By Karen S. Peterson,
TODAY ~ USA
WASHINGTON — It is not just men who hit women. Women hit men, too. And the latest research shows that ignoring the role women play in domestic violence does both women and men a disservice.
There is little doubt that women get hurt more than men. She may slap him. But then he may hit her harder or more often. By not understanding the mutual role they often play, women are at great risk for injury, new studies show. Still, the newest findings challenge the feminist belief that "it is men only who cause violence," says psychologist Deborah Capaldi of the Oregon Social Learning Center. "That is a myth."
The number of women who hit first or hit back is "much greater than has been generally assumed," Capaldi says. She says she is surprised by the frequency of aggressive acts by women and by the number of men who are afraid of partners who assault them.
Capaldi and two other female researchers call for a re-evaluation of treatment programs nationwide. Such programs focus on men and ignore women. Men are court-ordered into some type of rehabilitation, and their women are told in support groups or shelters that they had nothing to do with the violence, Capaldi says.
"Prevention and treatment should focus on managing conflict and aggression for both young men and women," Capaldi says. Each needs to understand the role both play while still putting a "special responsibility" on the man, who can inflict greater injury.
The three women did different studies but presented them as a team recently to a conference sponsored by the Society for Prevention Research. The National Institutes of Health sponsored much of the work.
The researchers emphasize they are not blaming women. "We are not saying anybody is at fault," says psychologist Miriam Ehrensaft of Columbia University.
"But new data is emerging that says women are also involved in aggression. If we do not tell women that, we put them at risk."
Rita Smith of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is not convinced that men are afraid of abusive women. "That fear is a critical factor in any domestic violence situation. And the abuse is part of an ongoing pattern to control someone else's behavior."
Murray Straus, co-director of the Family Research Lab at the University of New Hampshire, has found both men and women are involved in physical aggression, but he emphasizes injury rates are not the same. "The likelihood of an injury to a woman requiring medical attention is much greater. Men cause more damage."
The little-talked-about involvement of women in mutual aggression with men is "the third rail of the domestic violence field," says Richard Gelles, dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work. "Touch it and you get electrocuted." Both he and Straus have done studies that caused fiery controversies.
Gelles says the lifetime risk of a woman being struck by a male intimate partner is about 28%. And "depending upon who is doing the survey and how you measure it, you could get numbers of up to 50%." But he says a man's lifetime risk of being struck by a woman is also about 28%.
Labels: Best interests, Court Enabled PAS, Denial of Reasonable Parent-Child Contact, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Due Process, False Accusations, Family Court, Legal Abuse, Parental Alienation, Social Issues
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