Domestic violence and gender

A documentary series on the ‘Dunedin Study’ has been showing on TV1 – the third programme will broadcast tonight, and all four programmes can be viewed on demand.

The  issue covered in the last programme was criminality, and one aspect covered was domestic violence.

The study found that domestic violence was fairly evenly split between male and female perpetrators, and many ‘domestics’ involved both male and female partners being violent.

However if police attend domestic violence incidents they will usually treat the male partner as the violent person.

The Dunedin Study that found this was controversial and internationally shunned because it didn’t fit the modern ‘male violence’ focus. But it was later supported by studies done elsewhere in the world.

This goes back at least a decade as this Stuff article from 2006 shows:

Domestic violence campaigners accused of bias

Two top health researchers have accused the Families Commission of “ideologically driven” bias in presenting domestic violence as a problem of men battering women.

Professor David Fergusson and Associate Professor Richie Poulton said their respective long-term studies of people born in Christchurch and Dunedin in the 1970s showed that most domestic violence was mutual.

“In a high proportion of these couples, we are seeing mutual fighting. It’s brawling,” said Professor Fergusson.

In contrast, the commission is backing White Ribbon Day on November 25, which asks men to wear a white ribbon to show that they do not condone “men’s violence towards women”.

Male violence is usually more damaging physically as men are usually bigger and stronger, but violent domestic incidents often involve both male and female culpability.

And the Dunedin Study documentary made the point that female violence against children has an even greater imbalance of strength and potential to cause physical damage.

The two professors wrote to the commission in March objecting to this claim.

Commission principal policy analyst Radha Balakrishnan said Mr Curry now accepted that he had made a mistake but stood by the claim that the worst domestic violence was perpetrated by men.

“We are talking about the most serious and lethal cases where perpetrators are predominantly men and the sufferers are predominantly women and children,” she said.

“The gendered nature of intimate partner violence is really important.”

But evidence from the Dunedin Study debunks the notion that violence is overwhelmingly a male problem.

But in an email to the Herald, Professor Fergusson said: “It is my frank view the commission’s stance on domestic violence is not being guided by a dispassionate and balanced consideration of the evidence.

“Rather, it is being guided by an ideologically driven model that assumes on a priori grounds that domestic violence is a male problem and that female-initiated domestic violence does not exist or is so trivial that it can be ignored in the commission’s policy focus.”

The country’s longest-running study of a birth cohort, covering 1037 people born in Dunedin in the year ending March 1973, found that 37 per cent of women and 22 per cent of men who had partners by the age of 21 had perpetrated acts of violence against their partners ranging from “pushing, grabbing or shoving” (29 per cent of women, 21 per cent of men) up to “beating up” (1 per cent of both men and women).

At age 21, 360 of the young people in the sample agreed to bring their partners to be interviewed too, providing what was said in 2001 to be the world’s “largest study of abuse in a representative sample of couples to date”.

The results showed that both partners abused each other in most couples where any abuse occurred.

Only 6 per cent of men committed abuse when both partners agreed that the woman did not commit any abuse, but 18 per cent of women committed abuse where the man did not. Male and female abusers shared “the same history of childhood conduct disorder and adolescent juvenile delinquency long predating their partner abuse”.

The researchers concluded that women were not simply defending themselves against male attackers but that both sexes’ violence stemmed from deep-rooted personality traits such as distrusting other people and being prone to anger, arising from a mix of genetics and upbringing.

They therefore recommended therapy for men and women, possibly including joint counselling for couples – an approach that is strongly opposed by anti-violence agencies.

These results were mirrored last year by Professor Fergusson’s study of 1265 people born in Christchurch in 1977, of whom 1003 were re-interviewed at age 25.

Again, similar numbers of men and women reported violent acts against their partners – 6.7 per cent of men and 5.5 per cent of women said they had carried out minor assaults such as pushing or shoving, and 2.8 per cent of men and 3.2 per cent of women reported severe assaults such as punching, kicking or beating up their partners.

There is other research:

Ms Balakrishnan said both studies used a wide definition of “violence”.

“Most people would consider it family violence where there is physical violence, where there is fear, where you are afraid for your safety,” she said.

She pointed to a national Justice Ministry survey of 5300 households in 2001 which found that 21.2 per cent of women, but only 14.4 per cent of men, said they had ever had a partner who “used force or violence on you, such as deliberately hit, kicked, pushed, grabbed or shoved you, or deliberately hit you with something, in a way that could have hurt you”.

But even going by those numbers female violence is about two thirds of male violence, which is far from insignificant.

Police statistics also show that men dominate the worst cases of family violence, including 31 out of 35 family homicides last year.

Professor Fergusson agreed that the homicide figures showed that the worst family violence was perpetrated by men. But that was such a small group that it did not show up in his sample of 1003 people.

He said the commission was “trying to have a bob each way” by saying that it was focusing on this tiny proportion of severe violence, yet also suggesting that domestic violence affected a fifth of the population.

Gender complicity in domestic violence is still a very contentious issue.

Focussing solely on male violence ignores the reality that a significant number of females are also violent and contribute to the substantial ongoing problem of domestic violence.

Violent males should in no way be excused and their violent behaviour should not be condoned in any way. The same should apply to violent females.

 

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22 Comments

  1. Steve Taylor

     /  14th June 2016

    Imagine is funding for domestic violence intervention was based on evidence, as opposed to ideology?

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  14th June 2016

    Deborah Hill Cone is one of the few Herald columnists worth reading (so long as she avoids business and economics about which she knows nothing). This column is excellent:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11655225

    The solution to domestic violence is kindness and values from the beginning.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  14th June 2016

      Some hope, if a person hasn’t known this as an infant, it’s probably too late. I was astonished to read that the Roumanian orphans whose overworked (I imagine) carers didn’t have time to do much other than feed and clean them, were incapable of forming bonded relationships-it needs to start BEFORE 18 MONTHS ! I had no idea. 18 months and it’s too late-what a revelation, and what dreadful consequences for them and those with whom they come into contact all their lives. No wonder some had to be sent back. What will these children be like as adults who can’t relate to a loving relationship ?

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  14th June 2016

        Yes, it’s near impossible to rectify a disastrous start but bad stuff later can also be crippling. How hard would it be to pick it up at school or preschool? Sounds like a target for Bennett’s investment approach to child welfare.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  14th June 2016

          The article said that if children aren’t loved and played with and the rest before 18 months, that part of their brain loses the ability to form relationships (that’s a very clumsy summary, I know) and it becomes impossible. It’s like hearing-leave something like a cochlear implant too late, and the brain can’t learn to process sounds.

  3. Gezza

     /  14th June 2016

    As a commentary on male violence, what makes psychopaths, and men’s sensitivity, that’s very thought-provoking. It ties in with the family backgrounds and upbringing revealed for many of the worst offenders examined in the Darklands series. One of the things that surprised me about Nigel Latta was that, from my recollection, even after he had shown the most atrocious upbringing some of them had had, & you could see why they were probably like they were, he had no compassion for them.

    It would be interesting to know more about Turner’s upbringing. Was it violent? What lwssons did he learn from his parents?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  14th June 2016

      That IS surprising about Nigel Latta. Was it that he understood in a clinical way but not in a compassionate way ? How odd. Maybe he felt that he was there to explain, not moralise. I hope so.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  14th June 2016

        I have known three cases (that I can think of) where the wife was violent and the man put up with it. One did eventually leave. One was a very big man who could have given his wife something to remember him by had he retaliated. The third, who was a good friend, was, I think, too proud to admit that his second marriage (everyone who cared about him tried to make him see what a mistake the relationship was before he married her) had indeed been a failure. I never saw physical abuse, but I would be prepared to make a large bet that it was happening. It was in the air, somehow.

        The Herald’s sensational claim that almost half of NZ children had witnessed violence in the last year (or maybe less, I can’t remember now) when much/most was ‘yelling’ was absurd. Yelling & arguing are unedifying, but they’re not violence. I wonder how the women in refuges felt when they read that one incident of yelling was domestic violence. I’d be surprised if that was why they are there.

        • Gezza

           /  14th June 2016

          Parents whose arguments get to the stage of yelling at each certainly can have an adverse effect on their children in my opinion.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  14th June 2016

            Oh, true-but it’s not violence. Noisy arguments can be resolved-as long as it’s not threatening shouting, of course, and the Herald didn’t seem to see any difference between a noisy argument and that level of verbal abuse. My father used silence as a weapon, and that was at least as bad. There was no knowing what would trigger these periods of non-speaking. I am talking weeks or even months and you may imagine what it was like, and the effect it had. Shouting is at least communicating on some level. Silence is soul-destroying. It’s worse than anyone who hasn’t experienced it could imagine.

            This-the more or less equal numbers in violence-has been known for ages-forever, probably. I first read surveys that showed it years ago. The Myth of Male Power quotes them, and it was written decades ago. I have read references to it in literature centuries old-but then, as now, it was taken much less seriously when it was women doing it.

            Why, then, has it been virtually ignored and downplayed-or repressed-so that it seems that only women suffer and that if we commit violence, it must be in retaliation ? I can’t begin to imagine why, can you ?

            • Gezza

               /  14th June 2016

              Feminisation of the education system for the past 30-40 years is my guess.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  14th June 2016

              Feminism shouldn’t treat women as victims-but all too often it does in an effort to vilfy men.(original thought)

            • Gezza

               /  14th June 2016

              The problem has been too many good women teaching boys to be good girls and not enough good men teaching boys to be good young men. Celia Lashley nailed it in the end.

    • Gezza

       /  14th June 2016

      Kitty: That IS surprising about Nigel Latta. Was it that he understood in a clinical way but not in a compassionate way ? How odd. Maybe he felt that he was there to explain, not moralise. I hope so.

      Maybe. I suppose it’s possible he had more to say and it was edited out. The two I remember in particular were Taffy Hotene – the serial rapist and eventual murderer of Kylie Jones in Glen Innes, and William Bell – the Panmure RSA multiple murderer. In both cases I recall him ending saying something like they both made a deliberate choice to commit these murders. Yet my feeling on watching the episodes in question was that both of them were so obviously mentally damaged they couldn’t actually make a moral choice.

  4. Brown

     /  14th June 2016

    If we get the violent women to identify as men for the purposes of the stats it solves the problem of facts and we white men can all feel guilty again. Whew, that was close!

  5. Kitty Catkin

     /  14th June 2016

    I would imagine that many men would find it shaming to admit to being beaten up by a woman.

    It’s bizarre that if a woman physically abuses a man, HE is taken away by the police, it seems.I don’t know if it always happens. This means, of course, that the children are left with the violent partner. Great idea, I don’t think, but PC rules.

    • Nelly Smickers

       /  14th June 2016

      Wayne is certainly not ashamed to admit it……in fact, he seems to actually enjoy it!! 😛

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  14th June 2016

        Oh, honestly. Wayne is brought into almost everything to trivialise it. If he’s fool enough to put up with serious violence and abuse, he must indeed be a fool. Domestic violence is extremely serious. You claim to be an A & E nurse; you have to have seen the results if this is true. Domestic violence is not funny. It has a terrible effect on those suffering it and those witnessing it. It costs the country many millions. It can result in murder.

        Please don’t claim that you don’t find it funny, the laughing emoji shows that you do. Most people are not amused by domestic violence and don’t make jokes about it. Be ashamed.

        • Nelly Smickers

           /  14th June 2016
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  14th June 2016

            You don’t seem to-putting a laughing face emoji on a post would seem to indicate that the person finds the subject amusing, just as laughing would in a conversation. It’s very bad taste to laugh at this subject and make jokes about someone enjoying it. Most victims of violence do not enjoy it in any way and would, I suspect, not appreciate remarks like yours with the laughing emoji emphasising the supposed humour..

  6. Personally I think that violence by females needs to be acknowledged. However, I don’t really see how anyone can say “domestic violence was fairly evenly split between male and female perpetrators”, even with figures like “37 per cent of women and 22 per cent of men who had partners by the age of 21 had perpetrated acts of violence against their partners … ” unless a clear definition of what constitutes domestic violence is offered.

    Do people get prosecuted for “pushing, grabbing and shoving”? Especially where the ‘violence’ is “mutual fighting” or “brawling”? How do the Dunedin Study figures compare with those in the general NZ population, if we even have such [actual] figures?

    The police figures paint a very different picture and are very important if harm reduction and personal safety is an important desired outcome. “Police statistics also show that men dominate the worst cases of family violence, including 31 out of 35 family homicides last year.”

    I tend to agree with Gezza that ‘feminisation’ of the education system may have swung too far in the female and PC directions, although the alternative of “the way it used to be” is hardly desirable either? I found this PragerU clip on YouTube. Interesting? This lady might be onto it …?