For reasons that escape this author and many victims of domestic violence who have been beaten and injured by a violent partner, over the last two decades there has been battle between researchers and academics regarding the issue of “gender symmetry” in intimate partner violence. Simply defined gender symmetry is the issue of the equal use of violence between men and women.
The authors of a recent National Institute of Justice (NIJ)-sponsored 513 page study, Development and Validation of a Coercive Control Measure for Intimate Partner Violence: Final Technical Report proffer that:
The above NIJ-sponsored report, at least to this author, seems to add to the confusion not provide clarity or consensus. Regardless of the fact that the author of this short paper is only a retired law enforcement officer and not a domestic violence expert, he believes that there are four major reasons researchers do not agree to agree.
If you read the Executive Summary you will discover that some of the factors they list may be harmful, many do not appear to be violent. The authors of the above report, apparently without being aware of it, have with their definition of coercion, “…the idea of compliance with demands or expectations,” clearly documented that much of the “coercion” (the offender) and compliant behavior (the victim) is the behavior our parents, regardless of gender, used to control us as children and that it is the same behavior that generations of children, regardless of gender, learn and replicate.
The author’s definition of “coercion” or list of “coercive factors” may help to demystify the belief held by many domestic violence advocates that domestic violence is based on gender and that it is caused by men’s desires to oppress and subjugate women. The majority of the behavior in the author’s exhibits 1, 2 and 3 are behaviors that most parents, regardless of gender, use in controlling the behavior of their children and many if not most people condone.
However, because the authors of this 513 page report seem oblivious to the “wellspring” of this coercive behavior, they and other researchers will continue proffering conflicting hypothesis and philosophies and a myriad of competing causal theories, all of which ignore that we, both males and females, learned this “coercive” behavior in childhood and now use whatever forms of it that work best for us in adulthood.
In the interim “domestic violence victims,” particularly those who have been beaten and injured and live at the lower end of the socioeconomic educational strata with little or no help from family or community, will continue to wonder why every act of family conflict is treated the same as their long-term violent victimization.
As the above NIJ-sponsored report documents, some researchers have moved from victims who are violently assaulted by their partner to:
But the unique profile of “the battered woman” arises as much from the deprivation of liberty [italics added] implied by coercion and control as it does from violence-induced trauma. Development and Validation of a Coercive Control Measure for Intimate Partner Violence: Final Technical Report.
A recent NIJ-sponsored study Violence Against Women: Identifying Risk Factors claims that:
Hence, some researchers are intent on moving us from providing assistance and resources for spousal partners who were beaten and injured by their partner to claiming that only a little more than 1 in 10 women who attend college are not victims. It is these types of fallacious claims, more than anything else that minimize resources and marginalize the plight of victims who are actually beaten and injured.
These deceptive claims that almost every woman is a victim, may also play a role in convincing many people in the general population that the issue of “domestic violence” is just a lot of feminist hype that they need not worry about.
1981 Ellen Pence and a group of citizens in
most people agree that if someone beats or batters their spouse they
should be arrested, sanctioned, and perhaps placed in an effective treatment/counseling
program. However, the
Many public policy makers appear to be unaware of or they have chosen to ignore many of the studies they have funded. Most troubling is the fact that the National Research Council (NRC) report Advancing the Federal Research Agenda on Violence Against Women notes on page 56 that: advocates, public policy makers, researchers and scholars who do not distinguish between violence, abuse, or battering may do more harm than good [emphasis added].
Arrests For All Family Conflicts
During the 1970s the issue of “spousal battering” was low on the feminist radar screen. Only later would ideological feminists (people who are more concerned with women’s rights than victim and equal rights) begin intermingling “spousal battering” with “women’s rights.” Family violence” morphed into an exclusive and specific “violence against women” agenda.
Anyone who dares to oppose the ideological feminist gender-biased training and mandatory policies are painted by the National Organization of Women and many other national recognized organizations as opposing “women’s rights.”
Ideological feminists claimed they wanted the criminal justice system to treat violence against women “the same as other crimes.” However, the mandatory or preferred arrest policies are not “the same” as other crimes.
The time honored rational tradition of allowing the criminal justice system the discretion of intervening into specific individual incidents and respecting the many diverse concerns of those involved has been eviscerated by rigid domestic violence mandatory arrest and no drop prosecution interventions. The process of labeling every incident of “family conflict” as “battering” has created many negative effects for both males and females.
Mandatory arrest and no drop prosecutorial policies have placed the women’s rights agenda before the victim’s rights, desires and needs. Victims, when thought about at all, have become only “witnesses” in their own case and the state is now viewed as the victim. Domestic violence victims, regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation with specific and individual needs and desires are now ignored in favor of a one-solution-fits-all ideological agenda.
Mandatory arrest and no drop prosecution policies have removed from “individual women” their recently discovered 20th century political and social status. The rights women gained toward the end of the 20th century, the decision and the opportunity of being “equal” with men in society has been removed from their hands and placed into the hands of a small group of ideological feminists.
A state that, once again, proclaims it knows best now makes the decisions for these dependent and feeble women. Many women are treated, once again, as helpless and hapless creatures who are incapable of making their own decisions. Where have we heard that before?
It is ironic that in this 21st century ideological feminist have become either unwilling or unable to recognize that they now exhibit the very same righteous, dogmatic and demanding behavior they railed against in the 20th century.
Endangering and Harming Women
and/or preferred arrest policies were put in place by our public
policy maker at the behest of domestic violence advocates. Advocates
claim that the results of the single 1984
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) sponsored report Controlling Violence Against Women: A Research Perspective on the 1994 VAWA's Criminal Justice Impacts concludes that:
Above all, they [public policy makers] need to know that their policies and practices will not endanger women [emphasis added]. Unfortunately, there are too few preventive impact evaluations of policies already in place and fewer still that approach methodological standards insuring sound data for shaping policy.
The NIJ-sponsored Exposure Reduction or Backlash? The Effects of Domestic Violence Resources on Intimate Partner Homicide, Executive Summary reports that:
A little more than half of the findings support the predictions of exposure reduction, and the others show that domestic violence resources are associated with more killings [italics added] of some victim types.The NIJ-sponsored report, Effects of No-Drop Prosecution of Domestic Violence Upon Conviction Rates that:
Finally, we do not know whether no-drop increases victim safety or places the victims in greater jeopardy. . . Before no-drop is embraced as a desirable policy, we owe it to victims to find out whether they are well-served by taking away their right to decide the extent to which they want to pursue a criminal justice solution to their problem.
The report Domestic Violence: A Review of State Legislation Defining Police and Prosecution Duties and Powers clearly documents that few, if any, domestic violence interventions, laws, programs, policies and practices passed by federal or state legislators make any distinctions between violence, abuse or battering.
The NIJ-sponsored report Forgoing Criminal Justice Assistance: The Non-Reporting of New Incidents of Abuse in a Court Sample of Domestic Violence Victims, documents that rigid mandatory interventions ignore the diversity of the family desires and lack varied programs suited for the diverse characteristics of multi-problem offenders and can cause many victims to ignore or opt-out of the system designed to assist them.
The NIJ-sponsored report The Decline of Intimate Partner Homicide documents:
The National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center article Mandatory Arrest and Prosecution Policies for Domestic Violence reports:
Defenders of mandatory arrest and prosecution policies contend that battered women are too helpless and fearful to make appropriate decisions about the arrest or prosecution of their attackers. While this may be true for some women, preliminary evidence shows that the option to decide sometimes provides the perfect avenue for expressing unrealized strength and power.
The Ms Foundation for Women (MsFW) conclude in its report, Safety & Justice for All: Examining the Relationship between the Women's Anti-Violence Movement and the Criminal Legal System that data clearly documents that some contemporary public policy makers have in fact developed legislative policies and practices that do endanger some victims.
Specific Intervention for Specific Victims
The Effects of Arrest on Intimate Partner Volence: New Evidence From the Spouse Assault Replication Program report is an analysis of 4,032 domestic violence incidents. The authors believe that the findings of their research should have had several implications concerning domestic violence policies. However, our public policy makers have decided to ignore those results.
The results of the above report should have become national news and resulted in the re-examination of mandatory arrest policies and the Duluth Model of counseling. However, the report received little or no attention in the media and it continues to be universally ignored or misinterpreted by ideological feminists. In fact, if you ask the majority of our public policy makers, those in the criminal justice system and social services agencies most will reply that they have never heard of nor read the above report.
The report documents that more than 70% of offenders, arrested or not, did not repeat their aggression against the same victim. It also reports that whether or not the offender was arrested more than 50% of the suspects committed no subsequent criminal offenses against the same victim.
This report documents quite clearly that the evidence of success against re-offending produced through the use of mandatory arrest policies and placement in the Duluth Model counseling program demonstrated little or no independent results.
What should be most troubling to both the criminal justice system and domestic violence advocates is the fact that the above report concludes:
The report also documents that:
The authors also conclude that:
The NIJ-sponsored report Do Domestic Violence Services Save Lives? documents that two factors appear to provide what the report labels backlash or more danger for some victims than they do protection:
Further this report documents that there are a number of interventions that do produce some protection for some victims but increases the violence for others:
Other factors supporting the backlash [increase not decrease of violence] theory are:
The report notes that each of these interventions was designed to protect domestic violence victims, but they also appear to be associated with increased retaliation by abusive partners. The report demonstrates that interventions must be tailored to meet the needs of victims in the severely violent relationships. The author of the Ms. Foundation for Women report documents that some of these intervention instead endanger some women.
The Need for Individual Interventions
Because of the increased number of people being arrested and because mandatory arrests demands that someone must be arrested regardless of the severity of the incident, many scholars, researchers and domestic violence advocates now recommend that assessments be made before program placements are made for women.
Assessments are important because of the context and circumstances concerning the use of individual abusive behavior and the needs and desires of individual family members. The author of Fact & Fantasy: Violent Women acknowledges that social service agencies have a responsibility to understand the concept and circumstances of victimization concerning women.
It is improbable to impossible to understand why scholars, researchers, advocates, public policy makers and the media do not understand the importance of making these same assessments for everyone regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation before they are sanctioned, counseled or placed into programs.
It is also important that scholars, researchers, advocates, public policy makers and the media understand that spouses and intimate partners who engage in lower levels of family conflict be distinguished from those who engage in violent and chronic battering behavior.
Too often too many advocates are only concerned about “their” victims and many often minimize, marginalize or ignore the needs of others. Everyone, as feminists once claimed, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation or percentage of victimization deserves to have their needs and concerns heeded not hidden.
The Effects of Arrest on Intimate Partner Violence: New Evidence From the Spouse Assault Replication Program documents that the majority of domestic violence abusers will discontinue their abusive behavior without an arrest being made. To date there are no NIJ studies that provide any empirical evidence that most contemporary batterer intervention programs really work.
Ellen Pence, who
How much longer can ideological feminists, the media and our public policy makers ignore the fact that many one-solution-fits-all interventions can be as harmful for some victims as they are helpful for others?
Most importantly, why have individual victim rights, particularly victims at the lower end of the socioeconomic educational strata, become secondary to the ideological feminist agenda and the rights of the state?
The sounds of silence from the media, ideological feminists and our public policy makers concerning the above NIJ reports continues to be deafening. And worse still ignoring these negative results, simply because they do not fit “the ideological feminist lens” may further marginalize the safety of victims and their children at the hands of chronic violent abusers.
Two Important Notes
(1) The majority of the reports cited in this paper have actually been funded by our public policy makers although it appears that they do not read many or any of them. Far too many public policy makers seem ignorant of the ever increasing number of reports sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) that document the ineffectiveness and inherent dangers of the mandatory arrest laws and no drop prosecution policies that they voted for. In fact, contemporarily many “domestic violence” interventions, as the RADAR Special Reports document, often involve little or no violence at all.
(2) The author of this paper recognizes that data (behavioral self reports and crime data) document that men exhibit more injurious and lethal behavior than women. However, the fact is that men exhibit the majority of their injurious and lethal behavior outside the home, against other men and against themselves (suicides).
Richard L. Davis served in the United States Marine Corps from 1960 to 1964. He is a retired lieutenant from the Brockton, Massachusetts police department. He has a graduate degree in liberal arts from Harvard University and a second in criminal justice from Anna Maria College. He is a member of the International Honor Society of Historians and the American Society of Criminology. He is a college instructor for Quincy College at Plymouth, MA in Criminology, Criminal Justice and Domestic Violence. He is the vice president for Family Nonviolence, Inc. in Fairhaven, MA. He is also the vice president for the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women.
He is an independent consultant for criminal justice domestic violence policies, procedures, and programs. He is the author of Domestic Violence: Facts and Fallacies by Praeger publishers and has written numerous articles for newspapers, journals, and magazines concerning the issue of domestic violence. He has columns concerning domestic violence at http://www.policeone.com, and http://www.nycop.com, is a distance learner instructor in Introduction to Criminal Justice and Domestic Violence for the Online Police Academy and has a website. He and Kim Eyer have a domestic violence website The Cop and the Survivor.
He lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts with his wife and the youngest of five children. He experienced domestic violence professionally for 21 years as a police officer and personally as a child and as an adult. In his retirement he continues to use his education, experience, and training to help the children, women, and men who have had to endure violence from those who profess to love them. He may be reached here.