If Your Man Knew You Feared His Potential For Violence by Warren Farrell, Ph.D.

© 1999 Warren Farrell

Chapter 6 of Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say

Used with permission of the author.

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Dear Abby

Save The Whales, Batter The Males

A different reality...

Who is abusing who?

Exactly how do husbands and wives abuse each other

If men are battered more, why do they report it less?

The male "Learned Helplessness Syndrome"

The elderly man's "Learned Helplessness Syndrome"

Do men experience a "Battered Man Syndrome"?

Aren't women injured more than men?

When women batter, isn't it in self-defense?

Is this female violence against men a recent phenomenon?

Has violence against men been censored — Is this why we don't know about it?

Are these statistics for real?

What happens in other cultures?

Is abuse the result of patriarchy?

Is abuse the result of power — or powerlessness?

If men have learned "Never hit a woman," then why do men batter at all?

Don't husbands actually kill their wives more than wives kill husbands, thus making battering scarier to women?

Domestic Violence, Female Style

"Reputation ruining" via false accusations of abuse

Property abuse and career destruction

Psychological abuse

"My partner knows just which buttons to push"

How innocent women get hurt when guilty women go free

How innocent children get hurt when guilty women go free

Does the law protect women more than men?

Conclusion & Solutions

Are laws against physical abuse helpful?

Love him or leave him; love her or leave her?

The five catalysts to violence-after-leaving

If a man slaps a woman, should she leave him?

Inventing the victim: A Stage II luxury

The politics of abuse: The great inequality

It is cheaper to empower than to imprison


Dear Abby


"Thank you for printing the warning signs of an abusive partner. However, you have unfairly portrayed men as the only abusers. Not so; women can also be abusers.

My brother was married to a physically abusive woman who exhibited all 15 points you mentioned in your column. It wasn't until he joined a support group and realized he wasn't the only man who got beat up by a woman.

After much research, I find that women are just as abusive as men in relationships.

Women are able to get away with abusing men because most men are too embarrassed to report it. With the massive attention now given to domestic violence, it's time the other side of the story is told.

— E. V. Liland, Dallas

Dear E. V. Liland: If what you state is true, I would like to see the statistics. Although I have no doubt that many men have been subjected to abuse by their spouses, experts tell me that their numbers are dwarfed by the vast number of women who experience physical abuse at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends.

Abused women are often captives in the abusive relationship, fearing that if they leave, they will be killed. Frequently they have been isolated by their abuser, have no money, credit, or job skills, and feel they'll be unable to support themselves and their children. The same is not true for men." 1


Even men who share their personal experiences find that, instead of empathy, they get the response Dear Abby gave this man: "Women have it worse." This belief is so strong that over the past quarter century, women's old fantasy of marrying a man-as-protector has been tainted by women's new nightmare of husband-as-batterer. She feels she is being told to Marry-the-Enemy.

Because men are part of every family, this anger and fear divides families and poisons love. Yet domestic violence is a domestic reality. So why is it that on our wedding day, while almost all of us desire a life of giving and receiving love, some couples end up giving and receiving black eyes and bruises?

I believe that slide into violence is quickened by the popular assumptions about domestic violence: that it is men who batter women, rarely the other way around; that women hit men only in self-defense; that women can't walk out because they will be found by enraged men who will be even more likely to harm them; that this "male approach" to relationship problem-solving emanates from men's feelings of women-as-property and of male power and privilege.

If we believe that it is predominantly men who batter women, it is hard to see why women also need to change: We will continue saying, "Just change the men... they're the batterers," as this United Way brochure stresses.

This assumption prevents us from redoing the male-female dance from a non-blame perspective. The first step is men taking responsibility for sharing their reality. But even as men do, it always surprises me how differently we listen to men's reality...


1. Abigail VanBuren, "Dear Abby," syndicated column, San Diego Union-Tribune, Tuesday, May 28, 1996.


Save the whales, batter the males


Item. The Oprah Winfrey Show. 2 Four men describe how their wives hit them in the lower back with a pole, cracked them over the head or in the neck with a frying pan...the audience renews its laughter after each story. The men are part of a "PMS Men's Support Group."

Imagine an audience of men laughing as battered women describe how their husbands threatened them with brain or spinal cord injuries by battering them over their heads or in their necks with a frying pan.

Note that all of these battered husbands are still with their wives. When a woman stays with a man who batters, we provide shelters to encourage her to escape. If she decides not to escape, we say she is a victim of "Battered Woman Syndrome."

When battered women form support groups, we call it a Battered Women's group — her victimization is cited. In the PMS Men's support group, the woman's excuse is cited — the fact that the men were battered is left out. For men, unemployment often precedes battering, but women rarely form a "Wives with Unemployed Husbands' Support Group" (no mentioning of the battering) to help them understand the cause of the battering — the unemployment. The emphasis of the men's group was on understanding, coping, changing the situation and then, if all else failed, getting out; the emphasis of battered women's groups is on getting out first, and second, locking up the problem (the man).

In brief, when women batter, men's first priority is to support the women and help them change; when men batter, women's first priority is to escape the men and put them in prison. The motto of feminists: "There is never an excuse for hitting a woman." Shouldn't it be, "There is never an excuse for hitting."? None of these distinctions were made by anyone on the show.

An attitude in American culture actually supports the battering of males, as it does the saving of whales. In 100% of advertisements in which only one sex is hitting or beating the other, it is the woman who is beating the man. 3 One-hundred percent. Sitcoms routinely portray women hitting men, almost never portray men hitting women. When he fails to leave, it is not called "Battered Man Syndrome"; it is called comedy. In the chapter on man bashing, we will see this pattern in everything from greeting cards sent by women to Disney films watched by children. This makes it hard to listen to a different reality, that of men who are abused...


2. Oprah Winfrey Show, June 26, 1991.

3. Fred Hayward, Director of Men's Rights, Inc., Media Watch Annual Survey, 1991.


A different reality...


Item. "Michael, 38, a construction worker and amateur rugby player, barricaded himself in a spare bedroom at nights to avoid beatings from his diminutive wife. During a three-year marriage he was stabbed, punched, kicked and pelted with plant pots. Despite his muscular, 15-stone [210 lbs] build, he was frightened to sleep for fear of attack. 'Nobody would have believed me if I'd told them the constant bruising was from beatings by my wife. I still have the scars from where she tore at my flesh with her fingernails. The screams from my daughter as she witnessed the abuse will haunt me for the rest of my life.'" 4

Item. "Paul, 32, a former Royal Marine, said his wife, Claire, an advertising executive, could suddenly become like 'a ferocious wild cat.' The slightest thing would set her off. 'She would pull me to the ground, kick me and pull large clumps of hair out of my head. I never fought back because she was a slightly built, petite woman.'" 5

Item. A 42-year-old British police officer, trained in tackling armed criminals (British police don't carry guns), was twice hospitalized by his 5-foot wife. He didn't report it. When asked why, he explained, "If I was to go up to my mates on the force and tell them my wife was regularly hitting me over the head and body with anything she could get her hands on, they would crease themselves [die laughing]." 6

Notice that all three of these examples are from the London Times. It is rare for equally reputable American papers to run a story in which men's feelings and experiences about being battered are reported in their own words in such depth. Notice also that the wives are clearly weaker physically, and the men are not the passive, hen-pecked stereotype of a battered man. And note the men's fear that if they reported this to the authorities, not only would they not be believed, they would be ridiculed ("my mates...would crease themselves").

The London Times article spoke of the shock experienced by many police officers at the violence meted out by women. As one officer put it, "We have had to review our attitude. Ten years ago it wasn't thought possible that a woman could beat up a man. Now it's a regular occurrence." 7 In reality, husband beating may have occurred just as often ten years ago, but the unwillingness to consider it as a possibility may have blinded the officers to the regularity of the occurrence.

American newspapers are just beginning to acknowledge the feelings of some boys who are the victims of violence by a girl, but not the feelings of victims who are men. For example, 15 year old Bobby Papiere explains:

"One of my parents' lines that I just hate is, "Like your sister can hit you hard," meaning that if my sister hits me, it's no big deal because she can't hit hard. But sometimes it is hard. And my parents don't let me hit her back. So (when they're not around) she'll stand there and hit me — and then she'll say, "I'll tell if you hit me." I hate that."

—Bobby Papiere, 15, Houston, TX 8

Notice that the boy could have told this story to his parents, but didn't. Nowhere is the title Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say more relevant than to boys' and men's silence about domestic violence.

Why the silence? Think of all the ways we teach boys to become men by enduring pain: Football, rugby, ice hockey, boxing, boot camp, rodeos, car racing. Men learn to call pain "glory"; women learn to call the police.

Why did virtually every culture reward its men for enduring violence? So it would have a cadre of people available to protect it in war. The people considered the most in need of protection were women and children. The sex considered most disposable was men — or males....

The more a man is trained to "be a man," the more he is trained to protect women and children, not hurt women and children. He is trained to volunteer to die before even a stranger is hurt — especially a woman or child. Thus most firefighters are volunteers, and almost all the volunteers are men.

Part of the pressure men put on each other to carry out this mandate is ridiculing a man who complains when he is hurt. We often think that when a man insults another man by calling him a "girl," the insult reflects a contempt for women. No. It reflects a contempt for any man who is unwilling to make himself strong enough to protect someone as precious as a woman. It is an insult to any man unwilling to endure the pain it takes to save a woman's life — including the pain of losing his own life. If you are a woman, imagine someone calling you a "baby" because you cried rather than trying to save your daughter's life at the risk of your own — you would know the term "baby" was meant not to insult babies, but to insult you for being unwilling to protect someone as precious as a baby. The ridicule is pressure to consider ourselves less important than someone even more precious: A baby is more precious than a mother; a woman is more precious than a man.

Those feminists who say that masculinity is about men believing they can batter women display the deepest ignorance possible about men and masculinity. Battering a woman is the male role broken down. A man who batters a woman is like a cross-dresser: he's out of role. In a Stage I survival-based culture, it is the male role to protect women by taking control of survival needs. Which is why, for example, 19th century British and American law required a husband to go to debtors' prison even if it was his wife who spent them into debt. 9 With responsibility came the ability to enforce. The male role was to his family what the role of the military is to a nation: Both are assigned the role of protector; but the power it takes to protect, when broken down, can be abusive. But the abuse is not the role, it is the role broken down. He was not treating her as property, he was taking responsibility for keeping the property intact for the entire family's protection. If he should fail, he's off to jail. That's why I call it the responsibility to discipline, as opposed to male privilege.

In virtually every culture, then, manhood rests on men learning to protect women, not hurt women.


4. Ian Burrell and Lisa Brinkworth, "Police Alarm over Battered Husbands," Sunday Times [London], April 24, 1994, pp. 1 & 6.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., p. 1. Quote from Inspector Stephen Bloomfield of Kilburn, northwest London.

8. "Sisters Can Hit Hard," from the Teen page of Parade, September 27, 1998.

9. In England and in 19th-century America, a man was imprisoned for his wife's crime. Calvin Bradley v. the State, 156, Mississippi, 1824. See R. J. Walker, Reports of Case Adjudged in the Supreme Court of Mississippi (St. Paul: West Publishing, 1910), p. 73, section 157.


Who is abusing who?


If we look at only police reports and all-female self-help groups, it appears that men perpetrate about 90% of the domestic violence. But when we study male-only self-help groups, we get a different picture: Only 6% of the men involved in domestic violence say they were the perpetrator; 81% said their wives were the perpetrator (13% said it was mutual). 10 So who do we believe?: Ninety percent male perpetrators, or 6%?

Consider the possibility that the percentages are so different because the people we asked were so different — that everyone might be telling their version of the truth. There was something missing: a nationwide domestic violence study of both sexes.

When the first scientific nationwide sample was conducted in 1975 — by Suzanne Steinmetz, Murray Straus and Richard Gelles 11 the researchers could hardly believe their results. The sexes appeared to batter each other about equally. Dozens of questions arose ("Don't women batter only in self-defense?"; "Aren't women hurt more?"). Over a hundred researchers during the next quarter century double-checked via their own studies. About half of these researchers were women, and most of the women who were academics were feminists. Most expected to disprove the Steinmetz, Straus, and Gelles findings.

To their credit, despite their assumptions that men were the abusers, every domestic violence survey done of both sexes over the next quarter century in the U.S. Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia — more than 50 of which are annotated in the Appendix — found one of two things: Women and men batter each other about equally, or women batter men more. In addition, almost all studies found women were more likely to initiate violence, and much more likely to inflict the severe violence. Women themselves acknowledged they are more likely to be violent and to be the initiators of violence. Finally, women were more likely to engage in severe violence that was not reciprocated. The larger and better-designed the study, the more likely the finding that women were significantly more violent.

Studies also make it clear that the women were 70% more likely to use weapons against men than men were to use weapons against women. 12 The weapons women use are more varied and creative than men's, doubtless in compensation for less muscle strength....


Item. "One well-to-do wife I know of turned the tables on her husband. After suffering repeated beatings, she waited until he fell asleep one night, sewed him in the sheets, and broke his bones with a baseball bat."

— Barbara Spencer-Powell; Overland Park, KS 13

The fact that women were more likely to use severe violence does not necessarily mean the men were injured more. I will explain later why we do not yet have valid information about which sex is injured more.

Here are the most basic findings of the most responsible representative nationwide domestic violence study concerning how often wives vs. husbands were victims of severe violence.

Severe "Wife-Beating" vs. Severe "Husband-Beating"

Wife victim


Husband victim


Explanation. During the year prior to being surveyed, less than 2% of wives and more than 4% of husbands were victims of severe domestic violence. "Severe violence" was measured via Murray Straus' Conflict Tactics Scale as: kicking or biting; being hit with an object or a fist; being beaten up; being threatened with a knife or gun; or being stabbed or wounded. Murray A. Straus, "Measuring Intrafamily Conflict and Violence: The Conflict Tactics (CT) Scales, " Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 41, pp. 75-88.

Source: 1992 National Alcohol and Family Violence Survey, a nationwide representative population sample of 1970 persons, conducted by the Institute for Survey Research (Temple University).See Murray Straus and Glenda Kaufman Kantor, in "Change in Spousal Assault Rates from 1975 to 1992: A Comparison of Three National Surveys in the United States," paper presented at the 13th World Congress of Sociology, Bielefeld, Germany, July 19, 1994.

If we saw a headline saying, "Severe 'Husband-Beating' Twice as Common as Severe 'Wife-Beating,' " we would think there was a misprint.

Because this chapter's very foundation rests on the counter-intuitive findings that women and men batter about equally — or that women batter more — I am including all of the studies, and a summary of their findings, in the Appendix [to the book ]. I do this because it is important for the reader to know that I am not just reporting selected studies "in order to prove a point."

It is also important to know that I contacted the national NOW headquarters and the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund to ask them if they knew of any two-sex domestic violence studies that showed any study I had not included in the Appendix. They could not cite a single one. They had relied on crime statistics from the National Crime Victimization Survey 14 to say that women were battered more.

The National Crime Victimization Survey is not a survey of domestic violence, but a survey of crime (as the title indicates). That's a big problem. Why? When a man is asked, "Have you ever been hit," or "kicked" and the context is his wife, his answer has his wife in mind; if we ask him if he's ever been hit in the context of a crime, he thinks of whether he's been hit by someone other than his wife. How do we know this? By comparing crime surveys to domestic violence surveys. In all domestic violence surveys the men are much more likely to say they've been victims of violence from their partner.

What creates this difference? We have educated women to think of being punched or kicked by a man as a crime, so a crime survey can get women to report that as a crime; we have not yet educated men to think of being bitten, punched, kicked, or hit with a frying pan as a crime, so a crime survey fails to get men to report these behaviors as a crime. A crime survey can not hear what men do not say.

Another important consideration leads to men not seeing domestic violence as a crime: the devaluation both sexes place on men's injuries — even when those injuries are equal to their wife's. For example, a US Department of Justice survey finds that Americans consider it 41% less severe when a wife stabs her husband to death as they do when a husband stabs his wife to death. 15

Both sexes evaluate it more seriously if a woman is being hurt than a man on the less-severe level as well, as when a man or woman hit, bite, or throw something at their partner. 16 When we add this to the male mandate to not "air their dirty laundry in public," we can see why crime surveys do not uncover domestic violence to the man, just by the man.

The second key to eliciting accurate information from men is "be specific." If we ask a man a vague question, like, "have you been battered," the answer is likely to be "no" even if he's been repeatedly hit with a frying pan or repeatedly stabbed. But if we ask him specifically, "Have you ever been hit with a frying pan," he'll be more likely to say "yes." (Also, the word "battered" connotes using the fist, which is the male method; it does not imply using an object, the female method. The word "battered," then, holds an implicit bias against men; "domestic violence" is gender neutral.)

When I first became aware of these studies, I mentioned them to a woman friend, Liz, who was the chair of her high school math department. 17 At first, she looked incredulous. But when I asked her to think of what she saw at school, she smiled, "Well, it is true that I do see a lot of the girls hit the guys, but I can think of only one or two cases of guys hitting girls." Then she laughed, "But we sent only the guys to the vice-principal's office, so they got all the attention — including, it seems, my attention. I guess that's an example of why it was hard for me to believe you at first."

Not one to let a math teacher get away with a subjective observation, I asked if she would keep track of the frequency with which the boys and girls hit each other the first time. She agreed, but not one to miss a potential math lesson, she asked one of her classes to "do a survey," to keep track of all the times the boys and girls initiated a slap or punch of a member of the other sex on the playground or in their classes.

When Liz reported the results, she was a tad embarrassed,

"Well, it was almost 20 to 1 when I first started keeping track — mostly girls hitting guys on the arm, occasionally slapping them. But I'm afraid I screwed up the survey. I got so furious at the girls for 'beginning the cycle of violence,' as you put it, that I began to do mini-lectures in class, and the girls and guys doing the survey started lecturing the people they were observing, and soon there weren't nearly as many girls hitting guys.... I contaminated the results!"

I assured Liz that stopping violence was more valuable than surveying violence, but it made me wonder whether Liz' quasi-survey held up in real surveys, once high school and college students started dating. The answer? To some degree. Female high school students are four times as likely as male students to be the sole abuser of the other sex (5.7% vs. 1.4%). 18

Of course, we have much more information on college students, since academics teach college and their students are captive! The average study showed college women being about 40% more likely to be violent than the men. But when the questions were very specific, both sexes acknowledged the women hit, kicked, bit or struck their partner with an object between two and three times as often.

Surveying college women and men, though, may be a bias against men, since it seems that among women and men who have not gone to college, women hit men proportionately even more than among those who have gone to college. (Currently, the tendency of less educated females to hit less educated males more than vice versa can be observed anecdotally on the Jerry Springer show every weekday. So far, I've never seen a man hit a woman, but about 80 women hit men. That was as much of the show as I could stomach.)

Among all populations, most violence was mutual. But when it was unilateral, it was more likely to have been initiated by the woman. For example, in a study of over 500 university students, women were three times as likely (9% vs. 3%) to have initiated unilateral violence. 19


10. Eric Anderson, Jimmy Boyd, Tom Prihoda, "Fifty-One City Study of Issues Concerning Divorcing Fathers in Self-Help Groups," conducted by the Texas Children's Rights Coalition (Austin, TX), September 10, 1990.

11. Murray A. Straus, Richard J. Gelles, and Suzanne K. Steinmetz, Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family (NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1980). This was the original nationwide random sample that sparked the controversy after finding that 3.8% of husbands beat their wives; 4.6% of wives beat their husbands.

12. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Violence by Intimates," March, 1998, NCJ-167237, from the BJS web site: www.ojp.usodj.gov/bjs/. Twenty-nine percent of male victims vs. 17% of female victims reported that the offender had used a weapon.

13. "Letters" section, Time, January 11, 1988, p. 12.

14. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization in the United States, 1993 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995), p. 10.

15. US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Survey of Crime Severity (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1985), #NCJ-96017; conducted by Marvin E. Wolfgang, Robert M. Figlio, Paul E. Tracy, and Simon I. Singer from the Center for Studies in Criminology and Criminal Law, the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

16. Ileana Arias and Patti Johnson, "Evaluations of Physical Aggression Among Intimate Dyads," Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 4, September, 1989, p. 303.

17. Liz Brookins, Chairperson, Math Department, El Camino High School, Oceanside, CA; currently on leave, teaching at the University of California, San Diego.

18. June Henton, Rodney Cate, James Koval, Sally Lloyd, and Scott Christopher, "Romance and Violence in Dating Relationships," Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 4, September, 1983, pp. 467-482. Sample size: 644. The smaller survey was by Nona K. O'Keefe, Karen Brockopp, and Esther Chew, "Teen Dating Violence," Social Work, Vol. 31, 1986, pp. 465. Two hundred fifty-six high school students reveal that more girls than boys were perpetrators of abuse (11.9% to 7.4%).

19. R. E. Billingham and A. R. Sack, "Courtship Violence and the Interactive Status of the Relationship," Journal of Adolescent Research, Vol. 1, 1986, pp. 315-325.


Exactly how do husbands and wives abuse each other?


Exactly what do husbands and wives do to abuse each other? The most recent scientific national study analyzes violence according to the level of severity by using an updated version of the Conflict Tactics Scale, which has become by far the most acceptable measure in the field. Throughout this chapter, when I refer to severe violence, I am talking about items four through nine below:


How Husbands and Wives Abuse Each Other

Types of violence



A. Minor Violent Acts

1. Threw something



2. Pushed/grabbed/shoved



3. Slapped



B. Severe Violent Acts

4. Kicked/bit/hit with fist



5. Hit, tried to hit with something



6. Beat up



7. Choked



8. Threatened with knife or gun



9. Used knife or gun



Number of cases 1,970

Example: "4.1% of husbands threw something at their wives; 7.4% of wives threw something at their husbands."

Source: 1992 National Alcohol and Family Violence Survey, based on a nationwide probability sample of 1970 cases (with a 4X Hispanic over-sample and the data weighted accordingly) conducted by Dr. Glenda Kaufman Kantor of the Family Research Lab (University of New Hampshire). Data printout provided by Dr. Jana L. Jasinski (New Hampshire: Family Research Laboratory, July 8, 1996).



Once we get to couples who are not college students, findings of other large studies are fairly reflective of this one. Many, though, show a much greater propensity for women to engage in severe violence. For example, in a national sample of men and women dating, women were five times more likely to be severely violent. 20 Women were more likely to be more violent in the more-involved relationships, as their emotions got invested. 21


20. Jan E. Stets and Debra A. Henderson, "Contextual Factors Surrounding a Conflict Resolution While Dating: Results from a National Study," Family Relations, Vol. 40, January, 1991, pp. 29-36.

21. Mary Riege Laner and Jeanine Thompson, "Abuse and Aggression in Courting Couples," Deviant Behavior, Vol. 3, 1982, pp. 229-244. In "more-involved" dating relationships, higher percentages of women slapped, scratched, and grabbed (23% vs. 11%); punched or kicked (5.5% vs. 4%); and hit with a hard object (0.5% vs. 0%) than in the less-involved relationships.


If men are battered more, why do they report it less?


Item. Men rarely report being battered until their wives have attempted to kill them with a knife or a gun. 22

Item. The film is Love at Large, with Tom Berenger. The TV promo features a woman slugging Tom. The punch knocks him back, but his response is one of gratitude, "[Wow,] that's the first time we've touched."

A man is fearful of reporting being battered to the police because a man being hurt provokes laughter, a problem reinforced in ads and shows such as this.

Why does a promo of a man being hurt show the man laughing, or in Berenger's case, show gratitude, while a promo for a woman being slugged in which a woman was laughing or expressing gratitude to the man for slugging her would provoke outrage? It tickles our funny bone because we love the "weaker" underdog defeating the "stronger" man; because of our anger at men, and in part because of our unconscious understanding of how men reframe abuse and call it love.

And there's the biggie: Men have learned to associate being abused with being loved. For example, becoming the football or ice hockey player some woman will love (and men will respect) requires his enduring physical abuse, name-calling, hazing, or emotional humbling. News magazines such as Maclean's help us reinforce our propensity to call men who are physically beaten "heroes," even as we call women who are physically beaten "victims."

Taking abuse will get him through boot camp so he can become the officer some woman will adore; and it is part of the territory of "death professions" like firefighting or coal mining, where he hopes to earn enough to afford a wife. By the time he is eligible for love, he has been trained to be humbled, hazed, and abused.


22. M. McLeod, "Women Against Men: An Examination of Domestic Violence Based on an Analysis of Official Data And National Victimization Data," Justice Quarterly, Volume 1, 1984, p. 171-193. As cited in R. L. McNeely and Gloria Robinson-Simpson, "The Truth About Domestic Violence: A Falsely Framed Issue," Social Work, November/December 1987, p. 485-490.


The male "Learned Helplessness Syndrome"


"The weakness of men is their facade of strength; the strength of women is their facade of weakness." 23

Men expect neither life to protect them nor their wife to protect them. But we do expect ourselves to protect our wife. So even when men batter in self-defense, they expect to be reported; and even when their wives hit first, men rarely report.

Many men don't report being battered because they believe "private problems must be solved privately." They consider "airing dirty laundry in public" a violation of a relationship's sacredness. Which is also why we don't even report it to our men friends.

Other men don't report abuse because their translation of "when the going gets tough, the tough get going" is "when the going gets tough, the tough don't blame — they do something differently." So even when he's beaten, he still expects himself to be "Timex Tough" (to "take a licking and keep on ticking") .

Like women, men feel it's up to them to change. They are amazed when they hear women say the same thing ("I felt it was my fault") and then see the woman call the police. To the man, if you genuinely feel it's your fault, you don't call the police.

A battered man imagines that if he calls the police and says, "Please come over, my wife just hit me," he'll become the precinct's "Wimp of the Night." A battered man knows there are no shelters for battered men because no one really believes he exists. Men fear being denounced as an abuser if he beats a woman and laughed at as a wimp if he is beaten by a woman.

Both sexes feel helpless when the love of their life turns into the nightmare of their life. But men, for all these reasons, feel much more helpless about asking for outside help. In brief, women's strength is in knowing when they feel helpless. Men's weakness is not knowing. The fact that we have identified women's "learned helplessness" but not men's is, it turns out, a sign that the women's problem is on its way to being solved, while the men's is as yet unrecognized.


23. Lawrence Diggs, "Sexual Abuse of Men by Women," Transitions, November/December, 1990, p. 10.


The elderly man's "Learned Helplessness Syndrome"


Carlos Mello's wife wouldn't let him sleep. He reported that his wife would grab him by his genitals and "pull, squeeze, and twist them until I could not stand the pain any longer and I would just stay awake." 24 He didn't report to the hospital until she had prevented his sleeping for three days and his genital area was "swollen to the size of a small balloon," according to the report. Although neighbors confirmed they had been hearing loud screams and moans for three days, Mello had been reluctant to discuss the ruckus when neighbors knocked on his door. When he finally did report to the police, his wife denied she had beaten him, dismissing his condition as "he must have fallen out of bed."

Many elderly men who are abused by their wives report their wives' anger at their failure to be useful — as a breadwinner or home repairer. The man has gone from protector to needing protection, and that is a set up for her anger. The man's shame and dependency often prevents him from reporting his wife's abuse.

The unwillingness of abused men to come forward is a classic symptom of "Male Learned Helplessness." The elderly man feels helpless physically, emotionally, and socially: physically, because he is often 10 to 15 years closer to death; emotionally, because male socialization is a retardant to emotional communication; socially, because the network of friends he built up at work are more likely to be spread out among many communities whereas the network of friends his wife built up are more likely to be in her neighborhood and her community. This physical, emotional, and social combination creates the Elderly Man's Learned Helplessness Syndrome.


24. Associated Press, "Elderly Man Says Wife Beat Him for Three Days," Dayton Daily News, March 9, 1984, p. 32.


Do men experience a "Battered Man Syndrome"?


Feminist literature has helped us understand the many reasons a woman may remain in an abusive relationship — from economic fears to low self-esteem to fears of enraging the man and having him track her down and become even more abusive. The usual image is that the woman cannot afford to leave, but low-income wives are more likely than high-income wives to leave abusive situations. 25 This suggests that the man's money may keep a woman but his lack of money does not prevent her from leaving.

Men's fears of leaving can include those, but they are usually quite different. I've already discussed men's fears of asking for help and reporting abuse, and the plight of elderly men's experience of learned helplessness. But three other reasons battered men fear leaving are even more crucial...

A battered man knows that if his wife has been abusing him, she has often been abusing the children; leaving her means leaving his children unprotected from her abuse.

Second, a man who loses his wife often feels his children are his only remaining source of love.

Finally, abused men know that if they leave, their wives will not only get the children, but the home. For many men, "Home, Home on the Range" is more appealing than "Apartment, Apartment on the Range."

Many men, then, endure the physical hurt of being beaten rather than endure the emotional torture of feeling they've left their own children unprotected, lost love, and lost their home. When these combine with the helplessness that emerges from the fear of asking for help, they create the "Battered Man Syndrome."


25. Suzanne Steinmetz, "Women and Violence," American Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol. 34, No. 3, 1980, pp. 334-350.


Aren't women injured more than men?


" Dear Editor: Your article [Time] on domestic violence states that women are unlikely to inflict much damage on men because wives are generally smaller. Yet in my experience as an emergency-room physician, I treated more men than women for such injuries.... I have seen men cut with an ax, scalded with hot water, smashed with a fireplace poker, and knocked out by a brick, not to mention suffering the common gunshot wound. One incident involved a woman who walked into the hospital with a broken nose after being punched by her husband during an argument. We set the nasal bones and discharged her. Two hours later, her husband was wheeled in. He was admitted with a fractured spine. As soon as she got home, she had grabbed him by the lapels and thrown him against the kitchen stove."

— Velimir Svoren, MD; Chatsworth, GA 26

Despite the fact that women are more likely to use weapons and severe violence against men, 1.9% of the men and 2.3% of the women surveyed said they had sought medical treatment for an injury due to partner abuse in 1992. 27 Is this because a frying pan hurts a man less than a fist hurts a woman — because, as a female classmate of Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) put it, "They can't paddle me!...Girls have more delicate heinies"? 28

Or is there something wrong with the way we are measuring who is injured? To measure which sex is injured more by measuring which sex reports to the doctor more is to make the same mistake we made by assuming women were battered more because they reported domestic violence to the police more. Women are almost twice as likely to go to doctors as are men — men's injuries have to be much more serious before they seek attention.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. When I do a radio show and ask men who have been severely battered to call in anonymously, it is rare for them to have sought medical attention even for a broken arm. But if they do, they almost always report it as an athletic injury ("I was going up for a basket, this guy put his elbow in my eye, I come down on my arm. I end up with a black eye, a broken arm and a 'gee, sorry, man'"). No man I ever spoke with said that such an explanation created skepticism. So the second reason that measuring which sex is injured more by looking at the reporting of injuries to doctors is that men's rougher sports gives them a natural excuse to avoid the association of the injury with domestic violence.

Third, doctors are not trained to cross examine the man to see whether the claim of an athletic injury might be a cover up. If the doctor's a man, he's more likely to bond with the basketball player by asking him if he made the basket! In contrast, doctors are now trained to cross examine a woman. The US Surgeon General sends out information on spouse abuse only to doctors who deal with women (28,000 obstetricians and gynecologists). 29 It is designed to assist doctors in recognizing the subtle signs of spouse abuse among women and to encourage doctors to encourage women to report it. This is a result of feminist pressure to educate the medical community. Men's silence has not created much pressure.

It is exactly the feeling that men are stronger — usually true — that gives women permission for hitting them harder and using weapons. This is even true in mother's attitudes toward their sons vs. their daughters. Sons are more than twice as likely as daughters to be injured when their mothers hit them. 30

How do we learn who actually does experience more injury? First, we need to remember that a "my-injury-is-worse-than-your-injury" approach to family violence does nothing to solve the problem — it just reinforces the one-sided blaming that undermines real solutions like communication.

If we do want data on who is more hurt, we need to stop asking about coping mechanisms — which is what who sees a doctor measures — and start asking both sexes specific questions about the actual damage and healing time of the injuries: "Was your skin broken — did you bleed? Did you suffer any bruises? Any scratches?...black eyes?...broken bones? How long did they take to heal? Was that the time it took with or without treatment?" But again, let's work on solutions rather than on "who's the biggest victim?" The only reason, throughout the book, that I concern myself with men as victims at all is because the pretense that men are only the perpetrators has led us to ignoring men or blaming men — and that poisons love between the sexes.


26. "Letters" section, Time, January 11, 1988, p. 12, referring to article in "Behavior" section, Time, December 21, 1987.

27. Barbara J. Morse, "Beyond the Conflict Tactics Scale: Assessing Gender Differences in Partner Violence," Violence and Victims, Vol. 10, No. 4, 1995, pp. 251-272. Of the 13.5% of men who were injured, 14.3% of them sought medical attention (0.135 x 0.143 ~ 0.019 or 1.9%). Similarly, of the 20.1% of women who were injured, 11.8% of them sought medical attention (0.201 x 0.118 ~ 0.023 or 2.3%). Acknowledgement to Cathy Young.

28. Bill Waterson, Calvin and Hobbes, June 5,1986.

29. The packet was sent by US Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, January, 1989. See "US To Help Doctors Spot Spouse Abuse," Chicago Sun-Times Wires, Chicago Sun-Times, January 4, 1989.

30. Suzanne K. Steinmetz, "Women and Violence," op. cit.,: Victims and Perpetrators," American Journal of Psychotherapy, Volume 34, 1980, p. 339. As cited in R. L. McNeely and Gloria Robinson-Simpson, "The Truth About Domestic Violence," op. cit.: A Falsely Framed Issue," Social Work, November/December 1987, p. 485-490.


When women batter, isn't it in self-defense?


One of the valid objections to the initial domestic violence surveys was that perhaps women were violent only in self-defense. Interestingly, when Straus and Gelles checked this out, they asked only women their opinion as to who had struck the first blow. Their findings? Even 53% of the women acknowledged they had struck the first blow. 31

Other researchers asked both sexes. And asked not only who struck the first blow, but who did so without retaliation. Here is what they found:


Who Struck the First Blow in Year Prior to Marriage?





Who Struck the First Blow 6 to 18 Months After Marriage?





Who Struck the First Blow 18 to 30 Months After Marriage?





Explanation: The percentages average both sexes' responses. Both sexes reported both themselves and their partner; both sexes reported their own aggression to be about 10% less than their partner's estimate.

Source: K. Daniel O'Leary, Julian Barling, Ileana Arias, Alan Rosenbaum, Jean Malone, and Andrea Tyree, "Prevalence and Stability of Physical Aggression Between Spouses: A Longitudinal Analysis," Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 57, No. 2, 1989, p. 263-265. Study was of 272 couples (272 men, 272 women), recruited for a study of "marriage and the family" — without pre-selection for their interest in domestic violence.



Many studies now confirm women being more likely to strike the first blow, or to be severely violent without the husband reciprocating. 32 We saw above that this started in high school. I'm unaware of any significant two-sex domestic violence study showing the opposite, nor could NOW headquarters cite any.

Isn't it often claimed that when women kill their husbands, it is in self-defense? Yes. However, when Dr. Coramae Richey Mann checked out these claims, she discovered only 10% were valid. 33 That is, when women killed their husbands, they usually claimed self-defense, even when their husbands were in wheel chairs. Others explained it was when their husband was asleep. If self-defense is defined as it always has been by the law, as a response to an immediate threat to one's life, from which one cannot escape, then neither meets the self-defense standard. But feminists have created a for-women-only defense (the Learned Helplessness Defense, based on the "Battered Woman Syndrome"), allowing a woman who could escape, but was fearful, to kill a sleeping man and then claim in court it was self-defense because he had previously abused her repeatedly and she was afraid to leave. The problem is, the husband is too dead to defend himself. And the court can't hear what men are too dead to say.

In contrast, when men claim self-defense, they are often not even believed by their counselors. For example, when Steve Murray describes the abusive men he counsels, he explains, "They whine and they bitch and they cry and they say, 'She attacked me first.' Pretty soon another guy is saying, 'That's the way it happened to me!'" 34 A second later Murray adds, "When a man resolves a conflict by hitting his wife, there are no longer two sides to the story. No one ever deserves to get hit."

Although Murray says, "No one ever deserves to get hit," he discounts the men the moment they say they were hit. Even when the men claim self-defense ("She attacked me first"), they are discounted as whiners, bitchers, and crybabies. By not believing the men — but believing only their wives — the social worker is able to justify putting the men in groups for perpetrators, their wives in groups for victims. If the women had all claimed the men hit them first, it would be used to reinforce the stereotype that women never hit except in self-defense.


31. Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles, Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press, 1990). As cited in Murray A. Straus, "Assaults on Wives by Husbands: Implications for Primary Prevention of Marital Violence," Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, November, 1989.

32. See for examples: Susan B. Sorenson and Cynthia A. Telles, "Self-Reports of Spousal Violence in a Mexican-American and Non-Hispanic White Population," Violence and Victims, Vol. 6, 1991, pp. 3-15; June Henton, et. al., Rodney Cate, James Koval, Sally Lloyd, and Scott Christopher, "Romance and Violence in Dating Relationships," op. cit., Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 4, September, 1983, pp. 467-482; and Boyd C. Rollins and Yaw Oheneba-Sakyi, "Physical Violence in Utah Households," Journal of Family Violence, Vol. 5, 1990, pp. 301-309.

33. Coramae Richey Mann, "Getting Even? Women Who Kill in Domestic Encounters," Justice Quarterly (Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences: 1988), Vol. 5, No. 1, March, 1988, p. 33-51.

34. I. P. Weston, "Battered Women Walk Legal, Lethal Tightropes," Santa Barbara News-Press, May 13, 1991, p. A1.


Is this female violence against men a recent phenomenon?


Is this gap between male and female violence in the home just recent (since laws against wife-battering have just recently become tougher)? It is unlikely, but we can't be positive of the answer, since the first large nationwide random sample study was not done until 1975. Here is how the 1975 results compare to 1992.


Changes in Severe "Wife-Beating" vs. Severe "Husband-Beating": 1975 to 1992





Wife Victim




Husband Victim




Source: 1975 and 1985 National Family Violence Surveys, based on nationwide probability population samples of 2143 cases in 1975 and 3520 cases in 1985, conducted by the Family Research Lab (University of New Hampshire); and the 1992 National Alcohol and Family Violence Survey, based on a national probability sample of 1970 cases in 1992, conducted by the Institute for Survey Research (Temple University). As cited in Murray Straus and Glenda Kaufman Kantor, "Change in Spouse Assault Rates From 1975 to 1992: A Comparison of Three National Surveys in the United States," paper presented at the 13th World Congress of Sociology, Bielefeld, Germany, July 19, 1994.



Fortunately, severe violence against wives decreased 48%; against husbands, it decreased 2%. However, what the table does not mention is another result of the comparison: Although overall violence (including minor violence, like shoving or slapping) against women decreased, overall violence against men increased. 35


35. 1975 and 1985 National Family Violence Surveys, based on nationwide random population samples of 2143 cases in 1975 and 3520 cases in 1985, conducted by the Family Research Lab (University of New Hampshire), as cited in Murray Straus and Richard Gelles, "Societal Change and Change in Family Violence from 1975 to 1985 as Revealed by Two National Surveys," Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 48, 1986, p. 470, Table 2.


Has violence against men been censored — Is this why we don't know about it?


Yes, studies reporting violence against men have been censored. How this censorship occurs is the subject of chapter eight on the lace curtain, but when it comes to domestic violence, the censorship is both direct, which is quite a story; and indirect, which is the real story.

Directly first. Suzanne Steinmetz shared with me how shortly after she published an article titled "The Battered Husband Syndrome" in 1978, 36 she received a bomb threat at a speech she was giving at the University of Delaware. 37 She received threatening phone calls at home from women who said, "If you don't stop talking about battered men, something's going to happen to your children and it won't be safe for you to go out." It's ironic that women saying that women couldn't be violent were threatening violence.

Although the group of women never harmed Steinmetz physically, they did try to damage her career. Steinmetz recalled that it wasn't until years later that she learned these women had secretly contacted female faculty at the university where she was employed and urged the women to work against her for promotion and tenure.

Richard Gelles, the co-pioneer with Suzanne Steinmetz and Murray Straus of these early studies, reports that Straus was rarely invited to speak at conferences on domestic violence after the three of them published their initial studies. When he was, he was unable to complete his presentation because of yells and shouts from the audience that stopped only when he was driven from the stage. 38 Whereas he used to be nominated frequently for elected office in scientific societies (such as the American Sociological Association), he has not been nominated for any office since then. 39

Now, the more indirect censorship. Richard Gelles wanted to present both feminist and non-feminist perspectives on domestic violence in a book he was editing. The feminist scholar accepted until she was informed there would be other points of view. Then she told Richard Gelles that she would not only refuse to submit anything, but she would "see to it that no feminist would contribute a chapter." 40

In Canada, a University of Alberta study found 12% of husbands to be victims of violence by their wives and 11% of wives to be victims, but only the violence against women was published. 41 Even when Earl Silverman, six years later, was able to get the data from an assistant who had helped prepare the original study, and then wrote it up himself, he was unable to get it published.

Similarly, another major Canadian study of dating couples found 46% of women vs. 18% of the men to be physically violent. You guessed it. The 18% male violence was published immediately. 42 Not only was the 46% female violence left unpublished, but the authors did not acknowledge in the Canadian Journal of Sociology that their study had ever included violence against men.

When a Canadian professor found out, he requested to see the data and was refused. 43 [EJF note: In a personal communication dated July 4, 2005, Prof. Dutton states that it was actually Kim Bartholomew who shamed him into finally publishing the female violence results, not John Fekete]. It was only when he exposed the refusal in his next book combined with another three more years of pressure, that the 46% female violence was released and published. 44 By that time (1997), Canadian policy giving government support for abused women but not abused men had been entrenched. As were the bureaucracies; as were the private funding sources like United Way...

By 1999 United Way of Greater Toronto increased their yearly allocation for services to abused women and children by $1-million, to $3.3-million per year. To abused men and children: $0. I asked the research director whether the research to determine need had included abused men and children. The answer? No. 45

It was the United States, though, that set the precedent for this censorship. In 1979, Louis Harris and Associates conducted a survey of domestic violence commissioned by the Kentucky Commission on Women. However, when the results of the study were published, 46 only the abuse of the women was included; abuse by the women was censored. 47 (The women themselves acknowledged attacking men who had not attacked them 38% of the time). 48 The existence of those data became known and published only when some professors were later able to obtain the original computer tape. 49

Why would these findings be ignored by academicians whose life passion is seeking the truth? One colleague, R. L. McNeely, who pioneered the analysis of research in domestic violence, 50 told me, "I'll tell you why — as soon as I published results along these lines I received a letter threatening to stop my funding."

A portion of government funding to a professor usually goes to the university. Funding is often what allows a university to keep a professor hired. If the professor is supporting a family it creates an ethical dilemma: When does being responsible become irresponsible? And, of course, the instinct to protect-the-female makes him or her fear that acknowledging male pain means discounting female pain.


36. Suzanne Steinmetz, "The Battered Husband Syndrome," Victimology, Vol. 2, 1977/78, pp. 499-509.

37. Interview with Suzanne Steinmetz, September 11, 1997.

38. Richard J. Gelles, "Research and Advocacy: Can One Wear Two Hats?," Family Process, Vol. 33, March, 1994, p. 94. Confirmed in phone interview with Murray Straus, March 31, 1999.

39. Murray Straus, Phone interview, March 31, 1999.

40. Richard J. Gelles, "Research and Advocacy," op. cit.: "Can One Wear Two Hats?," Family Process, Vol. 33, March, 1994, p. 94. Gelles' co-editor was Donileen Loseke.

41. Leslie W. Kennedy and Donald G. Dutton, "The Incidence of Wife Assault in Alberta," Canadian Journal Of Behavioral Science, Vol. 21, 1989, pp. 40-54. The research was conducted in 1987 by the University of Alberta's Population Research Laboratory. In an interview with Earl Silverman on September 2, 1997, he explained he received the censored research six years later from Bob Adebayo, who had assisted Kennedy and Dutton in the preparation of their original data. Even after Silverman received the data, he could not get it published. See Earl Silverman, "A Proposal To Prevent Spouse Abuse Through Crisis Intervention For Male Partners," unpublished manuscript, May, 1996, p. 10.

42. Walter DeKeseredy and Katharine Kelly, "The Incidence and Prevalence of Woman Abuse in Canadian University and College Dating Relationships," Canadian Journal of Sociology, Vol. 18, 1993, pp. 137-159.

43. John Fekete, Moral Panic: Biopolitics Rising (Montreal: Robert Davies Publishing, 1994), pp. 79-80.

44. Walter S. DeKeseredy, Daniel G. Saunders, Martin D. Schwartz, and Shahlid Alvi, "The Meanings and Motives for Women's Use of Violence in Canadian College Dating Relationships: Results from a National Survey," Sociological Spectrum, Vol. 17, 1997, pp. 199-222.

45. Diane Hill, Director of Policy and Research for the United Way of Greater Toronto, email of February 22, 1999.

46. Mark Schulman, "A Survey Of Spousal Violence Against Women In Kentucky" (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, July 1979), Study No. 792701, conducted for Kentucky Commission on Women and sponsored by the US Department of Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration.

47. Murray A. Straus, "Physical Assaults by Wives: A Major Social Problem," Current Controversies on Family Violence, Richard Gelles and Donileen Loseke, eds. (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1993), pp. 72-73.

48. Ibid.

49. Carlton A. Hornung, B. Claire McCullough, and Taichi Sugimoto, "Status Relationships in Marriage: Risk Factors in Spouse Abuse," Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 43, August, 1981, pp. 675-692.

50. R. L. McNeely and Gloria Robinson-Simpson, "The Truth About Domestic Violence," op. cit.: A Falsely Framed Issue," Social Work, November/December 1987, p. 485-490.


Are these statistics for real?


Headlines like these 51 make it difficult to believe statistics based on equal samplings of both sexes:

Are these headlines at all true? Yes. It is true that about 50% of women are shoved, slapped, or otherwise abused during their lifetime (which is how the article explains the headline), but that is also true of an even higher percentage of men. Why do we only know about the women? Because, as the second headline points out, it is the world's women who are "speaking as one" against abuse — the world's men aren't even speaking. The men are the silent battered.

The result? We have solidified our view of men as the perpetrators, making it shocking to view men as equally battered.

One of the biggest barriers to hearing this information is the belief that when women hit, it is in self-defense. So let's check this out emotionally first. Which requires running it past our personal life experience. In my workshops I ask my audiences to ask themselves two questions about each romantic relationship they have had in their life:

• On your right hand, use one finger to represent each relationship in which you hit your partner (a non-playful slap or more) the first time — before she or he ever hit you. The number?____

• On your left hand, use one finger to represent each relationship in which your partner hit you the first time. The number?____

Remember, only one finger per relationship — and only the first time counts. Take out a moment to do this. It's crucial to understanding this chapter on the emotional level.

Chances are, if you are a man, you will have a harder time remembering — a man treats a slap as forgettable; a woman does not. Nevertheless, if you've hit or been hit at all, it is likely more women will have hit you the first time than vice-versa. Now run this by a few friends.... The men are likely to recall being hit the first time more than the other way around; the women are likely to recall it being closer to equal, with their hitting the first time slightly more frequently — which basically matches the findings of the 50 surveys I reviewed. (The surveys, after all, came from real people's reports.)

Despite all these findings, early researchers still concluded that we should not be distracted from the current social policy of giving first attention to wives. 52 To rationalize their conclusion, they assumed that women as a group were more locked in to marriage and therefore less able to escape abuse. They ignored the data telling us that over 60% of divorces are initiated by women — and that when women have children it goes up to 65%. 53 And they ignored findings that men who are abused also feel locked in to marriage because they know their wives are much more likely to retain the children after divorce and they fear the children will be abused. 54


51. Linda Castrone, "50% of Women Feel Cold Hand of a Batterer," Rocky Mountain News, February 5, 1990 and Kathleen Hendrix, "World's Women Speak as One Against Abuse," Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1991, p. E1.

52. Murray A. Straus, Richard J. Gelles, Suzanne K. Steinmetz, Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family (NY: Doubleday/Anchor, 1980), op. cit., p. 43-44.

53. Wives initiate 61% of all divorce cases. When the couple has children, women initiate 65% of divorces. See "Monthly Vital Statistics Report: Advance Report of Final Divorce Statistics, 1987," National Center for Health Statistics, Vol. 38, No. 12, Supplement 2, May 15, 1990, p. 5.

54. Suzanne Steinmetz, "The Battered Husband Syndrome," op. cit. Victimology, Vol. 2, Nos. 3-4, 1977-78, pp. 499-509.


What happens in other cultures?


I reviewed a dozen studies that covered seven non-US countries (Great Britain, New Zealand, Finland, British Honduras, Canada, Puerto Rico, Israel) and a number of sub-cultures within the United States (Quakers, Mormons, military, Mexican-Americans).

In almost all of these cultures, the women were either equally violent to the men, or more violent than the men (Puerto Rico being the only exception). 55 However, the women were much more likely to exercise severe violence. It was not uncommon for the women to be three times as likely to exercise severe violence, although on average it was about twice as often.

One of the best non-US studies was a New Zealand study that followed more than 1000 children from when they were three until the age of 21. Because the researchers knew these people for 18 years, the response rate was high, as was the trust level (or at least that's what they tell us!). Their findings? By the age of 21, women had perpetrated minor violence against men in the previous year 36% of the time vs. men's 22%. 56 However, women had perpetrated severe violence against men 19% of the time vs. men's 6% — more than three times the rate of severe violence.

I was curious to see if Quakers were, in fact, less violent. The answer? Yes and no. Both husbands and wives reported pushing, shoving, and grabbing at about the 15% level, which is slightly higher than it was in the overall American population at the time of the Quaker study (12% women; 11% men 57 ). 58 However, when it came to severe violence, the Quaker women did better than the average American woman (2.5% vs. 4.4% 59 ) and the men were considerably less violent on the severe level than the average American man was (0.8% vs. 3% 60 ). Again, among the Quakers, as in many other groups, severe violence was about three times as frequent for the women as the men.

Among a mostly-Mormon sample, the violence levels were similar to the US at large. 61 Among military couples, the men and women both exhibited equal amounts of violence, and more than in the population at large. 62 Among Mexican-Americans, there was no difference between the genders. 63

The real value of studying both sexes is how many hints it gives us at reducing domestic violence — especially on the severe level. For example, in more traditional cultures, like Puerto Rico and the military, the sexes do not have the tools to know how to stop escalating violence. Whereas among Quakers, with its non-traditional emphasis on peaceful means of conflict resolution, severe violence by women is lower and by men is rare.

It appears, then, that education toward non-violence helps. Especially men. But if the Quakers are a model, the good news is that they are able to achieve this level of non-violence by men within the framework of a violent society; the more challenging news is the Quaker education process is not just a few classes, but a way of life. Which is why Part I of this book is really the biggest part of the "solution" to domestic violence.


55. Suzanne K. Steinmetz, "A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Marital Abuse," Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, Vol. 8, No. 2, July, 1981, p. 404-414. The sample from Puerto Rico was very small (82), as were the samples from Finland (44) and Canada (52) and the United States (94).

56. Lynn Magdol, Terrie E. Moffitt, Avshalom Caspi, Denise L. Newman, Jeffrey Fagan, and Phil A. Silva, "Gender Differences in Partner Violence in a Birth Cohort of 21-Year-Olds: Bridging the Gap Between Clinical and Epidemiological Approaches," Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 65. No. 1, 1997, p. 68-78.

57. Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles, "Societal Change and Change in Family Violence from 1975 to 1985 as Revealed by Two National Surveys," op. cit. Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 18, 1986, pp. 465-479. I am citing the 1985 survey for comparability to the Quaker survey published in 1984.

58. Judith Brutz and Bron B. Ingoldsby, "Conflict Resolution in Quaker Families," Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 46, 1984, pp. 21-26.

59. Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles, "Societal Change and Change in Family Violence from 1975 to 1985 as Revealed by Two National Surveys," op. cit. Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 18, 1986, pp. 465-479, Compare to Brutz, ibid. Judith Brutz and Bron B. Ingoldsby, "Conflict Resolution in Quaker Families," Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 46, 1984, pp. 21-26. I am citing the 1985 Straus survey for comparability to the Quaker survey published in 1984.

60. Ibid. Compare Murray A. Straus, ibid., and Richard J. Gelles, "Societal Change and Change in Family Violence from 1975 to 1985 as Revealed by Two National Surveys," op. cit., Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 18, 1986, pp. 465-479, to Judith Brutz and Bron B. Ingoldsby, "Conflict Resolution in Quaker Families," Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 46, 1984, pp. 21-26. I am citing the 1985 Straus survey for comparability to the Quaker survey published in 1984.

61. Boyd C. Rollins and Yaw Oheneba-Sakyi, "Physical Violence in Utah Households," op. cit. Journal of Family Violence, Vol. 5, 1990, p. 301-309.

62. Judy Rollins Bohannon, David A. Dosser, Jr., and S. Eugene Lindley. "Using Couple Data to Determine Domestic Violence Rates: An Attempt to Replicate Previous Work." Violence and Victims, Vol. 10, 1995, p. 133-141.

63. Susan B. Sorenson and Cynthia A. Telles, "Self-Reports of Spousal Violence in a Mexican-American and Non-Hispanic White Population," op. cit. Violence and Victims, Vol. 6, 1991, p. 3-15.

Is abuse the result of patriarchy?


Item. Among lesbians who had prior intimate relationships with men, 32% had experienced physical aggression from any male partner; 64 45% had experienced physical aggression from their most recent female partner alone. 65

Item. When lesbians and heterosexual women (matched for age, race, education, and socioeconomic status) were given identical questionnaires, 9% of heterosexual women reported being raped by a man during a dating relationship; 7% of lesbians reported being raped by a woman during a dating relationship. 66 Statistically the difference was insignificant.

Lesbian violence shatters the myth that women abuse only when men drive them to it. It dispels the myth that male power and male privilege create violence against women. Lesbians do not have much male power and privilege.

Lesbian rape further dispels the myth that rape is also an outgrowth of male power and privilege. We can claim that patriarchy causes lesbians to batter and rape — as some feminists do — but if patriarchy causes all the bad that lesbians do, it must also cause all the good that lesbians do.


64. Gwat-Yong Lie, Rebecca Schilit, Judy Bush, Marilyn Montagne, and Lynn Reyes, "Lesbians in Currently Aggressive Relationships: How Frequently Do They Report Aggressive Past Relationships?" Violence and Victims, Vol. 6, 1991, p. 125.

65. Ibid., Gwat-Yong Lie, Rebecca Schilit, Judy Bush, Marilyn Montagne, and Lynn Reyes, "Lesbians in Currently Aggressive Relationships: How Frequently Do They Report Aggressive Past Relationships?" Violence and Victims, Vol. 6, 1991, p. 126.

66. Pamela A. Brand and Aline H. Kidd, "Frequency of Physical Aggression in Heterosexual and Female," Psychological Reports, Vol. 59, 1986, p. 1311.


Is abuse the result of power — or powerlessness?


The domestic violence community often assumes men abuse women due to feelings of male power and privilege. Their treatment programs usually incorporate this assumption.

As it turns out, the evidence supports much different conclusions: that when women abuse, they are sometimes in a position of power, sometimes powerlessness, and sometimes both simultaneously. When men abuse, they are much more likely to be in a position of powerlessness — the act of abuse being a momentary act of power designed to compensate for underlying experiences of powerlessness. Here's the evidence for that paradigm shift, starting with women...

An elderly woman is more than four times as likely to abuse her husband as the other way around. 67 Think about why. If an elderly man is eight years older than his wife, he is an average of 15 years closer to dying — suffering from arthritis or other ailments. She becomes her own caretaker and his caretaker. He is in about as powerless a place as he can be, and he abuses very little. She is much more powerful in comparison to him, and abuses much more. But she doubtless also feels the powerlessness of being tied to her caretaking responsibilities.

Similarly, two-thirds of mothers with children six years or under hit them three or more times per week. 68 A recent study of confirmed child abuse found mothers committed the abuse 58% of the time, fathers 16%, and both parents 13%. 69 We can view this three ways: as mothers exercising their power over their children; as mothers experiencing their powerlessness vis-a-vis their children; or as both. The mother is obviously more powerful, and just as obviously more likely to abuse when the baby is screaming, not smiling: The screaming makes her feel powerless and the feelings of powerlessness tempt physical violence. (Think of how often we hear on the news of a mom putting her infant in a dumpster: The mom has the power to kill, but it is almost always a young single mom with few resources.)

Why are women more likely to abuse men who are powerless while men are more likely to protect women who are powerless? Or, put another way, why, if he feels powerless, is he more likely to be abusive and she is also more likely to feel abusive? She perceives him as no longer being able to protect her, so she acts on her instincts to get rid of a man who can't protect her. (Remember, she survived for millions of years by selecting protectors, which means knowing how to weed out men who can't protect her.) Put another way, female abuse of men who can't perform is instinctive. She feels powerless when he feels powerless.

Among lesbian women, the abused woman was likely to feel that the problem of the batter er was de pendence, not power. 70

So among women, feelings of power or powerlessness — or some combination of both — seem in various ways to catalyze abuse.

Among men it seems to be different. In 1997, the American Psychological Association's official journal, the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, found domestic violence by men was more likely to be associated with indicators of powerlessness than it was when women were violent. The researchers found that physical violence among men was more strongly associated with unemployment, low educational attainment, few social support resources, the use of drugs, personality disorders, and depression 71 — all pretty strong indicators of an underlying experience of powerlessness.

Men's greater physical strength would seem to indicate men's violence toward women involved male power. As I discussed above, this is tricky, because men learn to use that strength to protect women and will beat up or even kill a man who uses it against a woman. It is when the power of his masculinity breaks down that he is most likely to be violent toward a woman.

Many people resist looking at the powerlessness of the batterer because we have been assuming the batterer was a man and we didn't want to blame a woman who was battered. In love, though, both people can feel powerful or both can feel powerless.

The treatment implications are enormous and create much hope. Large numbers of psychologists, social workers, Y's, and battered women's shelters counsel a man who batters a woman to give up his assumptions of male privilege and power. If a woman batters a man, it is by definition in self-defense — he has the power.

This "victim-either-way" rationalization leaves men feeling blamed either way; it increases tensions and, therefore, the battering of spouses and the breakup of marriages. It leaves millions of children raised without the love of their dads. It is, though, good for the lawyers and therapists.


67. Karl Pillemer and David Finkelhor, "The Prevalence of Elder Abuse: A Random Sample Survey," The Gerontologist, Vol. 28, 1988, pp. 51-57. The physical abuse rate of husbands by their wives is 26 per 1000; of wives by their husbands, 6 per 1000.

68. The National Longitudinal Study of Youth, Appendix C in Murray A. Straus, Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families (NY: Lexington Books, 1994), p. 25.

69. Joan Ditson and Sharon Shay, "Use of a Home-Based Microcomputer to Analyze Community Data from Reported Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect," Child Abuse and Neglect, Volume 8, Issue 4, 1984, pp. 503-509.

70. Claire M. Renzetti, "Violence in Lesbian Relationships: A Preliminary Analysis of Causal Factors," Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 3, No. 4, December, 1988, p. 318-399, Table 2. "Relationship Characteristics: Relative Dependency versus Autonomy Indices."

71. Lynn Magdol, et al, "Gender Differences in Partner Violence in a Birth Cohort of 21-Year-Olds," op. cit.: Bridging the Gap Between Clinical and Epidemiological Approaches," Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1997, Vol. 65, No. 1, pp. 68-78.


If men have learned "Never hit a woman," then why do men batter at all?


If the beautiful princess chooses the man who is willing to die to protect her, how is it she sometimes winds up being abused by the man who was willing to die for her?

A man writes to Dear Abby that his wife broke his arms and ribs when she threw a heavy chair at him; that she frequently attacked him with his fingernails, drawing blood from his face and neck. But his training to never hit a woman stopped him from retaliating, and he made up lies when he visited emergency rooms. He stayed in the marriage for the child, but when he finally filed for divorce, she accused him of child molestation. Although acquitted, he felt devastated. 72

The Dear Abby man never hit back. So why do some men violate the male mandate and retaliate — or even initiate? When a man feels the woman he is supposed to protect is threatening him or verbally chopping him apart, he begins to make a mental transfer from protecting her to protecting himself from her. She begins to lose her status as a woman. When that nexus is reached, his protector instinct is compromised. He becomes almost a split personality: protect her; defend self. In turn, when his protector instinct is compromised, her love for him is compromised, and her fear of him becomes irrational — which is her way of protecting herself.

Once this nexus is reached another conflicting message also emerges: "Men don't hit women" conflicts with "she won't respect a man she can push around." Paradoxically, he doesn't have the ability to protect until he has the ability to stand up for himself. And sometimes, the woman may be provoking him to stimulate passion and strength, which she may find preferable to a disconnected blob. In brief, there is often an intricately woven dance going on, which makes one-sided blame so inappropriate.


72. Abigail VanBuren, "Dear Abby — Reflections From an Abused Husband," syndicated column, Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1989, Part V, p. 3.


Don't husbands actually kill their wives more than wives kill husbands, thus making battering scarier to women?


Women's fears of men are exploited not only by women-in-jeopardy movies but also by full-page ads like the one I opened the chapter with from the Ad Council, a public service ad in Time magazine. The happy bride is warned: "42% of all murdered women are killed by the same man." Look at the ad again and register the feeling.

When a woman is looking at a picture of a day that is supposed to be her happiest, that's an emotional experience; it does not motivate her to do a statistical analysis of the 42% figure. She is manipulated into going with the "feel" of the ad — that her happiest day is almost as likely as not to turn into her death. Most women sense it is a statistical manipulation, but still the "feel" remains and the fear registers. And that is the ad's intent.

The value of stopping to do a statistical look-see is to make the fear appropriate to the reality. When it isn't, it's called paranoia. People who refuse to look at a statistic because they want to remain "heart focused" are subject to having their heart manipulated. In reality, nine hundred women are murdered each year by the man they married. 73 Out of 54-million married women in the US. 74 That creates a bit of a different feeling. But let's move to the exact statistic: that "42% of all murdered women are killed by the same man."

The basic trick of the Ad Council's ad is that a high percentage of murdered wives are murdered by their husband or ex-husband exactly because married women are so rarely murdered to begin with.

But aren't husbands more likely to kill their wives than vice-versa? Again, we enter the arena of "who's the biggest victim?" It bothers me to have to document that the sexes kill their spouses about equally, but there are life-and-death consequences that result from feminists persuading the public that it is almost exclusively husbands who kill wives. It leads to financing of only women's shelters and hotlines without shelters and hotlines for men, thus leaving men with no place to go when they are in danger, so he becomes a powder keg that can endanger his wife rather than someone who can find a supportive retreat while he cools off.

The brief answer to this accusation is that no one knows for sure which sex kills the other more. In a second we'll see why it's likely that more wives kill husbands, but until the government is willing to collect data about the three female methods of killing, we can only do an educated guess. I'll explain...

On the surface, the Bureau of Justice reports women are the perpetrators in 41% of spousal murders. 75 However, the male method of killing is with a knife or gun, done by himself. The three female methods of killing are different. The third female method is poisoning, but I'll deal first with the first two methods, both of which are "multiple offender killings" — that is, a wife either hires a professional killer or persuades a boyfriend. We only know that in multiple offender killings there are four times as many husbands as victims than wives, according to the FBI. 76 These multiple offender killings are meant, of course, to not be discovered, but even a multiple offender killing that is discovered is not recorded by the government as a wife killing a husband, it is listed separately by the FBI as a "multiple offender killing." 77 That is, the 41% figure does not include either of the first two female methods of killing.

How common are contract killings? We don't know. Perhaps the best hint we have of how many husbands could be killed by contract comes from the FBI, reporting that some 7800 men were killed without the killer being identified (vs. 1500 women). 78 This number is almost 9 times larger than all of the wives killed by spouses and ex-spouses put together . 79 However, this "9 times as many" figure is a very inadequate hint since many of these men were doubtless killed by other men, and many are unmarried — and our comparisons are among married people.

Most important, of the hundred or so contract killings about which I have read, only a small percentage were originally recognized as such. The very purpose in hiring a professional was to have the husband's death appear as an accident so she can collect insurance money. And that is also the purpose of the third female method: poisoning.

Joyce Cohen exemplifies a typical contract killing. Stanley Cohen was a Florida millionaire when Joyce became his secretary. Eventually they got married, but soon got bored enough with each other that, among other things, they had not had sex for two years. (I did not personally investigate this.) Joyce feared a divorce would return her to being a secretary. So she used $100,000 of Stanley's money to hire some young men to kill her husband. When he was asleep and naked, she had him shot four times in the head with his own gun. 80 Joyce's motivation is obvious (although statistically her existence as a spouse-killer is invisible).

A husband is much more likely to kill in an emotional fit of rage (so much for the rational sex!). Or he kills his wife and children, and then turns the gun to his own head. Next time you read about a husband killing a wife in the newspaper, read a little further in the article and you'll be surprised to see how often he also kills himself. And obviously the killing of himself indicates that money is not his primary motivation. When people commit suicide, it is because they feel there is no one who loves them or needs them.

In brief, a wife's style of killing reflects her motivation which requires the killing not be detected; a husband's style of killing reflects his motivation and, well, a husband who kills himself is pretty likely to be caught — a dead husband is a dead giveaway. Even if her killing does get detected, it is much more likely to never be recorded as a spouse killing — but as a "multiple offender" killing, or an accident or a heart attack. When a woman is murdered, we are more likely to track down the killer than when a man is murdered. 81

As a result of the invisibility of the female methods of killing, women who do kill benefit from the stereotype of women-as-innocent, and are treated very differently by the law: 13% of spousal murder cases with woman defendants result in an acquittal, vs. 1% of murder cases with men defendants. 82 Similarly, the average prison sentence for spousal murder (excluding life sentences and the death penalty) is almost three times longer for men than for women — 17.5 years vs. 6.2 years. 83 And, thus far, a woman has never been executed for killing only a man. When we can only see women as innocent, the law becomes equally blind.

Just as there are different male and female styles of killing and the female's has remained invisible, there are also different male and female methods of violence that does not involve killing. The women's style has been so invisible we haven't called it domestic violence....


73. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report — Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995), p. 4. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, 1992, 900 women were killed by their spouses or ex-spouses (18% of 5000 women).

74. Information Please Almanac 1995 (NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994), p. 838.

75. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report: Murder in Families (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1994), p. 3. This survey is much better than the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports as an indicator of the percentage of wives and husbands who kill their spouse, since the FBI data has such a high percentage of the killers not identified (31% of the female victims' killers; 41% of the male victims' killers).

76. The closest the government comes to reporting contract killing is the creation of a "multiple offender" category (e.g., wife plus contract killer) which is what registers more than 4 times as many husbands as victims than wives as victims. See James A. Mercy, Ph.D., and Linda E. Saltzman, Ph.D., "Fatal Violence Among Spouses in the United States, 1976-85," American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 79, No. 5, May, 1989, p. 596, Table 1 — see Multiple Offender category. Based on 16,595 spouse homicides reported to the FBI from 1976 through 1985. This contract-killing-as-the-female-method perspective is also confirmed by Louis Mizell, the world's foremost expert on contract killings, in an interview on July 18, 1996.

77. US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Crime in the United States (Washington, DC: USGPO, 1990), p. 11, table titled "Victim Offender Relationship by Race and Sex." The notes adjoining the tables state that "Multiple Offender" killings are not broken down into gender categories. Only "Single Victim & Single Offender" crimes are broken down into gender categories.

78. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report — Violence Against Women, op. cit. Estimates from the Redesigned Survey (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995), p. 4, citing US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Uniform Crime Reports, 1992.

79. Ibid., US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report — Violence Against Women, op. cit.: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995), p. 4, citing US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Uniform Crime Reports, 1992. shows 900 wives killed by spouses or ex-spouses and 7824 unidentified male victims, or 8.7 times as many unidentified male victims.

80. Mike Clary, "Fast-Lane Saga Over: Widow Guilty in Murder of Husband," Los Angeles Times, November 17, 1989.

81. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report — Violence Against Women, op. cit. Estimates from the Redesigned Survey (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995), p. 4. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, 1992, 41% of the killers of men were not identified, vs. 31% of the killers of women.

82. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Selected Finding: Violence between Intimates (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1994), p. 6.

83. Ibid. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Selected Finding: Violence between Intimates (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1994), p. 6.


Domestic Violence, Female Style

"Reputation ruining" via false accusations of abuse


Thomas Kiernan, author of Citizen Murdoch (as well as 25 other books), reported in the New Jersey Law Journal his experience attending four different seminars for wives contemplating divorce. He reported that in all four cases, a female lawyer conducted the seminar and "recommended, with knowing winks and smirks, the 'advantages' of 'establishing' or 'creating' a 'record' of spousal violence, whether true or not, prior to the filing of a divorce complaint." 84

What upset Kiernan was that a law designed to prevent domestic violence (the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act) was openly being used to falsely accuse men of spouse abuse. But the devastation to a man's reputation and career is the less important consequence. The false accusation allows the woman to obtain the children because the father is a suspected abuser. The false accusation also justifies a woman being able to obtain an emergency restraining order to kick a man out of his home prior to the commencement of divorce proceedings, thereby also increasing her likelihood of obtaining the children because they are "living with the mother now and stability dictates their remaining with the mother."

But this is what most astonished Kiernan:

"the number of women attending the seminars who smugly — indeed boastfully — announced that they had already sworn out false or grossly exaggerated domestic-violence complaints against their hapless husbands, and that the device worked! To add amazement to my astonishment, the lawyer-lecturers invariably congratulated the self-confessed miscreants."

Unsubstantiated and false accusations of spouse abuse or child abuse ruin a man's reputation even if he is ultimately found to be innocent.

Why are men so damaged by "reputation ruining"? Men's ability to earn leads to their ability to gain love. Destroying earning potential means destroying love potential. Observe how frequently a man will die from a heart attack or cancer — or just commit suicide — shortly after his reputation is ruined. Yet these deaths are recorded as heart attacks, not husband abuse. And not murder.


84. Thomas Kiernan in the "Voice of the Bar," the letter-to-the-editor section of the New Jersey Law Journal, April 21, 1988, p. 6. Kiernan said "these events were advertised under such titles as 'Women's Strategies For Divorce' and 'Women: Know Your Rights In Divorce.'"


Property abuse and career destruction


Item. As I walked into the Pannikin — a coffee shop where I occasionally edit my writing — I spotted a friend of mine who looked depressed. It turned out that he and his wife were divorcing; his wife had just destroyed all the architectural plans he was working on.

We have traditionally thought of the body of work that men produce over the course of a lifetime as the psychological equivalent of the children that women produce over the course of a lifetime. Is "husband career damage" via property abuse a female style of abuse, albeit unrecognized and therefore invisible? The only hint we have is that more than two-thirds of lesbians who were abused had their property destroyed or damaged. 85 We don't have any data for men. It is interesting that only when women are the victims of property abuse do we care enough to study it. In contrast, when I am watching a film and the woman is ruining a man's career, as in First Wives' Club, I am saddened to hear the cheering from among so many in the audience, especially women.


85. Claire M. Renzetti, "Violence in Lesbian Relationships," op. cit.,: A Preliminary Analysis of Causal Factors," Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 3, No. 4, December, 1988, p. 391, Table 1.


Psychological abuse

When lesbian abuse is studied, psychological abuse is often considered as important as physical abuse. 86 Studies of heterosexuals, though, have noticeably avoided psychological abuse. Psychological abuse comes up only when the evidence is clear that the sexes physically abuse equally; then the first response is, "when women abuse men physically it's because men have abused women psychologically first."

Why have we been so hesitant to study psychological abuse among heterosexuals? Was it because we sensed all along that women are more likely to use psychology to abuse men because that's their strength and men's weakness? Were we afraid to explore anything that might make men look less guilty ("the men were also abused") or force women to take responsibility ("the women were also abusers")? If that was not the reason, why is it that psychological abuse is suddenly so important when women (as in the lesbian community) are its victims, or when a woman is the perpetrator of physical abuse?

Now that we know that men are abused at least as much, though, it will be easier to study the entire abuse system — male and female, psychological and physical.

What little we do know about heterosexual psychological abuse seems to indicate that the sexes swear and insult each other about equally, and that women threaten men with violence more. One study is from New Zealand, and the other is unpublished raw data from the University of New Hampshire's Family Research Lab. 87

A few men have said to me, "And women manipulate us psychologically by crying more." The New Zealand study did verify that women cry more during conflicts, 55% vs. 16%, 88 but I do not personally feel that all crying can be called manipulative and, therefore, psychological abuse. That is, many men do feel manipulated by a crying woman, but that does not necessarily mean that the woman intended manipulation.

In my own observation of the sexes over three decades, I find women and men psychologically abuse each other in different ways. Men are more likely to disappear at work, disappear into a project in the garage, or disappear into a bottle; to withdraw behind a newspaper or in front of the TV; to become addicted to sports or to gambling. Women are more likely to shop and spend, nag and manipulate, or withdraw from sex or into a romance novel. Contrary to popular opinion, both are about equally likely to have affairs. Both sexes employ forms of power intended to compensate for feelings of powerlessness. Both sexes experience Pyrrhic victories.


86. Ibid. Claire M. Renzetti, "Violence in Lesbian Relationships: A Preliminary Analysis of Causal Factors," Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 3, No. 4, December, 1988, p. 391, Table 1.

87. The New Zealand study by Lynn Magdol, et. al., Terrie E. Moffitt, Avshalom Caspi, Denise L. Newman, Jeffrey Fagan, and Phil A. Silva, "Gender Differences in Partner Violence in a Birth Cohort of 21-Year-Olds," op. cit.,: Bridging the Gap Between Clinical and Epidemiological Approaches," Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 65. No. 1, 1997, p. 68-78, found that women were more likely to insult or swear: 67% vs. 53%. The New Hampshire study, from the 1992 National Alcohol and Family Violence Survey and based on a nationwide probability sample of 1970 cases (with a 4X Hispanic over-sample and the data weighted accordingly) was conducted by Dr. Glenda Kaufman Kantor of the Family Research Lab (University of New Hampshire). Raw data printout provided by Dr. Jana L. Jasinski (New Hampshire: Family Research Laboratory, July 8, 1996). It found 11% of the women threatened to hit or throw something at the man; 8% of the men threatened to hit or throw something at the women; 46% of the women insulted or swore at the men; 45% of the men insulted or swore at the women.

88. Ibid., the 1992 National Alcohol and Family Violence Survey., based on a nationwide probability sample of 1,970 cases (with a 4X Hispanic over-sample and the data weighted accordingly) conducted by Dr. Glenda Kaufman Kantor of the Family Research Lab (University of New Hampshire). Raw data printout provided by Dr. Jana L. Jasinski (New Hampshire: Family Research Laboratory, July 8, 1996).


"My partner knows just which buttons to push"


Perhaps the most Pyrrhic victory is "pushing our partner's buttons." Spouse abuse is usually preceded by a pattern of unwanted dialogue that is nevertheless repeated. 89 Think about "unwanted" and "repeated." Meaning both sexes know they are escalating their partner's anger, but continue to do it anyway. Do some people on some level need to verbally batter more than they need to avoid being physically battered?

Yes. Why? Words contain more potential for rejecting us than being hit. The old saw should be, For "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can break my heart." For some people physical battering allows them to express themselves without doing as much damage as they would with words.

Which is why the solution is reworking the entire system of communicating criticism. Then we can focus not on abuse and victims, but on ways of using disagreements as opportunities to deepen our compassion and therefore our love.


89. Linda M. Harris, Ph.D. and Ali R. Sadeghi, "Realizing: How Facts are Created in Human Interaction," Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Vol. 4, 1987, pp. 481-495. She found this true not only of spouse abuse, but of sibling abuse and abuse between generations.


How innocent women get hurt when guilty women go free


Everywhere Cindy Barry of Minnesota turned, she encountered the assumption that her batterer was a man. 90 Even in court, judges continually referred to her batterer as "he." Now she is protesting this assumption. Cindy was abused by her lesbian lover, and the image of women as non-violent led to Cindy not being taken seriously.

Ironically, a woman is once again discovering that the elimination of men's rights eventually hurts women — those women who have life experiences similar to some men's, such as being battered by a woman. Cindy Barry is having to fight to receive justice because laws were protecting women so completely that Cindy had no protection against these women. Feminism had become a type of female Mafia, protecting women who battered because they were women, but forgetting the rights of women victimized by women, as well as men and children victimized by women.


90. Julio Ojeda-Zapata, staff writer, Saint Paul (MN) Pioneer Press, October 21, 1990, p. 1B.


How innocent children get hurt when guilty women go free


Item. Laurie Dann was already under investigation by the FBI for extortion. 91 (She was demanding money in return for halting the phone harassment of the family of a doctor she had dated 18 years previously.) Police in the Chicago area had registered approximately a dozen complaints against her. When she and her husband Russell separated, Russell reported to the police "harassment, stabbings, purchasing of guns, and death threats." 92 He then reported that Laurie broke into the house and punctured him in the chest with an ice pick while he was asleep.

When Laurie Dann bought a .357 magnum revolver, Russell informed the police she threatened to kill him with it, but the police did not impound the gun. They did not even confront Laurie; they confronted only her father. Laurie then took the.357 magnum plus two other handguns and shot six children at an elementary school, leaving eight-year-old Nicholas Corwin to die. 93

When we fail to believe men who report abuse, we jeopardize children and the community. Is this "the system's" fault, or do our attitudes create the system? Thus even with all the complaints against Laurie, no inhibiting action was taken, and even when Laurie was accused of threatening to kill her husband with a newly-purchased.357 magnum, Laurie herself was never approached. The reverse would have led to a national police scandal.

When we think only men are serial killers, we are less likely to look for patterns when a woman is reported, therefore less likely to prioritize catching her, and thus leave all of those we love at risk. When we don't take seriously the men who report women, we unwittingly abuse our children. When we don't take seriously the female who commits a crime, she won't take committing a crime seriously.


91. Todd Sloane, "Laurie Dann: Anatomy of a Killer," Winnetka (IL) Talk, May 26, 1988, p. D2.

92. Ibid. Todd Sloane, "Laurie Dann: Anatomy of a Killer," Winnetka (IL) Talk, May 26, 1988, p. D2.

93. Chicago Tribune, May 21, 1988, Section 1.


Does the law protect women more than men?


Item. Evelyn Humphrey was very drunk. She took a gun and killed Albert Hampton, her live-in partner. She claimed he had been abusive the day before. His death prevented him from claiming he wasn't. She claimed "Battered Woman Syndrome." The California Supreme Court gave her an acquittal. 94 Until that time (1996), such a defense could only be used to reduce the charges to manslaughter for a woman who killed her spouse or partner. Now it can be used to give an acquittal to a woman — not a man.

The "Battered Woman Syndrome" legal defense is unconstitutional because there is no "Battered Man Syndrome" legal defense. Allowing a woman to claim she was defenseless when she, in fact, had time to physically escape gives women a permission to kill that is granted to no man under English or American law. In both respects, the "Battered Woman Syndrome" violates the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee to equal protection of all human beings regardless of sex. The only law more blatantly unconstitutional is male-only draft registration. The "Battered Woman Syndrome" is only one of eight legal defenses I discuss in The Myth of Male Power 95 that women can use to kill that cannot be used by men. Taken together with longer prison sentences for men for the same crime, they give men a clear message: "you are less valued than women...you are second class citizens."

Is the solution a "Battered Person Syndrome" allowing both sexes to kill abusers? Hardly. The implication? Physical aggression has been used to "resolve marital conflict" at least once in 60% of families. 96 But it isn't just spouses who would be able to murder each other. Ninety-three percent of gay men and 88% of gay women who were abusers said they had been physically abused as children. 97 Should we allow them to go to kill their parents, and call it self-defense? That would create a Family Murder Act to replace a Male Murder Act.


94. Maura Dolan, "Court Ruling Aids Women Who Kill Batterers," Los Angeles Times, August 30, 1996, p. A1 & A26.

95. Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1993; NY: Berkeley, paper, 1994)

96. Suzanne K. Steinmetz, The Cycle of Violence: Assertive, Aggressive, and Abusive Family Interaction (NY: Praeger Publishers, 1977), p. 86. This was based on a random sample of families in Delaware. The percentage is so high doubtless in part because families were asked to keep a record of their conflicts and therefore did not just have to rely on memory — in which, perhaps, only the more severe conflicts are recalled.

97. The study's author is Ned Farley of the Seattle Counseling Service for Sexual Minorities. The study consisted of 114 lesbian abusers and 165 gay batterers. Cited in Julio Ojeda-Zapata, op. cit. staff writer, St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press, October 21, 1990, p. 1B.


Conclusion & Solutions


If battering is a two-way street, so is its solution. And fortunately, the solution to physical and psychological abuse lies in focusing on prevention — especially the skills to handle personal criticism I discuss in Part I.

Are laws against physical abuse helpful?


Legal restriction are not the most powerful restraint operating on men. It is the fear of losing the love of the woman. And the self-loathing that emanates from months of slavishly attempting to rebuild trust. One way or another, the man who physically hits a woman has traded one minute of power for months of powerlessness.

Cross-culturally, laws that punish physical abuse do appear to have an inhibiting effect on physical abuse. 98 But not a big inhibiting effect. 99 In approximately 85% of domestic violence assault and homicide cases, police had visited that home address at least once in the two previous years. 100

Punishment is often society's cop-out from complexity. For example, imprisoning the abusive husband of a pregnant wife is often a cop-out from dealing via pregnancy counseling with the complex anxieties pregnancy creates. Yet, incentives for couples to take part in pregnancy counseling cost less than using taxpayer money to keep a husband in prison. To say nothing of the anxiety a pregnant woman feels when her husband is in jail (as opposed to counseling with jail as a back-up).

Both the laws against battering (and the attitude those laws reflect) did doubtless contribute to the 21% reduction in severe wife-beating. However, the biased application of those laws against male batterers doubtless leads to the less than 4% reduction in severe husband-beating, as well as to the increase in minor husband-beating (but not minor wife-beating).

The problem runs deeper with mandatory arrest laws. Once a person is arrested for domestic violence she or he is less likely to be re-arrested than someone to whom the police just gives advice, 101 but that doesn't tell us how many people just stay away from calling the police again when the result the last time was a criminal record for life. Also, they tie the hands of the police — turning them into automatons rather than professionals with judgment. It is better to respond to a call for help with a low profile car and police trained in communications work, with the authority to make a range of decisions depending on the situation.

Mandatory arrest laws are usually applied with extreme bias against men. When they aren't, the results are a bit ironic. Feminists pushed for those laws, but when the police arrived, even when the woman had called, it was often so apparent to the police that the woman had been the main abuser that the arrest rates of women for spousal abuse doubled since implementation of mandatory arrest laws in Los Angeles. 102 Many feminists have thus begun opposing what they previously supported when they thought only men would be arrested.

Given Suzanne Steinmetz' observation that since 60% of families have experienced abuse since marriage, 103 strict laws arresting abusers would be like laws allowing the actual arrest of anyone exceeding 55 miles per hour. Most of America would be in prison.

In brief, laws and police intervention can neither be dismissed as irrelevant, be enforced in a sexist manner (and expect not to be eventually found unconstitutional), nor be made so loose as to include virtually everyone. Most importantly, though, imprisonment is more expensive than empowerment. And imprisonment is less effective than empowerment.


98. Suzanne K. Steinmetz, "Battered Husbands: A Historical and Cross-Cultural Study" as reprinted in Francis Baumli, Ph.D., Men Freeing Men (NJ: New Atlantis Press, 1985), p. 203-213.

99. Only 19% of those arrested under a mandatory arrest policy were re-arrested, whereas 37% of those to whom advice was given by police officers were re-arrested. Sherman and Berk, "The Specific Deterrent Effects," American Sociological Review, Vol. 49, No. 2, 1984, pp. 261-272.

100. G. M. Wilt, J. D. Bannon, R. K. Breedlove, D. M. Sandker, J. W. Kennish, R. K. Sawtell, S. Michaelson, and P. B. Fox, Domestic Violence and the Police: Studies in Detroit and Kansas City (Washington, DC: Police Foundation, 1977).

101. Only 19% of those arrested under a mandatory arrest policy were re-arrested, whereas 37% of those to whom advice was given by police officers were re-arrested. Sherman and Berk, "The Specific Deterrent Effects," American Sociological Review, Vol. 49, No. 2, 1984, pp. 261-272.

102. John Johnson, "A New Side to Domestic Violence," Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1996.

103. Ibid.; and Suzanne K. Steinmetz, The Cycle of Violence:, op. cit. Assertive, Aggressive, and Abusive Family Interaction (NY: Praeger Publishers, 1977), p. 86.


Love him or leave him; love her or leave her?


Although the culture's attention is focused on helping women leave, we have seen men also fear leaving. They fear that leaving their wife means losing their children; that leaving their wife means leaving their children to be abused (abusive spouses are often abusive parents). It is men who have no shelters to turn to, no hot lines to call, no genetic heritage or socialization to ask for help, no education to request a restraining order; who believe the police will laugh at them; who feel dirty laundry shouldn't be aired in public; who have few men friends, fewer men's support groups, minimal vocabulary for discussing these issues...

One of the most destructive-to-women myths is that women are powerless to leave men — the men will just come after them and kill them. The myth is perpetuated by films like Sleeping With the Enemy, in which an abused woman runs away after faking her own death and changing her identity, but her husband nevertheless tracks her down. The message is "there's no way you can escape an abusive man and remain alive — they're the cleverest, most psychopathic, schizoid terrorists on earth." But is it true?

Some men do come after women, and some women do hire contract killers. There are no guarantees for either sex that they will be safe if they leave or stay. But almost every time I have read of a spouse "coming after" the party who has left, one or more of these "five catalysts to violence-after-leaving" has occurred.

The five catalysts to violence-after-leaving:


(1) Deplete the bank account

(2) Leave a vitriolic, rejecting note;

(3) Take the kids;

(4) Have the spouse arrested.

(5) Have a lover and go to her or his house

Obviously, arresting a spouse is sometimes not only necessary but appropriate. But it is a risk factor, to be balanced by the risk factor of not arresting. If the arrest has been manipulated to keep children, the risk of retaliation increases. The purpose of knowing these catalysts is to empower an abused spouse to leave safely. The two rules of thumb are, "set firm boundaries" and "help your partner save face" even as you enforce the boundaries.

For a husband who leaves, there's a sixth catalyst: the larger your life insurance policy, the greater the incentive to have you killed, and making it appear as an accident, as discussed above.

The "Battered Woman Syndrome," then, is an insult to women's intelligence. It suggests that only women cannot figure out a way of leaving while her spouse is at work, or on a sales trip, or on a fishing weekend; or that only she cannot feign a weekend trip with a woman friend or to her parents. But in the final analysis, there are no guarantees of violence avoidance for either sex. The best we can do is to know that battering decreases as listening increases.

We occasionally read of men banging down the door of their home and hurting the woman and children. But remember, this is almost always when he has been evicted. Not when she has left. Were the roles reversed and he had gotten a restraining order to prevent her from returning home and seeing the children, the chances of her resorting to violence would also increase.

Both sexes harass each other after separation. But women worry more whether his phone calls, for example, indicate physical danger. The three best clues are (1) their personal history of physical violence; (2) how much he feels rejected; and (3) whether or not she has taken the children "behind his back."

If he has no personal history of physical violence, then she protects herself best by negotiating with him (not dictating to him) a specific contract — of times to talk, of times when he versus she will have the children. Most men who aren't made to feel unilaterally rejected are good about sticking to contracts if they know they are firm and if the woman is sticking to her end of the deal. A contract allows him to focus on what he will receive rather than on what he has lost.

If a man slaps a woman, should she leave him?


Since women are more likely to slap men, the question that should be asked is, "If your partner slaps you should you leave?" Shelters are only available for women and they see the cases that have escalated, therefore they believe, "a man who slaps you once will slap you twice, will eventually beat you and batter you." They don't see that women are twice as likely to be the first ones to slap a man before and after a marriage — at the rate of 26% before a marriage, as we saw above — and that both sexes are less likely to hit each other as a relationship matures. Nor do they see why violence decreases when it does — how some couples have used the signal of a slap as a sign that the situation is out of control, that they need help and, as they're getting help, set firm boundaries: "if it happens again, I'm out of here."

Walking out doesn't consider the impact on children of one slap leading to the end of life as they knew it.

The power of a slap across the face from someone we love is not in the physical hurt of the slap nearly as much as in the rejection the slap might symbolize. If the slap symbolizes a breakdown in the system that has brought us love, it might hurt more than a broken nose on the football field that was achieved in the process of scoring a touchdown. The issue is not the pain, but the context.

We have allowed to atrophy the ability of our mind to "contextualize pain." Ellen Langer, a Harvard social psychologist, found that once a person has reinterpreted their pain into a more positive context, they are unlikely to return to the original painful context.

The paradigm shift for domestic violence work in the future, then, is to use the slap so that it is eventually contextualized as the start of a better marriage.

Inventing the victim: A Stage II luxury


In Stage II marriages more people can afford to leave partners who physically and psychologically abuse them. They can afford conditional love. And this new freedom has spawned whole libraries helping us get in touch with "the victim inside of us" (co-dependency, addiction, incest, battering, molestation,...). As the pendulum swings from "endure anything from anyone" to "sue anyone for anything," we have developed a new industry of competition to be the biggest victim. Lawyers and therapists are paid to find victims; when the supply runs short, they create them. We are making a transition from a nation who believed "When the going gets tough, the tough get going" to a nation who believes "When the going gets tough, get a tough lawyer."

When it actually pays to be a victim, the pendulum swings from "for better or for worse" marriages to "he slapped me, I'm gone" marriages. Which sometimes means "he slapped me, give me the kids and pay me" marriages.

The politics of abuse: The great inequality


In the arena of relationship arguments, women are about as much the masters as men are on football fields. But women's misuse of relationship power is legal; men's misuse of physical power is illegal. The illegality of physical abuse makes men more restrained in the use of their physical power than women are in the use of their relationship power. This might be called "The Great Inequality."

We are now in a bind. We have discovered the need for a two sex approach to domestic violence, but federal and state governments give tax exemptions to organizations like the United Way which fund this feminist blame-the-male approach. It would be naive to think that these interlocking bureaucracies (governments, foundations, and feminism) will change by readers passively absorbing this information. Politicians must know their constituencies are divided — not united — in the view of man-as-perpetrator, woman-as-victim. Foundations must know their tax exempt status is being called into question due to their discrimination against men. They must see copies of letters written to Congress persons and Senators. And be offered solutions.

If we wish to help men and women to help themselves, I believe we will need to do the following:

• Train equal numbers of male and female counselors (worldwide) to take a non-sexist, systems approach to battering — the approach outlined in Part I.

• Establish Family Communication workshops to be available to everyone, without it being associated with domestic violence. A much cheaper investment than prisons.

• Require the police department to transfer all domestic violence calls to a 24-hour domestic violence hotline funded adequately enough to send out a man and woman to work with an in-crisis couple.

• The police are used only when the man or woman desires the police after the other alternative is offered.

• If the hotline is used more than once, a user fee must be paid by the couple if they do not commit to attend the free Family Communication workshops.

It is cheaper to empower than to imprison


Can mandatory communication workshops be enforced? Yes. If the first-time batterer is given a choice between mandatory arrest or a mandatory communication workshop... it won't take long for workshops to be fuller and prisons to be emptier. Taxpayer money will be sowing seeds of love rather than breeding anger. It is cheaper to empower than it is to imprison.

In conclusion, when domestic violence is seen as a two-way street, it frees us to transfer from a "men must give up their power" model for treatment to a "walk a mile in each other's moccasins" model for treatment. It frees us to focus not on a scapegoat oppressor, but a mutual responsibility dance; not on punishment, but prevention. It frees us not to treat a slap as terminal cancer, but as a signal we need to make our love healthier. We have an opportunity to make a paradigm shift from the world of victimhood — of learned helplessness defenses, battered women's shelters and syndromes, mandatory arrest policies, and restraining orders — to the world of relationship training in elementary school; workshops on "how to hear criticism" and "how to give criticism" — the world of redefining love.



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Last updated 5/16/18