In "soft" sciences like sociology, it's much more difficult to detect manipulation of research, than in "hard" sciences like physics. Soft science researchers who strive for objectivity deserve an extra measure of respect. Sadly, far too many researchers are more concerned with pushing an agenda than with objectivity. These same problems are not unknown in the world of journalism. Since the soft sciences and the media have a powerful influence on social policies in this country, this affects every family and every individual.
August 17, 2005
For thirty years now, researchers have known that wives kick, punch, stab, or shoot their husbands about as often as husbands kick, punch, stab, or shoot their wives. But federal law ignores the facts and instead uses the power of the purse to get states to impose Kafkaesque policies that punish victimized men and reward violent women.
Back in 1975, the First National Family Violence Survey turned up results that surprised even the sociologists conducting the survey. Wives attack husbands about as often as husbands attack wives. And wives attack first about as often as husbands attack first, which is strong evidence that women's assaults on men can't be explained away simply as self-defense.1 But battered women's advocates were intent on portraying domestic violence as something only men do and only women suffer from. So they'd conveniently leave out the part about women's assaults on men whenever they cited the study's results.2
Susan R. Paisner is a criminologist and longtime advocate for abused women and men. She recalls being stunned by the hostile attitudes toward male victims that she encountered at one of the nation's first conferences on domestic violence. She naively thought that "we were all there to do good -- for all who needed it." Yet when she mentioned having read a brief newspaper article about male victims, many of the other women at the conference turned on her, saying, "This is OUR issue, OUR cause. If men are battered, then let other MEN do something for them."3
The Second National Family Violence Survey was conducted ten years after the first. Contrary to advocates' claims of an epidemic of wife abuse, violence toward women had declined. But violence toward men by women had not changed since the first survey.4
When battered women's advocates lobbied Congress, they quoted only the part of the results that suited their agenda. And so, in spite of longstanding knowledge among researchers about the existence of significant numbers of abusive women and victimized men, Congress enacted legislation in 1994 that addressed only part of the problem. Rather than passing an inclusive Family Violence Act, they enacted a Violence Against Women Act.
VAWA provided billions of dollars for organizations whose primary purpose is helping abused women, but nothing whatsoever for organizations to help abused men. The Violence Against Women Office, which administers VAWA, states that the law prohibits funding of programs that focus on male victims.5 At least one state agency that distributes VAWA funds explicitly lists "Programs that focus on children and/or men" under "Ineligible Activities" on their application form.6
Even after receiving $5.1 billion under the past two VAWA bills, battered women's advocates still argue that there's too little money, and therefore the government should allocate no funding whatsoever for organizations whose primary purpose is to help the 835,000 men the U.S. Dept. of Justice estimates are assaulted by their partner annually.7 Yet somehow there's enough money in the current $4.2 billion VAWA reauthorization bill to make special provisions for an estimated 16,304 Native Americans,8 but of course, only if those Native Americans are female. No males need apply.
RADAR (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting) has reviewed the VAWA reauthorization bill and identified the numerous serious problems listed below.9 The bill:
VAWA should have treated all people equally when it was first enacted. Instead, VAWA tramples on persons' basic human rights while ignoring what scientific researchers have known for three decades. Our elected officials have a responsibility to make sure VAWA helps all victims of domestic violence.
1 Richard J. Gelles, Ph.D., "The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence: Male Victims", (The Women's Quarterly, 1999, http://www.breakingthescience.org/RichardGelles_MissingPersonsOfDV.php)
3 Susan R. Paisner , personal communication, January 2005.
4 Gelles, Op Cit
5 Rejection letter from Delaware Domestic Violence Coordinating Council to Forum for Equity and Fairness in Family Issues, October 9, 2002, http://www.menshealthnetwork.org/library/VAWArejectDel1002.pdf quoting documentation provided by the Violence Against Women Office which says, "states must fund only programs that focus on violence against women".
6 Rejection letter from North Central Texas Council of Governments to Fathers for Equal Rights, December 16, 2002, http://www.menshealthnetwork.org/library/VAWArejectDallas1202.pdf including copy of application form which lists "Programs that focus on children and/or men" as the first item under "Ineligible Activities".
7 National Institute of Justice, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, "Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey," p. 7 (http://www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles/172837.pdf)
National Institute of Justice, Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, "Extent, Nature, and
Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence,"
p. iii, states that 1.5% of women reported being raped or physically
assaulted by a partner in the previous year. U.S. Census Bureau
reports the population of American Indians and Alaska Natives as
9 A document containing more detail on each point can be downloaded from http://www.mediaradar.org/RADAR_Analysis_of_VAWA.pdf.
10 Ms. Foundation for Women, "Safety & Justice for All", 2003, http://www.ms.foundation.org/user-assets/PDF/Program/safety_justice.pdf, "Undue Compulsion", p. 6
11 Cathy Young, "Hitting Below the Belt", Salon.com, 10/25/1999, http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/1999/10/25/restraining_orders/index.html, p. 2, tape recorded remarks of Judge Richard Russell of Ocean City, N.J. at a training seminar for municipal judges, printed in the New Jersey Law Journal.