Myths About Domestic Violence

Myths About Domestic Violence

by Chris Johnson and Erin Pizzy
Lynne Lange's column ("The facts about domestic violence," Midlands Voices, Dec. 23) seems to confirm the chronic gender bias in domestic violence programs that was identified in "Nebraska Must Address Gender Bias" (Midlands Voices, Dec. 14). Ms. Lange claims the earlier column highlighted misleading information with regard to the actual act of domestic violence. As discussed below, her claim is false.

The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge (PASK) project that was discussed in the earlier column was the largest-ever survey of domestic violence research. It was performed by 112 researchers at 20 research institutions who reviewed approximately 12,000 domestic violence studies. Their findings were reported in 17 peer-reviewed articles published in 2012 and 2013. These articles are available at www.domesticviolenceresearch.org.

The PASK website includes an overview that highlights its more important findings. Even a cursory glance at this overview shows the findings that were discussed are the central findings of the entire PASK project – men and women perpetrate and are victimized by domestic violence at comparable rates.

Ms. Lange then refers to the "National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey" to claim the PASK findings are somehow invalid or misleading. This is interesting because this survey actually confirms the PASK findings. According to a 2015 article by Jenna Birch:
" ... in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data from its National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey-and one of the most shocking statistics wasn't just the sheer total of victims of physical violence but also how those numbers broke down by gender.
"According to the CDC's statistics-estimates based on more than 18,000 telephone­ survey responses in the United States-roughly 5,365,000 men had been victims of intimate partner physical violence in the previous 12 months, compared with 4,741,000 women. By the study's definition, physical violence includes slapping, pushing, and shoving.
"More severe threats like being beaten, burned, choked, kicked, slammed with a heavy object, or hit with a fist were also tracked. Roughly 40 percent of the victims of severe physical violence were men. The CDC repeated the survey in 2011, the results of which were published in 2014, and found almost identical numbers-with the percentage of male severe physical violence victims slightly rising.
"Reports are also showing a decline of the number of women and an increase in the number of men reporting" abuse, says counselor and psychologist Karla Ivankovich, PhD, an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Springfield."
More recent studies show similar results. These include studies published by the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association, and a 2012 study that used data from the U.S. Census Bureau's National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

Ms. Lange next claims the gender bias column "incorrectly assumed that every domestic violence program in Nebraska uses the traditional concept of a shelter facility." Her statement suggests programs can legally provide lesser services to male victims. This is simply wrong.

The federal Violence Against Women Act states, "If sex segregation or sex-specific programming is necessary to the essential operation of a [domestic violence] program, nothing in this paragraph shall prevent any such program or activity from consideration of an individual's sex. In such circumstances, grantees may meet the [antidiscrimination] requirements of this paragraph by providing comparable services to individuals who cannot be provided with the sex­ segregated or sex-specific programming."

The most interesting thing about Ms. Lange's statement is what it doesn't say – she never says Nebraska domestic violence programs are providing comparable services to male victims. In fact, she seems to confirm they aren't. This violates federal law.

Why does Ms. Lange make claims that are contradicted by federal law and almost 40 years of research? Are her statements evidence of intentional gender bias? The Nebraska Attorney General and U.S. Attorney should investigate to determine if Nebraska's domestic violence organizations are complying with applicable law.

Chris Johnson, a family law attorney in Hastings, is a past chair of the family law section of the Nebraska State Bar Association. Erin Pizzy founded the world's first battered women's shelter in 1971 and runs Honest-Ribbon.org, a UK-based organization that supports evidence-based solutions to domestic violence.

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