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Hitting Home Report

Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith wrote in her COSA Editorial, September 1995: Last month saw the publication of the Justice Department's research project 'Hitting Home: men speak about abuse of women partners', said to be the most comprehensive study of attitudes to domestic abuse which exists anywhere, and to present "prevalence rates of abuse of women by NZ men". The results of this $1.5 million Hamilton project were said to show that men abuse their women partners at twice the rate previously thought, and of course there was an accompanying call for more funding to deal with the problem

There are grave flaws in interpreting the data from this study as "1 in 5 men beat their women partners" or that "1 in 2 emotionally abuse them". Firstly, the definitions of abuse used were extremely broad. Domestic abuse is defined as "abuse of women by male partners". Physical abuse includes pushing, shoving, grabbing or throwing something at a woman partner. Psychological abuse includes insulting or swearing at her, preventing her having money (amount undefined) for her own use, criticising one of her friends or family, throwing or kicking something, or "trying to keep her from doing something she wants to do".

There is a marked parallel here with sexual abuse statistics and other studies which seek evidence that women are victims of male brutality, and greatly magnify the problem to gain funding, support, vindication and ammunition. Just as gender feminism has expanded the definition of rape from a heinous crime committed by a violent individual against an innocent victim to the victimization of all women by all men, so too does this study expand the definition of domestic abuse to the point of meaninglessness. Trivialising violence in this way affronts the real victims of assault. 


Are New Zealand Men Really So Violent? asks Philip Gendall in the Massey University Marketing Bulletin. Hitting Home is a sophisticated and carefully prepared document designed to promote a particular view about domestic abuse in New Zealand. The results of the study it reports are presented in a way that emphasises abuse and the study's inflated estimates of it; given the nature of the study's "findings", the media's uncritical acceptance and dissemination of them was predictable. Thus it is difficult to escape the conclusion that domestic abuse was defined in this study so that high reported levels of it were inevitable and, that having achieved this, the findings were reported in a way that highlighted this "fact" and guaranteed the maximum possible publicity for it. 


The NZ Skeptics Society awarded Hitting Home the 1995 'Bent Spoon' award. During the public debate the Minister of Justice gave an assurance that Hitting Home (which focused on violence by men against women) was to be followed by similar studies focusing on violence by women against men and on violence within other relationships. The Ministry's staff, when pressed on the matter, revealed that while this was what they had told the Minister, no funds were available for the job.


Anti-male organisations like The Domestic Violence Centre still use these statistics as if they were meaningful: "In a NZ Department of Justice study, one in five kiwi men admitted assaulting their partners in the last year."


The NZ Ministry of Justice have the Hitting Home report for sale @ $30.



Next: NZ Domestic Violence Act 1995