Men’s Share of Domestic Violence Victims

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Men who have suffered domestic violence have largely been ignored. Poor-quality statistics have justified gender-stereotyping domestic violence, have minimized injuries to men, and have supported gender-profiling men for arrest and prosecution for domestic violence. Consider, for example, an article that the Assistant City Attorney for San Diego wrote in 2004. That article is entitled: “‘She hit me, too’ Identifying the Primary Aggressor: A Prosecutor’s Perspective.” The article begins:

The historical statistics are well known: 95% of domestic violence is committed by men against women.^

The article then goes on to express concern about the relatively large share of women being arrested for domestic violence. In San Diego, the share of women arrested for domestic violence was 15.7%.^ In California in 2004, women accounted for 20% of arrests for domestic violence. The prosecutorial official believed that such shares of women being arrested for domestic violence indicated a systemic problem. The prosecutor counseled more education in identifying the primary aggressor.

Domestic violence literature now more commonly claims that 15% of domestic violence victims are men. That’s the figure for men’s share of victims of intimate-partner violence as reported in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).^ The U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All-Injury Program (NEISS) provides better-quality data on serious physical injuries from violence. Based on NEISS, men’s share of serious physical injury from intimate-partner violence in 2008 is an estimated 31%.

Intimate-partner violence does not include all victims of domestic violence. U.S. government reports typically define intimate-partner violence to include violence committed against current or former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends. Domestic violence typically encompasses intimate-partner violence and violence against other persons sharing a common household. Such persons include parents and their adult children, siblings, relatives, and unrelated roommates. Shared living quarters are more objectively relevant to victimization than is non-criminal sexual intimacy. Based on NEISS, men’s share of serious physical injury from domestic violence in 2008 is an estimated 42%.

Scholarly studies of domestic violence haven’t served to clarify the objective truth about domestic violence. Credible scholarly studies show that men account for about half of victims of domestic violence. These studies encompass domestic violence of widely ranging severity, including domestic violence not resulting in serious physical injury. Domestic-violence law criminalizes a wide range of harms not involving serious physical injury. Most domestic-violence calls to police do not involve serious physical injury. In the context of broad criminalization of domestic violence and claims that domestic violence is an escalating cycle of violence, even domestic violence that doesn’t involve serious injury should be of public concern for both men and women victims.

Nonetheless, many scholarly studies address only women victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence activists have largely ignored men victims of domestic violence. Funding for scholarly research on domestic violence is primarily directed at study of violence against women. Following political power and funding, many scholars and intellectual leaders have argued vigorously against serious concern for domestic violence against men. Scholarly studies of domestic violence that consider men as victims have been submerged in bitter scholarly controversy. Because of power, control, and money in funding domestic-violence research, domestic violence against men is commonly ignored.

The National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) illustrated the irrelevance of data for deterring gender-stereotyping of domestic violence. NVAWS took place in circumstances of widely exaggerated claims about domestic violence against women, pervasive gender-stereotyping of domestic violence, and lack of recognition and conern for men victims. NVAWS found that men accounted for 36% of victims of intimate-partner violence.^ That’s NVAWS figure depending on a mere 12-month recall window, in contrast to its figure depending on a truly incredible lifetime recall. The NVAWS report declared that “women are significantly more likely than men to report being victims of intimate partner violence.” The NVAWS report further declared that its finding challenged scholarly work showing gender equality in intimate-partner victimization.^ NVAWS has serious methodological problems and biases. Most obviously, NVAWS ignored that its own finding of men being 36% of victims challenged the pervasive anti-men bias in domestic-violence law and policy.

The 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) similarly did not highlight a large share of men among victims of intimate-partner physical violence. NISVS indicates that 4.7 million women and 5.4 million men suffered from physical violence from an intimate partner in the prior year. Men thus accounted for 53% of victims of intimate-partner physical violence. The NISVS 2010 Summary Report didn’t include that finding in its Executive Summary. NISVS also didn’t ask about threats with a knife. That omission plausibly decreased the number of men victims identified.^ NISVS shares many of the weaknesses of the NVAWS. Rather than openly acknowledge the anti-men gender bigotry that pervades the literature on intimate partner violence and sexual violence, NISVS apparently worked to validate the dominant agenda for policy on violence and injury.

Police reports describe police judgments concerning the subset of domestic violence incidents brought to police attention. Police judgments of who is a domestic-violence victim are much more practically significant that survey administrators’ judgments of who is a victim. In the U.S. in the 2000s, about 25% of police-identified domestic-violence victims were men. Given profiling of men for arrest for domestic violence, men who are victims of domestic violence have good reason to fear being falsely arrested for domestic violence.^ In the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) from 2001 to 2005, the share of intimate-partner victimizations reported to the police was 70% for black females, compared to 47% for black males.^ Black men are rightly afraid of calling the police. A fair review of all the evidence doesn’t indicate that police are mistakenly identifying men as victims of domestic violence. If the criminal justice system addressed domestic violence without gender bias and without gender stereotyping, one would reasonable expect the share of men victims in police reports to be higher than 25%.

Many persons involved in addressing domestic violence seem willfully blind to men victims of domestic violence. Consider, for example, a 2012 Tennessee Bureau of Investigations’ report on domestic violence. It declared:

Domestic violence may often be perceive as violence against women. There are numerous agencies nationally and locally that advocate specifically for battered and abused women. The current analyses of domestic offenses in the state of Tennessee supports this notion that domestic violence is most often perpetrated on female victims. Data collected from TIBRS {Tennessee Incident-Based Reporting System) revealed that women were consistently the primary victims of domestic violence offenses each year from 2009 through 2011 …. Male victims accounted for 27.8 percent of all domestic violence victims. As such, females in Tennessee are three times more likely than male to become victims of domestic abuse.^

This report tendentiously supports pervasive gender stereotyping while recognizing that services for domestic violence victims almost exclusively serve women and that men account for 27.8% of police-identified victims of domestic violence. That’s not merely the approach of an obscure Tennessee criminal-justice bureaucrat. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ influential Burgundy Book (A Guide for the Effective Issuance & Enforcement of Protection Orders) noted:

Although both women and men may be victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, women are the victims of the vast majority of these crimes. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 85 percent of violent victimizations by intimate partners between 1993 and 1998 were perpetrated against women. … Data on male victimization do not document comparable victimizations and injury levels; do not account for women who act in self-defense; and do not measure financial control, intimidation, and isolation used by perpetrators of domestic violence against women. For these reasons, this publication refers to victims as women and perpetrators as men. However, all victims who seek the issuance or enforcement of protection orders should be given available assistance and relief, regardless of gender.^

That appalling rationalization of gender stereotyping, which ignores much highly relevant factual data, concludes with a merely formal disavowal of Jim Crow reality. The reason that blacks were deprived of equal justice under law wasn’t just their minority status. That problem was bigotry much like the gender bigotry now pervasive in addressing domestic violence.

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