THE Morrison government will spend $78 million in our taxpayer money to protect women from family violence by Australian men. ‘Our government is fully engaged in working together to combat violence against women. It must stop,’ the Prime Minister says in an extract of a speech delivered on February, 2019.
How about helping men and children deal with violent women as well? According to Stephen Baskerville, ‘Feminists portray domestic violence as a political crime perpetrated exclusively by men to, again, perpetrate male power. Yet the fact that men and women commit violent acts in the home in roughly equal numbers has been clearly established in so many studies that it requires no reiteration’.
The most cursory scrutiny reveals that the ‘epidemic’ of male domestic violence is fabricated. None of the statistics purporting to quantify a problem of domestic violence is based on convictions through jury trials or even formal charges. These accusations are based on “reports” that are not necessarily “substantiated”, and substantial incentives exist for women and government-funded interest groups and government agencies to manufacture false accusations and exaggerate incidents.
For instance, there is an intrinsic connection between domestic violence accusations and the increase in divorce and child custody. Indeed, it is common knowledge among legal practitioners that unsubstantiated accusations are routinely used, and seldom punished, in divorce and custody proceedings. In other words, open perjury is readily acknowledged and, as a consequences of such slanderous accusations, men (usually fathers) can be jailed without trial or due process.
By endorsing a feminist policy that is so morally bankrupt, the Morrison government displays a disturbing lack of compassion for the wellbeing of all male victims of domestic violence. Such a policy is based on the discredited feminist approach that perpetuates false assumptions, such as that domestic violence is depicted andf seen solely a male problem and always perpetrated by men against women.
And yet, data keeps mounting which indicate that domestic violence may be perpetrated by both men and women against their domestic partners. Indeed, a decade ago an official letter by the Harvard Medical School already informed that ‘the problem is often more complicated, and may involve both women and men as perpetrators’. Based on the findings of an analysis of more than 11,000 American men and women ages 18 to 28, the letter concluded:
When the violence is one-sided … women were the perpetrators about 70% of the time. Men were more likely to be injured in reciprocally violent relationships (25%) than were women when the violence was one-sided (20%). That means both men and women agreed that men were not more responsible than women for intimate partner violence. The findings cannot be explained by men’s being ashamed to admit hitting women, because women agreed with men on this point.
The Harvard Medical School’s letter is based on a seminal work published in the prestigious American Journal of Public Health (2007). Written by four leading experts in the field (Daniel J. Whitaker PhD, Tadesses Laileyesus MS, Monica Swahn PhD, and Linda S Saltman PhD), it seeks to examine the prevalence of reciprocal (i.e., perpetrated by both partners) and non-reciprocal domestic violence, and to determine if reciprocity is related to violence and injury. After analysing data on U.S. adults aged 18 to 28 years, which contained information about domestic violence reported by 11,370 respondents on 18,761 heterosexual relationships, the following conclusions were reached:
- A woman’s perpetration of domestic violence is the strongest predictor of her being a victim of partner violence;
- Among relationships with non-reciprocal violence, women were reported to be the perpetratorsin a majority of cases;
- Women reported greater perpetration of violence than men did (34.8% vs 11.4 %, respectively).
Women can be as abusive as men
Professor Linda Mills is the Ellen Goldberg Professor at New York University. She is the principal investigator of studies funded by the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Justice which focus on treatment programs for domestic violence offenders. Her leading studies in the field are published by Harvard Law Review, Princeton University Press, Journal of Experimental Criminology, Cornell Law Review and other jopurnals. As Professor Mills points out:
Years of research, which mainstream feminism has glossed over or ignored, shows that when it comes to intimate abuse, women are far from powerless and seldom, if ever, just victims. Women are not merely passive prisoners of violent intimate dynamics. Like men, women are frequently aggressive in intimate settings and therefore may be more accurately referred to as “women in abusive relationships” (a term I prefer to the more common usages “battered women,” “victim,” or “survivor”)…
…The studies show not only that women stay in abusive relationships but also that they are intimately engaged in and part of the dynamic of abuse. As the studies of lesbian violence demonstrate, women are capable of being as violent as men in intimate relationships. And women can be physically violent as well as emotionally abusive. That violence comes out in their intimate relationships both as resistance and as aggression. We need to put aside our preconceptions of gender socialization and roles.
As early as the 1980s academic researchers such as Dr Murray A. Straus, a professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, developed research demonstrating that women are just as likely as men to report physical and emotional abuse of a spouse. These findings have been confirmed by more than 200 studies of intimate violence and they are summed up in Dr Straus’s Thirty Years of Denying the Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence. This article indicates that, despite the common assertion, most of partner violence is mutual and self-defence explains only a small percentage of partner violence by either men or women. Rather than self-defence, ‘the most usual motivations for violence by women, like the motivations of men, are coercion, anger, and punishing misbehavior by their partner. As Dr Straus points out,
Pearson (1997) reports that 90% of the women she studied assaulted their partner because they were furious, jealous, or frustrated and not because they tried to defend themselves. These motives are parallel to the motivations of male perpetrators.
Research on homicides by women shows similar results. For example, Jurik and Gregware (1989) studied 24 women-perpetrated homicides and found that 60% had a previous criminal record, 60% had initiated use of physical force, and 21% of the homicides were in response to “prior abuse” or “threat of abuse/death.” A larger study by Felson and Messner (1998), drawing upon 2,058 partner homicide cases, determined that 46% of the women perpetrators had previously been abused, but less than 10% had acted in self-defense.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey reveals that proportions of non-physical abuse (for example, emotional abuse) against men have risen dramatically over the last decade, with 33% of all people who reportedly experienced violence by a domestic partner being male. And yet, one of the tactics used by domestic violence campaigners is to highlight only men’s violence and leave out any statistics relating to women.
There is constant pressure to present domestic violence as a ‘male problem’, and place all the blame for such a violence on men as a collective group. As a result, and based on a theory that addresses the problem essentially as a male problem, male victims are often met with disbelief, even suspicion, when they seek protection from a violent partner.
Consequences of Denying Female Domestic Violence
In general, domestic violence against male partners are grossly under-reported, which is partially explained by the fact that men who sustain this form of violence are unlikely to seek help for these issues out of a reasonable fear ‘they will be ridiculed and experience shame and embarrassment’. If they do overcome internal psychological barriers, they still face unfair external institutional barriers in seeking help from social services and the criminal justice system.
For instance, males seeking help often report that when they call the police during an incident in which their female partners have been violent, the police sometimes ‘fail to respond or take a report’. Indeed, male victims of domestic violence encounter greater animosity when contacting the police. This can be contrasted to the ‘positive and supportive’ attitude of police extended to women who accuse their husbands of violence. According to Dr Sotirios Sarantakos, who is adjunct professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Charles Sturt University,
Most interesting is the finding regarding the practice of women running to the police after hitting the husband, although they hit him without a reason. Even threatening to go to the police was often taken very seriously by the husbands—not without reason.
The positive and supportive attitude of the police and authorities to women’s position was reported to have encouraged many wives to take advantage of this and to become even more aggressive at home. Even when they had severely assaulted the husband, their statement that they had been assaulted and abused by him at that time or previously was sufficient for the police to treat them as innocent victims.
This might explain why so many men who sustain violence are deeply reluctant to report their partners. Compared to abused women, there are few social programs or non-profit organisations providing useful assistance to men who are the victims of domestic violence. Instead, male victims often experience external barriers when contacting these social services. When they locate the few resources that are specifically designed to accommodate the needs of male victims, hotline workers often infer that they must be the actual abusers and refer them to batterers’ programs.
Within the judicial system, male victims of domestic violence are often treated unfairly solely because of their gender. Indeed, men who make claims of domestic violence face a deeply hostile system, which is far less sympathetic in its treatment of abused men. This is an area in which the ‘gender paradigm’ has caused gross instances of injustice. Indeed, even with apparent corroborating evidence that their female partners were violent to them, male help-seekers often report that they lost child custody as a result of false accusations. As noted by Professor Denise A. Hines (Psychology) and Dr Emily M. Douglas (Social Policy),
Male help-seekers have reported that their complaints concerning their female partners’ violence have not always being taken seriously, yet their partner’s false accusations have reportedly been given serious weight during the judicial process (Cook 1997). Other men have reported similar experiences in which their female partners misused the legal or social service systems to inappropriately block access between them and their children or to file false allegations with child welfare services (Hines et al 2007).
According to some experts, the burden of proof for IPV [i.e.; intimate partner violence] victimization is high for men because it falls outside of our common understanding of gender roles (Cook, 1997); this can make leaving a violent female partner that much more difficult. For example, many men who sustained IPV report that they stayed with their violent female partners in order to protect the children from their partner’s violence. The men worried that if they left their violent wives, the legal system could still grant custody of the children to their wives and that perhaps even their custody rights would be blocked by their wives as a continuation of the controlling behaviors of their wives used during the marriage (McNeely et al, 2001).
The federal government has caved in to feminist lobbying. Our Prime Minister is now sponsoring a policy that demonises Australia’s men by portraying domestic violence solely in terms of male violence against women. Such a one-sided policy announcement appears to present Australian men as the sole culprits of every instance of domestic violence.
Unfortunately the Labor Party is certainly no better than the Liberals on this issue. On the contrary, we have seen calls from the Prime Minister to “change the hearts of men”, and from the Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, to “change the attitudes of men”, as if there were some kind of unspoken bond between these politicians and the men who commit violence against women.
As Bettina Arndt points out, ‘the Labor Party has made it very clear they intend to push even further in this direction, with endless funds for feminist causes, even more pandering to the activists and ignoring the true issues. Shorten says it is all about men to do more: ‘All this violence is ultimately preventable and … we need to change the attitudes of men’.
These political leaders see no problem to offend Australian men by assuming that violence against women is an “accepted part” of our society. However, according to Claire Lehmann, editor of Quillete magazine, ‘crimes against women are stigmatised and punished harshly. Sexual offenders generally are given lengthy prison sentences and are secluded from other prisoners precisely because the crime is so reviled — even in prison’. In the distorted world of identity politics embraced by the Australian politicians, writes Lehmann,
individuality is subsumed into the collective. When one man holds power, he doesn’t do so on behalf of himself, he does so on behalf of the male collective. Likewise, when one man commits a murder, collectivists will portray it as being done in the service of all men. This regressive world view has no qualms about ascribing collective guilt to entire groups of people. But ascribing collective guilt strikes at the very heart of our understanding of justice and liberty.
Clearly, these Australian politicians believe that these anti-male statements will have popular support, particularly from women voters. But judging from the letters received by journalist and sexologist Bettina Arndt in response to her 2016 an article in The Australian about research showing the prominent role women played in violence in the home, there are many in our community, including many women, who are extremely uncomfortable with gender politics. Many of these women have witnessed their sons, brothers, fathers, and male friends experiencing violence at the hands of a woman. Like myself and so many others, they will be deeply disappointed that our Prime Minister has made such a sexist, one-sided policy announcement.
Dr Augusto Zimmermann LLB, LLM, PhD is Professor and Head of Law at Sheridan College in Perth, Western Australia, and Professor of Law (Adjunct) at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney campus. He is also President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA), Editor-in-Chief of the Western Australian Jurist law journal, and a former Commissioner with the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia (2012-2017). Dr Zimmermann is also the recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research (Murdoch University, 2012)