Blame Both Sexes For Family Violence
By Kathleen Parker
Published in The Orlando Sentinel on December 1, 1999.
On Planet Gender, everybody is talking about recent
news that women increasingly are being arrested for
domestic violence. Men's groups are jubilant; feminists
are incensed. One group sees justice; the other sees
Everybody seems to be looking for the spin that
advances his or her agenda, rather than enlisting new
information to draw helpful conclusions that might
reduce domestic violence.
The latest chatter was prompted by a story in The New
York Times reporting that in many states this year
women have constituted 25 percent or more of domestic
In Concord, N.H., for instance, women were arrested in
35 percent of domestic assault cases; in Boulder
County, Colo., 25 percent of defendants through
September were women; in Vermont, women
comprised 23 percent of domestic assault arrests.
Though men see the increase as reflective of reality --
and feminists as a mockery of their efforts to crack
down on male batterers -- social scientists offer a
variety of explanations: Women are becoming more
aggressive; women are hitting other women; men are
calling the police more often; female police officers
are less likely to let other women off the hook.
Growing statistical evidence suggests that all of the
above are pieces of the truth.
More than 20 years ago, researchers Murray Straus and
Richard Gelles found that women initiate violence as
often as men in intimate relationships. A study this
year by a University of Wisconsin psychology professor,
Terrie Moffitt, confirmed those findings and raised the
bar a notch.
Contrary to feminist explanations that women were
violent only in self-defense, Moffitt's study found that
women often initiate the violence that leads to their
injury or death.
In the face of such contradictory strains, common sense
is useful. Common sense tells us that women have
become more aggressive, that women cops are likely to
be tougher on other women, that men are tired of the
feminist insinuation that all men are violent and that
domestic violence is but a manifestation of male
Today, men are more likely to insist on equal protection
from police and courts. And there's less of a stigma for
a man to report that he is a victim of domestic violence.
Yet, common sense also tells us that when it comes to
hand-to-hand combat, women most often lose. Even if
statistics show that women often initiate violence, the
same figures show that women are more seriously
injured and more often killed. And even though 25
percent of those arrested are women, that's a whole lot
less than the 75 percent who are men.
Regardless of who starts it, domestic violence clearly
remains a growing societal problem. Just as clearly,
domestic violence is not a gender issue, but a problem
of violence that cuts across sex, race and economics.
The truth is that violence is a function -- or rather a
dysfunction -- of self-restraint. Across the board,
Americans seem to revel in displaying the least of
themselves. Whether eating, drinking or exercising our
libidos, we do everything in excess and feel justified
in demonstrating, physically or verbally, whatever emotion
lies closest to the surface.
Violence within relationships is just another form of
excess; both sexes may be equally culpable.
The nyah-nyah "she-he went first" attitude underscoring
nearly any discussion involving men and women these
days is juvenile and ultimately destructive. You can't
fix a problem unless you correctly define it. The fact that
women are being arrested in greater numbers may be
unwelcome news to feminists. On the other hand, it may
be useful information as we try to solve the riddle of