Jewish World ReviewDec. 2, 1999/ 23 Kislev, 5760
Female agression --- domestic violence's 'dirty little secret'
Slowly but surely, the real "dirty little secret" of domestic violence --
female aggression -- is coming out. Last week, the New York Times and the
Associated Press ran stories about the rise in the numbers of
women arrested for domestic assault. And these articles did not even
uncritically accept the view that all those women are unfortunate victims set
up by evil men or arrested for fighting back.
The statistics are impressive. Ten years ago, about one in ten domestic
violence arrests involved women as defendants. Now, it's one in five in
Michigan and Connecticut, one in four in Vermont and Colorado, and more than
one in three in New Hampshire. Public officials are trying to figure out
what's going on. They are especially mystified because, according to the
Times, the trend "so diverges from the widely accepted estimate that 95
percent of batterers are men."
Interesting logic: first, a dogma contradicted by virtually all social
science research becomes "widely accepted." Then, when it's disproved by the
facts, the response is to ask what's wrong with the facts.
What's actually going on is fairly simple. As a result of feminist
advocacy, laws and rules requiring police officers to make arrests in
domestic quarrels have proliferated. Taking discretion away from the police
has flooded court dockets with silly pushing and grabbing cases, but it has
also lessened the chances that a violent woman will be let off the hook.
Ironically, the increase in female arrests is happening despite "primary
aggressor" laws passed to ensure that women did not get arrested. Indeed,
anecdotal evidence suggests that it's still men who are disproportionately
blamed when both parties are violent.
Meanwhile, organized feminism is displaying its usual "equality only when
convenient" mentality. If women are being arrested, it must be a "backlash,"
the activists cry. The women must be merely "defending themselves and their
children" against abusive men, Ms. Foundation president Marie Wilson writes
to the New York Times. She claims that studies showing high rates of
aggression by women label a woman as violent if she pushes a man away as he
takes a swing at her.
Actually, most of those studies ask who initiated the violence. Wilson
may be engaging in Freudian projection: the attitude toward female
self-defense that she attributes to scholars studying women's violence is in
fact shown by battered women's advocates toward *male* self-defense. I have
in my files a letter from a battered women's service, written to an attorney
on behalf of a woman charged with assaulting her husband. The letter
described the incident which led to her arrest as physical abuse by the
husband -- after recounting the episode as follows: "Mrs. C. grabbed Mr. C.
by his necktie. When this occurred, he pushed her away. Mrs. C. then
punched his face and her nail cut his neck."
Other ironies abound. Some feminists are now complaining about
"over-routinized" enforcement of the law and about women being arrested in
trivial cases. Aren't these the people who told us domestic violence was
never trivial? Remember how Montcalm County Judge Joel Gehrke was pilloried
in 1996 for giving a convicted wife abuser a literal slap on the wrist and
suspending all other penalties? The "abuse" in that case was a push that
caused no injury.
The hypocrisy and anti-male bigotry of feminist groups today should,
alas, surprise no one. What is alarming is that they often have the ear of
the authorities. Some states such as California are implementing programs
with the blatantly sexist goal of reducing women's arrests through "improved"
police training. The training will presumably consist of indoctrination in
radical feminist ideology: battering is an instrument of male oppression,
women are powerless and cannot be abusers. Women good, men bad.
Maybe, instead of investigations to determine why more women are getting
arrested, what we need is a federal civil rights investigation to determine
why states are pursuing policies that discriminate against men and
infantilize women by refusing to hold them
JWR contributor Cathy Young is co-founder and vice-president of the Women’s Freedom Network and author of Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality Send your comments to her by clicking here.
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©1999, Cathy Young