October, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Calls for New Solutions – by Don Mathis

If there is anything to be learned from the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial, it is that it is too simplistic to assume that only men are offenders and only women are victims.

Most essays about domestic violence center around the “Man Bad, Woman Good” mindset. Rather than taking another spin on the faulty and outdated Duluth Domestic Violence Power & Control Wheel (which assumes that all victims must be female and all perpetrators must be male), it is time to examine other considerations.

There are many more issues in intimate partner violence (IPV) than power and control. Domestic violence often occurs among couples who are poor and those with less education. Some couples simply lack an ability to resolve a conflict or to avoid escalation. One or both partners may suffer from depression, anxiety, or immaturity. There are other factors.

Girls and boys raised in violent households are more prone to abusing their partner as adults. Communities with high rates of poverty, unemployment, and crime can also contribute to the possibility of violence. Add other factors such as substance abuse, relationship instability, or mental illness, and the chance of IPV explodes.

But there is another factor that may predict violence towards women. Denise Hines, PhD, has found that studies that assess both victimization and perpetration consistently show that in at least half of violent relationships, the abuse is bidirectional. The fact that most men have more upper body strength than most women may account for the fact that most of those injured in IPV are female.

Yet, most of the bi-directional and 70 percent of the one-sided violence is initiated by the woman – which strongly suggests a new approach to IPV is needed. If we want violence against women to diminish, we must convince women to stop initiating violence!

It is not right for a man to retaliate to a slap with a punch. But it is not right for a woman to slap a man, to throw things at him, or to initiate an attack with the proverbial rolling pin or frying pan.

I am not one to blame the woman for all cases of domestic violence. But I am not the one who seeks to blame the man either. Dr. Sandra Stith, a Kansas State University expert on IPV, found the biggest predictor of whether male and female college students would use violence against a partner was whether the partner was violent toward them. "It's a dramatically more important factor than anything else," Stith said.

Every male I have ever met – in every generation and in every culture – was taught that a boy should never hit a girl. A man who would beat a woman is shamed. But it is rare to find a female who was taught by her mother or father to never hit a man.

Some view IPV as a man’s problem; that only he can stop domestic violence. But the National Council Against Domestic Violence reports that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month has been going on now for three decades, yet the rates of men and women dealing with this issue show that a better solution is needed.

Until we begin offering women equitable anger management classes and allowing women to suffer the legal repercussions of their actions — and educating the public that either gender can be a perpetrator or victim — not much is going to change. We need to teach women, as well as men, that violence is not the answer.

(1) Risk Factors for Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration - https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/riskprotectivefactors.html
(2) Depp-Heard Trial Shines Light on Bidirectional Intimate Partner Violence - https://www.gmu.edu/news/2022-06/depp-heard-trial-shines-light-bidirectional-intimate-partner-violence
(3) Researcher Says Women’s Initiation of Domestic Violence Predicts Risk to Women - https://www.glennsacks.com/column.php?id=227
(4) Differences in Frequency of Violence and Reported Injury Between Relationships With Reciprocal and Nonreciprocal Intimate Partner Violence | AJPH | Vol. 97 Issue 5 (aphapublications.org) - https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2005.079020
(5) Male college students also victims of violence at girlfriends' hands - https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/830660
(6) National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Statistics - https://ncadv.org/STATISTICS
(7) Domestic Violence Treatment Policies Put Abused Women in Harm’s Way - https://www.glennsacks.com/column.php?id=125

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