Yesterday’s RadioNZ Nine to Noon featured an item about the recent release of Police family violence statistics. I strongly recommend MENZ readers listen to this online while it’s available.
Lynn Freeman interviewed Professor David Fergusson of the Christchurch Health and Development study at the University of Otago, who has been researching child abuse for more than forty years, along with White Ribbon spokesperson and National Network of Stopping Violence Chief Executive Brian Gardiner.
Professor Fergusson accurately presented the mainstream, accademic view of child abuse:
“If you are talking about the common, main run of physical child abuse, it is certainly the case that women are more frequently perpetrators than men.”
Gardiner’s spin-doctored responses are revealing, and worth preserving so that readers can judge for themselves how much credibility he deserves. If you’re listening, pay particular attention to his tone of voice when he prevaricates.
“I agree with David. I suppose the really concerning thing for me as a dad is that as men we spend significantly less time with our kids, but we’re at least hurting them half the time.”
Well the professor certainly doesn’t agree with you Brian, and in the real world that’s considered a FAIL.
“What’s worried me about these figures is that we’ve ended up focusing just on mums and violence, when we haven’t talked about some of the other things that are there; that 80% of the violence that those women were subjected to was by men. We’re not talking about couples having conflict; we’re talking about repeated use of violence to maintain fear and intimidation and power in a relationship. So David, I think people often talk past each other.”
Gardiner deliberately confuses two different groups – he’s focused only on what can be called ‘intimate terrorists’ (a very small group of relationships) when we are supposed be concerned with all child abusers. This is not just comparing apples with oranges; it’s comparing apples with fruit. The person ‘talking past’ the other here is not David Fergusson.
Professor Fergusson outlined his objection to the White Ribbon Day campaign:
“My criticisms of White Ribbon Day were simply that it didn’t provide adequate coverage of the population of people engaging in physical domestic violence. Gender is not a strong predictor of any of these outcomes; there are far stronger predictors.”
But Gardiner stays on-message, albeit somewhat confusingly:
“It’s hard to argue it’s not a gender issue when 80% of murders of women were by men, while most violence that’s experienced by women and men is from men, when 90% of protection orders are taken out against men, when the majority of people in jail for domestic and family violence are men. I don’t know why we’re not able to face up to that and people like Family First are able to get behind that and say we really care about families, we really care about men, let’s make a difference. When we hide these figures, and I’m not sure who that serves, because men can handle it …then we hide the solution.”
Most protection orders and prosecutions involve men because the system is run by people who share Gardiner’s ‘men are always to blame’ ideology. If you don’t agree with this you are obviously deficient in some way, you are not ‘facing up to it. Family First don’t really care about families or men, apparently.
I fully agree with what Gardiner says about hiding figures making the solution unattainable. I’ll leave it for readers to assess who might be hiding things, and how they might benefit from this.
Professor Fergusson isn’t swayed:
“I’m in profound disagreement with this. The driving idea behind these arguments is that it’s something to do with maleness that’s causing all of these problems. When one actually does heavyweight research into child abuse and so-forth, you really find that it is high levels of family dysfunction and difficulty that are causing these issues, and it is those issues that are being obscured by a trite focus on gender as the main driver…gender comes a very long way down the list of causes of domestic violence.”
Fergusson outlined the strong predictors of abuse such as single parenthood, changes of parent, drug and alcohol problems, conduct disorders and anti-social behaviours in males and females, frequent changes of partner, and the whole set of family adversity. He than described researching Early Start in Christchurch which has cut rates of child abuse by 50%.
Unfortunately that was all the time Professor Fergusson had available, so Gardiner was given the remaining half of the interview to attempt some damage control. Notice that now that Fergusson has gone, he doesn’t claim to agree with him any more, in fact he directly contradicts what the Professor has said:
“when it comes down to a competition about who’s more violent than who, I just want to shake my head…I disagree with Professor Fergusson, the research that I’ve seen shows that one of the best predictors around violence is that the fact that you’re male…what it’s saying is that often we’re socialised to be in charge, we’re socialised to be the boss, we’re socialised in some unhelpful ways around how we do relationships and how we do child raising.”
The unnamed ‘research’ Gardiner is referring to is not remotely comparable to the research that Professor Fergusson and his collegues have been involved in for decades, and the interviewer should have picked him up on this. Papers published in women’s studies journals and other feminist publications promoting the destruction of patriarchy do not magically cancel out mainstream science. Note that the real goal here is ‘socialising’ the population to move away from the traditional male-headed nuclear family as the primary method of raising children.
At first I was very impressed with some of the questions Freeman asked, which showed a pretty clear understanding of the issues. As the interview progressed however, I felt increasingly irritated by her failure to challenge Gardiner’s slick evasions and hypocrisy.
“you need to not be blind to things, and that includes what the figures are telling you about who’s more likely to do what…for us, we know that it is a gendered issue, we know that there are more men who are using violence in their relationships to stay in charge; and that’s what they’ve been trained up to do…as a country we have appalling rates of child abuse and domestic violence rates, and we don’t seem to be denting them in the way that we need to, and when we argue with each other, often about who’s worse, it’s really unhelpful.”
Yep, being blind to things is bad. Perhaps that’s why the billions (?) of dollars spent funding hate campaigns like White Ribbon, and anti-male groups like Stopping Violence Services have failed to make a difference? Yep, it sure is unhelpful to argue about who’s worse – so why continue doing it?
“Countries like Canada, Australia and the UK have developed domestic violence policies that talk about violence to women and girls. They’re not frightened about naming the issue, what we’re saying is let’s name the issue…and understand it, and then we can really make a difference.”
I hope this was just a Freudian slip, and that Gardiner isn’t really suggesting that we should stop worrying about the abuse of boys. It would probably drop the abuse rate well over 50% though!
“What I’d like us to be able to do is to look clearly at the research, and not just pull out little pieces of research that back up our opinion, but look at the research as a whole. Gender is an important piece of information that lets us know.”
Here Gardiner is implying that Professor Fergusson, and anyone else who challenges the radical feminist party line is presumably so ‘frightened to name the issue’ that they are unable to see the research clearly, and are mis-representing the facts to suit their own agenda.
When Freeman asked him whether all the money put into anti-violence campaigns are actually working, Gardiner revealed his real concerns:
“I worry when I see good campaigns like ‘It’s not OK’; when we’re starting to generate conversations and the powerful change in families and then the funding shifts to another place. My plea..is that we consistently keep funding this issue because it costs this country billions of dollars.”
Gardiner said that it’s fantastic to have media opportunities where David Fergusson and him could come on and “look more deeply” behind the issues, but when it was put to him that they would have to agree to disagree he replied:
“I don’t want to disagree with him, I want to say how do we work alongside each other, because I don’t think any of us can argue against safety in our families. So we need to think are we talking about the same thing or are we talking past each other?”
My only comment about Gardiners last statement is that it has considerable truthiness:
“There is an expectation that if you’re a mother, then you’re going to protect this child at all costs, and the research tells us that the most protective person in children’s life is overwhelmingly their mother.”
The most annoying thing for me was that statistics for fathers and stepfathers were conflated (joined together) throughout the interview, and in the data presented by the police. Clearly there is a huge difference in risk between these two groups.
I guess they don’t want to show that biological fathers are the least likely group to abuse children.
If we accepted that we might wonder why, overwhelmingly, when the state intervenes to remove a child’s parent, supposedly in the interest of ‘safety’, it is the dad.