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Saturday, February 06, 2010

"One can survive everything, nowadays, except death, and live down everything except a good reputation." - Oscar Wilde


A 1998 article from ABC:

Women Aren’t the Only Victims: Beating Up on Battered Men

Once a week the medical world turns to the authoritative Journal of the American Medical Association to find out what’s important in health care research.

This week, the editors have devoted the entire issue to trends in violence of various sorts: mistreatment of the elderly, teen-age murder, battered wives, even violence against public health workers.

But nowhere in the 90 pages is there any mention of domestic abuse in which the victim is male.

Strange as it sounds, some people fear that publishing a study about battered men might shift much-needed attention away from the abuse of women, the scope of which researchers agree is underestimated.

But at least there have been attempts to document the battered woman problem. For instance, a new Johns Hopkins University survey of 3,400 women published in this week’s JAMA finds that nearly four in 10 women surveyed in emergency rooms say they’ve been physically or emotionally abused in their lifetimes.

Numbers like that are rare when it comes to abused men. In fact, many people believe that battered husbands are practically nonexistent. Or they believe that they’re such a minute fraction, compared to the numbers of battered women, that they don’t represent a trend that needs attention.

Attack and Be Attacked

But family violence expert Murray Straus says that abused men do exist, in higher numbers than we care to acknowledge.

“I’ve interviewed guys who have been stabbed by their wives,” says Straus. “One guy had his teeth knocked out when his girlfriend threw a brass crucifix at his face. But when you ask them if they were being beaten, they say no.”

Straus, director of the University of New Hampshire Family Research Laboratory, is one of a smattering of scientists in this country studying domestic violence as a human phenomenon, rather than focusing on the female as victim.

In 1985, Straus and colleagues Richard Gelles and Suzanne Steinmetz reported a groundbreaking study of 6,000 Americans that contradicted conventional wisdom about domestic abuse.

They found that 12 percent of men—and 11.6 percent of women—reported having hit, slapped or kicked their partners. Contrary to the common preconception that women hit back only in self defense, the survey also found that women initiated the violence just as often as men.

Nonetheless, Straus points out, the men’s injuries generally weren’t as severe as the women’s injuries.

“Women are overwhelmingly the ‘victim,’ he says. “They are injured more and are afraid for their lives more often. We don’t need shelters for battered men, but if we ever want to stop this cycle of abuse in families, it requires nonviolence by all parties.”

No Innocent Victims?

Such talk is feverishly contested by women’s advocates, who point to criminal statistics that paint men as the typical perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Jacquelyn Campbell, Johns Hopkins University nursing professor and lead author of the violence against females survey in this week’s JAMA, points out one of these statistics: For every man battered by a female partner, eight women are battered by male partners.

Why such a massive discrepancy in the stats?

Patricia Pearson, author of When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, explains it this way: “When battered women’s activists talk about abuse, they focus on the most extreme statistics, the 3 to 4 percent of domestic violence in which women are beaten severely.”

Doing that gives us a skewed view of what’s really going on in families, Pearson says. “We need to realize women are capable of physical aggression,” she says. “It’s not just a masculine trait.”

Despite more than 100 epidemiological studies demonstrating the existence of female aggression against men, no major government research arm has ever looked at the pattern.

But as Pearson points out, the fastest growing group of violent criminal offenders today is teen girls. Given that, the time to study “battered men’s syndrome” may have finally arrived.
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