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Groundbreaking study shows need for unbiased domestic violence services

3/13/2007 12:02:26 PM
Many men suffer physical abuse from their female partners, live in fear of them, and are denied help by the domestic violence system, according to a ground-breaking study recently published in the Journal of Family Violence.

The study describes 190 male callers to a domestic violence hotline, men from all walks of life who found that resources for males seeking help with an abusive female partner are virtually nonexistent. It appears to be common for abusive wives to use controlling behaviors, and they are especially prone to using their children as pawns to control their husbands. And federally funded shelters and hotlines commonly deny services to men, and ignore Congress' stated intent that services are to be

provided to victims regardless of gender.

Co-author Edward Dunning explains that the idea for the study was conceived by Mark Rosenthal, now President of Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting (RADAR). "I worked closely with Mark during his term as a member of the helpline's board. He broached the idea that the data we'd been collecting was the only data in the world at that time on the characteristics of men who've been subjected to violence by the women in their lives. He realized that this data could be an invaluable

resource in furthering society's understanding of the dynamics of family violence."

"The situations described by these callers are hardly surprising to anyone who has followed high-profile cases of female violence" explains Rosenthal. "Clara Harris, for example, repeatedly drove over her husband while their daughter begged her not to kill her father. Men are not the only victims of a system that refuses to recognize that some women can be abusive. The children in these families are also victimized when the parent they look to for protection is denied help for no reason other

than having been born male."

Dunning, co-founder of the Family Interventions Project in Vacaville, Calif. began answering helpline calls shortly after completing a study of men and women convicted of domestic violence. Both that study and the one just published explored the dynamics of intimate partner violence using the Duluth Power and Control Wheel. "Conventional wisdom holds that all domestic violence stems from male power and control, as evident in DV laws and policies. Both of these studies strongly indicate that

this belief system is incorrect. Females are equally capable of power and control behaviors."

"Allowing callers to define their own problems in their own words provided a method of controlling for researcher bias and yielded practical information on working with males in abusive relationships," says Dunning. After the data had been collected by Dunning and Jan Brown, the helpline's founder, and Rosenthal had written custom software for recording the data, researcher Denise Hines, then of the Univ. of New Hampshire Family Research Laboratory, did statistical analysis and collaborated

with Dunning on authoring the paper.

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