News and Commentary

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

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For years, scientists have recognized that women were as likely to be perpetrators of domestic violence as men. But traditional domestic violence organizations have been reluctant to acknowledge that fact. But the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control reveals a surprising development. In the previous 12 months, men are 31% more likely to be domestic violence victims than women:

This finding is echoed by the International Dating Violence Study, which analyzed rates of domestic violence among university students in 32 countries around the world, and found that females were more likely to be initiators of partner violence than men.

Debunking the Myth of Patriarchal Dominance

The predominant ideology of the domestic violence field is the notion that persons engage in domestic violence as a means to maintain patriarchal dominance. In the words of feminist Gloria Steinem, “Patriarchy requires violence or the subliminal threat of violence in order to maintain itself.” But this theory does not account for these facts:

  • Hundreds of studies reveal that “women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners.”
  • The CDC reports that lesbian couples experience lifetime domestic violence rates that are much higher than gay couples: 65.7% versus 40.0%.
  • Female abusers are equally likely as male abusers to be motivated by a desire for dominance in the relationship.

But rather than revisiting the theory of patriarchal dominance, domestic violence organizations conceal, deny, and distort the reality of male victimization. For example, the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, which is the organization that orchestrates the reauthorizations of the Violence Against Women Act, makes no mention of male victims on its website.

Discrimination Against Male Victims

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013  added a grant condition that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, in addition to sex and other categories. The 2016 Family Violence Prevention and Services Act Final Rule similarly states that “no person shall on the ground of actual or perceived sex, including gender identity, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under, any program or activity funded in whole or in part through FVPSA.”

Needed Changes

The following changes are necessary to end the illegal discrimination against male victims of domestic violence:

  1. Remove all gendered language from the Violence Against Women Act, especially Titles IX, Safety for Indian Women, and XI, Improving Conditions for Women in Federal Custody.
  2. Add a new Title to VAWA and the FVPSA designed to enhance services and programs for male victims.
  3. Strengthen audit programs and controls to eliminate bias against male victims in the provision of services.

Providing services to male victims is not only required by law, but is the ethical and right thing to do. If we seek to end domestic violence, service providers must be attentive to the needs of both male and female survivors.