn't violent, it pushes them towards violence because you toss their rights out the window, subject them to litigation in a court which typically has ridiculously lax evidentiary standards, and this whole process usually starts with zero or nearly zero proof of anything. Often it starts with no allegation of any physical harm whatsoever, just a statement that somebody is "fearful" of the accused.

If one doesn't think that somebody who is falsely and maliciously accused to get a leg up in a divorce or break-up is going to be pissed off, one must be delusional. Try to think about it for yourselves. Put yourselves in the shoes of a person who is going through a bad marriage or relationship in which there is no physical violence. Then you find yourself falsely accused of physical violence, kicked out of your home, banned from seeing your children, and have to scramble to hire a lawyer using what tiny amount of money you may have after your joint financial accounts were raided by the person who did this to you. Isn't it reasonable to be quite upset over this? If you don't think you would be mad about it, you're not being honest with yourselves.

There are about two million of these temporary protective orders issued each year in the US. Even if half of them are legitimate orders, the way this system is working is still unconstitutional. Around 1% of the adult population each year has their rights trashed without even knowing what was alleged against them or having a chance to defend against it and were treated as guilty until proven innocent.

After you are treated this way, even if you are able to prove your innocence or that the accuser is a liar or paranoid and unreasonable and there is no permanent protective order issued, you have still been seriously harmed. It's not just the money. Being kicked out of your home and banned from seeing your children for weeks or months, even years in some extreme cases, without being found guilty of anything is enough to create a great deal of animosity. The animosity is justified. It can drive people who would not have been violent to become violent in response.

Maybe some of you hate men's rights activists because you don't understand how badly some innocent and reasonable men are treated due to unconstitutional family law and DV law. And you don't care that the same unconstitutional abuses can and are visited upon some women, too. Maybe it's OK to hurt some women abusively so that more men will be hurt abusively? That seems to be the radical feminist position.

Here's an example of how broadly and unreasonably these laws can be applied:
WITHOUT RESTRAINT:THE USE AND ABUSE OF DOMESTIC RESTRAINING ORDERS (from page 2)

In New Jersey, a judge may issue a restraining order “when necessary to protect the life, health, or well-being of a victim.”6 Obviously, any lover’s quarrel or marital tiff could be interpreted as causing “emotional distress” or somehow affecting a person’s “well-being.” That broad definition led to the following unfortunate case:

A New Jersey woman repeatedly voiced her disapproval of her estranged husband’s new-found romantic interest, which resulted in the imposition of a restraining order on her. When she later called the new girlfriend a “slut,” that was ruled to be a violation of the restraining order. She was sentenced to 6 months probation and community service.7
So you don't like somebody else, and if you say so, then your first amendment rights can be abridged. If you say an insult about them again, then you can be sentenced to probation and community service. How is this reasonable?
posted by June at 6:25 AM on June 26, 2009


Emotional and verbal violence is just as important. You take a person and subject them to day after day of extended verbal abuse and at some point, that person is likely to crack and even if the person has no history of physical violence, they reach the end of the rope regarding the threats, insults, control tactics, and misery and feel like cornered animals and strike back.

... if the man really was innocent or not the primary aggressor (i.e., the female emotional terrorist finally drove him over the edge to use physical violence) ...

... you may have just removed the more sane parent from the family, leaving the children to be emotionally terrorized and having no way to defend themselves.


You are seriously arguing that a henpecked husband is justified in "strik[ing] back" physically as a response to threats, insults, and control tactics? That is a very sick viewpoint. Physical violence is not a sane or acceptable response to verbal abuse, control tactics, humiliation, manipulation, passive-aggressive behaviors, or any other non-physical assault, and is certainly not a healthy example to be setting for children.

Furthermore, your entire premise is shaky. Physical abuse does not occur in a vacuum.

These women with black eyes, broken ribs, cracked skulls, bruised and battered bodies at the hands of their male partners are not getting that way because they have relentlessly emotionally abused their partners who one day snap, simply can't take it anymore, and beat the everloving crap out of them. Yes, some of them are emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive as well. Yes, in most cases those dynamics have their roots in family of origin dynamics. Emotional abuse can and does occur in a context free of physical violence, but I challenge you to find one DV case in which physical abuse occurred in a context free of emotional abuse. Men and women who abuse physically also abuse emotionally.
posted by notashroom at 7:15 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


June, while I think no one could rightfully object to your introducing Pizzey and her work to the discussion, pale rhetoric like 'emotional terrorist' is not very helpful. This is a dreadful term, and Pizzey's fielding of hyperboles like terrorist, addiction, and for crying out loud Nazi imagery works against her case. She can't simply flash this word, terrorism, like a hollowpoint that demolishes any/every response. People are (thankfully) resistant to this trick.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:40 AM on June 26, 2009


As we're on the topic of intelligent design, Darwin's argument for human evolution was based heavily on an argument by analogy from plant and animal evolution. DISHONEST. Paging the ID advocates.

Eh. On argument by analogy, if you really meant this...

So, an analogy, once formally well-defined, can be a symmetric relation, or reflexive, transitive, an equivalence, injective, surjective, a homomorphism, a multi-linear map, or shown to satisfy any number of other useful properties. Informal analogy, on the other hand, encompasses all conceivable relations - including those that haven't any business arguing anything, but are otherwise interesting or aesthetically satisfying, like allegory, metonymy, metaphor, epic simile, or:

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.


The line between formal and informal definitions is what separates the slippery slope, an informal fallacy, from mathematical induction, a formal proof. When someone cries out slippery slope and produces a tiny red flag, they might as well be saying 'where is your induction hypothesis, your induction step, and your initial case?'

It's not that the theory of evolution didn't lean on, say, taxonomy that began as simple analogy; but there are thousands of pages of formal work and experimentation refining the analogical into logical sets - exoskeletons, invertebrates, and so on. This and the epistemology of falsification is what separates evolution from creationism. Informal analogy gives us many good and artful things, and they include voodoo dolls, transferred epithets, the medieval model of the cosmos, portraiture, sympathetic magic, political cartoons, Alestair Crowley, and allen's statement.

To suggest that the two sides of this argument straddle one and the other shore of scientific formalism is just untrue. I've done a metric fuckton of physics, and you're just not going to equate any portion of this debate to the LHC, unless perhaps you want to talk about Mefi's uncanny ability to split hairs, atoms, quarks.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:08 AM on June 26, 2009


Notashroom,

You are seriously arguing that a henpecked husband is justified in "strik[ing] back" physically as a response to threats, insults, and control tactics? That is a very sick viewpoint. Physical violence is not a sane or acceptable response to verbal abuse, control tactics, humiliation, manipulation, passive-aggressive behaviors, or any other non-physical assault, and is certainly not a healthy example to be setting for children.

I'm not "justifying" physical violence. I'm saying it is understandable if you're emotionally abused that at some point a person who is not physically abusive may crack and become physically violent. It's understandable, but it doesn't make it right. From your comments, I very much doubt you have ever been on the receiving end of a Borderline rage or something like it. If you haven't, you lack the experience to know how bad emotional and verbal abuse can get.

Furthermore, isn't what I'm saying just like the "battered wives syndrome" that some people use to justify or excuse why women kill men? It's a lesser intensity of it, but similar in concept.

Somebody who is being raged at and is cornered in a room might push the rager out of the way and leave. That's physical violence according to most physical DV studies.

Was it reasonable? Maybe. Trapping somebody to rage at them 10 minutes (or more) is extreme, and it causes psychological harm that may be worse than if if somebody just hauled off and slapped you once. People have a right to defend themselves.

But pushing the mentally ill person who has trapped you and is raging at you out of the way so you can escape is a far cry from breaking bones, blackening eyes, and other injuries. It is self-defensive, and not with intent to injure.

Furthermore, your entire premise is shaky. Physical abuse does not occur in a vacuum.

I never said it did. DV is more than physical violence, it includes other types of violence as well. But many (most?) studies don't even try to measure anything but the physical violence.

In this debate it seems like I'm talking with a bunch of people who often aren't debating what I wrote, they are debating that plus and a whole lot of preconceived notions they have which they are wrongly assigning to me.


Women crack from emotional abuse and initiate physical violence, too.

Look at this for an example of a woman becoming physically violent for these reasons:
stay or go? is this salvageable ? <> 06/26 13:01:08

I love my him..with all my heart. i do. And i know he loves me. But he's SO vindictive tho. If i do something wrong or make him mad or hurt his feelings...he HAS to get even or hurt me back. I made him mad so we had a huge fight. Because he was mad at me he called his ex because he KNEW thats something that would really hurt me (he did NOT sleep w/her she's n another state this isnt an infidelity issue) He seemed to be really proud when he told about calling her...he actually SAID it made him feel good to talk to her.

I had a flash of anger-I slapped him. It was wrong. in every way its wrong. I know that. I have huge amounts of regret over that action. I am in counseling for my anger issues. Ive NEVER laid a hand on him before and will do everything i can to never do that again. I just lost it when he did said what he said...before i realized what i did..it was already done. I hate that I cant undo that.

So we've talked. He said he wants to stay n the relationship n work things out and see how it goes. But meanwhile he feels justified to behave however he wants because he feels everything is on me. Its not JUST my fault...I think its both of our faults. but thats irrelevant...I just wonder how can someone love you yet be SO ready to get even with you and hurt you ON purpose? I love him and I want this to work. But he basically told me he lost all respect for me he will never look at me the same. How can we recover from that?
Im distraught over this. Can u please help me make some sense of this.
She knows she's not right and points that out. But she did initiate the physical violence. From her description, he's not physically violent with her, but is very emotionally abusive. To me they both sounds like they are mentally ill.

These women with black eyes, broken ribs, cracked skulls, bruised and battered bodies at the hands of their male partners are not getting that way because they have relentlessly emotionally abused their partners who one day snap, simply can't take it anymore, and beat the everloving crap out of them. Yes, some of them are emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive as well.

Most physical DV is not nearly as severe as your examples. Most of it is pushing, shoving, slapping, hitting in non-injury-prone areas that produces no injury visible hours later or only minor injury, such as a small bruise but no broken bones. If a small bruise is being viewed as indicative of major injury and severe physical DV, something is wrong with the standards being used. Kids bruise themselves all the times and do it accidentally. Adults do this, too, but usually not as often given they are more coordinated and less likely to be engaged in physical play such as sports that produce injuries like these.

Broken bones, deep cuts, black eyes, etc. are not normal and I'd agree they are probably from severe physical violence.


Yes, in most cases those dynamics have their roots in family of origin dynamics. Emotional abuse can and does occur in a context free of physical violence, but I challenge you to find one DV case in which physical abuse occurred in a context free of emotional abuse. Men and women who abuse physically also abuse emotionally.

I haven't said otherwise. Somebody who cracks and hits or pushes in response to emotional or verbal abuse being directed at them is likely to have tried less severe non-physical means to get the abuse to stop. Call it retaliatory verbal abuse if you want. Somebody yells and screams at you for 5 minutes and maybe you scream back in a way that could be considered verbally abusive. The person keeps going for another few minutes, and you yell some more, too. Repeat a few times, and finally maybe you "lose it" and push them out of the way and leave. Or if they've been following you around to scream and yell and insult you and you can't get away from them, maybe you hit them because obviously nothing else is getting the point through and nobody has a right to treat another person with emotional and verbal abuse like that.

Somebody who is violence-prone (as Erin Pizzey calles it) doesn't understand how to disengage from a conflict and will refuse to let their target of the moment disengage, also. It is as if they expect the verbal and emotional abuse to keep going until it turns physical and then stops because that is what they observed during their childhoods.
posted by June at 5:39 PM on June 26, 2009


I'm not "justifying" physical violence. I'm saying it is understandable if you're emotionally abused that at some point a person who is not physically abusive may crack and become physically violent. It's understandable, but it doesn't make it right.

Like in the way it's understandable that someone would shake a baby who is teething or has colic or an ear infection and just won't stop crying, despite all the feeding and bathing and burping and rocking and singing and cooing and rubbing and patting and all attempts at soothing that a caregiver can try, all to no avail? We hold people accountable who resort to violence outside of government sanction (war, police, FBI, etc.), and that is the way it should be, regardless of provocation.

From your comments, I very much doubt you have ever been on the receiving end of a Borderline rage or something like it. If you haven't, you lack the experience to know how bad emotional and verbal abuse can get.

Thanks for your personal interest, but you'd be wrong. I married one abusive Borderliner and dated another. I am very familiar with them, and with what my personal limits and responsibilities are with regard to them. Additionally, I have two alcoholic, Narcissistic parents (which probably explains the preceeding facts). I have known verbal and emotional abuse since I was an infant. Fortunately, I'm an adult and in control of my own life and have done what I needed to do to deal with those things and move on.

Additionally, I have a friend of more than 20 years whom I mentioned upthread who is a male currently in a DV relationship in which he is being abused, physically and emotionally, by his female partner. I do not deny the reality of female abusers, of partners of any gender.

But pushing the mentally ill person who has trapped you and is raging at you out of the way so you can escape is a far cry from breaking bones, blackening eyes, and other injuries. It is self-defensive, and not with intent to injure.

It's also basically a strawman. The arrests for shoving in a given year must be, what, at least a dozen? They are not what is showing up in these numbers. Also, as you must know, physical responses to verbal assaults are commonly understood to be escalations, and responded to as such. A raging mentally ill person would be expected to respond to that with physical violence by most people, in which case the confrontation does not stop at a single simple push.

I never said it did. DV is more than physical violence, it includes other types of violence as well. But many (most?) studies don't even try to measure anything but the physical violence.

For a simple reason: it is orders of magnitude simpler to measure and quantify physical abuse than emotional abuse. Count deaths at the hands of intimate partners, analyze x-rays and medical records, tally the broken bones, blackened eyes, stab wounds and gunshot wounds, catalog what is visible, measurable, and quantifiable objectively. Emotional abuse is much more subjective. How do you measure it? Frequency? Volume? Number of put-downs? Categories of neglect? Buttons pushed? Number of witnesses to acts of humiliation? All you can really do is ask people whether they have experienced particular things or done those same things, rely on them to understand the language used in the way it was intended, and to report their subjective experiences based on that understanding. It is about as reliable as your self-reporting custody case participants.

She knows she's not right and points that out. But she did initiate the physical violence. From her description, he's not physically violent with her, but is very emotionally abusive. To me they both sounds like they are mentally ill.

Yes, it would appear she initiated the physical violence. And? No one said women can't be physically abusive. I said non-physical provocation is not justification for physical violence.

Most physical DV is not nearly as severe as your examples. Most of it is pushing, shoving, slapping, hitting in non-injury-prone areas that produces no injury visible hours later or only minor injury, such as a small bruise but no broken bones. If a small bruise is being viewed as indicative of major injury and severe physical DV, something is wrong with the standards being used.

I never suggested a small bruise was indicative of major injury or severe physical DV, though I would assume someone who experienced those would be highly likely also to have suffered bruises in the incident or prior incidents, based on my observations. Physical DV usually starts out small, with a slap or shove or grabbing and escalates over time. By the time a partner is suffering broken bones and black eyes, the violence has usually been going on for some time and the victim has frequently been cut off from most or all of her or his support system and is often financially dependent as well (methods of emotional abuse commonly comorbid with physical abuse).

Somebody who cracks and hits or pushes in response to emotional or verbal abuse being directed at them is likely to have tried less severe non-physical means to get the abuse to stop. [...] Or if they've been following you around to scream and yell and insult you and you can't get away from them, maybe you hit them because obviously nothing else is getting the point through and nobody has a right to treat another person with emotional and verbal abuse like that.

Except, I don't. I'm an adult and responsible for my actions. If I am a substance abuser or suffer from borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder or if I am codependent as a result of my upbringing, that does not exempt me from being accountable for the choices that I make. Many choices are made under pressure, but that doesn't mean we are excused for reacting with violence. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Somebody who is violence-prone (as Erin Pizzey calles it) doesn't understand how to disengage from a conflict and will refuse to let their target of the moment disengage, also. It is as if they expect the verbal and emotional abuse to keep going until it turns physical and then stops because that is what they observed during their childhoods.

And this is where a lot of our prevention efforts should focus, on communication, disengagement, defusing, learning what healthy relationship dynamics are and how to recognize, create, and sustain them, for both victims and abusers (including those who fall into both categories, in serial or parallel). That said, it is ultimately the responsibility of the individual to seek and achieve personal growth, learn about healthy boundaries and dynamics, and make good personal choices.
posted by notashroom at 8:15 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought this comment was interesting and reminded me of this discussion.
posted by agregoli at 7:32 PM on June 29, 2009


Like in the way it's understandable that someone would shake a baby who is teething or has colic or an ear infection and just won't stop crying, despite all the feeding and bathing and burping and rocking and singing and cooing and rubbing and patting and all attempts at soothing that a caregiver can try, all to no avail? We hold people accountable who resort to violence outside of government sanction (war, police, FBI, etc.), and that is the way it should be, regardless of provocation.

Babies aren't expected to be able to manage their emotions. An adult should be able to do so. Further, when an adult simply can't get a baby to stop crying, there's always the option of putting the baby in its crib and closing the door. The baby isn't going to follow the person who is upset to continue to escalate the situation. That's far preferable to shaking the baby and injuring or killing it. And frankly with some cholic-prone babies, letting the baby cry is and trying to avoid getting stressed out over it is about all one could do.

When the adult isn't able to control emotions and keeps attacking another person, it becomes emotional or verbal abuse. When somebody is being emotionally or verbally abused at length, being followed around and blocked from leaving by the abuser, eventually most people subjected to this are going to react in a self-defensive manner. If they are prevented from leaving and disengaging from the conflict, they may try to de-escalate. But if their attempts to de-escalate fail because the abuser won't stop and they are prevented from disengaging either by physical obstacle (blocking, holding, locking doors, etc.) or fear or threats from the abuser, it isn't surprising the the conflict with escalate further and eventually become physical.

Pretending that this isn't going to happen because these people don't have government authorization to harm each other is disingenuous. Such a position also increases the chances of escalating violence because it espouses the opinion that there is no justifiable reason for retaliatory violence. You seem to understand that from the rest of your post.

By the way, there's plenty of precedent for non-governmental actions resulting in legally allowed lethal violence without anybody having been hurt previously. In the state of Texas, for instance, it is apparently legal to shoot an intruder in your home even if the intruder hasn't physically harmed anybody.

Texas signs new self-defense by gun law

That law extended the home invasion allowing legal force exception to people's cars and offices, too.

I'm not advocating that people who are emotional and verbal abusers should be shot dead. But certainly when you are on the receiving end of this, you do feel threatened and are being actively harmed. If you can't leave and/or are being followed and can't get the other person to de-escalate, what options do you have?

Thanks for your personal interest, but you'd be wrong. I married one abusive Borderliner and dated another. I am very familiar with them, and with what my personal limits and responsibilities are with regard to them. Additionally, I have two alcoholic, Narcissistic parents (which probably explains the preceeding facts). I have known verbal and emotional abuse since I was an infant. Fortunately, I'm an adult and in control of my own life and have done what I needed to do to deal with those things and move on.

I'm really sorry to hear this. Growing up like that must have been horrible.

So what did you do when you were cornered and/or followed and blocked from leaving by a physical force or threats and the abuser was yelling, screaming, insulting, and refusing to calm down for half an hour or more?


For a simple reason: it is orders of magnitude simpler to measure and quantify physical abuse than emotional abuse. Count deaths at the hands of intimate partners, analyze x-rays and medical records, tally the broken bones, blackened eyes, stab wounds and gunshot wounds, catalog what is visible, measurable, and quantifiable objectively. Emotional abuse is much more subjective. How do you measure it? Frequency? Volume? Number of put-downs? Categories of neglect? Buttons pushed? Number of witnesses to acts of humiliation? All you can really do is ask people whether they have experienced particular things or done those same things, rely on them to understand the language used in the way it was intended, and to report their subjective experiences based on that understanding. It is about as reliable as your self-reporting custody case participants.

I agree with you that's it's really hard to find any way to objectively document emotional and verbal abuse, especially for a study.

Yet we know the emotional and verbal abuse are going on.

There are laws that impede it from being handled appropriately. For instance, in most of the United States it is illegal to record and videotape in private without consent of the parties involved. Thus a person who is being emotionally and verbally abused, threatened, and harassed runs afoul of the risk of the evidence they can collect being inadmissable for their own defense but being usable by a malicious prosecutor or law enforcement officer to charge them with a crime. The only exception to this generally is that DV TROs and ROs allow recording of illegal communications. But this is a catch 22, especially for men. Although judges are willing to grant DV TROs without evidence and do so routinely for women, they aren't as willing to do so for men. So an abused man can be legally prevented from gathering the evidence needed to show ongoing abuse. This could happen to an abused woman, too, but it is less likely.

Further, there's the problem of how this is worded in ROs. It is generally worded as the protected party can record communications prohibited by the order. But that leaves recording a phone call that could turn into illegal communications (abuse, harassment, threats, etc.) as illegal to do.

And this is where a lot of our prevention efforts should focus, on communication, disengagement, defusing, learning what healthy relationship dynamics are and how to recognize, create, and sustain them, for both victims and abusers (including those who fall into both categories, in serial or parallel). That said, it is ultimately the responsibility of the individual to seek and achieve personal growth, learn about healthy boundaries and dynamics, and make good personal choices.

I agree with your position on this. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this is a common position given the way laws and policies are titled, worded, and practiced today.
posted by June at 6:50 PM on June 30, 2009


...Such a position also increases the chances of escalating violence because it espouses the opinion that there is no justifiable reason for retaliatory violence.

That's because there is no justifiable reason.
posted by agregoli at 5:56 PM on July 1, 2009


Pretending that this isn't going to happen because these people don't have government authorization to harm each other is disingenuous. Such a position also increases the chances of escalating violence because it espouses the opinion that there is no justifiable reason for retaliatory violence. You seem to understand that from the rest of your post.

It's not about "pretending." It's about what we, as society and individuals, accept. Just because violence occurs does not mean it is acceptable. Retaliating to non-violent actions with violence is not acceptable, not justifiable. In some cases it may be understandable but that does not make it justifiable. Those are not equivalent concepts.

So what did you do when you were cornered and/or followed and blocked from leaving by a physical force or threats and the abuser was yelling, screaming, insulting, and refusing to calm down for half an hour or more?

Instead of responding to your actual question, I'm going to tell you about my older daughter. She is 18 years old and has Aspberger's Syndrome, depression, and PTSD. She is taller and heavier than I am. When she feels out of control or is triggered, the behaviors you've just described fit her nearly to a T, although the "insulting" would more realistically be described as "feeling threatened and/or diminished" and I don't characterize her as an abuser.

She does, however, sometimes rage for hours at a time, somtimes making threats to me or others (including herself), following me around the house, resisting all efforts to shut down the episode peacefully, until she has worn herself out. I can tell you, this is very emotionally draining and unpleasant. Going by your reasoning, I would be justified in assaulting her in order to escape her and her rage. I strongly disagree. Rage is about feeling out of control, and a misguided attempt to (re)gain control. I don't really see any significant distinction between her helpless, non-violent rage, and that of anyone else, except for the nature of our relationship.
posted by notashroom at 8:02 AM on July 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


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