Sunday, June 18, 2006

Go on, belt him one, he deserves it.

The Sunday Times (London) is all golly-gosh surprised that 25% of the female students surveyed in Scotland thought that there are "occasions when it would be acceptable for a husband to slap his wife", but has nothing to say about the "60% [that] said there were situations when it was acceptable for wives to hit their husbands."

Did you get that? They think it's worth commenting that one quarter of the women think it can be OK to clobber the missus, but take in casual passing that more than twice as many think it's OK for the missus to clobber hubby. You'd think that it'd be worth noting that at minimum some 35% of respondents have a double standard on domestic violence. That is to say, at least 35% think he can't hit me, but I can hit him.

This was in the middle of an otherwise straightforward, if short, article introducing a new study which shows that, gee, gosh-darnit, women beat up on men pretty much as often as the other way around (maybe more). The BBC report on it too and now we should be grateful that the Times at least comments on the 60%, as Beeb ignores it completely but manages to point out the 25%, no problem.

Across the pond, where the survey actually comes from, I find that it's been in the news since May 23rd and, surprised that I hadn't noticed it, I Google news'd it and found a sum total of 6 hits in the US, which has something like five times the population of the UK, giving it an attention level so far of 60% that of the UK. (Elsewhere, only India seems to have noticed and the South Asian Women's Forum, given their name, makes a surprisingly neutral report.)

Among the US reports, Portland TV says "Critics say the study was flawed because 71% of those interviewed were women". Which critics? We aren't told. But whoever they are, it seems to escape them that with a total 13,601 survey respondents one might reasonably be able to compensate for the proportion imbalance by, well, you see, oh, goddamit, take a statistics class, but take it from me that with numbers that large you're not going to suffer from sample bias at a meaningful level and whoever these critics are, they're grasping at straws.

In New York, the Daily News feels the need to give a platform to Ruth Brandwein's (Stoneybrook) criticism on the basis of the just-so story of the diminutive girlfriend and her lethally aggressive linebacker boyfriend. Very scientific. Incidentally, the Daly News identifies Brandwein as a professor, but not the author of the survey, who is one too.

Katie Gentile, director of the women's center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (and who must therefore be the epitomy of objectivity) says "men usually become violent as a way of controlling women, while women who are violent often become so to prevent the man from attacking first." which leads me to conclude that she obviously hasn't read the paper because the survey brings this little chestnut into direct question.

The survey is due for publication in the "European Journal of Criminology", but it's already available on-line. The author is Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire and his web page is a goldmine of information for those interested in something other than the standard line of how violent are men and non-violent are women. Check it out. But for a teaser, here's the paper's abstract:

"The study investigated the widely held belief that violence against partners in marital, cohabiting, and dating relationships is almost entirely perpetrated by men, and that when women assault their partners, it has a different etiology than assaults by men. The empirical data on these issues were provided by 13,601 university students who participated in the International Dating Violence Study in 32 nations. The results in the first part of this paper show that almost a third of the female as well as male students physically assaulted a dating partner in the 12 month study period, and that the most frequent pattern was mutuality in violence, i.e. both were violent, followed by “female-only” violence. Violence by only the male partner was the least frequent pattern according to both male and female participants. The second part of the paper focuses on whether there is gender symmetry in a crucial aspect of the etiology of partner violence -- dominance by one partner, The results show that dominance by either the male or the female partner is associated with an increased probability of violence. These results, in combination with results from many other studies, call into question the assumption that partner violence is primarily a male crime and that, when women are violent, it is self-defense. Because these assumption are crucial elements in almost all partner violence prevention and treatment programs, a fundamental revision is needed to bring these programs into alignment with the empirical data. Prevention and treatment of partner violence could become more effective if the programs recognize that most partner violence is mutual and act on the high rate of perpetration by women and the similar etiology of partner violence by men and women."

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