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An essay on domestic violence

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Violence against family members is something women do at least as often as men. There are dozens of solid scientific studies that reveal in a startlingly different picture of family violence than what we usually see in the media. For instance, Murray Straus, a sociologist and co-director for the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire gave some statistics that blew my mind away. He concluded saying that women were three times more likely than men to use weapons in spousal violence. He also said that women hit their male children more than they hit their female children and women commit 52 percent of spousal killings and are convicted of 41 percent of spousal murders. There are also some misleading statistics about family violence. One, men do not usually report their violent wives to police, because they have too much pride. Two is that children do not usually report their violent mothers to the police.

A reason why we do not see many women get reported is because the media does not encourage men to report the crime. Women are the ones who are encouraged to report the spousal violence by countless media reminders. The media always portray the woman to be the victim and the male to be the perpetrator. Men and children may not report when a woman injures them, but the dead bodies of the men and children who are the victims of violent women are usually reported.

There is much confusion about whom to believe in the debate about spousal violence. On one side we have the women’s feminist groups whom rely on law enforcement statistics. On the other side we have social scientist who rely on scientifically structured studies, which do not get any media attention. America’s press is more concerned with the political correctness than scientific accuracy. That is why our society is so screwed up now, because of the media.

It is important to note that there have been the same kind of studies done in many countries. There is cross-cultural verification that women are more violent than men in family settings. When behavior has cross-cultural verification it means that it is part of human nature rather than a result of cultural conditioning. Females are most often the perpetrators in spousal violence in all cultures that have been studied to date. That leads many professionals to conclude that there is something biological about violent females in family situations. Women see the home as their territory. Like many other species on the planet, we human will ignore size difference when we experience conflict in our own territory. World wide, women are more violent than men in family settings.

Women usually initiate spousal abuse. That means they hit first, and women hit more frequently, as well as using weapons three times more often than men. This combination of violent acts means that efforts to find solutions to the family violence problem need to include appropriate focus on female perpetrators. We need to recognize that women are violent, and we need nationwide educational programs that portray women are perpetrators. Other studies show that men are becoming less violent at the same time that women are becoming more violent. Educating men seems to be working. Educating men seems to be working. Educating women to be less violent should now be the main thrust of public education programs.

Just as bad cases make bad laws, so can celebrity cases reinforce old myths. The biggest myth the O.J. Simpson case is likely to reinforce is the myth that domestic violence is a one way street (male-to-female), and its corollary, that male violence against women in an outgrowth of masculinity. I felt violence was an out growth of masculinity. But, men are responsible for most of the violence, which occurs outside the home. However, when 54 percent of women in lesbian relationships acknowledge violence in their current relationship, vs. only 11 percent of heterosexual couples reporting violence, I realize that domestic violence is not an outgrowth of male biology.

There are some good men out there that will not hit back no matter what the woman does. This is an article that appeared in the April 20, 1997 edition of the Detroit News: He never hit back — and he never filed charges. But more shocking to Gillhepsy are the reactions she encountered telling her story. They told me I was the victim, said Gillhespy, 34, of Marquette. Here’s no way any of this was his fault. … I knew the difference between being the victim and being the perpetrator. I am ashamed for what I did. Gillhespy believes most people don’t believe men can be victims. She knows they are wrong. I think it is just as serious as (violence against women) — you just don’t hear about it, Gillhespy says. Maybe more men would come forward if you did. Gillhespy, who wed at 16, says she began beating her husband early in their 16-year marriage. Her former husband, reached by phone, declined to comment but confirmed that abuse took place.

At the time, Gillhespy was a crack user, heroin addict and alcoholic. She says she beat her husband in fits of rage, usually when she wanted money or the car. I told him he was no good, and that he was loser. I kicked him and threw things at him, she says. I used him and used him and used him. The turning point came in February 1993, when Gillhespy struck two pregnant women in Grand Rapids while driving drunk. Gillhespy received 45 days in jail and was sent to a drug treatment program in Marquette. She has gotten a divorce, finished high school and stayed sober. In a year, she will receive a degree from Northern Michigan University. And although Gillhespy now understands the issues that led her to violence, she says she accepts full responsibility for her actions. Her strength, she says, comes from admitting that she had a problem — and from trying to help others accept that domestic violence goes both ways. I’m the other side of the coin, she says simply. If you’re abused, you’re abused.

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

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