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August 26, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In the “Will Wonders Never Cease?” department, comes this ray of light in an otherwise stygian region (Vancouver Sun, 8/21/16). It’s an article, in a major newspaper, that tells the truth about domestic violence. In my long experience researching and writing on DV, it’s all but a first.

The main reason it’s so accurate is that it quotes, almost exclusively, Professor Donald Dutton of the University of British Columbia. Dutton has always been a staunch supporter of empirical reality regarding domestic violence, a stance that naturally puts him at odds with the DV establishment. The narrative that’s been peddled by that establishment for over 40 years is that DV is a gendered phenomenon with males as perpetrators and females as victims.

Essentially all the reputable science on DV contradicts that narrative, but policy makers have never gotten the message or, if they’ve gotten it, they’ve ignored it. Whatever the motivations of those holding the purse strings, the result has been a public policy on domestic violence that cannot effectively address the problem because its assumptions are wrong. As long as we follow the model of the DV establishment, we will continue to fail to make significant progress toward diminishing violence in the home. Much evidence suggests that DV is learned behavior; children who witness their parents engage in DV tend to engage in DV when they grow up. With every passing day therefore, our failure to effectively address domestic violence is producing more men and women who engage in it.

Needless to say, that doesn’t make sense if the goal of public policy is in fact to reduce the incidence of domestic violence. By now however, we must ask the question “Is that truly the goal?” After all, we’ve known the reality of DV for decades now and every new study increases our understanding. And yet public policy remains in thrall to a form of extremist feminism that clings to mythology and shuns science. Viewing the four decades of science, public discourse and policy on DV, it’s hard not to conclude that what policy makers really want is a continuation of the problem. That governments throughout the English-speaking world continue to fund programs based on false premises instead of established science can only mean that those governments and the organizations they fund are content with the status quo. Unsurprisingly, that status quo includes massive transfers of money to programs that don’t work because they’re based on false assumptions.

That existing programs supposedly aimed at domestic violence are themselves not serious about reducing the incidence of DV is likewise a conclusion mandated by the facts. Those programs routinely assume that only men are perpetrators of DV and only women are victims. Those assumptions can do nothing but perpetuate the problem. Ironically, they ensure that the very women those programs supposedly exist to protect will continue to be victimized by their intimate partners, both male and female. Ample evidence demonstrates that women are more likely than men to initiate violence in the home. Equally ample evidence demonstrates that they are more likely than men to be injured in incidents of DV. Therefore, one obvious lesson is to urge women and girls to refrain from “hitting first” and thus avoiding retaliation. Doing so could dramatically reduce the victimization of women and girls, but, to the DV establishment, any indication that women and girls should alter their behavior in order to save themselves is anathema, victim blaming.

Dutton of course nails this and much more. On May 26th, he wrote a letter to British Columbia Premier Christy Clark outlining his observations and concerns.

One of North America’s leading scholars on domestic violence is trying to persuade the B.C. government that it has adopted a failing approach to a serious problem.

UBC psychology professor Don Dutton, who has studied domestic violence for 40 years and written eight books, has told the B.C. Liberal government it has adopted a “false” premise that will do little to diminish partner-on-partner violence.

“It is understandable how an uninformed observer in British Columbia would tend to believe that family violence perpetrators are male and victims are female,” Dutton wrote in a recent letter to Premier Christy Clark.

“But that assumption could not be more incorrect,” Dutton said, objecting to the way virtually all B.C. government documents describe domestic violence as being perpetrated by men, with women as the victims.

As a result, Dutton said, B.C.’s police procedures, court policy and prevention programs are based on a misleading theory.

The UBC psychologist, B.C. government officials and a group of therapists are engaged in a behind-the-scenes debate over the way the Liberals spend tens of millions of dollars earmarked for domestic violence programs and women’s shelters.

“Social science research contradicts the assumption the B.C. government is making,” Dutton said in his letter to the premier.

What’s the reality of domestic violence that’s revealed by the science on the matter and obscured by public policy and popular culture?

Large peer-reviewed surveys have repeatedly found, he said, “the most common form of domestic violence, 50 per cent, is bilateral, matched for severity by each party (male and female).”

The author of Rethinking Domestic Violence and The Domestic Assault of Women (both published by UBC Press) told Clark the second most common form of domestic violence, accounting for 35 per cent of all cases, is perpetrated by women against non-violent men.

“The third-most common (15 per cent) is male violence against females.”

In short, nothing about the way governments address domestic violence corresponds to its known reality.

In his letter to Clark, Dutton emphasized the research of Prof. Sara Desmarais, who has a PhD in psychology from Simon Fraser University.

Desmairais led the team that recently conducted a “meta-analysis” of 249 domestic-violence studies, which were based on personal interviews with men and women involved in more than 135,000 incidents.

Desmarais’ researchers confirmed that female domestic violence is more prevalent than male, Dutton told the premier. “Social science data does not get more persuasive than this.”

“These data sets, found repeatedly by independent investigators, make it abundantly clear that the assumptions of the B.C. policy are false and cannot, therefore, have any appreciable effect on the diminution of domestic violence.”

Why would public policy continue year after year to be based on assumptions contradicted by established facts? Dutton has the answer.

There are two reasons the B.C. government operates on the false assumption males are virtually always the perpetrators of domestic violence.

One, Dutton said, is gender politics.

On that score, Kim Bartholomew, an SFU professor emerita of psychology, is among those who admire Dutton for the way he is “courageous in maintaining his intellectual integrity in a field in which ideology is often more influential than data, and in which there are strong pressures against challenging the dominant ideology.”

The second reason female-on-male domestic violence is under-reported relates to the way Statistics Canada normally collects data: Police reports.

Men are more reluctant than women to tell police they are victims of intimate-partner violence. Most men are ashamed to admit a woman has physically assaulted them. Many men also correctly fear, as shown in a study by Denise Hines, they will not believed by police and will be treated as the aggressors.

In contrast, both men and women are more forthcoming about their own contribution to domestic violence when interviewed by social workers or researchers, which is the case in the scholarly studies Dutton cites.

Although it goes unmentioned by the linked-to article, all of this willful ignorance about domestic violence has a direct impact on our most important social institution, the family. We now have a legal system that removes men from families at the slightest suggestion of DV, no matter how insignificant or, if the truth be told, how fanciful. Both family courts and criminal courts truncate due process of law in order to accomplish that end and police are trained to see men as batterers of women, but not vice versa.

The inevitable result is the separation of fathers from children and the increased erosion of families. And that is precisely the way the extremist feminism on which so much of the DV establishment is based likes it. Since the very beginning of the movement to bring awareness of DV to the public, the announced intention of many people in that movement has been the destruction of the family that they viewed as the locus of female oppression by men. That women and girls are nowhere safer than with their husbands and biological fathers deterred the zealots not a whit. And it still doesn’t.

Thanks to Donald Dutton and the Vancouver Sun for standing up for the truth and speaking that truth to the power of the DV establishment. Someday, its false narrative and ineffective DV apparatus will be scrapped paving the way for real progress at reducing the incidence and severity of domestic violence. When that day comes, we will all tip our hats to Donald Dutton and the other stalwarts who’ve risked their jobs and their reputations to tell a truth of incalculable value.

 

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

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