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Popular emphasis has tended to be on women as the victims of domestic violence. Many studies show that women suffer greater rates of injury due to domestic violence, and some studies show that women suffer higher rates of assault. Yet, other statistics show that while men tend to inflict injury at higher rates, the majority of domestic violence overall is reciprocal.
Modern attention to domestic violence began in the women's movement of the 1970s, particularly within and women's rights, as concern about wives being beaten by their husbands gained attention. Only since the late 1970s, and particularly in the masculism and men's movements of the 1990s, has the problem of domestic violence against men gained any significant attention. Estimates show that 248 of every 1,000 females and 76 of every 1,000 males are victims of physical assault and/or rape committed by their spouses. A 1997 report says significantly more men than women do not disclose the identity of their attacker. A 2009 study showed that there was greater acceptance for abuse perpetrated by females than by males.
Women's violence towards men is a serious social problem. While much attention has been focused on domestic violence against women, researchers argue that domestic violence against men is a substantial social problem worthy of attention. However, the issue of victimization of men by women has been contentious, due in part to studies which report drastically different statistics regarding domestic violence.
Some studies—typically crime studies—shows that men are substantially more likely than women to use violence. According to a July 2000 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, data from the Bureau of Justice, National Crime Victimization Survey consistently show that women are at significantly greater risk of intimate partner violence than are men. Other studies—typically family and domestic violence studies—show that men are more likely to inflict injuries, but also that when all acts of physical aggression or violence are considered in aggregate; women are equally violent as men, or more violent than men.
In May, 2007, researchers with the Centers for Disease Control reported on rates of self-reported violence among intimate partners using data from a 2001 study. In the study, almost one-quarter of participants reported some violence in their relationships. Half of these involved one-sided ("non-reciprocal") attacks and half involved both assaults and counter assaults ("reciprocal violence"). Women reported committing one-sided attacks more than twice as often as men (70% versus 29%). In all cases of intimate partner violence, women were more likely to be injured than men, but 25% of men in relationships with two-sided violence reported injury compared to 20% of women reporting injury in relationships with one-sided violence. Women were more likely to be injured in non-reciprocal violence.
Strauss, argues that these discrepancies between the two data sets are due to several factors. For example, Strauss notes that crime statistics are compiled and analyzed differently from domestic violence statistics. Additionally, Strauss notes that most studies show that while men inflict the greater portion of injuries, women are at least as likely as men to shove, punch, slap or otherwise physically assault their partner, and that such relatively minor assaults often escalate to more serious assaults. Minor assaults perpetrated by women are also a major problem, even when they do not result in injury, because they put women in danger of much more severe retaliation by men. It will be argued that in order to end 'wife beating,' it is essential for women also to end what many regard as a "harmless" pattern of slapping, kicking, or throwing something at a male partner. Strauss also notes that data confirming that women can be violent have been suppressed because the data contradicts preconceptions that men are responsible for most or all domestic violence.
The 2000 CDC report, based on phone interviews with 8000 men and 8000 women, reported that 7.5% of men claim to have been raped or assaulted by an intimate at some time in their life time (compared to 25% of women), and 0.9 percent of men claim to have been raped or assaulted in the previous 12 months (compared to 1.5% of women).
A 2007-2008, online non-random, self-report survey of the experiences and health of men who sustained partner violence in the past year. The study showed that male victims of abuse are very hesitant to report the violence or seek help. Reasons given for non-reporting were they:
(1) May be ashamed to come forward;
(2) May not be believed; and
(3) May be accused of being a batterer when they do come forward.
The 229 U.S. heterosexual men, between 18 and 59, had been physically assaulted by their female partner within previous year and did seek help. The researchers say their findings emphasize the need for prevention on all levels:
There are many reasons why we don't know more about domestic abuse and violence against men. There are a number of commonly reported interactions in which violence against men erupts. Here is one example that illustrates a common dynamic.
The woman is mildly distressed and upset. The man notices her distress and then worries she may become angry. The woman attempts to communicate and discuss her feelings. She wants to talk, feel supported and feel less alone. She initially attributes some of her distress or problems to him. The man begins to feel defensive, shuts down emotionally and attempts to deal with the problems rationally. He feels a fight is coming on. The woman feels uncared for, ignored and then gets angry. She wants him to share the problem and he doesn't feel he has a problem. The man will attempt to remain unemotional and stay in control of him.
He avoids accepting any blame for how she feels. He is also worried that she may explode at any moment and that she will certainly do so if he talks about his feelings. The man will start talking about her problem as if she could feel better if she would only listen to him and stop acting so upset. He fails to understand how she feels and tries to remain calm. He tells her to calm down and ends up looking insensitive. She begins to wonder if he has any feelings at all. She tells him that he thinks he's perfect. He says he is not perfect. She calls him insensitive. He stares at her and says nothing but looks irritated.
The woman is frustrated that he won't reveal his feelings and that he acts like he is in control. On the other hand, the man feels out of control and like there is no room for anybody's feelings in the conversation but hers. Communication breaks down and the woman begins to insult the man. When the man finally expresses his disapproval and attempts to end the fight. The woman becomes enraged and may throw something. The man will usually endure insults and interactions like this for weeks or months. This whole pattern becomes a recurrent and all too familiar experience. The man becomes increasingly sensitive to how the woman acts and becomes avoidant and unsupportive. The man begins to believe that there is nothing he can do and that it may be his entire fault. His frustration and anger can build for months like this.
This risk of violence increases when the woman insults the man in front of their children, threatens the man's relationship with his children, or she refuses to control her abusive behavior when the children are present. She may call him a terrible father or an awful husband in front of the children. Eventually he feels enraged not only because of how she treats him, but how her behavior is harming the children. At some point the man may throw something, punch a wall, or slam his fist down loudly to vent his anger and to communicate that he has reached his limits. Up till now she has never listened to what he had to say. He decides that maybe she will stop if she can see just how angry he has become. Rather than recognizing that he has reached his limits, expressing his anger physically has the opposite effect.
For a long time the man has tried to hide his anger. Why should the woman believe he really means it? After all, he has put up with her abuse for a long time and done nothing. Instead of realizing that things have gotten out of control, the woman may approach him and say something like, "What are you going to do? Hit me? Go ahead. I'll call the police and you'll never see your children again."
Once he expressed his anger physically, the situation became dangerous for him and for her. The door to violence has opened wide. He should walk away. When he does walk away, she ends up angrier than ever, will scream obscenities at him and strike him repeatedly. She may even strike him with an object.
There are many reasons why we don't know more about domestic abuse and violence against men. First of all, the incidence of domestic violence reported men appears to be so low that it is hard to get reliable estimates. In addition, it has taken years of advocacy and support to encourage women to report domestic violence. Virtually nothing has been done to encourage men to report abuse. The idea that men could be victims of domestic abuse and violence is so unthinkable that many men will not even attempt to report the situation.
The dynamic of domestic abuse and violence is also different between men and women. The reasons, purposes and motivations are often very different between sexes. Although the counseling and psychological community have responded to domestic abuse and violence against women, there has been very little investment in resources to address and understand the issues of domestic abuse and violence against men. In most cases, the actual physical damage inflicted by men is so much greater than the actual physical harm inflected by women. The impact of domestic violence is less apparent and less likely to come to the attention of others when men are abused. For example, it is assumed than a man with a bruise or black eye was in a fight with another man or was injured on the job or playing contact sports. Even when men do report domestic abuse and violence, most people are so astonished men usually end up feeling like nobody believes them.
It is a widely held assumption that women are always the victims and men are always the perpetrators. Between 50 and 60% of all domestic abuse and violence is against women. There are many reasons why people assume men are never victims and why women often ignore the possibility. For one thing, domestic abuse and violence has been minimized, justified and ignored for a very long time. Women are now more organized, supportive and outspoken about the epidemic of domestic abuse and violence against women. Very little attention has been paid to the issue of domestic abuse and violence against men - especially because violence against women has been so obvious and was ignored for so long.
There are no absolute rules for understanding the emotional differences between men and women. There are principles and dynamics that allow interpretation of individual situations. Domestic abuse and violence against men and women have some similarities and difference. For men or women, domestic violence includes pushing, slapping, hitting, throwing objects, forcing or slamming a door or striking the other person with an object, or using a weapon. Domestic abuse can also be mental or emotional. However, what will hurt a man mentally and emotionally, can in some cases be very different from what hurts a woman. For some men, being called a coward, impotent or a failure can have a very different psychological impact than it would on women. Unkind and cruel words hurt, but they can hurt in different ways and linger in different ways. In most cases, men are more deeply affected by emotional abuse than physical abuse.
For example, the ability to tolerate and "brush off" a physical assault by women in front of other men can in some cases reassure a man that he is strong and communicate to other men that he can live up to the code of never hitting a woman. A significant number of men are overly sensitive to emotional and psychological abuse. In some cases, humiliating a man emotionally in front of other men can be more devastating than physical abuse. Some professionals have observed that mental and emotional abuse can be an area where women are often "brutal" than men. Men on the other hand are quicker to resort to physical abuse and they are more capable of physical assaults that are more brutal - even deadly.
Domestic violence against men goes unrecognized for the following reasons:
The incidence of domestic violence against men appears to be so low that it is hard to get reliable estimates.
It has taken years of advocacy and support to encourage women to report domestic violence. Virtually nothing has been done to encourage men to report abuse.
The idea that men could be victims of domestic abuse and violence is so unthinkable to most people that many men will not even attempt to report the situation.
The counseling and psychological community have responded to domestic abuse and violence against women. Not enough has been done to stop abuse against women. There has been very little investment in resources to address the issues of domestic abuse and violence against men.
In most cases, the actual physical damage inflicted by men is so much greater than the actual physical harm inflected by women. The impact of domestic violence is less apparent and less likely to come to the attention of others.
Even when men do report domestic abuse and violence, most people are so astonished, men usually end up feeling like nobody would believe them. It is widely assumed than a man with a bruise or black eye was in a fight with another man or was injured on the job or while playing contact sports. Women generally don't do those things.
Alcohol Abuse. Alcohol abuse is a major cause and trigger in domestic violence. People, who are intoxicated have less impulse control, are easily frustrated, have greater misunderstandings and are generally prone to resort to violence as a solution to problems. Women who abuse men are frequently alcoholics.
Psychological Disorders. There are certain psychological problems, primarily personality disorders, in which women are characteristically abusive and violent toward men. Borderline personality disorder is a diagnosis that is found almost exclusively with women. Approximately 1 to 2 percent of all women have a Borderline Personality disorder. At least 50% of all domestic abuse and violence against men is associated with woman who has a Borderline Personality disorder. The disorder is also associated with suicidal behavior, severe mood swings, lying, sexual problems and alcohol abuse.
Unrealistic expectations, assumptions and conclusions. Women who are abusive toward men usually have unrealistic expectations and make unrealistic demands of men. These women will typically experience repeated episodes of depression, anxiety, frustration and irritability which they attribute to a man's behavior. In fact, their mental and emotional state is the result of their own insecurities, emotional problems, and trauma during childhood or even withdrawal from alcohol. They blame men rather than admit their problems, take responsibility for how they live their lives or do something about how they make themselves miserable. They refuse to enter treatment and may even insist the man needs treatment. Instead of helping themselves, they blame a man for how they feel and believe that a man should do something to make them feel better. They will often medicate their emotions with alcohol. When men can't make them feel better, these women become frustrated and assume that men are doing this on purpose.
Markowitz, Sara. "The Price of Alcohol, Wife Abuse, and Husband Abuse." Southern Economic Journal. 67 no2 279-303 O 2000
Dutton, Donald G. (1994) Patriarchy and Wife Assault: The Ecological Fallacy. Violence and Victims, 1994, 9, 2, pp. 125–140.
Tjaden and Thoennes 2000
Green, Nicholas St. John. 1879. Criminal Law Reports: Being Reports of Cases Determined in the Federal and State Courts of the United States, and in the Courts of England, Ireland, Canada, etc. with notes. Hurd and Houghton.
Straus, Murray A." State-to-state differences in social inequality and social bonds in relation to assaults on wives in the United States." Journal of Comparative Family Studies. 25 (1994): 7-24.
Deal, J. E., & Wampler, K. S. (1986). Dating violence: The primacy of previous experience. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 3, 457-471.
National Family Violence Survey, 2000, http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/183781.pdf
Robertson, Kirsten. Murachver, Tamar." Attitudes and Attributions Associated With Female and Male Partner Violence." Journal of Applied Social Psychology v. 39 no.7 (July 2009) p. 481-512
Wallace, Harvey (2004). Family Violence: Legal, Medical, and Social Perspectives. Allyn & Bacon. pp. 2. ISBN 0205418228.
J. Yeshayahu Gonzales-Lara
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