Research is Good, Public Policy Change is Better
Over 200 studies of violent relationships have confirmed a pattern: Of relationships that are violent, one quarter of the violent incidents are initiated by women and one-quarter are initiated by men. What may be most surprising, however, is that 50 percent of the cases involve men and women who are inititating violence against each other--there is a back and forth.
The book has a good chapter on the anatomy of intimate abuse with sections such as "Are Women as Violent as Men? and "The Feminist Backlash Against Those Who Speak Up." Mills states that women are more likely to report abuse than men and that men are expected to tolerate hurt feelings, abuse, and even injury, since it supposedly tests their manhood, and they are often taught that they should hide their suffering. Apparently, only 14% of men who have experienced significant incidents of intimate violence even bother to report it vs. women who report such incidents at twice the rate.
Mills points out that homicide statistics report that women are far more frequently killed by intimate partners than men are but another trend suggests that a different pattern is emerging:
The Department of Justice reports that between 1991 and 2000, the number of girls under eighteen convicted of aggravated assault crimes increased 44%, whereas for their male contemporaries, the percentage decreased by 16%. Similarily, crimes involving weapons increased 18% for girls while decreasing 29% for boys. These patterns have also been detected in reports of dating violence.
A study by Murray Straus published in 2008 reveals that approximately 30 percent of college students who are dating in the United States experience a physically violent episode in their relationships. Overall, Straus found that approximately 21% of thse violent incidents were initiated by women, 10 percent by men. As these young women move into adulthood, we may very well detect an increase in intimate violence among married couples.
While it is all well and good to report the research and I am glad that Mill's book sheds some light on the real gender stats, this research needs to translate into policy changes in domestic violence laws such as VAWA and predominant aggressor laws that unfairly target men. For in the coming years, if there is an increase in domestic violence due to women's increased participation, guess which gender will pay a legal price for that domestic violence and guess which will just get away with it more often?