March 1999 MENZ Issues: Volume 4 Issue 2
Mensline Campaign Offers Men Support Calls tripled when the advertisements began screening on TV. A surprising number of men had been beaten by their female partner, highlighting the lack of services for battered men throughout New Zealand. The Australian government is spending $1 million to establish a single number Men’s Access Line.
Most Abused Man in New Zealand? Jim Brown’s partner Jill is finally in prison after being convicted of Grievous Bodily Harm. The police came to the house 97 times before she was locked up. She will be released later this year – "what an I going to do?" Jim asks.
From Abuse to Family Strength It seems some of the information we were told about this study was wrong. Department of Social Welfare executive Brenda Pilott wrote to correct our readers.
U.K. Survey Acknowledges Battered Men The Times reports on a recent Home Office study which showed that equal numbers of men and women claimed to have been physically assaulted by their partners. A third of those injured were men. Another article from The Sunday Times of London suggests that the phenomenon of domestic violence has been ludicrously exaggerated in the UK.
New USA Study Shows over 30% of Domestic Violence Victims are Men A story in the New York Times discusses a recent large-scale review by Dr. John Archer of dozens of studies of physical hostility in heterosexual relationships. "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." At the same meeting Dr. Daniel Nagin suggests that refuges are saving men’s lives, Dr. Richard E. Tremblay reports that indirect aggression is consistently more common in girls, and Dr. L. Rowell Huesmann found the more violent television a child watched, the more aggressive behaviour was displayed, no matter what the child’s sex.
Police Do It Wrong For Feminist Victim The North Shore Times Advertiser reported the news that a North Shore nurse is to be one of the keynote speakers at a UK conference on Domestic Violence in March, where she will tell how NZ judicial and police systems failed her. Barbara Faithful wrote in criticising the paper for publishing "ideologically-driven promotional material."
Local ‘Expert’ Insists: "Male Victims a Drop In The Bucket" January was the start of a three year prevention campaign by North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project with the message "Face up to it". Margie Keys admitted that there are some male victims of domestic violence, but said that they are just "a drop in the bucket compared to the number of women who are affected."
Lesbian Violence No Longer Silenced Maryclare Machen, of the University of Auckland’s Psychology Department is "aware of the danger in acknowledging violence by lesbians but believes it is more beneficial to research it and answer those who choose to misinterpret the findings."
Information Kit for Male Victims of Female Violence Information on female violence as revealed by lesbians. Genders have been altered throughout as appropriate. Many men may not recognise the danger signs.
Meaning Well is not Doing Good Dr Susan Sarnoff writes: "The well-meaning advocates of what they defined (poorly) as domestic violence have not only failed battered women, but failed society because they lulled it into believing that the problem was being addressed. Instead, the problem they have created is far more complex than the problem they took on to begin with."
USA Act is Violence Against Women "VAWA II, if passed, will be very effective at distorting truth, trashing science, exaggerating statistics, providing income to service providers and infantilising women. In this way, it is very well-named: the Act itself is a form of Violence Against Women."
Male Violence – edited by Dr John Archer -Book Review Last year, at a meeting with members of the North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project, we asked Co-ordinator Reese Helmondollar where they get the information that informs their practice. He strongly recommended we read this weighty tome. In the absence of any significant discussion of female violence, workers who rely on this book to present a complete picture of family violence will be badly misled.
I want Equality but Also my Privileges… Our November newsletter featured an article from a young woman giving her views of feminism. Peter finds this new form of feminism more offensive than the original.
In a major media campaign over the Christmas holiday period, New Zealand men were encouraged to reach out for assistance. Bruce Mackie, director of Lifeline and the man behind the phone counselling service promotion, reported that the number of calls tripled as soon as the hard-hitting advertisements began screening. Although most callers were troubled by relationship difficulties, a surprising number had been beaten by their female partner. Mackie told the New Zealand Herald that "The notion that violence is a gender problem is wrong. It is a human problem." He said that although men were capable of inflicting more damage when violent, women also resorted to using their fists and were very skilled at psychological abuse. "It’s not like one is better than the other; both are damaging" he said. In the last 10 years there has been a 96% rise in the number of females convicted of violent offences.
The Men’s Centre North Shore phone has been running hot with calls from men who are regularly "getting the bash". It’s been hard to choose which case to highlight the helplessness some men experience when the system fails them, but Jim’s story (next) seems to do it best.
The campaign has highlighted the lack of services for battered men throughout the country. While there are limited support services in Auckland, and sympathetic groups in Palmerston North, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, and Timaru, in other areas men in distress are pretty much on their own.
In Australia, the Federal Attorney General Hon Daryl Williams announced at the June 1998 Men & Family Relationship Forum in Canberra, that the Prime Minister’s Partnership Against Domestic Violence package includes $1 million to initiate a Men’s Access Line Trust Fund. This is considered ‘seed money’ to establish the fund, which is intended to provide a single-number telephone and interactive internet support service for men across Australia.
If it is true that increased services for women have been largely responsible for the dramatic drop in murders of American male domestic partners during the last two decades, (article page 4), this move could be a very positive contribution towards increasing family safety, especially if combined with access to male ‘refuges’ where men can escape abusive relationships and receive support.
Most Abused Man in New Zealand?
"I’ve been abused more than any man in New Zealand," reckons Jim Brown. He may well be right. His ex-partner Jill, a large, powerful and abusive half-Maori/Pacific Island woman is currently serving an 18 month sentence in prison. She was convicted recently of grievous bodily harm and wilful damage after smashing a heavy vase over Jim’s head. It took 36 stitches to sew his face back together, and he is now deaf in one ear and has occasional blackouts as a result of his injuries.
"Things used to be sweet" he told the Men’s Centre. He was working as a painter and decorator, earning plenty of money, driving around in a $30,000 V8 car. She could be a bit rough with the kids, but Jim didn’t pay much attention. Before she had met him, Jill had mixed with a pretty wild bunch of guys, some involved with gangs. Her ex-husband was serving time for making homebake (illegal drugs), and it was when he got out that "everything turned to sh-t."
It turned out that Jill had previously come to the attention of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service. They were so concerned about some of her behaviour that they took her children off her and gave them to newly released ex-husband. She reacted very badly to this, and started taking her frustrations out on Jim. To make matters worse, she was pregnant again, this time to Jim, who has custody of a 12-yr-old boy and a 6-yr-old girl from a previous marriage.
"After the baby was born she just used to go mental", Jim said. She got involved with the drug scene again, and began dealing, using Jim’s beloved V8, until she wiped out and smashed it up, causing over $10,000 damage to the vehicle. She finally got caught with drugs in the car, somehow Jim got the blame, and although he was not charged, he was taken to the police station for questioning. "I hate drugs" he said. "I’ve never had anything to do with them." Fortunately the police believed him and Jill was charged and convicted. CYPS took the baby since she had been mistreating it and Jim wasn’t able to prevent her doing this. Jill eventually abandoned the baby at a "tinnie (drug) house" with strangers while she went to make a delivery. After that incident, CYPFS took that baby away altogether and it became a Ward of the State. They are happy for the baby to be in Jim’s care while Jill is safely off the scene, but he is worried about what will happen when she is released. He has been told that if he allows her to even put a foot on the property, they will take the baby away again.
"Have you taken out a Protection Order yourself?" Men’s Centre asked him.
"Protection Order? You may as well wipe your ar– on one of those as far as I’m concerned!" he responded. "The cops aren’t going to help me."
Finally one day in desperation the police were called by neighbours. Jim was arrested and charged breach of a protection order , possession of a pistol [found in some rubbish and kept by his son, not Jim] and with kidnapping. He was not convicted of the other two charges but he was concerning his son’s air pistol. "The cops were only interested in trying to get me put away", Jim told Men’s Centre. "They’re a bunch of useless pr–ks". On previous occasions when he had called them for help he was put in handcuffs. MC asked him at this point what kind of record he had to make the police act so unfairly towards him, but he said that apart from a couple of old convictions (for petty theft and receiving and one for driving while disqualified), he had largely stayed clear of trouble with the law.
When Jill broke a marble statue over his head, he realised he had to insist on laying charges. At first, the police refused to act, but after Jim organised a friend to take photographs of his injuries they agreed to prosecute. Jill was convicted, but only received a few months Periodic Detention. She responded by taking a Domestic Protection Order out against Jim, and one night at midnight he and his two children were escorted by the police from his house out onto the street. After taking the children to friends, Jim returned. "I was pretty confused and mixed-up", he said. "I just couldn’t believe that they could throw me out of my own house – I paid for everything – that b–ch never put in a cent! Of course the police came back like a shot when Jill called for help. "I just took off – they couldn’t catch me". Jim said. "I can run pretty fast when I have to, and I lost them after jumping a 3 metre wall." It was only a matter of time before they turned up at his house to arrest him, after all where is a solo dad with three kids going to hide?
He was sent to Anger Management at an Auckland agency. "They were a bunch of wan–rs", he said. "They just kept trying to bring up my past – it was the present that I was having problems with." He was also surprised when one of the facilitators suggested that he start smoking dope. "He told me that he always went home for a nice joint after the sessions", Jim said incredulously. That’s about when he stopped going to anger management.
Jill meanwhile became increasingly violent towards Jim – hitting him over the head with an iron on one occasion, bashing him with a hammer, stabbing him in the back with a knife, and jabbing him with a broken beer bottle that she had broken over the mantelpiece. "She totally dominated me," Jim said. "If she wanted to have sex I was forced to have it, even if I wasn’t interested. If I even looked at another women while driving down the road she would suddenly smack me in the head."
Jim didn’t know how to handle her at all. His own Dad had been pretty abusive towards him and his family when he was a kid, so he was determined that he would never be violent himself. Unfortunately this meant he felt unable to defend himself. Jim did try ringing the police for help himself, but his experience was that they were not prepared to help him. Sometimes, the neighbours rang when the shouting and bashing and breaking sounds became too loud to ignore. Jim says the police informed him they had visited the house a total of 97 times, before they finally arrested Jill and locked her up.
"She will be released in less than a year, what am I going to do?"
JP: It seems some of the information we were told about this study was wrong. We apologise to Ms Pilott.
I have just read the July 1998 newsletter (here) of the North Shore Men’s Centre. This newsletter refers to me by name and contains some incorrect information. The article in question states "They explained that the intention of the study is to find out how leaving relationships can be made easier for women. The project was initiated by Brenda Pilott from Woman’s Refuge when she worked in Social Welfare. She has now lost this job and moved elsewhere."
I still work for Social Welfare and cannot therefore be said to have "lost" my job. I worked for women’s refuge prior to working for Social Welfare. I did not initiate the research project referred to in the newsletter. I was aware that the project was underway. In my then-capacity as Manager of the Family Violence Unit, I was aware of most family violence-related research being undertaken in New Zealand. Other than that – I had no connection with the research referred to. I would be grateful if you could rectify these errors.
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.
Male victims were likely to be under 25, working part-time and in households where there were financial difficulties. They may have had a long-term illness or disability. The women victims were also young and more at risk if at home with children or separated from their partners.
The research also said, however, that women were twice as likely to have been injured, though there was no injuries sustained at all in the 59 per cent of incidents which involved pushing, shoving and grabbing. The study suggested that the risk of domestic violence was increasing and one reason might be that young people had more relationships, living with different partners.
These figures are of course very much lower than feminist groups have claimed them to be. The Sunday Times of London 29 January 1995 carried an article "Knocked for six: the myth of a nation of wife-batterers", in which Neil Lyndon and Paul Ashton presented evidence that the phenomenon of domestic violence has been ludicrously exaggerated. They pointed out that men, in general, are not violent, and women in general, are not victims.
The authors explained why the existence of domestic violence on a large scale has become one of the few points of social consensus in the past 25 years. Feminist criminologists and ideologues, professional workers in the women’s refuge business and the police have all claimed that women who reported violence to the police were "the tip of the iceberg". They all had much to gain from amplification of the problem. The more the public and the political establishment could be persuaded to believe that lots of men bashed their women, the more money the professionals would earn or receive.
British radical feminist Rosalind Miles says: "The patriarch at bay usually has to look no further than the ends of his arms … beating the wife, ‘teaching her a lesson’ or ‘just giving her a reminder’ becomes ‘what your right hand is for’." In her 1991 book, ‘The Rites of Man’, she wrote: "In the London area alone, more than 100,000 women a year need hospital treatment after violence in the home." This would represent 5.8% of women living with partners in London, or one woman in 17: an appalling number, representing a sickening general incidence of violence.
Police forces in England and Wales published genuine statistics on reports of domestic violence for the first time in 1994. The figures given to parliament on Oct 26th showed that the total number of domestic violence incidents recorded by the London Metropolitan police in 1993 was 11,420. The figures do not indicate how many of these incidents involved multiple reports from the same victim. They do not record how many complaints were of the threat, rather than the reality, of violence. They do not show how many of those incidents were reported by men living with men, men living with women, or women living with women. It is abundantly clear however, that only a small fraction of the radical feminist advocacy claims about domestic violence can be considered credible.
A story in the July 28, 1998 New York Times titled ‘A Fistful of Hostility Is Found in Women’ discusses a recent large-scale review of dozens of studies of physical hostility in heterosexual relationships, by Dr. John Archer, editor of the book "Male Violence" – reviewed on page 8.
Dr Archer found that although women sustain more serious and visible injuries than men during domestic disputes, overall they are just as likely as men to resort to physical aggression during an argument with a sexual partner. The study was reported at a meeting of the International Society for Research on Aggression held at Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey. When 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."
It is an extraordinary study, said Dr. Anne Campbell, a psychologist at the University of Durham in Great Britain, because it lends support to an emerging theory that women may respond to certain environmental stresses with physically aggressive behaviours that are similar to men’s, although often on a different scale of intensity.
Refuges Saving Men’s Lives?
Although the vast majority of all murders are committed by men, "intimate partner" homicides were split about equally between the sexes until about 20 years ago, Dr. Daniel Nagin, a public policy expert at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh told the meeting. In the last two decades, while intimate-partner homicides have declined by about 30 percent, this is primarily in the rate of women killing men. "The decline appears to be related to an improved relative economic status of females, and a decline in exposure to violent relationships," Dr. Nagin said. This drop also correlates with the availability of alternatives to violence for women: In an ongoing study of domestic homicides in 29 cities in the United States, the availability of resources like shelters for battered women and legal advocacy for them has correlated strongly with lower rates of domestic homicide committed by women. "The resources for women seem to be saving the men’s lives," Dr. Nagin said.
Aggression in Children
The experts in human aggression are now aware that even in childhood similarities between male and female aggression are more substantial than is usually recognised. 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. With indirect aggression factored in, aggression in childhood is no longer primarily a male affair. In a large observational study of ‘trajectories of aggression’ in children, Dr. Richard E. Tremblay of the UniversitÃ© de Montreal has found that physical aggression in both sexes seems to peak around age 2, then decline steadily, although it remains consistently more common in boys. Indirect aggression, however, becomes more prevalent as children grow older and is consistently more common in girls.
Television Teaches Children Violence
In a 20-year study of more than 300 Chicago-area children, led by Dr. L. Rowell Huesmann at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the more violent television a child watched at ages 6 through 8, the more aggressive behaviour that child displayed, no matter what the child’s sex. And in interviews 15 years later with the grown-up study participants, the correlation between the television viewing habits of childhood and adult behaviour patterns persisted, Dr Huesmann said at the Ramapo College meeting. The more television violence the child watched, the more aggressive the man or woman became. The correlation was especially marked among those children who told researchers that they identified with the characters on the television screen, and thought the events depicted were real. For instance, 16.7 percent of the young women who had been "high violence" television viewers as girls reported having punched, beat or choked another adult, in contrast to 3.6 percent of others. Thirty-seven percent of the "high violence" viewing women had thrown something at a spouse during an argument, in contrast to 16 percent of the others.
The North Shore Times Advertiser 15th Jan published a quarter page article headed "Domestic violence victim speaks out." There was an accompanying picture of a ‘staged domestic violence re-creation’ showing a woman cowering on the floor in the corner between the wall and a couch with a large man looming over her about to punch her in the face.
The article reported the news that North Shore senior nurse Mary Notherrealname (43) is to be one of the keynote speakers at a UK conference on DV in March, to be held at the Westminster City Hall. Mary will tell how NZ judicial and police systems failed her. She says that despite the 1995 DV act, the judicial system needs more consultative approach with victims, and police need more education. When she separated from her second husband, she took out a DV order, and is annoyed he was never charged – "he needs to be punished for what he did." She has made complaints to Police Complaints Authority and Helen Clark.
Mary has nothing but praise for North Harbour Women’s Refuge and North Harbour Living Without Violence Collective. She said their programmes are wonderful and helped her and others. She will be accompanied by her friend Jill Notherrealname (no relation) who she met on a Woman Living Without Violence course. Jill is currently raising funds to cover travel costs so she can offer support and companionship for a "good friend and fellow victim." Jill (47) also has a Protection Order against her second husband.
On Jan 22, a letter to the editor by Barbara Faithful of the Credo Society criticised the paper for publishing "advocacy journalism masquerading as ‘news’." She suggested the photograph was "no more than cheap political point-scoring for the radical feminist ‘anti-violence’ cause." She wrote that "news should be real genuine news, not ideologically-driven promotional material masquerading under such a cloak of respectability."
Another North Shore Times Advertiser article appeared four days later promising "More help for victims of domestic violence." SafeNet and the North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project are about to distribute 25,000 cards containing emergency help lines across the North Shore. The cards will also have information about various support agencies. Project co-ordinator Margie Keys said that forms of abuse are outlined, including verbal, isolation, physical, cultural, sexual and emotional abuse, as well as intimidation and ‘assuming authority’.
Although the Men’s Centre North Shore phone number appeared on a draft version of the card, it was removed from the final version after "much consideration, consultation and thoughts with organisations and agencies throughout the city," according to SafeNet chairperson Jill Nerheny. She said that: "SafeNet made the decision only to include ‘first point of contact’ agencies" because of the funding criteria set out by the Crime Prevention Unit in Wellington. If the only first point of contact for battered men is with an agency such as NHFVPP who are steadfastly "in denial" that the problem is worth even acknowledging, they are unlikely to receive the help that they are entitled to.
January was the start of a three year prevention campaign by NHFVPP with the message "Face up to it". The campaign aims to encourage workmates, neighbours, extended family and sporting friends to report suspicions that someone they know may be being abused. Ms Keys claimed the public needs to be educated that domestic violence cuts across all socio-economic, class, cultural and age barriers. It seems somewhat strange then, that domestic violence ‘victims’ portrayed in the local media seem to be predominately middle aged, middle class, white women – presumably all wives of patriarchal capitalist white male oppressors.
According to the 1998 Ministry of Health publication "Family Violence Guidelines for Health Sector Providers", a vastly disproportionate number of genuine victims are Maori, who make up 45% of clients accessing Women’s Refuge services. The guidelines also say that anecdotal evidence points to a similar high incidence of family violence in Pacific Island communities. The UK data presented earlier shows that it is more common among younger couples, and associated with families facing financial difficulties. Women separated from their husbands also have an increased risk of being assaulted. Pakeha women in intact marriages are actually one of the least likely groups to suffer from domestic violence, contrary to the radical feminist dogma. Programmes which fail to recognise and target high-risk groups are wasting precious resources.
The Ministry of Health guidelines also state that the rate of partner abuse reported by women is two to three times that reported by men. Allowing for the fact that men are less likely to report incidents due to the scarcity of male-friendly agencies, these figures seem to confirm the studies referred to earlier that show around a third of victims are male. Ms Keys admitted that there are some male victims of domestic violence, but said that they are just "a drop in the bucket compared to the number of women who are affected."
In 1995 our then co-ordinator Martin Lewis approached the North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project to obtain assistance for a North Shore solo father whose estranged wife arrived at his home and physically attacked him and another man (in front of their children), after she learned that he had a new woman in his life. The police attended and, after talking to her, sent her home. The man’s enquiries later found that police policy had not been adhered to in that the perpetrator of domestic violence was not arrested and therefore there was no record of the incident for statistical purposes or for future reference if further incidents occurred. Nor was the man offered any of the Victim Support normally offered to women in these circumstances.
Martin was faced with a wall of disbelief and indifference because the victim was a man. Responses varied from an indifferent shrug of the shoulders, offering an anger management course for the man, to outright hostility. The general impression was that a male victim must have deserved it.
Imagine the outcry from feminist groups if that suggestion was made about a female victim. J.P.
Last November, the North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project meeting advertised a presentation by Maryclare Machen, of the University of Auckland’s Psychology Department titled: "The Silencing of Lesbian Violence". The researcher says she is "aware of the danger in acknowledging violence by lesbians but believes it is more beneficial to research it and answer those who choose to misinterpret the findings (and use them as evidence to prove that women are as violent as men)."
I wonder just who has been "silencing" lesbians, and who she expects to "misinterpret" her findings? I wish I could have heard her explain whom she is referring to, and her "answers", but unfortunately men and women who do not support the radical feminist line on domestic violence are banned from NHFVPP meetings, so we may never know.
The observation that men and women initiate partner violence pretty much equally is one of the most constantly replicated pieces of data in all of the social sciences, and information about lesbians adds little to the weight of evidence. What is fascinating (or dangerous, depending on your worldview), is the insight it offers into the way women really behave in intimate relationships. Perhaps Machen’s work will someday be published where non-feminist organisations can access it. In the meantime, we will have to make do with information (below) on female violence assembled by lesbians overseas.
more information on domestic violence in lesbian and gay relationships here
"I never believed she’d abuse me."
Violence and abuse within relationships is a CRIME.
Female violence is: Any behaviour which is adopted by a woman to control you, which causes physical, sexual or psychological damage or causes you to live in fear. Physical and sexual violence are the most obvious
forms of violence. Pushing, biting, hitting, punching and using a weapon are all forms of violence. Forcing you
to participate in sex is violence. Threats are a form of violence.
Other forms of violence include:
- Unsafe driving,
- destroying your possessions,
- insulting or humiliating you publicly,
- making you think you’re crazy or stupid,
- controlling your money,
- isolating you from friends or family,
- hurting your children or pets,
- treating you like a servant,
- threatening murder or suicide,
- drugging you,
- threatening to betray secrets in front of employers or family,
- creating a sense of impending punishment.
Women [ie: lesbian partners] often say these are the most insidious forms of violence and abuse because they are difficult to explain and are often regarded as "ordinary relationship problems." You deserve to live and love free from violence. If you have been in a violent relationship, you may have some of these feelings:
- afraid to tell anyone depressed or humiliated
- afraid you have failed as a lover
- guilty about leaving her or scared of coping alone
- furious that she could do or say what she did
- confused because sometimes she is loving and kind
- guilty about leaving her
- frustrated and sad because you tried everything
- afraid of continued violence if you leave
- panicked that you may lose your male identity outside a relationship
- worried about your financial security
- made to believe that you deserved it
It may be helpful to look at some of the ways you’ve coped until now: you have been careful about what you say, when you say things and how you say them. You have tried to talk to her about her stress, drug use or moods. You have given up doing anything likely to upset her. You adapt your behaviour to what she says she wants. You tried to make agreements or set boundaries.
Give Yourself Credit For Everything You Have Tried
Never think her violence is your fault. You may believe you are equally responsible for your partner’s violence BUT you are not to blame. All violence has damaging consequences. Your belief in your worth and your sense of having rights and choices becomes eroded by constant abuse. You have a right to be safe – Violence is unacceptable There are many common beliefs about why women choose to be violent:
- "she had a sad or traumatic childhood"
- "she drinks or uses drugs"
- "she has trouble expressing her feelings"
- "she is oppressed as a woman"
- "she can’t control her anger"
- "something about you drives her to violence"
THESE ARE ALL EXCUSES! We all experience stress, trauma, anger, and fear but a violent woman chooses to use violence to control and get her own way. She CAN control her violence but she chooses to control and abuse you. She uses violence deliberately to weaken your choices to act.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS A CRIME
Believing and trusting your own feelings. You may not have believed until recently that her behaviour could be labelled as violent. If you feel scared and unsafe in her presence something is wrong. You are the best judge of how safe you are. You may not have told anyone about the violence. You may have told friends who have not understood your danger and distress. Acknowledge the pain and grief of abuse. You could: Tell friends you trust. Make safety arrangements such as organising a safe place to go, changing your phone number and locks. Telephone Men’s Centre North Shore and talk to a worker, find out about your legal rights or see a counsellor.
REMIND YOURSELF THAT YOU DESERVE TO LIVE IN SAFETY AND THAT HER VIOLENCE IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
People can be supportive by:
- Supporting the right of all couples to live safely.
- Becoming informed about violence within relationships.
- Passing comment if you witness behaviour you believe is abusive or violent.
- Listening to, believing and taking positive action to support a man who confides in you.
- Ask "How can I help?" or "What can you do to make yourself safer?"
You can ring the Men’s Centre North Shore Inc on 09 415-0049
- to talk and obtain support
- to find out about your legal rights and obtain legal information
- to obtain support in dealing with the police
- to enquire about male-friendly counsellors
- to use the library resources on female violence
- to arrange for the Men’s Centre North Shore to speak to your group, service or organisation.
We acknowledge the work of the Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre which produced this information on female violence for Lesbians. Genders have been altered throughout as appropriate.
Dr. Susan Sarnoff is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Ohio University and the author of Paying for Crime: The Policies and Possibilities of Crime Victim Reimbursement, published by Praeger in 1996. She is currently writing Sanctified Snake Oil, a study of on the government’s acceptance of ‘junk science.’
She herself started out as a ‘victim advocate,’ but became concerned that her fellow advocates were advocating for themselves more than they were advocating for victims.
She says: "For decades, battered women’s advocates have been handling all ‘cases’ alike–whether they consist of serious abuse and threats by one party, mutual violence, minor and infrequent abuse or false allegations. If we as a society had spent the past thirty years not in knee-jerk submission to the ‘paternalism is the enemy and all men are beasts’ school of domestic violence, but instead in true analysis of the permutations of [the problem], we would by now have developed a range of options for true victims –from strict separation (hopefully in a jail cell) for the truly violent, to assistance for environmental stresses that lead to violence (job training, child care respite), to marital counselling and anger management. Such analysis would have required evidence not only of violence but of types and degrees of violence, which in and of itself would have identified false accusers."
Her forthcoming book follows the ‘money trail’, because while it has received less attention than ideology in the domestic violence debate, it is easier for politicians to understand. She does not believe that money is the only cause of junk science, advocacy statistics, snake oil or whatever we choose to call it, but says that money keeps the gravy-train wheels oiled and keeps the coalition of support large enough and moving fast enough to prevent the truth from derailing the train.
Sarnoff writes: "The well-meaning advocates of what they defined (poorly) as domestic violence have not only failed battered women, but failed society because they lulled it into believing that the problem was being addressed. Instead, the problem they have created is far more complex than the problem they took on to begin with."
The following is a summary of an article which appeared in the 1998 Summer Issue of the Womens’ Freedom Network Newsletter. On the web here: www.womensfreedom.org
Dr Susan Sarnoff claims that the sweeping proposal to revise the American Violence Against Women Act, (VAWA I) which will provide nearly $5 billion in funding over five years ‘to prevent violence against women, and for other purposes,’ is dangerous legislation based on faulty information.
She suggests that it serves as a means of providing services to some of the women and children who have lost income due to welfare cuts. This ‘back door’ "requires that applicants claim that they and/or their children were victims of some form of domestic violence or sexual assault, but it offers abundant rewards for doing so including the ‘rights’ to refuse custody and even visitation to accused fathers with virtually no requirements of proof, no means of detecting false claims and not even means of verifying real ones"
However, she reveals that the real beneficiaries of VAWA II are not battered women or their children, but the providers of services to battered women who will benefit if it is enacted.
Sarnoff points out that if VAWA II was really meant to help battered women and their children then some form of jobs, job training or income replacement, or long-term, low-income housing would have been written into the bill. However, the only jobs that will be created will be for more victim advocates promoting false statistics and faulty beliefs. For example, nearly as much money is allocated to "technical and training initiatives" as to direct services to victims. It appears that these initiatives are mostly focused on misinforming both victims and the public about the nature and incidence of violence against women.
The bill’s definition of domestic violence, for instance, is so broad that it does not even require that the violence be physical. Sarnoff says that providing the same services to victims of ‘verbal or psychological abuse’ as delivered to genuine battered women overservices some, underservices others and fails to consider that different forms of abuse may not be responsive to the same types of services.
She writes: "Technical and training initiatives will further increase the perception that domestic violence is widespread not only by reaching real victims, but by encouraging service providers, lawyers and others with vested interests in gaining clients to broadly define female victimisation; and by informing impressionable high school and college women that virtually any unpleasant interaction with a male can be construed as sexual or domestic violence, absolving the ‘victim’ of any responsibility by implying that women have no control over their bodies or their lives. Of course, it is also easier to provide assistance to non-victims or hardly victims than it is to assist seriously endangered ones, and serving the former groups not only inflates service statistics (and purported incidence rates) but makes service providers feel more successful than when working with victims whose problems are more intractable."
The clearest proof that VAWA II is designed to institutionalise misinformation is that it "views as authoritative on matters of domestic violence and child custody and visitation" a 1996 American Psychological Association report titled ‘Violence in the Family.’ Yet that 142 page document is replete with lies, distortions and unsubstantiated claims, and includes not a single reference, citation or other allusion to any specific study of the ‘information’ it purports to provide. For example, despite overwhelming evidence from more informed sources, the APA report claims that there is no evidence that false accusations are more common in the context of custody litigation. The report also supports the existence of organised sadistic (read: Satanic Ritual) abuse, and states that "it is possible for long-forgotten memories to be remembered" (ie:recovered).
Sarnoff’s conclusion is that: "VAWA II, if passed, will be very effective at distorting truth, trashing science, exaggerating statistics, providing income to service providers and infantilising women. In this way, it is very well-named: the Act itself is a form of Violence Against Women."
Male Violence – edited by Dr John Archer – Book Review
Dr Archer is Professor of Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire. This book was published by Routledge, London in 1994.
Last year, at a meeting with members of the North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project (discussed in the July 98 MENZ Issues), we asked Co-ordinator Reese Helmondollar where they get the information that informs their practice. He strongly recommended we read this weighty tome, which we were able to obtain from the Auckland University library. While it is a serious scientific work, its usefulness is limited by the base assumptions that the pro-feminist perspective insists you accept on faith. In the absence of any significant discussion of female violence, workers who rely primarily on this book to present a complete picture of family violence will be badly misled.
The Preface states the underlying theme of this book explicitly: "Most human violence is carried out by men, yet a book which highlights this by being called Male Violence is very different from one simply entitled Human Violence. Psychologists have constructed general theories to explain human aggression, which is at the root of violent acts. We take as our starting point not the generality of aggression in the human species, but the predominantly male nature of most acts of violence."
The introduction includes a quote from Paul Gilbert, author of the final chapter. He claims that in terms of mental health intervention, targeting male violence would probably be the single most significant form of community prevention programme that could be mounted. This must sound like music to the ears of anyone running a male violence prevention programme.
However, Archer goes on to warn that it will be a difficult (read: expensive) project because it "strikes at the root of so many entrenched cultural beliefs" such as "materialism, consumerism, capitalism, militarism, racism and sexism, which justify a wide range of vested interests." This statement begs some urgent questions about the moral appropriateness of using the machinery of the state to strike at the roots of people’s cultural beliefs. When was the last time you checked your ‘entrenched cultural beliefs’ for political correctness?
Archer makes what he considers to be a "crucial distinction between physical aggression and violence". ‘Physical aggression’ refers to the actual act, whereas ‘violence’, he claims, concentrates on the consequences. He criticises the Conflict Tactics Scales devised by Murray Straus in 1979, which researchers use to record how couples solve their differences. The scale ranges from calm negotiation to verbal argument and abuse, through to threats of, then actual physical abuse, gradually increasing in severity. Archer claims that this approach is wrong because it ignores possible damaging consequences of the acts, and because it removes the action from its context so the reasons for the act and background and significance of the event are not considered.
The other big problem for the pro-feminist perspective is that studies which use the CTS show pretty much equal levels of ‘relationship violence’. Archer says this does not consider the ‘impact’ of such acts. He then says that because men are mostly bigger, stronger and more familiar with physically aggression than women, they have the potential to do more damage with a punch, so the equal rating between man’s punch and a woman’s one on the CTS is misleading. This argument is undermined by the fact that in many relationships the woman is in fact larger and stronger than the man, and particularly where weapons are involved, the element of surprise can easily tip the balance of power in the woman’s favour. The idea that the ‘impact’ of violence is less on males than on females is purely speculative. On the matter of possible consequences, Murray Straus points out that as violence is usually at the end of a steady escalation in hostility, a likely and predictable outcome of female-initiated violence is that the recipient will retaliate.
In answer to the question ‘why male violence?’, Archer mentions his previous book Sex and Gender which endorsed the feminist claim that violence is a male rather than a human problem. He briefly discusses the current controversy about the level of female violence, and points to radfem activist Leonore Walker’s 1989 paper in the American Psychologist (characterising domestic violence as that done by men to women) as marking the split between the mainstream and the feminist viewpoints. Walker also criticises the CTS because it does not distinguish between offensive and defensive acts (she assumes men = offence, women = defence). Other feminist writers such as Dobash & Dobash say the problem with the CTS is that it does not consider the meaning and intentions behind the act.
Even as a non-scientist, I can see that the radfem reliance on fuzzy concepts such as possible damaging consequences, potential damage, context, meanings and intentions, none of which can be accurately measured (just another of those obsolete patriarchal concepts), is not likely to lead to rigorous scientific analysis. The entire case rests on the flawed assumption that women are fundamentally less powerful than men, and that this is a result of historical oppression by a vast patriarchal conspiracy. Having accepted this world view, all female violence can be minimised by using the ‘abuse excuse’ (he deserved it because he’s a chauvinist pig ), or the self-defence explanation: ‘she was just making a pre-emptive strike’. As long as this ‘women are good, men are bad’ dogma is unquestioned, radical feminists can justify lucrative but relatively useless services which concentrate on dis-empowering males as the only acceptable solution to the problem of family violence.
This book contains a broad range of papers discussing aspects of human aggression. It is potentially useful to students and professionals provided they are aware of the limitations imposed by the underlying assumptions and ideology. There is a mixture of sound research and outright gender-feminist polemic, such as the chapter on Sexual Violence Against Women which quotes the infamous study by Mary Koss (repeated here in New Zealand by Nicola Gavey) which purports to show that over a quarter of female students are victims of attempted or actual rape. Just one of the many problems with Koss’ ‘research’ is that most of victims did not realise they had been raped until ‘educated’ by the researchers.
To be fair to the editor, some of the studies and discussions included in the book do not totally support the radical feminist perspective, and it seems he has made an effort to present a balanced point of view within the overall limitations discussed above. For example, in chapter 2, Glen Weisfeld points out that aggressiveness in boys shows considerable long term stability from an early age, and suggests that early experience within the family may be crucial. He refers to a 1983 paper by Rutter and Giller which documents the importance of family factors in delinquency, including weak parental supervision and divorce. He says "Economic and social policies that support intact families may be the most efficient means of elevating the quality of parental behaviour and decreasing the prevalence of violence and other social problems. The presence of a ‘control male’ may be especially effective, particularly the biological father."
I was also particularly interested in the chapter on bullying by Yvette Ahmad and Peter Smith. While boys are more likely to be physically aggressive, girls prefer to use malicious gossip (false allegations) and exclusion to cause distress. The authors also point out that overall, boys are more likely to be victims of bullying behaviour. They discuss findings that indirect aggression is more common among girls than boys, and that some girls systematically use this as a form of bullying. Indirect aggression is defined by Bjorkqvist and his colleagues as including the following behaviours: gossips, tells bad or false stories, becomes friend with another as revenge, plans secretly to bother the other, says bad things behind another’s back, says to others: let’s not be with him/her, tells the other one’s secrets to a third person, writes nasty notes about the other, tries to get others to dislike the person. This greater use of indirect aggression increases as girls get older. Judging by the stories our members tell us, many adult women continue to use indirect psychological violence to hurt their male partners.
In the chapter titled ‘Marital Violence, an interactional perspective’, author Neil Frude disputes the feminist assertion that male violence towards women is a ‘normal’ or ‘natural act’ within our patriarchal society, and that certain ‘vested interest groups’ find it acceptable. He suggests that we would do better to consider it a deviant act, reflecting the assailant’s anger and lack of inhibition. He points out that in fact few people approve of husbands hitting wives, and there are no social groups where a man would find it acceptable to admit to injuring his partner. On the contrary, perpetrators usually go to great lengths to avoid discovery. Unfortunately, Frude looses the plot somewhat after this promising start, and suggests that "the term ‘violent couple’ is best avoided, since it might be taken to imply that both partners play a similar role in the violence that occurs." He suggests that instead they be referred to as ‘assailant-victim’ couples. A more useful idea is that "…..attention needs to be paid to the way in which their relationship and interactions differ from other couples." He also points to studies that show that the rate of partner abuse is significantly higher in cohabiting than for married couples, undermining feminist claims about the dangers married women face. He says there is "a substantial body of evidence that shows that those who are married typically fare better in terms of psychological and physical well-being than those who are without partners."
Frude continues by discussing the ‘Resource Theory’ put forward by Goode in 1971, which predicts that physical violence will be used by people who have few resources or capacity to influence others. Studies confirm that the highest rates of violence are found in couples involved in power struggles, and that the frequency of violence increases as the difference in social status widens, particularly when the woman is dominant. Couples who agree on the power structure of their relationship (whether the woman or the man is dominant) have lower rates of violence, and couples where the power is shared relatively equally experience the least violence of all. Couple conflict style is a predictor of physical violence, and violent couples (whoops, assailant-victim couples) tend to engage in ineffective and dangerous conflict strategies. They are less likely to use rational problem-solving, discussion or negotiation. Instead "their conflicts were characterised by high levels of anger and verbal attack. Conflicts were typically unresolved and few apologies were given." Another researcher found that physically abusive husbands were more offensive towards their wives than non-abusive husbands, using hostile gestures and verbal abuse. However they also found that the ‘abused’ wives were also more critical and verbally offensive, and that they engage in high levels of overt negative behaviour during conflicts. Frude concludes by saying: "One simple conclusion that illustrates the practical significance of the interactional model of marital abuse is that treatment can involve not only interventions with the assailant, but also with the victim. Thus in a number of couple-based intervention programmes, strategies are aimed simultaneously at modifying the couple’s interaction patterns, teaching the assaultive husband anger control techniques, and helping the victim to develop her own protection plan." Apart from the sexist statements scattered throughout, this chapter contains much that seems useful in understanding and treating couple conflict.
Archer defends the feminist position that the patriarchal structure of society encourages and legitimises men beating their wives in chapter 16 titled: Power and Male Violence. He begins by quoting Lenore Walker, who wrote: "The feminist political agenda analysis has reframed the problem of violence against women as one of misuse of power by men who have been socialised into believing that they have a right to control the women in their lives, even through violent means".
Archer admits that the patriarchal power hypothesis has a drawback in that it is also a feminist analysis, and points out that "This means that for some it has the status of dogma and is tied to a particular type of methodology (notably, involving a rejection of quantification). Both of these obstruct the testing of it as a hypothesis."
Although Archer maintains that feminist power explanations are relevant to couple violence, he admits that they have "little or nothing to say about why men are violent to other men." He suggests that theories of dominance hierarchies in animals may be the explanation for this type of male power. No mention is made of female violence. He writes: "..it is clear that most traditional cultural beliefs about gender actively encourage male domination, and the use of violence to support this ideology. A potent way of enforcing male interests is to build them into religious beliefs, and hence to legitimise them as coming from a higher authority."
He argues that the two explanations of male power are linked, because men with ‘macho’ values are likely to be violent towards men and women. He discusses possible evolutionary and biological origins of male power, and concludes that "Structural power by men over women reflect two considerations: first, there is conflict of interest between the optimum reproduction strategies of males and females; secondly, through socio-ecological and cultural conditions, men have been able to control the reproductive interests of women, by force if necessary."
In the last chapter, Paul Gilbert gives an overview of male violence that "wanders far afield." I personally think he wanders right out of the fields and into the woods when he claims that "male violence may outrank disease and famine as the major source of human suffering." However, he goes on to make what may be the most useful and pertinent observations in this large book. For example, in discussing shame, he writes, "The idea that ‘all men are potential rapists’, or ‘all men think with their dicks’, is an effort at ‘gender shaming’. Unfortunately, this leads to counter-rage, increases competitiveness and the desire to avoid or rid oneself of the ‘shamer’s stare’. Shame at best, will lead to fearful compliance and secretiveness, not development of compassion or efforts at reparation. Thus, shaming as a method of changing people is likely to run into serious trouble…….. many of our institutions are shame-based, but if the current evidence on shame is shown to be valid then these institutions are likely to increase rage, competitiveness and narcissistic styles rather than reduce them, and certainly not activate guilt and compassion for others."
Gilbert concludes "If our planet ends up with the nightmare scenarios of increasing environmental destruction, poverty and violence that some commentators suggest, then part of it will be because of our trivialisation of the trainable qualities of compassion, empathy and sharing. Thus…..many may regard aggression and violence as a more important social problem than pro-social behaviour, but this is a mark of the problem itself."
Reviewed by J.P.
Our November 1998 newsletter featured an article (here) from a young woman giving her views of feminism. Her comments and attitudes are common among women today. The general theme is "I want equality but……" and the but is followed by a number of high sounding phrases which when analysed actually mean "I want to retain my feminine privileges too." To give you the flavour of the article, I quote one paragraph:
"No one of my generation can justifiably condone past attitudes towards women which stereotyped, belittled and patronised not only the intellect and capabilities of woman but also their very worth – and I believe few would try. But while ‘equal opportunity’, ‘equal rights’ , ‘women can do anything’, and ‘women need men like fish need bicycles’ banners continue to flap around in the wind, I also believe there is a serious danger of the entire feminist cause being consumed by the very fire it has so enthusiastically stoked."
This is an 18 year old college student who has no life experience to support any of the statements on past attitudes towards women – so where have they come from? I would be willing to bet these prejudices (for that is what they are), came from the girl’s female teachers who will not have been much older and will also have been short on life experiences. I quote further from the article:
Yes, women do have a right to equality with the men, who until recently have collectively maintained power by restraining their female counterparts and underestimating their intelligence and capabilities. However, seeking to avenge a long sojourn of injustice by merely aiming to exchange roles will, in the long run achieve nothing
You get the general gist "men were a pack of bastards but I am prepared to work with them". I have to say that I find this new form of feminism more offensive than the original. You see, as someone who has been around for the past five decades, and has been an employer of men and women for twenty years, I can tell this 18 year old that it never was that way.
When I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s both men and women had clearly defined roles. Society’s expectations were very different for men and women. These social pressures applied as least as much for men as for women. If society, as the writer says, "Stereotyped belittled and patronised not only the intellect and capabilities of women but also their very worth" – then society did all that and more to men.
When I first went to work I saw middle aged men, intelligent, hard working, and capable men, who hated every day of their work. This was before the days of job mobility. In post war years job security was all – and men worked forty years for the same employer. In many cases they were quite literally wage slaves. By comparison, their wives with relatively small families and every labour saving device had relatively comfortable and fulfilling lives.
In schools, boys were subjected to corporal punishment, forced into physical sporting activities many were unsuited to, and forced to undergo military training. Some thrived in this macho environment, but many found it humiliating and degrading. It was part of being "made a man". All this while the schoolgirls watched in amused detachment.
At University, where I was (quite literally) pulling my hair out studying for a degree, my female peers were jumping on Greek liners for their big OE. It was galling therefore 20 years later to be told that I, as a white male was to blame for the lack of female company directors.
As an employer I have seen time and time again women being trained, promoted, and pushed up the corporate ladder only for them to reject the long hours and pressure associated with managerial positions. Women have found that working twelve hours a day in a stressful and impersonal environment is not empowering.
And that brings us back to this new version of feminism. The student writes:
As a woman I don’t need to become a man, or manlike, to achieve. I need to build on my own strengths and build healthy relationships with those able to balance my weaknesses. I also need to appreciate the differences while realising that under a greater consideration, both male and female are part of a duality that once combined becomes a whole.
Very glib – but what I observe goes a bit like this: "As a woman I want all the choices, but none of the responsibilities. I want all the career choices, but the right to opt out if I feel like it. I want all the family/children choices (including the sole right to decide on abortion). I want equality in the kitchen, but when it comes to those dirty dangerous or stressful jobs I want to retain my femininity."
The feminist bandwagon has dragged our society along for the past three decades. I believe to the detriment of both men and women. The extremists, though small in number hold enormous sway politically, and influence our lawmakers both politicians and judges. Men have watched on in dumb silence with barely a grumble.
Ironically it is women who are now recoiling from the excesses of this movement – but you can’t have it both ways girls, not for long anyway.