Stopping domestic violence once and for all
[My contact details]
9 November 2006
Dr Rajen Prasad
Chief Families Commissioner
cc. Peter Dunne, MP
Dear Dr Prasad
Firstly, please note that I have copied this letter to Mr Peter Dunne, MP, for his information, given his instrumental role in setting up your Commission.
I am writing to express my deepest regret at some material I found on your website today.
You have a substantial amount of information about domestic violence, in particular, white ribbon day. In a media release on your website, you stated that “A survey published 1995 showed that two thirds of New Zealand men have never physically abused their partners. Each of these men could take a small step toward changing New Zealand’s attitudes to violence if they chose to speak up when they heard an acquaintance express inappropriate views on violence and the control of women and children.”
I wish to challenge you to prove this, because quite frankly I do not believe the results of this survey.
Are we really expected to believe one-third of New Zealand men HAVE physically abused their partners, as this is what this survey states? Did you undertake this research yourself, or is this what somebody with a vested interest told you?
I am particularly concerned that you totally ignore women’s violence against men, which is just as prevalent as men’s violence against women.
For many years I have counselled many men who were victims of domestic violence at the hands of women. Few of them dared report their suffering to the authorities. If they were lucky they would be laughed at. If they were unlucky, they would be arrested for the crimes of their batterers.
I have met many men who feared their violent partners, but were more afraid of people finding out they were scared of a woman. The shame of being a battered man is often worse than the actual battering.
Studies undertaken by independent bodies (as opposed to groups with vested interests like the refuge industry) are overwhelmingly consistent in the conclusion that women can be just as violent as men. The Dunedin Longitudinal Study is but one example of highly regarded research that proves women are just as violent as men.
We often hear the red herring of physical size, but the reality is that most men would never hit a woman; it is not the done thing for a man. Conversely, it is not rare for a small woman to physically attack a larger man, pull his hair, scratch his face, bite him and kick his genitals, knowing that he will never fight back. On the rare instance that a man does defend himself, he is invariably the one arrested.
By supporting white ribbon day, you are helping to suppress the grim reality of violence against men. Male victims of domestic violence do not have a national network of refuges. They do not have state-funded support agencies. Their plight is not the subject of massive advertising campaigns. They are left to suffer in silence.
The very least they deserve is recognition.
I therefore respectfully call upon you to make your continued support of white ribbon day conditional on recognition of the reality of domestic violence against both women and men.
By challenging the one-sided view of domestic violence with which we are presented, you can make the one step that is needed to really do something about domestic violence. What a wonderful legacy that would be to leave our country.
Violence is violence, regardless of the sex of the perpetrator, and it is not helpful for groups with vested interests to promote irrational fear and hysterical hatred of half of the population.
Until it is recognised that domestic violence is a two way street, and that women are just as capable of violence as men are, this blight on our society will never be removed.