Last month, a monthly paper called Takoma Voice, gave a full page of space to Jon Aerts. Aerts wrote about male domestic violence victims in the tell-tale signs of Men’s Rights ideology. You know the clues: bringing up research by Strauss & Gelles, saying domestic violence is mutual, women are more aggressive than men, VAWA discriminates against men, bashing feminists (he even bashed Congress Member Donna Edwards — because she said domestic violence was 90% male-initiated – back in 1994!!!) If Aerts was so concerned about male victims, he would not be spending his time or giving up precious space by writing about feminists or something that was said 17 years ago. And he would not have omitted male homicide rates.
I wrote the editor, Eric Bond the letter to the editor below. While he said he would print my letter, he did not. I cannot comprehend how a progressive community’s paper spewed men’s rights rhetoric. If you can’t depend on progressive or liberal allies – male or female – who can you depend on?
Men’s Rights and Fathers Rights activists, both backlash groups against women’s rights, use the rhetoric that domestic violence is 50-50 (“Male victims get lost in domestic abuse data” by Jon Aerts Jan 2011). It is not.
Studies that find mutual domestic violence are based on self-reports. These studies don’t include severe violence like sexual abuse, stalking, or homicide. Nor do they include the danger women face when they separate or divorce. These studies pick up situational violence or ‘common couple violence’ like slapping, hitting, or throwing things.
Even Richard Gelles, researcher of this type of data, warns against people using it to broadly paint the field. Yet, these advocates cherry-pick the data and then accuse “radical feminists” of doing the same.
Credible organizations like the CDC place the gender ratio at 85-15, with women suffering more severe and fatal violence. Statistics from the police, courts, and shelters provide further evidence.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) helps women – and men- in domestic violence, rape, and stalking. It’s only shelters that serve one sex, for obvious reasons. Even women and children are turned away from shelters and even women receive vouchers to stay at a motel. And while $4 billion (over 5 years) may sound like a lot, prisons cost $60 billion over the same time frame.
Furthermore, what Aerts failed to state was that since VAWA began, the homicide for MEN has drastically declined, according to FBI statistics. Nor did he mention the Fatherhood Initiative as an example of federal funding that truly “singularly focuses on one sex.”
It’s important for men to come forward in domestic violence – nobody would argue against that – but it’s just as important for advocates and writers to be scrupulous and constructive.
Gender and domestic violence
Is domestic violence 50-50 by Joan Dawson
Why do so many men die as a result of domestic violence by Amanda Hess
Domestic Violence: Not An Even Playing Field
By Richard J. Gelles
Many feminists content that it is clear women are overwhelmingly the victims of intimate violence and that there are few if any battered men. On the other hand, self-described battered husbands, mens rights group members and some scholars maintain that there are significant numbers of battered men, that battered men are indeed a social problem worthy of attention and that there are as many male victims of violence as female. The last claim is a significant distortion of well-grounded research data.
To even off the debate playing field it seems one piece of statistical evidence (that women and men hit one another in roughly equal numbers) is hauled out from my 1985 research – and distorted – to prove the position on violence against men. However, the critical rate of injury and homicide statistics provided in that same research are often eliminated altogether, or reduced to a parenthetical statement saying that men typically do more damage. The statement that men and women hit one another in roughly equal numbers is true, however, it cannot be made in a vacuum without the qualifiers that a) women are seriously injured at seven times the rate of men and b) that women are killed by partners at more than two times the rate of men.
Thus, when we look at injuries resulting from violence involving male and female partners, it is categorically false to imply that there are the same number of battered men as there are battered women.