Sunday, November 23, 2014

Common Myths About Domestic Violence Debunked

Myth:  “Violence against women…”

Truth:  Let's start with a big one.  Many speeches, lectures, public service announcements, and internet memes dealing with domestic violence either begin with or include this phrase.  "Violence against women..."  The implication here is that male victims of domestic violence either don’t exist at all or else are so rare as to not be worth mentioning.

The problem is, since 1984, nearly 250 scholarly studies have clearly shown that men are just as likely to be victims of domestic violence at the hands of a woman as women are likely to be victims at the hands of a man.

To put it another way, these studies have shown that somewhere between 45% and 55% of all domestic violence victims are men.  When you add in men who are in mutually abusive relationships (that is, in relationships in which the abuse flows both ways between the man and the woman, and thus both the man and the woman are considered victims), that percentage climbs close to 70%.

Domestic violence is not gender specific, but is rather a universal problem that endangers both men and women.  We should stop pretending that its all about "violence against women" and start talking about how its about "violence against people."

Myth:  According to the FBI, a woman in the United States is beaten every (fill in the blank) seconds.

Truth:  The FBI neither tracks nor tabulates information on domestic violence.  The Centers for Disease Control and the US Department of Health and Human Services do track such information, but neither agency has ever released a statement that lists a “per second” beating rate for domestic violence victims regardless of gender.

Myth:  One in four women (25%) will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Truth:  The actual percentage of women (or men, for that matter... see the first Myth, above) who will experience domestic violence has never been accurately determined due to differences in the definition of “domestic violence” used from agency to agency, and researcher to researcher.  While it is entirely possible that 25% of all women (or men) in the United States will experience domestic violence, there is no solid evidence to say that conclusively.

What has been conclusively shown is that the number of women that will unfortunately experience such violence is approximately equal to the number of men who will do so.  And that's all.

Myth:  Women are the victim in 85% of all cases of domestic violence.

Truth:  This statistic is based on a report from the National Crime Victimization Survey.  The results of this Survey are now considered blatantly incorrect and incomplete by researchers and psychologists due to skewed standards of evidence (specifically, the researchers who conducted the survey did not consider assaults by women against men to be acts of domestic violence).

The actual percentage of victims of domestic violence who are women ranges between 48% and 52%.  When you add in women who are in mutually abusive relationships (that is, in relationships in which the abuse flows both ways between the man and the woman), that percentage climbs close to 70%.  Just like the male victims.

Myth:  Domestic violence kills as many women every five years as the number of US soldiers who died during the entire Vietnam War.

Truth:  Actually numbers from the US Department of Justice show that the number of US soldiers who died in the Vietnam War is on average 18 to 20 times larger than the number of women killed by domestic violence over a period of five years.

Myth:  When women abuse their male partners, they do so only for reasons of self-defense.

Truth:  Interviews with women convicted of domestic assault reveal that self-defense accounts for only 10% of those offenses.  The most common reason given by a female abuser for why she beat her partner was to keep said partner in line and to bring him under her control.

Myth:  The fact that only one in four (25%) victims of partner homicide is male shows that domestic violence by women is a negligible problem.

Truth:  According to the best available crime statistics, men and women who batter their domestic partners only kill those partners in one out of every two hundred cases of domestic abuse (that's .5%, not 25%).  Even if the 25% figure were correct, it would not indicate that men are victims of domestic violence less often, only that they are killed by domestic violence less often.

Myth:  92% of all homeless women in America experience severe physical or sexual abuse at some time in their lifetime.

Truth:  This figure is based on a single study of 200 homeless women done in Boston, Massachusetts in 1972.  Given the small sample size, the conclusions derived from this study cannot logically be expanded to cover the entire United States.  In addition, the original study ignored the existence of domestic violence against homeless men.

Myth:  Minor incidences of domestic violence always escalate to full-scale battering.

Truth:  Sociologists and psychologists who study domestic violence consider a domestic violence incident “minor” when aggressor lashes out at their partner once due to fear, anger, stress, or some other instigating circumstance, immediately regrets the action, and never again repeats it.  Studies have shown that such minor incidences escalate into full-scale, chronic battery in only 0.28% (that is, twenty-eight one-hundredths of a percent) of all domestic violence cases.

This is not to say that such occurrences are acceptable; just that it virtually never escalates into regular abuse.

Myth:  A marriage license is a hitting license.

Truth:  Fewer than 5% of all domestic violence incidents occur within the bounds of an intact marriage.  Statistically, marriage is the safest type of partner relationship in the context of domestic violence.

Myth:  Abusers are not on the fringe of society, but are people who society regards as normal.

Truth:  Psychological studies of both male and female abusers clearly show that the more chronic and severe the violence committed by the abuser, the more likely the abuser is to have a psycho-pathological personality.  In short, chronic abusers are anything but normal.

Myth:  Domestic violence is about power and control.
Myth:  Men use domestic violence to dominate and control women.

Truth:  Despite these two ideas being central to many anti-domestic violence campaigns over the years, including several that are currently ongoing, research suggests that there is no causative link at all between a male abuser's acts of abuse and any supposed need to dominate and control their female partners.  In fact, the most common basis for abuse among male abusers is actually an inability to manage anger brought on by childhood trauma.  (This trauma was most commonly a history of child abuse.)

However, the need to dominate their partner was found to be the most common basis for abuse among female abusers.

Psychologist Donald Dutton has labeled the “patriarchal abuse theory” a logical fallacy, because it does not explain the existence of female-initiated violence, in particular among lesbian couples.  But despite the utter lack of any supporting evidence, many of the myths discussed in this list can be traced back to the assumption that men abuse because they want to control women.

Myth:  Men who abuse women are acting in accordance to the established social norms of American society.

Truth:  Absolutely untrue.  This claim is refuted by the simple fact that in general, domestic violence committed by men is not condoned in this country at all.  The recent incident with Ray Rice and the public reaction to it is proof enough of this fact.

Myth:  Domestic violence committed by women against men always has some sort of justification.  There is no justification for violence against women by men, though.

Truth:  The misandry displayed in this assertion should be obvious to anyone.  There is no justification for domestic violence, ever, regardless of who the victim is.

Truth:  Domestic violence is caused by a patriarchal need to control women, and not because of poor anger management, communication problems between partners, jealousy, stressful living conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder, childhood trauma, strict adherence to religious custom, lack of education, or poor economic conditions.

Truth:  Studies have shown that men who abuse do not do so out of a need to dominate women, but most often in reaction to some trauma they have suffered.  In addition, the other circumstances named above have all been found to be significant risk factors for domestic violence, whether committed by men or women.  For example, domestic violence is far more likely within a relationship that suffers under poor economic conditions than in a relationship that does not suffer economic hardship.

Myth:  Men and women engage in domestic violence for fundamentally different reasons.

Truth:  The Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Resources have constructed a list of fourteen of the most common causes of domestic violence.  Of those fourteen reasons, twelve of them apply equally to men and women.  Of the remaining two, one is more common with female abusers, the other more common with male abusers.

Myth:  Domestic violence is the most common cause of injury among women.
Myth:  Domestic violence is the most common cause of death among women.

Truth:  According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the most common cause of injury among women is unintentional falls, while the most common cause of death among women is heart disease.  Injury and deaths caused by domestic violence don’t even appear in the top twenty-five of either list.

Myth:  The March of Dimes says battery of pregnant women is the leading cause of birth defects.

Truth:  The March of Dimes has never issued this statement.  In point of fact, the March of Dimes says that the common cause of birth defects in human beings is “chromosomal damage caused by unknown factors.”

Myth:  Women can’t just walk away from abusive relationships because they are fearful of losing their homes and means of financial support.

Truth:  While this claim may well be true for some specific women, it cannot be assumed true for all women in abusive relationships, some of whom have their own sources of income or are the actual owners of the family homes.  The statement also ignores the fact that men sometimes feel trapped in abusive relationships for the very same reasons.

Myth:  The annual medical cost of treating domestic violence is $513 billion.

Truth:  This figure, which was cited in the Violence against Women Act, has never actually been verified by any reputable research, and in truth seems to have been made up out of the air.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, the annual cost of medical treatment for female victims of domestic violence is $2.8 billion.  The annual cost for treating male victims is unknown, having never been tracked by any researcher.

Myth:  False allegations of domestic violence are almost non-existent.

Truth:  According to the US Department of Justice, nearly 71% of all restraining orders issued based on allegations of domestic abuse complaints were later found to be unnecessary and based on false claims of abuse.  The overwhelming number of these unnecessary restraining orders were issued to women engaged in a hostile divorce or child custody proceeding against their husbands as a way to injure the man’s case in court.

In short, the claims of abuse were made for vindictive reasons.

Myth:  If we were to prosecute persons who commit perjury by making false allegations of abuse, the true victims would be less likely to step forward.
Myth:  Even if they aren’t true, allegations of domestic abuse help insure that the domestic violence issue remains in the public eye.
Myth:  Men who are the subject of a false allegation can learn a lot from the situation, and thus become better people.

Truth:  False allegations of abuse or rape weaken the credibility of true victims, making it less likely that they will file a complaint.  False allegations also undermine public support for the national effort to stop domestic violence.  Lastly, false allegations also divert desperately needed resources away from the true victims of violence.  Thus, in order to prevent people from making false allegations the price of doing so must be tangible.

That third assertion, by the way, is based on an actual quote.  Catherine Comins, Assistant Dean of Student Life at Vassar, said that men who are unjustly accused of abuse or rape should try to "gain" from the experience.  She said, "They go through a lot of pain, but it isn’t pain from which we should spare them.  Ideally going through that will initiate a process of self-exploration."

This statement utterly disregards the life and the rights of the man subjected to such an accusation, and places the rights of the accused at a lower value than the life of the woman who perjured herself in order to make the false accusation.  Men who are falsely accused of abuse or rape find their lives in ruins.  They typically lose their jobs, their homes, and their friends.  Such men are often convicted of crimes they have not actually committed and thus lose part of their lives in prison (and are often traumatized by their experiences in prison).  If they are married, their wives often divorce them and then deny them access to their children based on their status as sex offenders.

Their faces are plastered all over the media during their trials, and their convictions are always publicized, but only rarely is the same level of media attention given to their exoneration, so even after they are set free from prison they still have to convince their former friends and family that they were innocent, they still have trouble getting jobs, and they still have lost touch with their children.  They still carry a reputation as rapists among those who don’t know the accusation was false.

And all the while, the person who committed this foul deed that destroyed the life of an innocent man is not publicly shamed as he was, is almost certainly not subject to prosecution as he was, hasn’t had her face slapped all over the media as a perjurer as he did, and will generally walk away without consequence despite maliciously destroying someone’s life.

No one deserves to go through that.  No one.

And no, there isn’t a “life lesson” to be learned in being unfairly victimized by someone who lies about being abused or raped.

Myth:  1 in 4 teenage girls (25%) has been in a relationship in which she was pressured into sex by her partner.

Truth:  This claim is based on a 2008 study among high school seniors in the greater Los Angeles area, and is incorrect.  The study actually says that the percentage of female high school seniors surveyed who felt they were pressured into sex by their partners is 14%, not 25%.  Interestingly, this percentage includes female high school seniors who are in homosexual relationships and who were pressured by their female partners, a fact that is never mentioned by people who regularly use the incorrect 25% figure.

The study also found that 12% of male high school seniors surveyed felt they were pressured into sex by their partners (including those male high school seniors in homosexual relationships who were pressured into sex by their male partners).

Myth:  From the very beginning, American jurisprudence has viewed wife-beating as acceptable.

Truth:  This is simply not true.  At no time in American history has the law ever seen assaults against women as an acceptable practice.  In point of fact, the Body of Liberties adopted in 1641 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first set of laws enacted on this continent by European colonists, specifically forbade wife-beating.

Myth:  The expression “rule of thumb” comes from the fact that it used to be legal to beat your wife with a stick or rod that was no thicker than the husband’s thumb.

Truth:  Another falsehood. The phrase “rule of thumb” actually originated among Dutch carpenters in the Seventeenth Century, who would commonly use the length of their thumb from the tip to the first knuckle as an “inch” when measuring rather than use a ruler because it was faster.  Hence “rule of thumb” being defined as an imprecise but still basically accurate rule of measure that, while not exact, is good enough.

Myth:  Laws that mandate arrest on domestic violence calls have proven effective in preventing further acts of violence.

Truth:  Unfortunately, studies have conclusively proven the opposite.  Mandatory arrests tend to provoke abusers into even greater levels of violence.  In addition, since many mandatory arrest laws have been written to be gender specific (that is, they state that “the man” and not “the abuser” shall be arrested), such laws often create a circumstance in which an abused man calls the police for help during a domestic violence incident only to find himself further traumatized when he is arrested, carted off to jail, and booked for domestic violence assault by the police instead of rescued from his abuser, who often then goes utterly unpunished.

Myth:  Men who commit domestic violence are treated more leniently than any other form of criminal.

Truth:  Actually, studies have conclusively shown that the only time a domestic violence assault charge is treated more leniently than a non-domestic assault charge is when the person being charged with the crime is female.

Myth:  An abusive parent is more likely to seek sole custody of children than a non-violent parent.
Almost all disputed custody cases involve an abusive parent.

Truth:  The source of this claim is Dr. Lenore Walker, a pro-feminist psychologist who was responsible for the Super Bowl Rape Day Hoax, and was published in the Journal of the American Psychological Association.  Further investigation has shown that the only time an abusive parent is more likely to seek sole custody or to dispute a request for joint custody is when the abusive parent is female and the victim of abuse is male.  Non-abusive parents tend to seek joint or shared custody, while abusive male parents tend to not make any specific claim of custody at all.

The Journal of the American Psychological Association has since repudiated Dr. Walker’s claim, and has withdrawn the article in which it was made.

Myth:  False allegations are no more common in divorce or custody disputes than at any other time.

Truth:  As has already been discussed, false allegations are actually much more common under those circumstances.

Myth:  Children are safer with their mothers than with their fathers.

Truth:  Data from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control clearly show that women are almost 70% more likely to commit child abuse (including child sexual abuse) than men are.  The only rational conclusion that can be taken from this data is that children are actually more likely to be safer with their fathers and not their mothers.

Despite this, family courts generally begin all cases on the default assumption that the children would be better off with their mothers in nearly 80% of all child custody cases.

Myth:  Allegations of domestic abuse have no demonstrated effect on the rate at which a father is or is not awarded custody of his children.

Truth:  On the contrary, studies have shown that judges are more likely to award the mother sole custody of the children when an allegation of abuse is made, even if that allegation is proven untrue before the judge renders his decision.  Put simply, even when the judge knows that the mother lied about the father being an abuser, he is still more likely to reward her perjury by granting her sole custody and taking away his visitation rights.

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