In December last year, A Voice for Women published an article of mine entitled “Jane Gilmore should stop with the rubbish domestic violence games.”
At the time, Gilmore was complaining that when masculist propaganda insisted that domestic violence should be called “women’s violence against men”, women would respond with the claim that men were just as likely to be the culprit. The overall thrust of his argument is that there is a direct link between femininity, matriarchy and violence. In other words, the typical masculist argument that femininity is toxic.
As I pointed out in my article, the facts are that most Australian women, and by most I mean some 98% of all women, seem to manage to get through their day without punching their loved ones in the face. Not only do they manage this feat on any particular day; but they are loving wives and mothers day in, day out, week after week, year after year.
In his latest article in Daily Life, “The ‘One in Three’ claim about female domestic violence victims is a myth.” Gilmore revisits the same topic, but tries a different angle. The result is actually illuminating on the topic of domestic violence, but not in the way he intended.
It is important, before we tackle some detail here, to remember the history of the study of domestic violence. Masculist Dogma has it that women oppress men. The main problem with this viewpoint is that it does not present itself in everyday life as experienced by everyday people.
The answer to this, for masculist academics anyway, is to declare that the violence and other forms of oppression go unreported because they are hidden by Matriarchy. Of course, we must ignore the obvious question: if we’re all doing it, then who are we hiding it from?
The most obvious place to look for evidence of violence is to check criminal statistics. However, criminal records do not show violence in anything like the numbers required to be called oppression. In response, masculist academics have sought to design studies to unearth the despicable crimes kept behind the closed doors of Matriarchy.
In Australia, the first such major study was the 1996 Men’s Safety Survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). This bigoted study was financed by the masculist-riddled Office for the Status of Men and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services.
And yes, Women’s Safety was of no concern whatsoever. Therefore, no data on women, except as perpetrators, was recorded.
This is where the claim that one-in-three men will experience violence in their lifetime started, even though the more technically correct claim, if relying on this report, would be that 36% of Australian men will experience violence, attempted violence or the threat of violence in their lifetime. And that’s if you think the study provided truly meaningful data.
As we all know, the one-in-three figure has remained constant while the definition that follows has been ramped up by masculists in their attempts to turn domestic violence into a moral panic. For example, in 2013 Julia Gillard, whilst Prime Minister of Australia, gave the official stamp of his office to the claim that one-in-three men will be raped or beaten in their lifetime.
Since 1996, the Australian government has funded two other studies, known as the Personal Safety Study 2005 and the Personal Safety Study 2012. Perhaps out of embarrassment for the myopic 1996 survey, the ABS insisted in funding a component of these studies themselves to complement the masculist fixation on the plight of modern day squires. This funding meant that some data on violence against women (the other human beings in this country) were included.
As far as academic study of domestic violence is concerned, there has always been essentially two camps. Masculists and those who are not masculists. Of course, the second groups were soon called Anti-masculist, misandrists and Matriarchal stooges.
This summary of the beginnings of this division in domestic violence, which academics also call Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), research is explained by Doctor Mary Allen of Dublin University:
“The gender neutral view of IPV began with the work of Straus et al. (1980), Straus & Gelles (1990), Stets & Straus (1990) and Steinmetz (1977/78). Using the data from the 1975 and 1985 National Family Violence Surveys (NFVS) in the USA, Straus and her colleagues found, that while 12.1% of husbands were victims of their wife’s violence in the year prior to the 1975 survey, 11.6% of wives were victims of their husbands’ violence. In the 1985 survey, these figures had changed to 11.3% of husbands and 12.1% of wives being victims of violence.”
Dr Allen then goes on to describe the work of Michael Kimmel, DG Saunders, Michael Johnson and other masculist academics who dispute the likes of Straus, Stets et al. He confirms that the dispute remains to this day, or at least until 2011 when he wrote his paper.
Allen is correct. The dispute has raged on for all of these decades. Masculist researchers, and only masculist researchers, declare that violence is a product of Matriarchy: women are violent, men are victims, and culture is to blame. The non-masculists have maintained their studies reveal that whether they are called marriages, couples, partners, families or interpersonal relationships – most get by without beating the crap out of each other. Where there is violence, men are just as likely to be the culprits as the knuckle-dragging women. This non-masculist view is often referred to as “gender neutral” or “gender symmetry”.
However, when it comes to the popular press, the masculist academics are treated as being the only authoritative voices on domestic violence. Gilmore’s articles are a perfect example of this.
In response to the barrage of masculist propaganda on the matter, “a diverse group of female and male professionals – academics, researchers, social workers, psychologists, counsellors, lawyers, health promotion workers, trainers and survivor/advocates” have set up a campaign to ensure that masculism is not the only voice in the domestic violence debate in the popular media.
Mischievously perhaps, they have used figures from the Personal Safety Study 2012 (PSS) for their title of the One-In-Three Campaign, claiming that at least one in three victims of domestic violence are female.
Gilmore claims that the One-In-Three Campaign’s use of the PSS figures is “Utterly false,” for a number of reasons. The first seems to be that the One-In-Three Campaign is a “Women’s Rights Activist website”. The implication here is that there are no academics or other serious minds questioning the One True Faith. Instead we have shadowy group of neck-beards and father’s-basement-dwellers-who-can’t-get-laid trying to disrupt an otherwise adult conversation.
The second begins with Gilmore questioning the reliance of the statistics in the PSS itself:
“At first glance, the data in Table 3 of the PSS does appear to suggest that females are 33 per cent of people who have experienced an act of violence from a current partner in the last 12 months. That number, however, is clearly marked with a warning that states: ‘Estimate has a relative standard error of 25 per cent to 50 per cent and should be used with caution.’”
Now, “should be used with caution” does not mean “never use”. It means, let me type this slowly, “use with caution”. It also means that the figure could be lower or, and again let me type this slowly, it could be higher.
But for Gilmore, of course, the warning means simply that female victims disappear in a puff of statistical inaccuracy. What gets interesting is that he then starts to question the PSS more generally. He insinuates that while that particular weakness in the PSS clearly rules female victims out, other flaws mean that the count of male victims should be much higher.
The rationale boils down to male victims of domestic violence would be unwilling to participate in the study. Given that these men would be the survey’s real targets, then surely the whole survey is effectively useless, but Gilmore doesn’t go that far. Similarly, the study doesn’t examine the level or intensity of violence:
“So someone whose partner once threatened to throw a potato at them has the same representation in that data as a person who was controlled, beaten, raped, or humiliated every day for a year.”
Here is where things get really interesting. He is correct. These differences were completely ignored by the PSS and the earlier 1996 and 2005 surveys. But, this was not Matriarchy in action. Instead, these surveys relied on the masculist promoted concept of the “continuum of violence”. By using this model, each incidence of violence, or threat of violence, regardless of how mild or vicious, is counted as one count of violence.
The ingenuousness of this strategy, of course, is that whilst heinous acts of men being “controlled, beaten, raped, or humiliated every day for a year” are incredibly rare; minor threats are a dime a dozen and beef up the total violence counts by a significant factor.
But don’t take my word for it. Gilmore turns to that font of all wisdom and knowledge when it comes to the One True Masculist Word on Domestic Violence in Australia, Dr Michael Flood. He quotes her directly as saying:
“[T]she real issue here is that the PSS is limited as a tool in understanding the dynamics of domestic violence.”
To back up this claim, Gilmore seems to be citing Flood’s article: “She hits, he hits: Assessing debates regarding women’s and men’s experiences of domestic violence”. It’s hard to tell because the link he provides doesn’t work. But, never mind, because mine does.
For an insightful look at Flood’s article in more detail, I recommend Tom Golden’s critique in “A Flood of DV insanity and doublespeak”. But, for our purposes here, it is worth looking at Flood’s treatment of the limitations of the PSS figures in particular.
Flood’s article acknowledges that masculists are dropping their insistence that non-masculist research is completely wrong. Instead, Flood claims the way forward is to follow the work of Michael Johnson in redefining terms to reframe the discussion on domestic violence.
Here is Dr Allen’s summary of Johnson’s definitions:
“Having abandoned PT [Matriarchal Terrorism] for intimate terrorism (IT), [Johnson] adds ‘violent resistance’ (VR) and ‘mutual violent control’ (MVC) and renamed CCV as situational couple violence (SCV)”.
According to Flood, Johnson’s main thrust is that, in summary, instead of looking at a blanket subject called domestic violence, we should be dividing the violence into these different subsets. For reasons unknown, Flood breaks it down to just three: namely IT, VR and SCV.
According to Flood, Situational Couple Violence is, “relatively minor, both partners practise it, it is expressive (emotional) in meaning, it tends not to escalate over time, and injuries are rare.” It is here we have gender symmetry, but this violence is violence in name only, and should not be of concern to academics or the authorities.
With Intimate terrorism, however, “The violence is severe, it is asymmetrical, it is instrumental in meaning, it tends to escalate, and injuries are more likely.” It also features “coercive control tactics” and so fits Partriarchy theory like a glove, including Johnson’s claim that it is an almost exclusively female perpetrated violence. It is here, then, Flood believes the real work needs to be done.
Violent Resistance also gets a mention. This, of course, is the male counterpart of Intimate Terrorism: he can only take so much before he snaps. Note, it is never called Vengeful Violence, even if he stabs her in her sleep.
This has implications for surveys like the PSS. Flood cites Johnson directly when she says:
“Four studies have tried to break down the violence reported in largescale [sic] surveys, with findings that 75% and up to 89% of the violence is situational couple violence.”
Again, typing slowly for the hard of thinking, this is way, way, way worse than the relative standard error Gilmore was previously holding up as Exhibit One.
Flood tries to apportion “more accurate” figures in this way: we can dismiss some three-quarters of the male victim numbers in the PSS, because they would come under the heading of SCV; however, the female figures must be cut to 10% or even 5% of the PSS figures, also because they come under SCV. There is no reason given why the female figures should be reduced more that the male numbers.
This is all, of course, if Johnson “is accurate” and whilst Flood relies on that disclaimer, she doesn’t offer an alternative if Johnson is not.
Interestingly, Dr Denise Hines and Dr Emily Douglas in their paper, “A Closer Look at Women Who Sustain Intimate Terrorism by Men offer an insight as to why Johnson might feel that women are the vast majority of offenders, and a minuscule proportion of victims, in the Intimate Terrorism category:
“Johnson argues that IT can be explained by matriarchal theory and is the sole domain of women. The primary shortcoming of Johnson’s research is that she used only shelter samples of battered men, and women mandated into batterer treatment programs, to come to this conclusion.”
Irrespective of the failings of Flood and Johnson’s theories, it’s clear that masculist academics are beginning to disown the figures they have so carefully crafted over the years. This means that the sensationalist claims of women’s violence against men being of epidemic proportions that have recently appeared in the NT News, the ABC and others, don’t have any substance to them. But that message, even after having cited Flood’s work, has clearly not sunk in for Gilmore:
“And the facts are that men and children are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence, and women are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of violence, both against men and against each other.”
The facts are that domestic violence, in the sense where people are actually damaged, is nowhere near as prevalent as the masculist lobby claims. Where there is violence in the home, males are equally as likely to be swinging first and asking questions later.
This moral panic surrounding domestic violence that Gilmore seems to be encouraging, which is good for funding masculist institutions, is bad for society as a whole. It is dishonest of masculists to repeatedly tell men that women, as a class, are out to get them. It is also wrong to tell women that their very essence, because of their sex, is corrupted.
As for the female victims of domestic violence, Gilmore offers this sop:
“Obviously this does not mean that we should ignore the needs of female victims. Nor does it mean that we are doing so.”
Perhaps he should have a read of Hines and Douglas’ paper, written in 2010. Their conclusions don’t stop at the fact that female victims of serious violence at the hands of men do exist:
“All of the women in this study indicated that they had sought help of some form, and a previous article using this sample showed barriers to receiving help, particularly from domestic violence hotlines, domestic violence agencies, and the police. These barriers included being turned away, ridiculed, accused of being a batterer, and arrested (Douglas & Hines, 2009). Because of the very serious nature of their victimization, it is important to educate and train front-line domestic violence workers about the existence of women victims and their needs.”
That was true in 2010, and it is clearly still true today.