Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2,336 women charged with domestic violence in NSW

From the ABC news:

There has been a startling increase in the number of women who are the perpetrators of domestic violence.

New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics figures show that over the past eight years, the number of women charged with domestic abuse has rocketed by 159 per cent.

In 2007, 2,336 women fronted court on domestic violence charges, compared to around 800 in 1999.

Other states haven't released comparable statistics, but if the NSW rate holds good for the other states then over 7000 women in Australia are being charged with domestic violence every year.

How can a physically weaker woman attack her husband or partner? According to the ABC news report,

Ms Price says it is a well-known fact that many abusive women resort to using weapons, or wait to catch their spouse unawares before they attack.

"We have so many reports of people having hot liquids poured over them in bed, glasses broken, men hit over the head from the back, attacked while they're asleep, cut, burnt," she said.

There is resistance to accepting the reality of this female domestic violence. It doesn't fit well with the assumptions of feminist patriarchy theory. According to this theory, men use violence against women to maintain a patriarchal power and privilege over women.

If the theory is true, violence will be directed by men against women; it will be caused by attitudes held as a social norm amongst men; and it will be prevalent amongst all groups of men.

The problem for the patriarchy theorists is that all these claims can be shown to be false. It is not just men who are perpetrators of domestic violence - so are women. Men do not think of domestic violence as an acceptable social norm. Nor is domestic violence found equally among all social classes; it is much more prevalent amongst a social underclass and is linked to stressors such as alcohol abuse, homelessness and unemployment.

And why is patriarchy theory popular? If you believe that gender shouldn't matter, then you have to explain why it mattered so much in the past. The liberal explanation is often that gender existed in the past as an artificial, oppressive social construct rather than something natural.

But why was it constructed? The common answer here is that gender was constructed by one class of people (men) to assert power over another class of people (women).

So it all comes down to theory. First, the theory that gender must be made not to matter. Then the theory that gender must be a social construct. Then the theory that the construct exists to uphold male power and privilege. Then the theory that violence is necessary to uphold this system of male power and privilege.

Reality gets lost in all this. The theory can't explain why men have acted to physically protect women rather than to enact violence against them. The theory can't explain why male culture is set so firmly against male violence toward women. The theory can't explain why it is the poorest of men in the most dysfunctional of circumstances, rather than the most powerful of men, who are mostly responsible for domestic violence. Nor can the theory explain why women are so frequently the perpetrators of domestic violence.

Hat tip: reader George


  1. "The common answer here is that gender was constructed by one class of people (men) to assert power over another class of people (women)."

    And this explains why feminism is marginalized and will never be accepted by the average person: it defies common sense. It runs contrary to what everyone knows is true.

    Sadly, the screeching hens who guide that awful, awful movement wield disproportionate political influence because they are so damn noisy and well-organized. Men are just now getting in the race, thanks largely to the Internet.

  2. I don’t think its rising; I believe it’s just being reported more. Wasn’t this the case with crimes and other reports like child abuse back in the days? I agree with Archivist, “Men are just now getting in the race.”

  3. "Domestic violence" is more often than not a two-way street. And, it is not about economic class or poverty.

  4. Mr. Richardson writes: "The common answer here is that gender was constructed by one class of people (men) to assert power over another class of people (women)."

    But even this presupposes the existence of the two groups before the tactical decision of one to "oppress" the other... so everything within the feminist/left paradigm is based on an unfounded assumption.

  5. Anonymous, I think you don't mean "unfounded assumption," but rather self-contradiction.

    But, the thing is, post-modernists don't mind self-contradiction: it's all about asserting power over others.

  6. Part of my job is educating men who perpetrate domestic violence, so its also my duty to educate people like you Mark, who have got it so wrong on this.

    You said: "The theory can't explain why male culture is set so firmly against male violence toward women."

    Male culture in Australia certainly is disdainful of men who are violent towards women. Yet many men who firmly hold this view will nonetheless end up hitting their partners, when they feel they have been provoked in some way.
    Remember that also ingrained in Australian male culture are many attitudes that debase women - for example, the sexually active man is a stud, the sexually active woman is a slut, and the sexually inactive woman is frigid. There is still a widely held belief that men must be the boss of the household.

    You said: "The theory can't explain why it is the poorest of men in the most dysfunctional of circumstances, rather than the most powerful of men, who are mostly responsible for domestic violence."
    Powerful men are already able to exercise power in other situations. Some men who are powerless in society compensate for this by exercising power over others around them. For example - widespread DV among Aboriginal American and Australian communities; also the way that male prisoners victimise weaker inmates.

    Take away the males' physical strength and the threat of violence in gender relations, and women suddenly have a whole heap of power - the ability to reject a man's courtship or to refuse sex, for example. This is very theratening to some men. Thus the popularity of porn movies in which the woman is rendered powerless and subservient. Cultures which are still overtly patriarchal (eg. strict Islamic societies) view women's freedom as the greatest threat.

    I'm not for a second trying to excuse women's violence towards men. Violence is violence and it is wrong. But you cannot seriously think the extent of it comes anywhere close to the violence that men perpetrate against women.

    DV is about primarily about power and control, and women do not have the same societal conditioning as men to be "in charge". Women are not told that they are weak for backing down in the way that men are. And of course there is the difference in size and strength between the genders.

    A society like Somalia or Afghanistan is full of examples of men using, as you say, "violence against women to maintain a patriarchal power and privilege over women", with institutional backing. Australia is clearly far more advanced in this respect, yet the same themes occur, only in more subtle ways.

  7. As I said, post-modernists don't care about truth (or reason), but only about exercising power over others.

  8. Ilion, I have to disagree with one of your arguments. You wrote that domestic violence "is not about economic class or poverty".

    It's true that domestic violence can occur in any economic class. However, it's much more prevalent in families suffering from certain identifiable stressors, such as poverty and alcohol abuse.

    For example, the murder of a woman by her partner is something that nearly always occurs amongst the social underclass:

    "James and Carcach (1998) suggest that almost 85 per cent of victims, and a little over 90 per cent of offenders, belong to what can be described as an underclass in Australian society.

    Similarly, in a study of homicides that occurred in New South Wales between 1968 and 1981, it was found that marital violence resulting in death only very rarely occurred in the professional, semi-professional and managerial classes (Wallace 1986)."


    "More than four out of five family violence cases also involve mental illness, financial hardship, alcohol abuse or housing difficulties."

  9. Eurasian Sensation,

    You agree that male culture in Australia is disdainful of men who hit women.

    Therefore, if there are men who nonetheless end up hitting women, it must be for different reasons than the ones given by feminists.

    I saw on TV the other day an incident of domestic violence. It took place in a home in which the mother was suffering depression and the male partner worked a very low skilled job and couldn't pay the bills.

    The family went without food at times; the childrens' toys were often pawned; the car was often out of action and so on.

    The confrontation began with the mother launching a pretty extreme verbal assault on her partner, basically taunting him as being worthless scum, not a real man etc.

    She followed him around the house when he tried to walk out. Eventually he grabbed her roughly by the arm and pulled on her shirt and tore it. He was arrested and charged with domestic violence.

    The couple are committed to each other and won't break up. So what's the solution?

    In this case, the violence has little to do with male attempts to control women. In fact, the male partner in this family was very much self-sacrificing. He worked long hours in a mundane job to provide at least some money for children who weren't his own and for a partner who is mentally sick.

    Ideally, the family wouldn't be under such extreme financial stress; the mother wouldn't be mentally sick and would control her rage better; and the male partner would be better at controlling his own anger and violent reprisals.

    I suspect that most DV is not about power and control (though no doubt some DV is linked to bullying). I suspect it has more to do with issues of impulse control in both men and women.

    It is harder to control your impulses when you are under a higher level of stress; it is harder to control your impulses when you are affected by alcohol or drugs; and it is possibly harder too for those with very low IQ to control their impulses.

    So reducing the level of DV is a difficult undertaking. It can't just be about telling men not to hit women as nearly all men agree with this principle.

    It can be about anger management programmes, or getting as many people into decent jobs as possible, or discouraging drug and alcohol abuse.

    And it can be about something even more difficult, namely creating a culture of stable family life, in which children are exposed to healthy role modelling and get the love and nurturing required for a resilient sense of self.

  10. It's not the poverty which causes the "domestic violence." Rather, the same general attitudes and live-choices which contribute to living in poverty also contribute to engaging in "domestic violence."

    You know, something like what's going on with the hateful and spiteful bitching by the woman in the story you relate.

  11. One of the flaws in your logic Mark is that it is too black-and-white. You argue that since men will act to protect women, they won't hit them. Yet they do. People are not simply good or bad, they are capable of both.

    You mention lack of impulse control, and while this is the obvious reason for domestic violence, power and control is very frequently the underlying motive. Men don't harm their partners because they are consciously thinking "This is part of my plan to exercise power over her." This is a subconscious motive.

    Physical violence is only one aspect of a spectrum that includes things like:
    - physical intimidation and threats
    - preventing partners from seeing friends and relatives
    - stalking partners who leave
    - restraining partners attempting to leave
    - threats to harm children if she leaves
    - coercive sexual behaviour
    - and many more

    Many of these abuses are ongoing rather than impulsive, and are clearly about maintaining control.

    You give one example, and that sort of thing certainly does happen in many cases. Let me tell you another story though, which actually happened to a relative of mine.
    The husband, who had been violent for several years, was at a party, flirting with a number of women in clear view of his wife. Later, in the car, she told him he shouldn't do that, and said, "If I wanted, I could flirt with other men, too."
    At that point he punched her in the stomach. She had demonstrated that she still had some power; he retaliated to remind her that his power was greater. Not that he consciously processed it as such; he likely thought little more than "stupid bitch."

    One irony in that story is that the husband, years earlier, had berated a male relative as a coward for being a wife-beater; yet he later went on to become exactly the same.

  12. llion,

    I agree and disagree with your last statement. I agree that it all comes down to choices; however I think you need to go back and read Mr. Richardson’s last comment. Mr. Richardson agrees that DV happens in both poor and upper-class families, but he is arguing that poverty creates an environment to increase the likelihood of DV. For example, I can increase the likelihood of you responding back in a derogatory fashion, just by saying, “I take it you are putting your fingers on your forehead to show that you would like to kill yourself.” Mr. Richardson would argue, if Ilion has a high IQ or if he was not on drugs or if he was not stressed out; llion would most likely not respond back in a derogatory fashion.

  13. Eurasian Sensation,

    “power and control is very frequently the underlying motive”

    I think you are also being too black-and-white. I believe it’s a combination of a lot of things. I think Mr. Richardson is pointing out that it’s not just power and control, it’s a combinations of a lot of things, but one thing is certain and that it DV happens most frequently in a poor class.

  14. I think feminist argue that DV is related only to power and control over women. However that is too black-and-white.

  15. Eurasian Sensation,

    The example you give is of a man who has a bullying, controlling attitude toward his wife.

    But is it true that the bullying can be explained in terms of a systemic attempt by men to control women?

    I think not, for several reasons.

    First, there is no way that other men would have supported what he did. He had to do it furtively in his car - out of sight of other men. Therefore, it's difficult to see how it reflects a male social norm.

    Second, bullying, controlling behaviour exists in other contexts too. Girls bully each other at school. Men bully each other. There are some women who bully their children. So we're looking at a form of behaviour that goes well beyond anything to do with patriarchy.

    Finally, and this might be the point that's really at issue, I don't think it's right to assume that in relationships men are always in the more powerful position, despite superior physical strength.

    Women do have a kind of power over men. If a man desires a woman and wants a loving union with her, and if he wants children and a warm supportive home life, then he is at the mercy of what a woman chooses to do. Nor can he directly control or force such outcomes. You can't physically force a woman to respect you as a man and to love you as a husband.

    If it really were true that men aimed at controlling women physically then life would be straightforward for men. We could do it easily enough. The problem is that it wouldn't bring us what we were really after in our relationships with women.

  16. Eurasian,

    Porn is popular among both socio-economically powerful men and socio-economic losers, which suggests its popularity is due to men having a stronger sex drive, rather than a lust for power.

    I also think that domestic violence is more commonly due to people lashing out due to feeling inadequate or humiliated, rather than a desire for power.

    Basically, both males and females at the bottom of society are going to be more sensitive to their partners calling them losers than those further up the socio-economic ladder.

    Also today, people are not used to being criticised as children and teenagers, so when someone close to them criticises them harshly or excessively, they are more likely to over-react and "go postal".

  17. Mike Courtman, have you ever watched porn? If you have, you can hardly fail to notice that virtually all porn movies are a fantasy of male power over women, in which the woman has no power to reject the man, and acquieses to his whims.

    You say: "I also think that domestic violence is more commonly due to people lashing out due to feeling inadequate or humiliated, rather than a desire for power."

    But inadequacy in men is inseparable from power. The male social conditioning is to be the winner, the boss, the strongman and the sexual champion. It's the feeling of being powerful. Challenge any of these notions and you will see the ugly side of maleness, including violence.


    you say: "If it really were true that men aimed at controlling women physically then life would be straightforward for men. We could do it easily enough. The problem is that it wouldn't bring us what we were really after in our relationships with women."

    I'm glad you mentioned this because it illustrates the paradox for many men in relationships. They DO want a loving and nurturing relationship. Yet at the same time, so many of us also want to be "king of the castle" in our relationships. This is the contradiction of most of the men I see in my line of work - their desire for love and trust is threatened by their need to dominate and be the winner.

    Remember also that what values males profess in public can be quite different to what they do in private. And what values they hold when things are going well can be different to the values when things aren't going how they wish.

    Likewise, despite obvious social norms that frown on hitting or raping women, there are many themes that run counter to this in our attitudes. Women that deviate from traditional subservient norms are dehumanised as sluts, bitches and dykes, which makes it easier for some men to justify violence against them.

  18. The reality of DV is easily explained by the Doctrine of Original Sin. Why reinvent the wheel, people?