Gender and Domestic Violence – conflict of theory and data
A paper published earlier this year in a peer-reviewed scientific journal explores the negative impact radical feminist ideology has had on the treatment of Domestic Violence. The paper details are:
The gender paradigm in domestic violence research and theory: Part 1–The conflict of theory and data. Donald G. Dutton, Tonia L. Nicholls Aggression and Violent Behavior 10 (2005) 680—714
Download ‘Part 1–The conflict of theory and data’ [278KB PDF]
The authors begin by noting the heightened official response to Domestic Violence in the early 70s, which resulted in refuges being opened for women victims and court-ordered treatment groups developed for men, a model which has persisted until the present. [References have been removed from the excerpts below, but are available in original paper.]
As a result of this sample selection and of the prevailing ideology of feminism, the notion evolved that spouse assault was exclusively male perpetrated or that female intimate violence, to the extent that it existed at all, was defensive or inconsequential. Subsequent research showing equivalent rates of serious female violence has been greeted with scepticism, especially by the activist-research community. Data surveys similarly met with criticism, especially by feminist researchers who were committed to the view that intimate violence was the by-product of patriarchy and hence, an exclusively male activity. This initial dogma has persevered despite data to the contrary, to be presented below.
This type of error in social judgment is demonstrated in research studies by social psychologists which show “confirmatory bias” (also called “biased assimilation”) and “belief perseverance” occurring when research subjects have a strongly held belief and are exposed to research findings inconsistent with the belief. The subjects reconcile the contradiction and maintain the prior belief by discounting the research methodology. They do not apply the same rigorous standards to research findings, which confirm their beliefs.
After a comprehensive review of the literature and the debates which have raged between the activist and research communities, the paper points out some of the downside of this ideologically-driven approach:
The function of the gender paradigm originally was to generate social change in a direction that righted an imbalance against women. The result, however, has been to misdirect social and legal policy, to misinform custody assessors, police, and judges, to disregard data sets contradictory to the prevailing theory,and to mislead attempts at therapeutic change for perpetrators.
The authors then discuss how feminists have dealt with criticism – they distort evidence, misinterpret data, and constantly position their opposition as the “out-group” who should not be taken seriously:
Also typical of groupthink processes has been the tendency to label any dissenters as reactionary regarding women’s rights. Worcester described the “antifeminist backlash”, which she equates with the “anti-domestic violence movement”, as picking up on “conflict tactics”-type studies (her quotations) and hints at “limitations and dangers of a gender-neutral approach to antiviolence work”. In other words, anyone who believes female violence might exist is antifeminist and anti-domestic violence movement.
The paper argues for the adoption of theories which match the data, and detail some of the negative impacts which result from adhering to the feminist paradigm:
The inevitable conclusion is that feminist theory on intimate violence is flawed. It cannot accept the reality of female violence. While male violence is viewed as never justified, female violence is viewed as always justified. The data do not support this double standard. Women commit intimate violence frequently and do not do so only in self-defense. A more reasonable interpretation of the data from these numerous studies would be that people (not just men) use violence in intimate relationships and use whatever form they have learned will be effective. Men, having greater upper body strength use direct physical violence more than women. Women use weapons more often than men to generate an advantage.
The negative effects of disregarding male victimization by intimate violence include a reenactment of the age of denial displayed to female victimization in the early 1970s. Feminists complained rightly about that denial then; they should be moved from a sense of justice to do the same now. Secondly, the risk to children from female child abuse is seriously underestimated in the literature (but not in the data). From the perspective of child safety, this needs more attention. Thirdly, feminists are interfering with the delivery of effective treatment intervention through state laws or policy that holds up the gender based but ineffective Duluth Model as the “intervention” model of choice. This disadvantages women partnered with men in treatment by precluding the availability of more effective psychologically based treatment.
And ends by asking the obvious question:
The “one size fits all” policy driven by a simplistic notion that intimate violence is a recapitulation of class war does not most effectively deal with this serious problem or represent the variety of spousal violence patterns revealed by research. At some point, one has to ask whether feminists are more interested in diminishing violence within a population or promoting a political ideology.