The Not-So-Great Debate on Domestic Violence

In October 2010, I agreed to a debate on Domestic Violence with Men's Rights Activist Paul Elam of the blog A Voice for Men, to take place on his blog. Unfortunately, it went off the rails fairly quickly. At about the same time as he put up my first post in the debate, Elam put up a separate piece on his blog, suggesting, as a "joke," that October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, should be renamed "Bash a Violent Bitch Month." He then tried to twist the rules of our debate in a way that would benefit him, and threatened to censor a commenter on the debate who'd had the temerity to disagree with him.

After several frustrating exchanges with him on this issue I decided to end the debate. You can read all the gory details here, and more about his childish behavior afterwards here.

All of which is by way of explaining why, when you go to look at the debate on his site, it runs under the headline "DV Debate: David Futrelle Fulminates, Loses Temper and Debate," and why the introduction to the debate refers to me as a "fucking moron."

Classy, Paul.

If you want to read his portion of the debate, you'll have to read it on his site; I don't have permission to repost it here.

But if you'd like to read my portion of the debate without his childish spin, here it is. You can also comment on it without being censored, so long as you keep my fairly liberal comment policy in mind.

My first post, a response to this piece on his site.(The bits in brackets are references to specific sources, listed at the end of the post.) This post offers a fairly detailed response to typical arguments made by MRAs on this issue.

Paul, you have delivered up a fairly standard-issue MRA argument on Domestic Violence, from your pro forma anti-feminist jabs down to the almost ritual invocation of Martin Fiebert's sacred Annotated Bibliography.

Like most such efforts, your argument depends on a highly selective reading of the scientific literature on DV, virtually ignoring a huge number of studies -- literally several thousand -- that directly contradict your conclusions. [MK] You've ignored the serious methodological flaws of the studies you cite, and drawn conclusions from the research that the researchers themselves have stated explicitly are completely false. Your grand conclusion, that "domestic violence has nothing to do with what sex you are" could not be more wrong.

Let's deal with the first two points first.

Anyone looking into the vast literature on the subject will be struck at once by the radically different conclusions researchers have drawn from their data.

One group of studies, the one that you relied on almost exclusively, advances an idea called "gender symmetry." That is, they seem to show that men and women start fights, and land blows, in roughly equal percentages.

A second, and much larger, group of studies, finds men responsible for the overwhelming majority of DV. According to a nationwide survey conducted by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 22% of women said they had been assaulted by a current or former intimate partner at some point in their lives; only 7% of men said the same. [NIJ]

And that may actually understate the imbalance: indeed, one Department of Justice survey found that 95% of the victims of DV were women. These studies also find that women are injured far more frequently, and far more severely, by DV: one study of domestic disturbance calls involving injury found that women were injured 94% of the time; men, only 14% of the time. [APA]

There's a good reason why we should take these studies more seriously than the ones you cited. Most of the "gender symmetry" studies are surveys conducted using a methodologically flawed research tool called the Conflict Tactics Scale, originally developed by researcher Murray Straus in the 1970s. Indeed, the vast majority of the studies examined in the John Archer meta-study you mentioned used the CTS. [MK]

Researchers using the CTS ask survey respondents about an assortment of specific acts of violence. What the CTS doesn't ask about are the causes, contexts, or consequences of these acts of violence.

As a result, one critic notes, the CTS "equates a woman pushing a man in self-defense to a man pushing a woman down the stairs. It labels a mother as violent if she defends her daughter from the father's sexual molestation. It combines categories such as "hitting" and "trying to hit" despite the important difference between them. Because it looks at only one year, this study equates a single slap by a woman to a man's 15 year history of domestic terrorism." [MYTH]

This problem is exacerbated by the lack of attention given to the motivations behind the violence. While both men and women use violence to express anger, a number of studies show that men are far more likely to use domestic violence to control their victim, to "show who is boss." Other studies that look at motivation find that much female "violence" is in fact self-defense. [APA]

There are other serious problems with the CTS as a measure of DV. The first version of the questionnaire left out sexual assaults by current or former intimate partners, which according to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) make up nearly 20% of all spousal assaults; such assaults are overwhelmingly committed by men against women. [MK] And the CTS also ignores violence that happens after partners separate, another critical omission, because violence tends to escalate, sometimes quite dramatically, after a separation. The NCVS found that separated women are 8 times as likely to face violence from an ex-partner than married women are from their husbands. [MK]

Researchers who use the CTS and similar surveys have acknowledged that their surveys provide only a limited look at DV as a whole, and that they do not capture much of the most serious kinds of abuse.

Unfortunately, the Men's Rights Activists who have seized upon these surveys as evidence that women are equally abusive as men, ignoring these crucial caveats.

As a result, the researchers most involved in developing and refining the CTS over the years have explicitly denounced the opportunistic use of their findings by MRAs and others with an axe to grind against feminism. Murray Straus, for example, has noted that "the statistics are likely to be misused by misogynists and apologists for male violence." [MF]

And you may recall Richard Gelles; he was one of the original developers of the CTS and has been one of the loudest proponents of the "gender symmetry" argument. You quoted him in your post to buttress your points. But he has been as scathing towards the MRAs who misrepresent his research as he has been to those who originally greeted his research with threats:

"The statement that men and women hit one another in roughly equal numbers is true, however, it cannot be made in a vacuum without the qualifiers that a) women are seriously injured at seven times the rate of men and b) that women are killed by partners at more than two times the rate of men....

[W]hen we look at injuries resulting from violence involving male and female partners, it is categorically false to imply that there are the same number of “battered” men as there are battered women. Research shows that nearly 90 percent of battering victims are women and only about ten percent are men… The most brutal, terrorizing and continuing pattern of harmful intimate violence is carried out primarily by men. [FAQ]

Straus, meanwhile, urges those citing his research to remember that women suffer far more from the consequences of abuse, and that because of this the "first priority in services for victims and in prevention and control must continue to be directed toward assaults by men [MS]

So, Paul, do you still think that "domestic violence has nothing to do with what sex you are?"

The point of all this is not to deny that men suffer from DV. They do, and though a much smaller percentage of men suffer from serious abuse than women, the suffering they endure is every bit as real. Men don't have to suffer half of all serious abuse for their suffering to count; there is no need to exaggerate to make the point that we as a society need to take abuse directed at men more seriously.

The question is what is to be done about it. And it is here that the Men's Rights movement in general, and you in particular, Paul, have failed completely, in many ways making the problem even worse. The solution to DV against men is not to publish articles with titles like "When is it OK to Punch Your Wife," filled with explicit fantasies of male retribution against women. [EL] The solution to female violence is not more male violence.

And it is not to send angry MRAs to harass the donors to a DV shelter with phone calls in an attempt to get them to stop funding the shelter, as Glenn Sacks did to The Family Place, a DV shelter that ran some ads he deemed "misandrist." Even if the ads were "misandrist" -- and I don't think they were -- how is trying to make life harder for female victims of abuse possibly going to help male victims of abuse? [ALAS]

Shelters for women did not fall from the sky. They were not set up by a feminist matriarchy. They exist because individual women activists -- and some men, but mostly women -- built them, over much opposition, over the course of several decades, starting at a time when almost no one took DV against women (or men) seriously. Most shelters today run on shoestring budgets, and face the constant threat of violence from men angry at the women sheltered in them. Most, while not set up to handle male victims, try to help as best they can; the Family Place, the shelter targeted by Sacks, gives male victims vouchers for hotel rooms so they have a place to stay. [ALAS]

My challenge to the MRM is simple: if you really want DV shelters for men, and aren't simply interested in scoring rhetorical points against feminists, build them. Don't complain that feminists aren't fighting your battles for you. Get off the Internet, get your hands dirty, and actually make a difference.


Specific sources for information and quotes, in the order in which they appear in the essay.

[MK]“Gender Symmetry” in Domestic Violence: A Substantive and Methodological Research Review, by Michael S. Kimmel, “VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, Vol. 8 No. 11, November 2002 [Note: pdf]

[NIJ] Selected Research Results on Violence Against Women (National Institute of Justice)

[APA] Are Physical Assaults by Wives and Girlfriends a Major Social Problem? A Review of the Literature, by DANIEL G. SAUNDERS, VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, Vol. 8 No. 12, December 2002 [pdf]

[MYTH] The Myth of the "Battered Husband Syndrome, by Jack C. Straton, Ph.D.

[MF] Claims about husband battering. by Michael Flood, DVIRC Newsletter, Summer 1999, Melbourne: Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre

[FAQ] FAQ: But doesn’t evidence show that women are just as likely to batter their partners as men?

[EL] When is it OK to Punch Your Wife, by Paul Elam, The Spearhead, September 14, 2010

[ALAS]  The Family Place To MRAs: “Instead of bashing women’s organizations, stand up and help somebody yourself.”Alas, a Blog:

Other sources consulted:



Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey, by Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes. National Institute of Justice Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Research in Brief, November 1998 [pdf]

Measuring the Extent of Woman Abuse in Intimate Heterosexual Relationships: A Critique of the Conflict Tactics Scales, by Walter Dekeseredy and Martin Schwartz, VAWnet February 1998

Domestic Violence Factoids, Richard J. Gelles

Physical assaults by women partners:A major social problem. Straus, M. A. (1997). In M. R. Walsh (Ed.), Women, men and gender: Ongoing debates (pp. 210-221). New Haven: Yale University Press. [pdf]

Processes explaining the concealment and distortion of evidence on gender symmetry in partner violence, by MA Straus - European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 2007 [pdf]

Differences in Frequency of Violence and Reported Injury Between Relationships With Reciprocal and Nonreciprocal Intimate Partner Violence, by Daniel J. Whitaker, PhD, Tadesse Haileyesus, MS, Monica Swahn, PhD and Linda S. Saltzman, PhD; May 2007, Vol 97, No. 5 | American Journal of Public Health

[Cited by Elam as CDC Report- American Journal of Public Health]

Sex Differences in Aggression Between Heterosexual Partners: A Meta-Analytic Review, by John Archer Psychological Bulletin 2000, Vol. 126, No. 5, [pdf]

Homicides and Intimate Partner Violence : A Literature Review, by Lorena Garcia, Catalina Soria and Eric L. Hurwitz, Trauma Violence Abuse October 2007 vol. 8 no. 4

Female Perpetration of Violence in Heterosexual Intimate Relationships : Adolescence Through Adulthood, by Jessica R. Williams, Reem M. Ghandour and Joan E. Kub, Trauma Violence Abuse October 2008 vol. 9 no. 4

Paul's response to my first post ignored my substantive arguments, and dismissed the research I cited because some of the researchers were feminists. Don't take my word for it; you can read it on his site if you want.

My second post:

So, Paul, instead of actually responding to anything substantive, you:

*attack feminist scholarship that I didn't actually cite

*rehash a tiff you had with one of the experts I quoted

*attack someone else completely irrelevant to the debate at hand because he happens to belong to an organization the the guy you had the tiff with also belongs to

*list a bunch of researchers that I do actually cite, but that you've somehow decided are evil ideologues and not to be trusted, without actually examining any of their work, simply because they have described themselves as "feminists."

I guess your modus operandi is simple: when you have no ammunition, you start flinging bullshit.

Let's run through the actual substantive disagreement underlying our debate.

You claimed that with regard to Domestic Violence "women are half the problem."

I showed you, clearly and simply and logically, why this is not so. I made arguments. I offered evidence, from government surveys and peer-reviewed academic journals, backing this up.

Not only this, but I offered evidence of this from THE VERY PEOPLE YOU CITE to support your argument. They, too, say that male violence towards women is a bigger problem than women's violence. They, too, recognize that the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS) that they use in their research has limitations, particularly when it comes to making sense of the actual impact of abuse.

Fact is, there is NO credible researcher in the field who thinks "women are half the problem." Not one. The people who invented the CTS scale don't think that's the case because, even if women hit half the time, they do far, far less damage than men, and cause far fewer injuries.

Let's try a quick quiz: Who said the following?

Women are seriously injured at seven times the rate of men and ... women are killed by partners at more than two times the rate of men....

[W]hen we look at injuries resulting from violence involving male and female partners, it is categorically false to imply that there are the same number of “battered” men as there are battered women. Research shows that nearly 90 percent of battering victims are women and only about ten percent are men… The most brutal, terrorizing and continuing pattern of harmful intimate violence is carried out primarily by men.

Was it: Michael Kimmel? Barry Goldstein? Daniel G. Saunders? Jack C. Straton? Michael Flood? Michael P. Johnson? Patricia Tjaden? Nancy Thoennes? Walter Dekeseredy? Martin Schwartz? Andrea Dworkin?

[NOTE: With the exception of Dworkin, a little joke on my part, these are all researchers Elam suggested were unreliable simply because they were feminists.]

The correct answer is: None of the above! The person who said it was a fellow named Richard Gelles.

So who is this Richard Gelles? Here's a short bio of him I found online:

Richard Gelles is currently a dean at the University of Pennsylvania and holds The Joanne and Raymond Welsh Chair of Child Welfare and Family Violence in the School of Social Policy & Practice.

He is an internationally known expert in domestic violence, and was influential in the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.

He certainly sounds like someone whose opinion might be worth paying attention to, doesn't he? I guess you already knew that, given that I'm quoting your description of him.

Question 2: Who said:

[Women are] physically injured to the point of needing medical attention seven times as often as husbands, they suffer psychological injury at much higher rates ... [The] first priority in services for victims and in prevention and control must continue to be directed toward assaults by men.

Was it: Michael Kimmel? Barry Goldstein? Daniel G. Saunders? Jack C. Straton? Michael Flood? Michael P. Johnson? Patricia Tjaden? Nancy Thoennes? Walter Dekeseredy? Martin Schwartz? Andrea Dworkin?

I guess you probably figured out that was another trick question. It was Murray Straus, one of the three researchers who, along with Gelles and Suzanne Steinmetz, was most responsible for the whole "gender symmetry" thing.

Oh, but you know that, because you mentioned him in your post -- though you spelled his name incorrectly. (It's Straus. One "s" at the end, not two.)

As for the rest of your nonsense:

You reject the work of Michael Kimmel, because, as far as I can tell from your crazy convoluted account, he said in an email that Men's Studies as a discipline has existed for several decades? Guess what! It HAS existed as a discipline for several decades. You may not like the ideological tendencies of some of those involved in it, but is has existed. I thought his note to you was quite polite, actually.

I'm not sure how any of this is relevant to our debate, or how this might somehow invalidate the findings of the article of his I cite. And neither do you, I bet, because you show no evidence of actually having read the paper in question.

And the others? I clicked on your links. Apparently they are indeed ... feminists.

So that's all it takes for you to reject their work without even looking at it? Work that has been published in actual peer-reviewed journals?

If you really think what they're putting out is feminist propaganda, why not take it up with the editors of, say, Family Law Review, or Trauma, Violence & Abuse? Oh, but then you'd probably have to actually read the articles. Also, the editors would probably laugh and hang up the phone. Because "s/he's a feminist!" isn't much of an argument.

I don't know if you know this, but not all feminists are like Andrea Dworkin. They don't all think the same things. They don't all hate men. (You may not believe this, but very few of them do.) They don't eat babies.

Lots of people, of various ideological persuasions, describe themselves as feminists. Some Gallup polls over the last few decades have found as many as 30% of Americans describing themselves as feminists. Hell, Sarah Palin has described herself as a feminist. (Of course, she's also described herself as a grizzly bear, but that's a whole other topic.)

And guess what? Murray Straus, the guy who invented the CTS, and who is responsible more than any person for the notion of "gender symmetry" in DV ... is also a feminist.

Let me repeat that: The guy who designed the research tool that underlies all the research you've cited to buttress your argument ... describes himself as a feminist. Oh, sure, he's no fan of the feminists who've attacked his research, not by a long shot; he's absolutely scathing towards those particular feminists. But he still calls himself one, and he's appreciative of what feminism has done in fighting domestic abuse. As he puts it:

[I]t is important to recognize the tremendous contribution to human relationships and crime control made by feminist efforts to end violence against women. This effort has brought public attention the fact that PV [partner violence] may be the most prevalent form of interpersonal violence, created a world~wide detem1ination to cease ignoring PV, and take steps to combat PV. It has brought the rule of law to one of the last spheres of life where 'self-help' justice ... prevails by changing the legal status of domestic assaults, by changing police and court practices from one of ignoring and minimization PV to one of compelling the criminal justice system to attend and intervene. In addition, feminists have created two important new social institutions: shelters for battered women and treatment programs for male perpetrators.

(The source for that, and for him calling himself a feminist? One of the articles by him I cited earlier. You can find out which by actually reading them.)

So if you're going to throw out all the research I have cited that has been done by self-professed feminists, you're going to have to throw out his work as well.

Now if instead you want to reconsider, and actually offer a real critique of the studies I've cited instead of dismissing them out of hand, then we might have an actual debate. "Feminists bad!" is not an argument.

First, though, you might want to address the fact that the researchers you tout as the best in the field have explicitly stated that their work should NOT be used to claim that women are "half the problem" in DV, that women on average are injured much more often and much more seriously than men, and that the bulk of the resources should be directed towards women victims.

Once you've done that, perhaps we can have a serious debate over the other research I have cited, one that involves an actual discussion of their claims and their methodologies.

Do I expect you to actually address these substantive points? No. I don't think you're interested in an actual debate, because on some level you know your position is in fact untenable, and is not supported even by the research that you yourself cite.

But perhaps I should have guessed as much from someone whose response to Domestic Violence Awareness Month is to make tacky jokes about "Bash a Violent Bitch Month," replete with detailed descriptions of said bashing:

I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles.

And then make them clean up the mess.

Paul, I think it's time for you to clean up your own mess.

In his next response, Elam actually responded to several specific points I made, but much of his response was simply cut-and-pasted from an article by Straus critical of feminist scholarship on DV which I had not in fact cited. Elam ended the post by suggesting I was, in essence, a Nazi:

Futrelle and the others have had their capacity for critical thought, their human compassion and indeed their personal integrity compromised because rather than exercise common scrutiny when examining information, they have become a part of a collective of non thinkers with tunnel vision; a simple cell in a groupthink brain. It is a seriously debilitating condition with significant individual and far reaching social implications.
It is the same phenomena that allowed masses of people to justify slavery in their minds, countless wars, the collective festering and mindless hatred in 1936 Berlin, and many other forms of social malady.

Again, you can read his whole response on his site.

Here's my response:

Your reply to me is once again an exercise in missing the point.

Let's rehash the debate, such as it is, so far:

You: A large number of studies show that women hit men as often as men hit women, therefore women are half the problem.

Me: Those studies have serious methodological flaws, and do not address the context of consequences of DV. Women are injured far more often and severely than men. These facts are readily acknowledged BY THE VERY PEOPLE YOU CITE TO SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENT. Because of that THE VERY PEOPLE YOU CITE TO SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENT do NOT think women are "half the problem."

You: Some of the studies you cite are from known feminists, therefore I will dismiss them without even reading them. Also, Michael Kimmel once sent me an email I thought was really rude, and someone in an organization he also belongs to did some bad shit.

Me: Huh? Did you not hear me when I pointed out that THE VERY PEOPLE YOU CITE TO SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENT state quite plainly that women are injured far more often and far more severely than men? And that, because of this, THE VERY PEOPLE YOU CITE TO SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENT do NOT think women are "half the problem?" Also, "feminists=bad" is not much of an argument.

So that's the story up until your latest post. So let's dig into that one.

First, I will just point out the obvious once again: You STILL have not dealt with the fact that THE VERY PEOPLE YOU CITE TO SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENT do NOT think women are "half the problem." You can say whatever nonsense you want about the evils and the biases of feminist research, but unless and until you deal with this simple fact, you have not offered a rebuttal to my main point. No amount of rhetorical obfuscation can conceal this point, not even equating me with slaveholders and/or Nazis, as you do in your conclusion.

So let's go through this again. The flaws in the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS) I have mentioned are readily admitted to by those who use the tool, and by Straus and Gelles, TWO OF THE PEOPLE YOU CITE TO SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENT. They acknowledge that the CTS:

*Does not address the context or consequences of the violence.

Proof? Here's Murray Straus, who invented the CTS, and who is ONE OF THE PEOPLE YOU CITE TO SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENT, frankly acknowledging this fact, in precisely those terms: "The number of assaults by itself . . . ignores the contexts, meanings, and consequences of these assaults.” [quoted in APA cited above]

Straus also says:

Female assault rates based on the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS) can be misleading because the CTS does not measure the purpose of the violence, such as whether it is in self-defense, nor does it measure injuries resulting from assaults.

[From Straus, 1997, cited above]

When Straus set out to specifically research injuries suffered by both partners, he found that man-on-woman violence caused many times the number of injuries as women-on-man violence. This is him again, speaking of himself in the third person as is sometimes the case in academic research:

Stets and Straus found a rate of 3 percent for injury-producing assaults by men and 0.4 percent for injury-producing assaults by women. Somewhat lower injury rates were found by Brush for another large national sample-l.2 percent of injury-producing assaults by men and 0.2 percent for injury-producing assaults by women. An “injury adjusted” rate was computed using the higher of the two injury estimates. The resulting rate of injury producing assaults by men is 3.7 per 1,000 (122 X .03 = 3.66), and the rate of injury producing assaults by women is much lower-O.5 per 1,000 (124 X ,004 = 0.49). Thus the injury adjusted rate for assaults by men is six times greater than the rate of domestic assaults by women.[Straus, 1997]

Other problems of the CTS:

*It does not deal with the most severe forms of violence, which Gelles himself plainly acknowledges are mainly caused by men. I have quoted him twice above on this topic; I will not bother to quote him again.

As for the study you mentioned that found that, within their sample, 70% of the violence in relationships where only one partner was violent was caused by women, here is one critical take on the study that highlights this issue. The questions on the survey, the critics write:

do not capture all forms of violence that occur between relationship partners, including many of the more severe forms of partner violence ... Questions about emotional, verbal, psychological, or sexual aggression were also not included. Similarly, only a single item assessed injury to victims and it focused on injury frequency and excluded injury severity and whether medical attention was needed or sought. Thus, it is unclear whether the data presented here would be similar had the violence and injury assessment been more thorough or if different forms of violence had been measured and analyzed separately. [CDC2]

Who are the critics here? You should know: it's the authors of the study themselves, in their writeup of their own research.

Further, the CTS:

*Ignored sexual violence, a major component of violence between intimate partners, and again a form of violence dominated by men. (While the CTS has been revised, many of the older studies cited by Archer and Fiebert used the original form)

*Does not deal with violence that occurs AFTER separation. Numerous studies show that violence can escalate, sometimes dramatically, after separation. This is a major limitation of the CTS, as this sort of violence can be especially brutal. One study reports:

A higher percentage of women than men are physically abused, harassed, and stalked after the relationship ends. In a random U.S. survey, 4% of the women and 0.5% of the men reported being stalked by a current or past partner (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2001). In a random survey of the Canadian population, 24% said that violence became worse after separation, 37% said it stayed the same, and 39% said it occurred for the first time (Statistics Canada, 2001).Women in this study were significantly more likely to be severely victimized: 60% of women and 25% of men required medical attention. The results of the National Crime Victimization Survey show that violence against separated women is more than 8 times higher than rates for married women (Bachman & Saltzman, 1995).[APA]

As for the most severe form of violence -- murder -- one survey notes, "homicide rates are higher for women who have separated from their partners than for women in intact relationships ... and this heightened risk of homicide following a separation is not found for men."

[Source: the Kelly and Johnson paper I cited above.]

So this is a very serious limitation of the CTS research. You ask: “are we going to reject the results of hundreds of studies entirely because they did not include violence after the relationship was over?”

My answer is no. Are the studies conducted using the CTS worthless? Not at all. They just have limitations. In addition to not taking into consideration post-separation violence, there are two other very serious limitations: they don't do a good job of capturing the more serious kinds of violence in relationships, and they don't measure injury rates. Therefore they cannot be relied on to provide a comprehensive answer to the question "who abuses more?"

One last point:

I absolutely DO NOT agree that the DV debate is about whether or not men or women strike one another "equally", at least according to a survey method that ignores or obscures many of the more severe forms of violence, and does not measure the CONSEQUENCES of this violence.

In the end, I think that it is precisely this, the consequences of the violence, that matter most. The severity of the violence is critical, and so is the intent. If someone, male or female, slaps their partner lightly on the face in the heat of an argument, that's unquestionably a bad thing, but it is not as bad as if that person beat their partner black and blue. Both are counted as "violent" by the CTS, but there is a world of difference between these two kinds of violence. These sorts of distinctions matter.

And again, THE RESEARCHERS YOU CITE TO SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENT agree that men cause far more injuries than women, both physical and psychological. Yes, some women are extremely violent batterers. Yes, domestic violence against men, even when it doesn't result in injuries, should be taken seriously. But most of the victims of the most severe violence, as Straus and Gelles have both plainly stated, are women. I cannot see how you can possible conclude that women are "half the problem."

As for Straus' complaints about the reactions of some feminist researchers to his work: Does he have a good reason to be angry? Yes. Do his complaints mean that all research conducted by feminists should be dismissed out of hand? Absolutely not. (Besides, as I pointed out earlier, Straus still considers himself a feminist, and you're certainly not rejecting his work.) Do his complaints apply to any of the specific research I have cited in my posts here? No. Do these complaints somehow change the fact that THE VERY PEOPLE YOU CITE TO SUPPORT YOUR ARGUMENT believe that women suffer far more from DV than men? No.

If you want to make the case that any of the specific research I have cited is simply feminist propaganda, you cannot just assert this. No matter how often you repeat this specious argument, the fact that some feminist research is tainted by ideology does not mean that ALL or even much research by feminists is so tainted.

In this post, you do actually make several specific arguments about specific research. You note that the genders could be reversed in the quote I used about how the CTS "equates a woman pushing a man in self-defense to a man pushing a woman down the stairs, etc" and it would still be true. Of course, but as I've repeatedly pointed out, both Straus and Gelles acknowledge that women suffer far, far more severe violence than men, so that in the vast majority of cases in the real world, the more severe abuse described in that quote will in fact apply to male perpetrators and female victims.

On self-defense, again, studies vary, but as you will see below, Straus and Gelles believe that women are far more likely to strike back in self-defense.

On "who's the boss" violence: Yes, there are some conceptual differences in how best to measure this, but the studies that we do have find men much more likely to use violence to control their partners. In the world of social science research, this is hardly a FAIL, as you put it. It simply means we need more and better research. Of course, we ALWAYS need more and better research. If you know any studies that find the opposite, I'd like to see them.

I will end with a quote from an article co-authored by Straus and Gelles that I find particularly illuminating. Again, to remind you, these are the GUYS YOU CITE TO PROVE YOUR POINTS:

Perhaps the most controversial finding from our 1975 National Family Violence Survey was the report that a substantial number of women hit and beat their husbands. Since 1975 at least ten additional investigations have confirmed the fact that women hit and beat their husbands. Unfortunately the data on wife-to-husband violence has been misreported, misinterpreted, and misunderstood. Research uniformly shows that about as many women hit men as men hit women. However, those who report that husband abuse is as common as wife abuse overlook two important facts. First, the greater average size and strength of men and their greater aggressiveness means that a man’s punch will probably produce more pain, injury and harm than a punch by a woman. Second, nearly three-fourths of the violence committed by women is done in self-defense. While violence by women should not be dismissed, neither should it be overlooked or hidden. On occasion, legislators and spokespersons . . . have used the data on violence by wives to minimize the need for services for battered women. Such arguments do a great injustice to the victimization of women. [quoted in MK]

Speaking of which: Your "Bash a Violent Bitch Month" nonsense. I plainly referred to it as a joke. That doesn't really make it any more acceptable, nor does it suggest to me that you take violence against women very seriously.

This was the final post of mine on his site. But after I saw his "last reponse," which blatantly misrepresented an important study on DV, I wrote a response correcting him and posted it here.

Elam, of course, refuses to admit he made a mistake, and when I posted a link to my correction on his site, he promptly deleted my comment.


  1. Excellent commentary. Thank you.

  2. Although I think it was a fool's errand trying to have a substantive debate with Elam, particularly on a forum over which he has complete editorial control, your posts are an invaluable source of information. Thanks for doing the hard work, synthesizing all this research so coherently, and making it available to the rest of us.

    Having said that, I would be shocked if your articulate, substantiated, and even-handed posts changed even a single mind on Elam's forum. Idiots believe what they want to believe, and they don't let facts and reason get in the way.


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