The Awful Truth About Domestic Violence Policy
The Coalition to End Domestic Violence (CEDV) has issued its long-awaited and much-needed Special Report. It’s a well-researched history of the domestic violence industry and its “thirty years of domestic violence half-truths, falsehoods and lies.” To anyone who’s concerned about the problem of domestic violence, it makes for dispiriting reading. Between its lines, the report delivers certain unmistakable messages.
First, the DV establishment has promoted a mythology that is at odds with known facts. Second, the DV industry is more interested in denigrating men than addressing the problem of intimate partner violence. Third, those “half-truths, falsehoods and lies” are astonishingly difficult to correct. Official websites hang onto them long after they’ve been thoroughly debunked. Fourth, based as it is on DV establishment mythology, public policy cannot possibly effectuate a reduction in the incidence of DV and of course has not done so. Last, that’s absolutely fine with both the domestic violence establishment and policy makers. Despite all the evidence, the myth of the brutal man and the helpless, victimized woman remains in place as does the non-stop flow of funding to DV organizations that peddle the falsehoods.
In short, anyone who tells you that those charged with doing so care about DV or the victims thereof is either woefully misinformed or selling you a bill of goods. If we truly wanted to reduce the incidence of DV, we’d long ago have admitted the well-established facts and, based on those facts, we’d have fashioned laws and policies to educate the public and provide programs to help both perpetrators and victims. Had we done so, I suspect we’d have been reasonably successful at reducing the incidence of intimate partner violence.
But we’ve done none of that. The result?
[T]here is little or no evidence that VAWA-funded programs have succeeded in reducing rates of domestic violence:
- “Between 2000 and 2010, rates of domestic violence actually fell less than the drop in the overall crime rate – at a time when VAWA was pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the criminal system.” — Leigh Goodmark, Professor, University of Maryland Law School
- “We have no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women.” — Angela Moore Parmley, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice
Of course our policies are ineffective. As researcher Denise Hines has said, DV programs are “unlikely to work if they have little basis in objective information about the problem.”
Indeed. In a sane world, such an obvious statement wouldn’t be necessary, but that’s not the world of DV advocates and policy-makers.
On October 19, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder made this statement at a Domestic Violence Awareness Month event: “Disturbingly, intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15 to 45.”
Holder’s statement was a lie when made. He was the Attorney General of the United States. He knew the facts, but made a statement that was utterly at odds with them. His assertion wasn’t even close to the truth.
“The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their home.”
Gloria Steinem said that and again, it had and has no basis in fact. In fact, “according to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading causes of injury deaths for women are falls, poisonings, and traffic accidents, in that order.”
[D]omestic violence fact sheets and similar publications listed on the website of the DOJ Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) contained major factual errors. For example, the four-page Facts about Domestic Violence summarized OVW’s understanding of the problem. But a careful review reveals that every statement in the OVW “fact sheet” is misleading, one-sided, outdated, and/or false.
Yes, that’s the U.S. Department of Justice that issued “fact sheets” that, from start to finish misrepresented the known facts about domestic violence. In the same vein,
A 2011 analysis found that overall, less than one in 10 of the domestic violence educational materials posted on or linked from the Office of Violence Against Women website were found to meet basic standards of accuracy, balance, and truthfulness.
In 2006, the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence published a two-page flyer, 10 Myths about Custody and Domestic Violence and How to Counter Them. A detailed critique of the ABA document concluded, “of the 19 claims, only 2 [10.5%] are correct… Overall, the great majority of assertions and conclusions in the CODV flyer were found to be unsupported, misleading, or wrong.”
That’s the American Bar Association, a supposedly reputable organization, whose document was about 90% wrong or misleading.
As I’ve been saying, the truth about domestic violence – who commits it, why and when – is well known and much at odds with industry mythology. The CEDV report gives a good summary:
Hundreds of studies have probed the extent of domestic violence.5 With remarkable consistency, research demonstrates the following:
- Each year, men are more likely than women to be the victims of domestic violence:
o Males: 4.2 million victims
o Females: 3.5 million victims
- Each year, men are more likely than women to be victims of coercive control by their partners:
o Males: 17.3 million victims
o Females: 12.7 million victims
- Same-sex lesbian couples have higher lifetime rates than same-sex gay couples for domestic violence, rape, and/or stalking:
o Lesbian: 44%
o Gay: 26%
In about half of all cases, the physical aggression is mutual. And women acting in self-defense account for only 10-20% of female aggression cases. Similar findings have been reported in international studies.
That of course is the barest of sketches, but accurately reflects the reality of domestic violence as revealed by hundreds of scrupulously-done studies. In the process, it sufficiently demonstrates the frank dishonesty peddled by the DV industry.
Does the domestic violence industry truly want to reduce rates of intimate partner violence? Do policy makers? They do not. Theirs is a decades-long fraud perpetrated on the public to, in the case of policy makers, impress voters with their commitment to reducing DV and, in the case of the industry, keep the money coming.
To effectively reduce rates of domestic violence, we must first stop funding organizations that promote mythology and replace them with organizations that tell the truth. Then we must utilize those facts to provide services to both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence.