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Friday, 24 February 2012 07:18

The Whole Truth About Domestic Violence

Written by  Phillip Cook
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About the Author: Philip W. Cook is the author of Abused Men-The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence. This book is now (2009) in it’s second edition and available via in softcover and hardcover from Praeger/Greenwood Publishing. The first edition was published in 1997. He has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews Channel, O’Reilly Factor, Montel, Sally and many other national and local television and radio shows, as well as the National Associated  Press. He is the co-author of articles in the “Journal for Human Behavior in the Social Environment,” “The Journal of Elder Abuse” and other Journals and anthology books. He is a member of the advisory board to His website is This essay contains excerpts from the second edition of the book.

"Things started out pretty good the first couple of years.  Then, she slowly changed.  She always had a temper, but then we got into some money problems, and it got worse.  She would get mad, and it would escalate all out of proportion.  She'd start hitting.  She'd slap at my face, and then keep slapping and try to scratch me.  I'd put up my arms, or just grab and hold her hands.  I never hit her back.  I was just taught that you never hit a woman."

Joe S. is just one of the nearly one hundred male victims of intimate partner violence that I have interviewed, along with a fair number of female victims. Perhaps the most striking thing is the similarity. The biggest difference is public and personal perception.  In most cases, male victims are stuck in a time warp; they find themselves in the same position women were in thirty years ago.  Despite their numbers, their problem is viewed as of little consequence, or they are somehow seen to be at blame for it. 

Tough luck-until it happens to you or your friend or family member. Discrimination against an estimated 835,000 men a year in the U.S. is one thing, but the whole system of domestic violence interventions has run amuck with disastrous consequences for everyone.  The consequences include the creation of thousands of Orwellian political re-education camps; the criminalizing of minor private acts leading to the break-up of families; Star Chamber type denials of basic civil rights; victim wishes being routinely ignored, and prosecution/probation programs that have no effect in reducing repeat offenses. 

Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive national survey of actual police arrests for domestic violence in the United States that lists the arrests by gender. Different police departments have different reporting methods, and apparently, the majority does not keep records of who was arrested by gender. However, I did find state and city totals for these types of arrests..

The results I report here must be qualified with this in mind: they are best estimates and should not be considered scientific nor the results of a comprehensive survey; they are averages of 15 small-to-large cities, plus one statewide total:

Domestic violence arrests of females averaged 20 percent of the total number of such arrests in the United States. The range, however, was wide. In Portland, Oregon, for example, the police department reported that female arrests were 14 percent of total arrests, while in the smaller city of Petaluma, California, the arrest rate for females was 23 percent.

More than 10 years ago when research for this book was first conducted, the average arrest rate for women was about 6 percent, according to the few published research results available at the time. 

There seems to be no question that there has been a dramatic increase in female arrests in the past 10 years.

The Survey Shows

The National Institute of Mental Health funded a national survey at the University of New Hampshire and found roughly equal rates of violence between men and women: 1.8 million women victims, and two million male victims of severe violence. 

The figures for abused women are the most often quoted figures regarding domestic violence in support of funding and attention. The equal or greater numbers of males are usually ignored. These totals come with a qualification that is rarely mentioned, however; the surveys asked only if a particular type of violence occurred at least once in the past year.  Other studies indicate severe repeated “battering” attacks to be much less common.

The U.S. Justice Department in their National Crime Survey reports a rate much less than that of the academic results, with the most recent survey putting the nationwide rate at just over 800,000 female victims while finding that male victims represented 15% of the total. The academic type surveys are recognized as being more accurate since they are not labeled a “crime” survey and usually cover a range of violent actions that Justice Department surveys neglects. A review of published academic literature University of California Long Beach found more than two hundred studies demonstrating that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners.   

By their own admission in the sociological surveys, Women hit first at about the same rate as men do.  About half of all incidents of violence are one-sided: the rest is mutual combat.  The woman who slaps or throws things greatly increases her chances of being hit in return.  More importantly, the sons and daughters of violent parents have a much greater chance of becoming spouse abusers themselves.  Ignoring violent women, and concentrating solely on inhibiting violent men contributes to the cycle of violence for the next generation.


Certainly, a man slapping or shoving a woman is much more likely to inflict injury than a woman slapping or shoving a man.  Since much more domestic violence falls into the general non-severe violence category there would be more total injuries for women and most studies confirm that.  An examination of 6,200 police and hospital reports by social scientist Maureen Mcleod, however, found that men suffered severe injuries more often than women do in domestic altercations. This is possibly due to the fact that women are more likely to use weapons. 

It may seem surprising, but accurate data about domestic violence injuries is actually hard to come by.  There only one nationally representative survey of actual injuries from domestic violence in which emergency room personnel were specifically asked to denote the cause of injury from assaults. (Other surveys depend on respondents to say what happened to them). This 1994 Justice Department report found that out of all injury assaults being treated in the ER (including partner rape), 14 percent of the women and three percent of the men were injured by intimate partners. 

The ER survey results found that 60 percent of those injured for assaults of all types were male. Of all assaults, 17 percent were due to intimate partner violence. Of these, 14 percent were female victims, and 3 percent were male victims. The relationship to the assailant was unknown for one-fifth of the female victims and one-third of the male victims. Thus, even in this 70-hospital survey, where ER personnel were instructed to note and chart the assault victim’s relationship, there was significant underreporting for females and highly significant underreporting for males. It should also be noted that one-third of men are less likely than women to seek treatment for injuries from any cause. In total, this report found that 243,000 people a year seek treatment in emergency rooms for injuries due to intimate partner violence, or 142, 094 women and 10,006 men.

Lies and Misinformation

I can think of no other significant social issue in which advocates statements and research is so frequently taken at face value without question by the news media and reputable government and private agencies, then repeated and accepted as gospel.  

Here are just a few examples. Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala told the American Medical Associations National Conference on Family Violence “We do know that 20 to 30 percent of the injuries that send women to the emergency room stem from physical abuse by their partners.” There is no compelling evidence for such a statement. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on it’s website and other publications for eight years stated that, “Domestic Violence is the leading cause of injury to women.” The Centers for Disease Control confirms the obvious, more women are injured by household accidents, automobile accidents, and accidental ingestions of poisonous material and even dog bites than they are by their intimate partners. It took three years of trying to get HHS to remove this one “fact” from their website.  

“Every 12 seconds another woman is beaten.  That’s nearly 900,000 victims every year.” When President Clinton made this statement, in the closing days of his administration, apparently the calculators were already packed. Nine hundred thousand victims a year does not equal one every 12 seconds. The figure of 900,000 is closer to the number of male victims each year. Clinton was noting in his address to the nation the signing into law of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  A survey funded by the act found 1.5 million female victims each year, and 835,000 male victims.  To put it another way, nearly 40% of the victims in the survey were male.


Self-defense as an explanation for domestic violence has been studied by a number of researchers. Indeed, it is this aspect of such situations that gives us the clearest picture of whole truth about domestic violence.  The research also squares with the anecdotal experience of veteran police officers.  Half of domestic violence involves mutual combat. People involved can’t even remember very well who started it, but when they do (even when accepting only the woman’s viewpoint) there is agreement; half the time she started it, half the time he did.   

We come now to the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS). When this book was first published, this report had not yet been conducted. This survey was funded by the DOJ and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It was conducted by the Center for Policy Research, and the lead author was Patricia Tjaden, Ph.D.

In an interview with the author, Dr. Tjaden said, “Well, this must be a good survey since neither side was happy.”

What she meant was that while the survey gave a lower percentage of male victims than the University of New Hampshire National Violence Survey of about 10 years earlier (1985 vs. 1995-results published in 2000), it also lowered the total number of victimized women (from 1.8 million a year to 1.5 million a year). The total number of victimized men was given at 885,000 a year, or 36 percent of the total number of victims. The definitions of assault were very similar to those of the earlier surveys, and these results reflect the total number of severe attacks.

There is no doubt that this survey was large and comprehensive, interviewing 16,000 men and women in all states. It was, however, a telephone survey, rather than using the self-administered questionnaire format. There were also questions about sexual assault in intimate partner settings that the National Family Violence Survey (NFVS) did not conduct, as well as questions about stalking. The NVAWS found that women are injured about twice as often as are men according to these self-reports (41.5% vs. 19.9%).

It is not my purpose, nor would it be very interesting for the general reader, to go into the details of the current sociological debate about the validity of these findings compared to the NFVS or other surveys. Suffice it to say that there is debate over telephone methods versus questionnaires and whether adding stalking questions influenced partner violence questions, and whether asking questions related to sexual abuse skewed the results. I will, however, examine the findings a bit more closely in regard to lesbian versus lesbian violence for a particular reason that will be explained later in the book.

I do not necessarily disagree with Tjaden’s statement that since neither side was happy, it must be a good survey.

The data from the Violence Against Women Survey is interesting and valuable and is curiously fairly consistent (though a considerably higher percentage ) with the average number of actual arrests of women. As the title of the survey suggests (The National Violence Against Women Survey), it certainly cannot be construed to be a survey designed to be favorable to reports of male victimization. It does stand in contrast, however, to the majority of published reports on intimate partner violence that have consistently found an equal number of male and female victims.

The report did spark some media interest (e.g., CNN interviewed the author), with the majority of the news media describing it as a CDC report and mentioning the fact that it found a yearly average of 885,000 male victims of intimate partner violence in the United States.

Nearly as large as the NVAWS, and apparently at the time of this writing the most large scale (11,000 men and women), is a survey conducted primarily by CDC researchers and published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2007:

Almost 25% of the people surveyed—28% of women and 19% of men—said there was some violence in their relationship. Women admitted perpetrating more violence (25% versus 11%) as well as being victimized more by violence (19% versus 16%) than men did. According to both men and women, 50% of this violence was reciprocal, that is, involved both parties, and in those cases the woman was more likely to have been the first to strike.

Violence was more frequent when both partners were involved, and so was injury—to either partner. In these relationships, men were more likely than women to inflict injury (29% versus 19%). When the violence was one-sided, both women and men said that women were the perpetrators about 70% of the time. Men were more likely to be injured in reciprocally violent relationships (25%) than were women when the violence was one-sided (20%).

That means both men and women agreed that men were not more responsible than women for intimate partner violence. The findings cannot be explained by men’s being ashamed to admit hitting women, because women agreed with men on this point.

In summary, whether one accepts the NVAWS, NFVS, or Journal of Public Health survey, or the hundreds of other survey results, the least that can be said is that male victims represent 36 percent of the total number of domestic violence victims in the United States. 

Looking at the admittedly much smaller number of studies that examine the reasons people give for being violent, the number one reason seems to be “to get them to do something” or “to make them pay attention.” In other words, the research mirrors the reality of domestic violence, and the life of couples in general.  It’s messy and complex.

Two Couples You Know

The lives of two couples that everyone knows something about serve as examples. Abe was a very tall but somewhat thin man, who due to his early manhood experiences splitting wood rails was in fairly good physical condition. Mary Todd was considerably shorter than him, and somewhat plump. During the course of their marriage Marry Todd would frequently belittle his worth, as well as frequently and unexpectedly fly into rages, striking him with her fists, kicking him, even throwing firewood at him.  These attacks lasted over the course of their marriage. For another couple, it was a case of Bill getting into a sexual encounter with a young office intern. Eventually, he had to publicly admit the affair. According to her authorized friendly biographer (Sheehy), Hillary threw a lamp at him, and one report (Drudge) said he called in his armed protection to defend himself against her, and left a visible red mark due to a hard slap.  

The actions of Mary Todd represent serial battering; Hillary’s attack represents situational family conflict violence. Should Mary Todd have been arrested? Probably she should have been, and the proper course after the arrest which would help make her aware of the seriousness of her violence (that firewood could have connected at just the right spot and John Wilkes Booth would not be a famous name today), the arrest could have led to proper intervention in the right hands and no doubt under today’s assessments, treatment for bi-polar disorder. Should Hillary have been arrested? Under most states laws, she could have been, but such an arrest would be inappropriate given the circumstances. Whether it is a big white house or a smaller one, these two cases demonstrate the range of circumstances in which domestic violence occurs.


Who Leaves?Your browser may not support display of this image. Your browser may not support display of this image.

Another argument for ignoring the true nature of most domestic violence is to claim that women have a much more difficult time than men do in leaving an abusive relationship.  This doesn't hold up to scrutiny either; in fact, low-income women are more likely, not less likely to leave an abusive relationship than are affluent women.

Indeed, if there are children men may be more likely to be inhibited against leaving an abusive relationship than women. Mothers abuse their own children more often than fathers do.  Some men feel they have to stay in order to protect the children. They also know something else: their chances of getting custody of the children are not very good. Their chances of unblocked visitation with the children from a possibly vindictive and abusive spouse aren't very good either.  Losing a relationship with one's own children, possibly forever, can certainly be considered as a big factor in a man staying in an abusive relationship.   

Men also face another factor that abused women today don't face as much--ridicule and isolation.  Who can they talk to about their problem? 

"The cops show up, and they think it's a big joke," Tim S. explained after his live-in girlfriend hit him in the head with a frying pan, which resulted in severe bleeding and a deep cut.  "I never did tell anyone [of my friends and family] about all this while it was going on, because they would assume that I had done something to her, or that I deserved it.  If there had been a crisis line for men in this situation I would have called it, to find out what to do, what the options were, how to stop it."   

Not having any resources to turn to for help with their situation, no victim's advocates, no crisis lines, no support groups, no media recognition, no shelters, and even few understanding private therapists, is it any wonder many men tend to stay and take it?

Patriarchy Theory Failure

Still, the apologists for women who are violent in the home are legion, despite the overwhelming amount of data.  When all else fails, they fall back on patriarchy as an excuse. In other words, this is the ‘prime mover.’ It is the historical subjugation of women by men and the societal and economic acceptance of this subjugation that leads to domestic violence.  Men do not have to face the patriarchy and in fact this patriarchy gives them the power and excuse to perpetrate domestic violence. Unfortunately for patriarchy fans there are methods by which we can test the theory, and it doesn’t hold up. 

First, traditional conservative regular church-going Christian men do not have a greater incidence of domestic violence than other groups.  Secondly, the armed forces can be seen as hierarchical macho patriarchy machine.  The U.S. Army in a huge comprehensive survey found that their rate of domestic violence is not significantly higher than that of the general population. 

Lastly, it falls down as a causative factor when we consider that lesbians assault their lesbian partners.  There’s no man around or involved, so where’s the patriarchy?   In an essay in Naming the Violence: Speaking Out About Lesbian Battering, the female authors comment about what this means: “Many women in the broader battered women’s movement are affected by the public acknowledgment of lesbian violence.  This acknowledgment forces a deepening of the analysis of sexism and male/female roles as contributors to violence in relationships. To understand violence in lesbian relationships is to challenge and perhaps rework some of these beliefs.” Indeed! Unfortunately, because many in the domestic violence movement are wedded to the social construction patriarchy theory of domestic violence and it’s usefulness in establishing a powerful exclusive victim hood, outreach to lesbian victims is limited or non-existent.  

Meanwhile, the Violence Against Women Act by its title alone dedicates funds only to females. Stop Abuse For Everyone,  Maryland activist David Burroughs and an ad-hoc Internet group called RADAR were successful in the  (2006) 3.9 Billion dollar re-authorization of VAWA to get a statement included that funds can be used for male victims. However, the devil is in the details as most of the fund disbursements are ceded by states to domestic violence coalitions which have so far, adamantly refused to admit into coalitions or fund alternative programs and services that cover both sexes. Under interpretations made by the Office of Violence Against Women federal funds can be used only to fund shelters that “primarily” serve women. The irony of course, is that many in the domestic violence movement use power, control and intimidation (let alone mis-stating or leaving out qualifying facts) to a remarkable degree in making sure that their agenda is the only acceptable agenda The most remarkable example of this is Erin Pizzey, the founder of the battered woman’s movement. She wrote the first modern book on the subject Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear and opened the world’s first shelter for abused women.   Her open letter to those in the movement is worth sharing:  

When I first tried to open the refuge, the police, the charities, the social service agencies, the    newspapers, all said it would stand empty. They said it wasn't a significant problem, that it      happened only rarely, and when it did it was already being handled effectively by the existing  agencies. Domestic violence against women was only a minor problem, and very few women were getting seriously hurt anyway. Of course, when we finally did open, and got a little          support at last to make women aware of our existence, we were filled to overflowing and the    phone was ringing off the hook.  

It's the same exact thing now with attempts to have domestic violence resources for men. However, it's even more difficult now to open something for men, or raise awareness, than it was when I opened the first shelter for women. There is now an established domestic violence industry which fears any acknowledgment of the well established scientific fact that women can be as violent as men with their intimate partners and are not always the victim or acting only in self-defense. This fear is based on a false premise, that acknowledging this fact or speaking publicly about it, or offering services, will take away funding and hurt the established resources for women. That's nonsense. I proved and others can too, that offering help for abused men can be done within an existing system set up originally to help women, that is willing to deal with the totality and reality of domestic violence.  

Because of these views, and daring to speak out, I've been vilified, and physically threatened many times by women in the domestic violence movement. Don't tell me that women can't be violent! Now a days, you won't even find my name or my domestic violence books mentioned in the established domestic violence literature...I've been erased because of heresy, or daring to speak to the truth. But when I can, I still take the opportunity to speak out, because we'll never break the chain of domestic violence until we accept the truth, domestic violence is a complex issue, there are many elements involved in intimate partner relationships, it takes hard work and investigation to deal with it in a truly effective manner, and finally, no one sex, just because of their sex, is less capable of it.  

Pizzey’s point and mine is not to excuse violence.  It should not matter who started it, or what the provocation was.  True self-defense is one matter; however, research clearly shows that in the overwhelming majority of domestic violence incidents, a direct threat to one's life is not involved.  If we excuse violent acts by women by saying that they must have been provoked or were in response to violent acts by men, then that would put us in the position of accepting violent acts by men under the same circumstances. 

Helping Everyone

As Pizzey has pointed out, the solution for dealing with domestic violence on a realistic and factual basis does not necessarily mean a threat to funding for shelters or crisis lines, as they currently exist.  I don't believe we need a second set of funding for men's shelters.  Rather, a change in attitude can accomplish the same goals.  The Valley Oasis Shelter of Lancaster, California, for example, treats each call from those seeking help with dignity and respect, man or woman.  It has a separate facility for men with children in need of shelter.  The Kelso, Washington Emergency Shelter also handles crisis calls from men, and has a male support worker, and victims advocate for the legal system, as does Peace4all in Illinois and SAFE of New Hampshire, and the Domestic Abuse Hotline for Men and Women.  There is no reason current crisis lines cannot serve both genders. A small but growing number of domestic violence crisis lines have obtained a newly available male victim brochure in an attempt to reach out to this under served population. A little creative thinking and configuration could provide actual shelter services for males and their children in many circumstances, or hotel vouchers at the very least.  Monika’s House in the Portland, Oregon area for example helps all victims regardless of gender with shelter, support groups and other services. They report no problems and the Executive Director says in fact, “We find that having males who have victimized in our program helps female victims as well.”

Are Realistic Programs and Policy Possible?

No program to combat domestic violence will be very effective, unless the true nature of such violence is recognized. Unfortunately, realistic approaches to intimate partner violence are not the norm, and indeed such methods are often legally prohibited. An example of this is what is known as Batterer Intervention Programs (BIP). Nearly every court system in the land has them in operation. If a person is arrested on a domestic violence charge and it is their first offense, a guilty plea can be entered instead of receiving jail time, then the offender is mandated to attend a BIP class (usually one night a week for 52 weeks), is placed on probation and after successfully attending the class, the arrest can then be expunged from the record. Most offenders of course, choose class jail rather than regular jail.  

Everybody in the official system is happy. District attorney’s get a good conviction rate, judges aren’t burdened with trials, corrections officials face less-crowded jails, and program providers get a job with a mandated steady clientele. 

There’s one big problem however-they are not effective.  

The National Institute of Justice in a comprehensive review of the research has determined that typical batterer intervention programs “have minimal or little effect on recidivism rates.” In turning down a recent research proposal to study the effectiveness of such a program an NIJ staff member was even more blunt: “No, we already know they don’t work.” 

The reality is, that such programs amount to radical re-education centers, while rejecting and prohibiting a scientifically justified and more common sense approach. They focus almost exclusively on patriarchy theory. Research has shown of course, that a significant percentage (estimated at about 20%) of such violent acts within a family unit are due to mental illness, and a majority of such incidents are directly related to the abuse of alcohol and drugs. It is the rare BIP however, that even does assessments for psychopathology (Ted Bundy in other words, would sail through such a program) or assessments for alcohol and drug abuse. Couple counseling is almost universally prohibited, even if the victim desires it and intends to stay in the relationship. A majority of states have now acted to put in place so-called “standards” for BIP's. The standards have simply cemented in place the patriarchy model. Massachusetts standards to give but one example, specifically ban these approaches: “Psychodynamic individual or group therapy, which centers causality of the violence in the past; Communication enhancement or anger management techniques, which lay primary causality on anger; Systems theory approaches, which treat the violence as a mutually circular process; Gradual containment and de-escalation of violence; Fair fighting techniques, getting in touch with emotions or alternatives to violence.” Oregon’s standards use similar language and added a prohibition against any consideration of alcohol and drug abuse as a primary factor.  

It gets worse. Only one state that in recent years has adopted so-called standards has made an effort to actually measure whether their programs work. There are no outcome measurements, no tracking of victim satisfaction, no tracking of whether safety has been increased or decreased, and no tracking of the recidivism rate.  Best not to look too closely it seems.  

With only the approved radical model to work with, no assessments, no outcome measurements, mostly unlicensed individuals running the classes, the possibility of mutual combat being totally rejected, and even more importantly a ‘one-size fits all approach’ with no differentiation for individual circumstances, it’s no wonder these programs do no good. They do however, provide a captive body of men and in some areas, women, who are subjected to nearly a years worth of political indoctrination in radical theory and views about the structure of society.  

The Batterer Intervention Programs are merely one aspect of the monolithic approach to intimate partner violence and family conflict. A majority of states have mandatory arrest laws, which turn every minor family squabble into an instance of battering, bringing the full weight of the legal system into the family unit, frequently disregarding the wishes of the victim by mandating an arrest, and acting to discourage and reduce the number of emergency 911 calls by women.  Meanwhile, restraining orders are handed out like candy ex-parte (without the accused being present) with an estimated one-third to one half being used merely as tactic to gain an advantage in a divorce/custody case. If the accused bothers to contest the initial order, and demand a hearing, hearsay is frequently allowed, cross-examination is limited and the burden of proof clearly falls on the defendant. Violations of restraining/protective orders can result in jail time and include violations even when the complaining party initiates contact. There are plenty of stories out there, like the man arrested for getting out of the car to open the door for his children. Writing in the Rutgers Law Review, attorney David N. Heleniak, notes that the restraining/protective order procedures are treated as if they are civil matters, but have criminal consequences (including jail time) but the recipients of restraining/protective orders have fewer rights. For example unlike other accused persons they do not have the right to have counsel appointed if they couldn’t afford one. All of this, amounts to what he calls Star Chamber type injustices: “Lack of notice; denial of the right to take depositions; lack of a full evidentiary hearing; an improper standard of proof; and, most importantly, the failure to provide a defendant with a trial by jury-conspire to create a due process fiasco.”  

One study found that fewer than half of the restraining orders issued involved even an allegation of physical abuse, and in many cases there were no accusations of even verbal threats but only of verbal abuse. As a tool to use in getting more women killed however, restraining orders seem to work very well as an National Institute of Justice study found out: “The willingness of prosecutors’ offices to take cases of protection order violation are associated with increases in the homicide of white married intimates, black unmarried intimates, and white unmarried females.” 

But hey, we must disregard standard criminal procedures and err on the side of protecting the safety of women right? 

Just as in the case of Batterer Intervention Programs however, there are safer, saner, and more effective approaches available. Judges for example, can issue shared physical temporary child custody rulings upon initial application of the restraining/protective order (so they can’t be used to gain tactical advantage in custody rulings-unless a credible threat of child abuse is lodged), the couple can then be mandated to a professional for a threat assessment using standardize and available testing methods and even dual consensual polygraph testing. Laws can be changed so that those subjected to such orders can be given more than just the usual ten days to respond to request a hearing, have the opportunity to take depositions, have a right to free counsel if they cannot afford one, and may even request a trial by jury.

Thirty Years From Now Will We Still Be Saying The Same Things?

Thirty years of research have confirmed what nearly every law enforcement officer with experience already knows about domestic violence; a quarter of the time only the man is violent, a quarter of the time only the female is violent, but half the time it is a case of mutual combat.  There are varying degrees of violence, and individual circumstances matter in how we must react to them.  

Unless all the factors for domestic violence are recognized, women seeking help for their anger problem, lesbians and gay men with partner problems, and heterosexual men who are being abused will continue to be discriminated against and told that their problem isn’t real.  The facts show otherwise; their problem is real and it affects millions of people.  

For more than thirty years, we have been presented with only one part of the equation.  Given the legal and societal history of discrimination and oppression against women in many areas, this was appropriate: it is not appropriate today. Fully one-third of married women now earn more than their husbands. It has become an “us” against “them” battle.  The reality of domestic violence, however, tells us that it is more complex than that.  Some cases can be attributed to mental illness, but most are due to family upbringing, poor self-esteem, alcohol abuse, and/or uncertain employment combined with low anger management and communication skills.  Domestic violence is a human problem, not a gender problem. 

If we fail to put resources and effort into dealing with the total reality of intimate partner violence  instead of just one part of this phenomena, we only encourage a group-against-group effect which is a disservice to everyone.  The sociologists tell us that domestic violence at some level affects a significant minority of British, Canadian, and US couples.  It is a criminal tragedy that must be dealt with on an economic, social, legal and spiritual level, but evidence of these human events should not encourage us to declare that the family is a bankrupt construct.  If we can move forward to a better understanding of the benevolent and malevolent nature of each gender, we increase the opportunity for constructive rather than destructive relationships.   


About the Author: Philip W. Cook is the author of Abused Men-The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence. This book is now (2009) in it’s second edition and available via in softcover and hardcover from Praeger/Greenwood Publishing. The first edition was published in 1997. He has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews Channel, O’Reilly Factor, Montel, Sally and many other national and local television and radio shows, as well as the National Associated  Press. He is the co-author of articles in the “Journal for Human Behavior in the Social Environment,” “The Journal of Elder Abuse” and other Journals and anthology books. He is a member of the advisory board to His website is This essay contains excerpts from the second edition of the book.  

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