- promoting a clearer understanding of men's experience -

MENZ.org.nz Logo

Noteworthy Research and Papers on Domestic Violence

Properly designed research (ie: not based on feminist ideology) consistently shows that women are perpetrators of domestic violence at similar rates to men. The two studies below provide the best NZ data.

Findings About Partner Violence

by Terrie E. Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi for the US National Institute of Justice.

Download Findings About Partner Violence From the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study here. [133 KB pdf]

About 27 percent of women and 34 percent of men among the Dunedin study members reported they had been physically abused by their partner. About 37 percent of women and 22 percent of men said they had perpetrated the violence.

Christchurch Health and Development Study

An Overview and Some Key Findings [99 KB pdf]

First, contrary to popular stereotypes, the analysis suggested that rates of assault on females by males were similar to rates of assault on males by females. On the basis of the reports made by their children, mothers were just as likely to assault fathers as fathers were to assault mothers.

Elswhere on MENZ: Christchurch study shows woman equally violent

Background information on these two studies

Domestic Violence: Reviewing the Needs of Children

Paper by Judge Jan Doogue at the 2004 Child & Youth Law Conference [43 KB PDF].

The Domestic Violence Act 1995 and s.16B of the Guardianship Act 1968 were based on the classification of violence within the power and control model. In my experience and that of other Judges this model does not fit the profile of many cases coming before the Family Court in New Zealand.

Research and experience supports the proposition that in New Zealand some children are being deprived of contact with a parent who has been alleged or judged to be violent when that is not in their best interests.

Considerable reliance has been placed on "Supervised Access" as being a panacea to balancing a child's rights to be safe and a non-custodial parent's right to access. This sometimes results in either inappropriate outcomes for children or unacceptable disenfranchisement for parents.

This paper suggests that whilst there are many positive features to the present legislation, the time has come to review the social experimentation arising and the effects and implications of the legislation.

The Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society's response to Doogue gives a pretty clear indication of where they are coming from ideologically.

Section 16B keeping children safe Some of the committees views are:

  • The data available does not support Judge Doogue's view that the legislation is social experimentation which has resulted in significant numbers of children being deprived of adequate contact with their fathers.
  • The legislation is, on the whole, working well and is contributing towards safer outcomes for children.
  • The emphasis in the paper on "balancing rights" and "disenfranchisement" of fathers is at odds with the "best interests of the child" principle.
  • The contention on page 12 of the paper that "not all violence fits within the power and control model" is unsupported.

They quote the Ministry of Justice report Domestic Violence Act 1995: Process Evaluation:

"Overwhelmingly the people who were interviewed as key informants for this research and those who responded to the surveys, consider the Domestic Violence Act 1995 to be a good piece of legislation that achieves its objectives."

Obviously the ' key informants' didn't include any fathers' or men's groups!

Psychological Effects of Partner Abuse against Men: A Neglected Research Area. Psychology of Men and Masculinity Vol 2 (2) July 2001. Although there is a substantial research literature addressing abuse against women and its consequences, the flip side of this issue, physical abuse against men and its consequences, is a less researched area....... There has been almost no research on the consequences of this type of abuse. In this article, we will first review data on the prevalence of violence directed at husbands by wives. Although the exact rate of this abuse is open to debate, we argue that there are enough male victims of violence by their wives to warrant attention to the consequences of that violence. Next, we discuss the scant research that has been done on the consequences of this type of abuse and argue that more rigorous research is needed. Finally, we discuss two areas that have received even less attention: (a) why men stay in abusive relationships and (b) emotional abuse against men and its effects.

Felicity Goodyear-Smith 'Carrots or Sticks? Options for preventing Domestic Violence'. Published as a chapter in: 'Inclusion or Exclusion: Family Strategy and Policy', edited by S Birks, Centre for Public Policy Evaluation Issues Paper No. 9, Chapter 3, 28-36. [download complete chapter in PDF]. There is a strong argument that use of violence is not the act of a powerful man, but rather the act of one who finds himself relatively powerless. Rather than our institutions sanctioning male violence against women, there are strong social taboos against men hitting women. Traditionally men have been socialised to protect rather than assault their wives. On the other hand, there is a covert tolerance of women hitting men in our society in certain circumstances. A woman slapping a man on the cheek if he says something insulting or if she feels indignant about his behaviour is often portrayed by the media as an acceptable or even a desirable response. The Dunedin cohort study found that while women from all social strata were liable to be violent, there was an increased risk for men to be violent if they were poorly educated, unemployed, and lacked social supports.

Felicity Goodyear-Smith and Tannis Laidlaw: 'Aggressive Acts and Assaults in Intimate Relationships: Towards an Understanding of the Literature'; published in Behavioral Science and the Law, 17: 285-304 (1999).

Far more people in relationships are subjected to violent acts than those who receive injuries. The degree of damage sustained may not reflect the perpetrator's intent to deliberately harm a partner. Data documenting aggressive acts determines the population at risk, their prevention and early treatment requirements; whereas data focusing on harm and injury helps determine emergency medical and refuge services. Data from national crime surveys, police records, or clinical populations should not be generalised to the population at large. Even if men perpetrate the majority of serious partner attacks, addressing the issue of female violence will significantly reduce the overall level of domestic violence. Judicial, medical and social services should take note that while male violence may be more problematic, violence is a relationship issue, not a male issue.

View from Tai Tokerau - of policy development and its concomitant effects around Family Violence; a submission to the Ministry of Social Policy Prevention of Family Violence review by David Flaws. Any process of policy development can be construed as a site of struggle between competing interests. In the case of Family Violence Prevention, the struggle has clearly involved ideology and gender politics, to an (arguably) unusual degree. While it might be argued that the detailed framing of the DVA and associated Regulations is gender neutral in some respects, there is also an abundance of evidence that both the Act and Regulations are based on a philosophical and ideological analysis which owes more to gender politics than any other field of study. This is both explicit in their wording and in the history of their policy development.

Suzanne Steinmetz Ph.D is chair of the Sociology Dept and director of the Family Research Institute at Indiana / Purdue University. In 1974 she coedited 'Violence in the Family', and in 1975 was one of the primary researchers on the National Family Violence Survey. She says: "to my amazement, I discovered that husband-to-wife and wife-to-husband violence were virtually equal." They followed up the study in 1985 after the development of wife-abuse prevention programmes and intervention strategies, and found that husband-to-wife violence had decreased by almost 30%. Wife-to-husband violence on the other hand, was at the same high rate as before. Steinmetz says: "It is important to pay attention to violence against men for two reasons that might not be obvious. First, you cannot hope to eliminate family violence until you attack it from all sides. Second, by ignoring or devaluing women's violence towards men, we are saying to women that it doesn't matter what they do. Not only are programmes and support groups lacking for violent women, these women are made to think the problem lies in their head - they are imagining that they are violent. I have had women tell me that they call shelters and other services and explain that they are feeling out of control, have been slugging their husbands, do not like feeling this way and need some help. They're essentially told 'oh you can't do him any harm, don't worry about it' - statements that devalue their concerns and fears".

When Dr John Archer compiled interviews with tens of thousands of men and women in Canada, Great Britain, the United States and New Zealand, he discovered that women who argued with their dates or mates were actually even slightly more likely than men to use some form of physical violence, ranging from slapping, kicking and biting, to choking or using a weapon. Women accounted for 65 to 70 percent of those requiring medical help as a result of violence between partners. "The large minority of men who got injured is fascinating," Dr. Archer said. "It counters a certain entrenched view of partner violence as being exclusively male to female."

Until about five years ago scientists studying aggression tended to include only direct physical or verbal efforts to injure another person. Then they discovered that great damage can be done to another person so subtly that even the victim is unaware. The badmouthing, gossip and smear campaigns that can demolish an opponent as well as direct verbal or physical assaults are now formally known in psychological circles as 'indirect aggression', and their patterns are tracked as carefully as punches and kicks. Indirect aggression becomes more prevalent as children grow older and is consistently more common in girls.

In the United Kingdom, under the headline 'Men suffer equally from violence in the home', the 22nd Jan 1999 Times crime correspondent Stewart Tendler reported the newly released results of a Home Office survey which showed that equal numbers of men and women - 4.2 per cent - said they had been physically assaulted by a current or former partner during the previous 12 months.

'Innovation should not be Treason': Domestic Violence Interventions. Sumary of a paper by Robin Wileman, from the Australian and New Zealand Family Therapist, The illusion of expertise is particularly apparent in the government-funded domestic violence services in Australia. Their ideologically-driven sociopolitical analysis of domestic violence has curtailed the options available to their client group and stymied creativity in the field. An example is the Men's Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programmes in Queensland, where funding is only available for programmes based on the Duluth model. Although this is a popular treatment programme, there is no scientific evidence proving its effectiveness. Moreover, in defending and promoting the only analysis of domestic violence considered correct, the domestic violence collective is at risk of using against those who disagree with them the same coercive tactics of power and control as does their abusive male client group. Professional judgement may be impaired in such circumstances

Stopping Violence Programmes: Enhancing the safety of battered women or producing better-educated batterers? In the December 1999 NZ Journal of Psychology, Neville Robertson from Waikato University reviewed some of the literature on the effectiveness of treatment programmes. The only treatment model that Robertson endorses is the pro-feminist approach, particularly the Duluth model. He points out that: "The feminist insight that battering serves to control women partners is fundamental to pro feminist treatment models. Battering is seen as a socio-political issue, rooted in (and contributing to) a socially-sanctioned inequality of power."

Treating Men Who Batter Women Scientific American - June 1999. Treatment programs for men who abuse their partners are proliferating, but effectiveness remains unclear. A growing body of research about the types of men who batter may help experts tailor treatment more precisely.

Next: Recommended Books on Domestic Violence