When domestic abuse hurts kids
By Armin Brott
Early efforts to call the mainstream media to task for skewing the facts on domestic violence.
Parents magazine's one-sided coverage
1995 Berkeley, CA - While domestic violence takes a terrible toll on American families, Parents magazine's coverage of this important issue was one-sided and often inaccurate.
First, they stated that "women may assault their partners too, but nearly three quarters of the violence that is committed by women is done in self-defense or in response to battering."
As it happens, over a dozen major studies have shown that women, in fact, assault their partners more often than men do. And when only the most severe assaults are counted, 35% are made by men, 30% by women (the rest are considered "mutual").
In early studies one of the preeminent domestic violence researchers, Murray Straus, and his associates, did claim that most of women's violence was self defensive in nature. However, in their more recent research they rejected these findings. "Turning to the question of whether the rates [of violent assaults] are misleading because violence by women is largely self-defensive, we find that women initiate violence about as often as men." Writes Straus with associate Jan Stets. "These results cast doubt on the notion that assaults by women on their partners primarily are acts of self defense or retaliation."
Lack of support for battered men
Of course reasonable minds can--and probably always will--differ on the question of whether men and women are equally violent. Those differences notwithstanding, battered men--and there are many of them--have absolutely no support network, no shelters, and are generally ridiculed by society.
In the course of my research, I've interviewed dozens of physically abused fathers who, like their battered female counterparts, were afraid to leave their abuser for fear that the violence would be turned against their children.
This is a very real fear considering that every single study on child abuse conclusively shows that women are the abusers over 60% of the time and that they are responsible for the overwhelming majority of child deaths.
As parents, we're all concerned for the safety of our children, but the real question (noticeably absent from the article) is "Despite the evidence, why do we continue to blame men and fathers for all violence?"
All violence is not domestic violence
The article also maintained that "in 1992 the Surgeon General announced that domestic abuse was the leading cause of injuries to women between the ages of 15 and 44." Again, this is completely false.
Then-Surgeon General Antonia Novello wrote a letter in which she said "One study found violence to be... the leading cause of injury to women ages 15 through 44 years." Nowhere did she say "domestic violence," just violence.
The study Novello referred to was a study of extremely poor, crime-ridden, inner-city African-American women in Philadelphia--a population not even vaguely representative of the rest of the country. In a recent phone interview with me, Dr. Jeane Ann Grisso, the study's lead researcher, said that even if her study had concluded that domestic violence was the leading cause of injury, she would "never apply that conclusion to the total population of American women."
As a regular reader of Parents (and, more importantly, as a writer) I find it disappointing that they were so willing to compromise the magazine's normally high fact-checking standards for this article.
A former Marine, Armin Brott has devoted the last 15 years to providing men with the tools, support, and knowledge to help them become the fathers they want to be——and their families need them to be. His seven critically acclaimed books for fathers have sold well over a million copies.