I seriously doubt it.
This article in today’s Australian points to a 159% increase in the number of women facing dometic violence charges over the last eight years as an indicator that women are becoming more violent.
It is more likely simply that police and care groups are beginning to take complaints made by men about domestic violence more seriously.
For a long time I have been concerned about campaigns which say something like ‘To violence against women, Australia says no.’ Why single out women in particular? Is violence against everyone else OK?
Such campaigns are based on the assumption that violence aginst women needs to be targeted because women are more frequently the victims of violence. But this is simply untrue. Outside the home, men are far more likely to be victims of violence than women.
But what about inside the home?
There is a vast body of research to show that women are just as likely as men to be perpetrators of domestic violence as men. There is a substantial online bibliography collected by Martin Fiebert of the Department of Psychology at California State University. Some research suggests that women are more likely to be the initiators of violence, and are more likely than men to use a weapon against their partner or children.
Erin Pizzey, the pioneer of shelters for victims of domestic abuse, points out that research suggests violence is a learned behaviour. When children see adults using violence as a means to resolve disagreements they learn those behaviours, whether the violence is used by male or female or both.
Women’s violence against men has frequently been treated as joke, both in entertainment (see the film ‘Stakeout’ for example, in which the character played by Richard Dreyfuss is viciously assaulted by his partner in what is meant to be, and to female members of the audience clearly was, a vastly amusing scene) and in real life, where male victims of domestic violence who report such violence to police are belittled or told to be a man and stop complaining.
If feminists and policy-makers are serious about ending domestic violence, they must take violence against men and children as seriously as they do violence against women.
In domestic violence, just as in economic and foreign policy, effective action must be based on facts, not on ideology.
The ABC (pleasant surprise!) has just posted a remarkably fair article on this story, with some interesting comment by Sue Price, co-director of the Men’s Right’s Agency.