Domestic Violence Awareness Month by Richard L. Davis -Price of Liberty
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
By Richard L. Davis

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September 18, 2006

We believe nothing so firmly as what we least know.
Michel de Montaigne

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:

 Many researchers have pointed out that one reason (among many) for the absence of consensus on the relative use of violence by men versus women is that measurement of violent [italics added] acts alone cannot adequately characterize violence [italics added] in intimate partner relationships.

 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.

(1)   One group of researchers compiles their data primarily from “behavioral self-reports.” The other researchers primarily use “crime data.” Neither data provides the complete truth. Hence, researchers are not always researching the same victims or the same behavior.
(2)   One group is concerned with “family violence” while the other is primarily concerned with “violence against women.” Hence, they are not measuring the same phenomena.
(3)   They have yet to agree on just what “violence” is or is not. Hence, there are no limits nor focus for their research.
(4)   Most, if not all, researchers do not differentiate between, violence, abuse, or battering. Hence, if researchers can not or will not agree just what “domestic violence” is, how are we expected to prevent “it” if we do not know what “it” is?

 Pages 1 through 10 of the above report, at least to this author, may cause most “battered victims” to wonder just what these particular researchers are researching. On page 6 of the above report is a list of coercive factors that the authors believe may be harmful:

·        Say something mean, embarrassing or humiliating to you
·        Tell someone else personal or private information about you
·        Scare you
·        Destroy legal papers
·        Say something mean or hurtful to your friends or family member

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:

By the end of 4 years of college, 88 percent of women had experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual victimization in their lifetime.

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.

Domestic Violence

In 1981 Ellen Pence and a group of citizens in Duluth, Minnesota became frustrated with what they perceived was a lack of commitment by the criminal justice system concerning spousal battering. With private funding these advocates founded the Duluth Abuse Intervention Project

Law enforcement in Duluth instituted a policy that mandates when officers respond to “domestic violence” incidents and there is (1) enough independent probable cause to identify the offender and (2) there was an injured victim present, an arrest must be made.

And 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 Duluth policy and its founder never intended that law enforcement officers should be mandated to make an arrest for each and every family conflict incident they respond to.   

 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].

Battering Behavior - most researchers agree that a “batterer” is a family member or intimate partner who with premeditation and malice aforethought repeatedly uses coercion, force or violent physical assaults to manipulate and control the behavior of another family member or intimate partner. Research documents that “batterers” are dangerous people and they deserve to be arrested.

Family conflict - most often occurs without premeditation or malice aforethought and involves the use of threats and/or minor physical assault in a specific or isolated disagreement. This behavior is often the result of perceived misbehavior, financial matters, jealously, anger or personality disorders. This type of behavior can and perhaps has occurred in the majority of American families. Arrest is not always warranted.

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
Why Is One Study So Important While Others Are Ignored

Mandatory 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 Minneapolis study is valid, however, they dismiss the validity of many other NIJ and independent studies listed below.  

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:

There was no statistically significant relationship between any criminal justice system response and victimization for either gender or for any racial or ethnic group, a finding that greatly surprised the researchers.

The authors of the above study believe that primary or exclusive interventions should not be law enforcement or criminal justice based. In fact, the authors discovered that law enforcement and criminal justice interventions often produced very negative results for many women.
The above study documents that between 1987 and 1999 arrests for males increased by 30% while arrests for females increased by 446%. It also reveals that while convictions for males increased by 131%, convictions for females increased by 1,207%.

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 policy of] requiring arrest for all suspects may unnecessarily take a community’s resources away from identifying and responding to the worst offenders and victims most at risk.

The report also documents that:

While most victims reported no new incidents of aggression, about 8% of them reported a total number of incidents that represented more than 82% of the 9,000 incidents.      

The authors also conclude that:

Future research in this area needs to assess the benefits and costs of arresting all suspects before there can be a systematic conclusion of preferred or mandatory arrest policies.

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:

(1)   Prosecutor willingness to take cases of protection order violation and
(2)   The relative education of the partners.

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:

(1)   State laws requiring mandatory arrest for violating a protection order.
(2)   The availability of contempt, misdemeanor, or felony charges for violating a protection order.
(3)   State laws providing for no-contact orders, custody relief, or protection beyond cohabitation.
(4)   Agencies with dedicated budgets for legal advocacy and with lawyers on staff.
(5)   Pro-arrest and mandatory arrest policies for protection order violations and mandatory arrest for domestic assault.

Other factors supporting the backlash [increase not decrease of violence] theory are:

(1)   The availability of hotlines in the city,
(2)   The presence of domestic violence units or training programs in police departments,
(3)   The employment of trained legal advocates on the prosecutor’s staff.

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.  

Assessments include:

(1)     Women who use violence in self-defense or after someone else initiates the violence
(2)     Women who have histories of violence at the hands of prior partners, parents or caretakers as children
(3)     Women who are primary aggressors and who use physical assaults or coercive behavior to control their partners behavior

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 pioneered the Duluth intervention program of arrest, prosecution and treatment, now believes that today’s one-solution-fits-all interventions are wrong and they are not what she and the other founders of the Duluth Program intended. Pence, acknowledges as do the vast majority of other professionals, that those who commit minor acts of “family conflict” or one abusive act are not all “batterers.”

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).

The author of this paper, Richard L. Davis is the VP of and he welcomes your comments at

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, and, 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.


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Primary and Dominant - Aggressor Arrest Policies

Liz Claiborne Inc. (Part 1) A Case Study of Deception

Liz Claiborne Inc. (Part 2) Power, Control and Emotional Abuse

Liz Claiborne Inc. (Part 3) Break The Silence

Why the Dating Violence Double Standard?

Domestic Violence Homicide

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