For thirteen years, Francine Hughes’s husband, James (Mickey) Hughes, beat her routinely. Something as small as the inflection of a word would set him off: he’d pin her down in a chair and pummel her. They divorced in 1971, but, later that same year, he moved back in. “She did try to get away,” her son, James Hughes, remembers in “The Burning Bed,” a new short documentary from Retro Report. “But he would also tell her, ‘There is nowhere you can go, bitch, that I won’t find you.’ ”
One night, in 1977, Mickey subjected Hughes to a particularly humiliating beating. “Smashing food in the kitchen, dumping out the garbage, rubbing it into my hair, hitting me,” Hughes recalled in a television interview, years later. “I thought, I’m never coming back, never, and then I thought, Because there won’t be anything to come back to. That’s when I decided I would burn everything.” When Mickey fell asleep, drunk, that night, Hughes doused his bed in gasoline, lit it on fire, packed her four children into her car, and drove away as flames engulfed the house. Hughes was then charged with the murder of her ex-husband.
Hughes’s story has been told before—the new “Burning Bed” documentary borrows its title from the journalist Faith McNulty’s 1980 book about the Hugheses and from the 1984 TV-movie adaptation, starring Farrah Fawcett. The documentary emphasizes how groundbreaking Hughes’s case was. Lee Atkinson, who was an assistant prosecutor in her case, says that, at the time, police officers would not arrest someone for a misdemeanor unless they saw the crime committed. For Hughes, this policy meant that the police came to her house repeatedly and did not arrest Mickey. “Does she have bruises? Yes. Does she look like she’s been abused? Yes. The police will take a report, but they wouldn’t make an arrest,” he says. At a time when the criminal-justice system failed to deal with domestic violence because—as an “Evening News” broadcast put it—“traditionally, wife-beating has been considered a family affair,” Hughes’s case initiated a sea change, forcing a long-suppressed conversation about domestic violence in America.
In interviews for the film, Hughes’s lawyer recalls that, because Mickey had been asleep, “I did not think that I could convince the jury necessarily that she was not guilty because she was defending herself. So I used the temporary-insanity hook.” He invoked an idea that would come to be known as “battered-woman syndrome,” a term coined by the psychologist Lenore Walker, based on her research with abused women in the U.S. and the U.K. Walker identified an assemblage of psychological symptoms—fear, guilt, and denial—that occurs in victims of intimate-partner abuse. This combination, which has since been classed as a form of P.T.S.D., can make discerning the level of risk in a given moment amid an ongoing pattern of trauma difficult. The defense worked: Hughes was acquitted, in an unexpected victory for her and for the feminist movement.
The film follows the legacy of Hughes’s case, focussing on the ways that, despite changing the national conversation about domestic violence, her acquittal is still very much an outlier—the vast majority of women who kill their abusive partners are not acquitted. The documentary moves forward to 2005, when a Black Ohio woman, Thomia Hunter, was charged with the murder of her boyfriend. (Black women are abused—and incarcerated—at higher rates than white women, and those who fight back against their abusers face an uphill battle in the courts.) Hunter pleaded self-defense, having stabbed her boyfriend while he was choking her. But she was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years to life in prison, her history of abuse hardly addressed at the trial.
In interviews for the film, the prosecutors in the two cases—both white men—make similar arguments: abuse is horrible, but women have “options.” This claim reflects the view that people in abusive relationships can simply leave. The truth is more complicated, and the perspective of Hunter’s lawyer, Tiffany Smith, who represents ten women who are incarcerated survivors of domestic violence, offers a corrective: “A woman doesn’t go on a first date, get punched in the face, and stay with this person. What happens is very calculating, very slow.” For many women, the decision not to leave is another, paradoxical form of self-defense, Smith points out, and evidence shows that women leaving an abusive partner are “more likely to be killed immediately upon leaving than any other time.”
Last year, Hunter was granted clemency and released, after serving fifteen years. Since the late nineteen-seventies, the number of women in the prison system has grown by more than eight hundred per cent—twice the rate of increase for men—and a majority of them have been victims of domestic violence. Yet the options available to women for legally defending themselves remain dismally limited: as Elizabeth Flock demonstrated in this magazine earlier in the year (“How Far Can Abused Women Go to Protect Themselves?”), Stand Your Ground laws should, in theory, apply to women who kill their abusers; in practice, however, such cases are far more difficult for women to win than men. Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, argues in a paper titled “Real Men Advance, Real Women Retreat” that Stand Your Ground laws mostly benefit white males with guns (as in the case of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin). Men are seen as acting courageously and rationally when they use force. Women’s self-defense, on the other hand, remains reliant for justification on the battered-woman syndrome that saved Hughes four decades ago. Women who defend themselves, Franks says, are still treated “as if there is something wrong with their brains.”
But awareness of how abuse can escalate is not pathological: three women in America are killed by a partner every day, and male partners are responsible for nearly half of the murders of women in the United States. With these figures in mind, it is safe to assume that, for many women who kill their abusers, the alternative was to be killed themselves. Toward the end of “The Burning Bed,” Hunter tells the filmmakers that she is sure that this would have been her fate had she not picked up a knife off the countertop and used it against her alleged abuser: “I definitely take full responsibility for my actions,” she says. “The only thing that I do know is that if I didn’t defend myself that night, it would have been me, not him.”
QotD: “A ban on killers using the “rough sex defence” in England and Wales is set to become law after MPs supported an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill”
A ban on killers using the “rough sex defence” in England and Wales is set to become law after MPs supported an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill.
The bill now rules out “consent for sexual gratification” as a defence for causing serious harm.
The wide-ranging legislation will also place a duty on councils in England to provide shelter for victims of abuse.
It has been broadly welcomed by campaigners but some said it failed to protect groups such as migrant women.
The bill, which covers England and Wales, has passed its final stage in the Commons and will now be debated in the House of Lords.
It was introduced with cross-party support by Theresa May’s government in July last year but its passage was delayed by December’s general election.
The government said the bill would ensure that children who saw, heard or experienced the effects of domestic abuse would be treated as victims under law.
It would also introduce the first legal government definition of domestic abuse, including economic abuse and coercive or controlling non-physical behaviour.
Speaking in the Commons, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said one of the most “chilling and anguished” developments in recent times had been the increased use of the “so-called rough sex defence”.
Moving a new clause which would ban the defence in England and Wales court proceedings, she said: “We’ve been clear that there is no such defence to serious harm which results from rough sex.
“But there is a perception that such a defence exists and that it is being used by men, and it is mostly men in these types of cases, to avoid convictions for serious offences or to receive a reduction in any sentence where they are convicted.”
Campaign group We Can’t Consent To This, which wants to make it the expectation that murder charges will be brought against those suspected of killing a person during sex, has hailed the amendment as a “victory”.
The current law says that if someone kills another person during sexual activity they could be charged with manslaughter alone, while to murder someone, there needs to have been an intention to kill that person or to cause them grievous bodily harm (GBH).
We Can’t Consent To This has collated 60 examples of women “who were killed during so-called ‘sex games gone wrong'” in the UK, since 1972.
The group claims that 45% of these cases ended in a “lesser charge of manslaughter, a lighter sentence or the death not being investigated as a crime at all”.
There are also 115 people – all but one of whom were women – who have had to attend court where it is claimed they consented to violent injury, the group has said.
Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, described the bill as “a landmark piece of legislation”.
However, she said there were “some very important omissions”, including protections for victims of domestic violence who committed crimes in the context of being in an abusive relationship.
Other campaigners have said the legislation needs additions to better protect migrant women.
Gisela Valle, director of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, said the bill had no provision for safe reporting mechanisms, meaning migrant women who reported abuse to police could be questioned about their immigration status and even detained.
Additionally, some immigrants with an insecure status cannot currently access public funds or housing and refuge support.
Ms Phillips also raised the issue of victims of domestic abuse who are migrants and have no recourse to public funds.
She told the Commons “it cannot be right” that “humans, who when they have been raped, beaten, controlled and abused, before we ask them how we can help, first we ask what stamp is in their passport”.
Ms Atkins said the government was launching a £1.5m pilot fund to support migrant victims of domestic abuse who are unable to access public funds.
The so-called “rough sex gone wrong” defence will be outlawed in new domestic abuse legislation, a justice minister has told MPs.
Alex Chalk said it was “unconscionable” that the defence can be used in court to justify or excuse the death of a woman “simply because she consented”.
He said it would be made “crystal clear” in the Domestic Abuse Bill that it was not acceptable.
The bill, for England and Wales, is due to become law later this year.
Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, spoke on an amendment proposed by Labour MP Harriet Harman and Conservative MP Mark Garnier to the legislation, to prevent lawyers from using the defence, but withdrew it following assurances from Mr Chalk.
The campaign group We Can’t Consent To This, which wants the defence outlawed, said the minister’s response was “a big step forward”.
The group says the “rough sex” defence can result in a lesser sentence.
Campaigners want to make it the expectation that murder charges are brought against those suspected of killing a person during sex.
As it stands, if someone kills another person during sexual activity they could be charged with manslaughter alone. To murder someone, there needs to have been an intention to kill that person or to cause them grievous bodily harm (GBH).
We Can’t Consent To This has collated 60 examples of women “who were killed during so-called ‘sex games gone wrong'” in the UK, since 1972.
The group claims that 45% of these cases ended in a “lesser charge of manslaughter, a lighter sentence or the death not being investigated as a crime at all”.
There are also 115 people – all but one of whom were women – who have had to attend court where it is claimed they consented to violent injury, the group has said.
The violence used in the non-fatal assaults included waterboarding, wounding, strangulation, beating and asphyxiation.
Speaking to MPs at the Commons’ Public Bill Committee, Jess Phillips said: “The law should be clear to all – you cannot consent to serious injury or death, but the case law is not up to the task.”
She said when a woman is dead “she can’t speak for herself” but any man charged with killing a woman or a current or former partner could “simply say she wanted it”.
“This is why we must change the law,” she said.
Alex Chalk, replying for the government, said: “It is unconscionable for defendants to suggest that the death of a woman is justified, excusable or legally defensible because that woman had engaged in violent and harmful sexual activity which resulted in her death, simply because she consented.”
He said that would be made “crystal clear” in the Domestic Abuse Bill but he was concerned the wording of the amendment would allow defence lawyers “wiggle room”.
He said the government’s approach would be set out by the report stage – the next stage in the bill’s progression through Parliament. Ms Phillips said she was satisfied with this assurance.
The We Can’t Consent to This campaign group said what had happened in Parliament “was genuinely a big step forward”, adding: “We should know within weeks what their proposals are and if they’ve gone far enough.”
Earlier this month at Prime Minister’s Questions, Conservative MP Laura Farris said the government had taken a lead on tackling domestic abuse, but said there was “an ugly dimension that remains unresolved” on the issue of the rough sex defence.
In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We are committed to ensuring that the law is made clear and that defence is inexcusable.”
QotD: “More than 60 victims have been forced to go to court over the past decade to deny that they consented to strangulation, assaults or violence”
More than 60 victims have been forced to go to court over the past decade to deny that they consented to strangulation, assaults or violence, according to the campaign to end reliance on the “rough sex” defence.
Figures for the number of such court appearances have been collected by the organisation We Can’t Consent to This, which supports amendments to the domestic abuse bill being considered by MPs on Thursday.
The lobby group is one of several calling for changes to the law to prevent defendants blaming victims – almost invariably women – for the violence inflicted on them by alleging they had consented during “sex games”.
On Wednesday, Boris Johnson repeated his commitment to end the rough sex defence. During prime minister’s questions, he was challenged by the Conservative MP Laura Farris who asked: “When men who kill their partners in appalling acts of sexual violence establish in court that ‘she asked for it’ and avoid a murder conviction, does [he] agree that the time is now to end the rough sex defence?”
Responding, Johnson, whose fiancee, Carrie Symonds, was a victim of predatory sex attacker John Worboys, said: “She raises an incredibly important point and we do – we are committed to ensuring that the law is made clear on this point and that defence is inexcusable.”
Rebecca Hitchen, campaigns manager at the End Violence Against Women Coalition, welcomed the prime minister’s statement: “It is past time for the government to get rid of the ability of men who murder women to claim in court as a defence that it was consensual and part of rough sex.”
Campaigners argue that the defence should not have been open to any defendant since 1993 when a test case, R v Brown, in the House of Lords resulted in the conviction of a group of men for assault and wounding even though their sadomasochistic victims willingly participated in the violence.
But We Can’t Consent to This has assembled evidence of 67 cases in the past 10 years in which it said victims were nonetheless required to come to court to deny that they had consented to physical attacks. Going back as far as 1997, it said, it had discovered a total of 115 such cases.
The cases involved women whose attackers claimed they consented to acts including “waterboarding, wounding, electrocution, strangulation and asphyxiation, slapping, beating, punching and kicking, and, in one case, a shotgun fired intimately at a woman,” the campaign group said. “In every one of these cases, the victim insisted that she did not consent to the violence.”
The organisation believes that, going back to the 1970s, as many as 60 women in the UK have been killed in violence, which it was claimed they had consented to.
Among those who died in similar circumstances recently was the British backpacker Grace Millane who was murdered in Auckland, New Zealand.
“There was a tenfold increase in rough sex claims between 1996 and 2016 in the UK and, in every case that we have found, the defendant has been male, many with a substantial domestic abuse history or other convictions for serious violence against women, like rape, kidnap or homicide,” the campaign group said.
“We have long said that the existing law is not working. Our evidence shows that although case law in England and Wales is said to prohibit ‘consent’ claims in defence to violence, it is routinely disregarded in the criminal justice system, and these claims work, resulting in a lighter sentence, a lesser charge, or no prosecution at all – and the woman’s sexual history used to prove she asked for it, even where she says she didn’t.”
The organisation has also accused the Crown Prosecution Service of failing to pursue charges in a recent case in which a woman who reported a violent assault to police has, reportedly, been told in a CPS letter that the prosecution would not be pursued because “the courts have shown an interest in changing the law so that the suspect could say that you consented to these assaults. This would be difficult to disprove”.
A CPS spokesperson said: “Tackling violence against women and girls has long been a CPS priority, and one we remain strongly committed to.
“Claims that a victim has ‘consented’ to an assault do not stop us from prosecuting. We work closely with the police to build and strengthen cases, and if our legal test is met, we will always prosecute, no matter how challenging the case.”
There is a misconception that ‘equality’ means pretending everyone is ‘the same’, that everyone has the same needs and the same abilities, and that, for the sake of ‘equality’, society should treat everyone the same. We do not, in reality, for the sake of equality, insist that everyone uses a wheelchair; we also do not, for the sake of equality, deny wheelchairs to the people who need them. ‘Equality’, a meaningful equality, means saying everyone has the same moral worth, and that everyone has the same right to participate fully in society.
The ‘Men’s Rights Movement’, better understood as a misogynistic, male supremacist, movement, started out as the ‘fathers’ rights’ movement, peddling the still-believed myth that family courts disproportionately favoured women (it doesn’t, see here, here and here). It then moved on to claim that violence against women was exaggerated, and that false rape allegations were common (they aren’t), now, the front line of MRA ‘activism’ is pretending that women are just as violent as men (this has not been proven, see below), and that women who do commit violence are treated leniently by the courts (they’re not, see here and here).
This matters. This matters because, as this 2015 US paper from the William & Mary Journal of Woman and the Law shows, MRAs are not powerless and marginalised, as they love to keep claiming, and their activism has real-world consequences:
In 2004, a fathers’ rights group formed in West Virginia to promote “Truth, Justice, and Equality in Family Law.” They created a media campaign including billboards and radio spots warning about the dangers of false allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse, even offering a $10,000 award to anyone who could prove false allegations of abuse were used against a parent in a custody case. In 2007, they released a study concluding that seventy-six percent of protection order cases were unnecessary or based on false allegations, and warned that protection orders were often filed to gain leverage in divorce and custody cases. They used their research to propose a new law with language created by a national fathers’ rights group to sanction parents making false allegations of intimate partner violence during custody cases. The Governor signed their bill into law in 2011.
Within the broader context of the fathers’ rights movement, a closer examination of the West Virginia group’s work raises important questions. In spite of its dissemination within and beyond the fathers’ rights movement, their research conclusions bore little rational relationship to the findings. The research was at best misguided and confused, and at worst, a deliberate attempt to mislead the public in order to promote a political agenda. The new law was redundant, as both the domestic relations code and criminal code already provide sanctions for parents who make false allegations of abuse. The law was effectively a solution created to prove a problem by shifting the public policy focus from protecting victims to questioning their motives and potentially silencing them.
I have been in communication with several MRA’s recently (see here, here, and here), who claim that men are more oppressed than women, and that women commit just as much physical and sexual violence against men as men commit against women. Neither of these claims are true. The claims regarding physical violence rely on cherry-picking certain papers; some studies do show that women commit as much violence as men, but others don’t, and other academics criticise the methodology of the studies that show equal rates of violence. the only thing we can conclude, with any certainty, is that there is no definitive proof that women are just as violent as men.
I am educated to a graduate level in a STEM subject, I understand the basics of how research is conducted, but I can’t do a ‘deep dive’ into a social science paper and critique its methodology.
Type ‘intimate partner violence’ into Google Scholar and there are over a million results; no one, even if it was their full-time job, could read all of those, understand them beyond a superficial level, and integrate them into an active body of knowledge.
No single academic paper definitively ‘proves’ anything, and no legitimate academic would claim otherwise. The scientific method is sacrosanct, always, but it is carried out by flawed and fallible human beings; the solution is more and better research.
There is a reproducibility crisis across the sciences, particularly in psychological/behavioural studies, but also in the hard sciences. There is also the issue that only ‘exciting’ results get published; this is why we keep on seeing new Brain Sex! papers – a study showing no meaningful difference between the cognitive functions of men and women is not ‘interesting’ and unlikely to be published. Men’s violence against women is old hat, but women’s violence against men is new and exciting and offers more opportunities for an academic to make a name for themselves.
Academics do not reside on a higher plane of existence, they are flawed, fallible human beings just like the rest of us. Gaining a PhD shows that a person is capable of conducting and writing up research to a profession level, it doesn’t mean they have access to esoteric knowledge, and a PhD is the start of a research career, not its high-point. Academics can be lazy, incompetent, biased, partisan, even criminal. The po-mo gibberish coming out of queer/gender studies departments, shows that academics can also be (fully peer reviewed) charlatans.
There have been many, many academic papers published around the world on the subject of intimate partner violence, over decades, below is a small selection, I would recommend reading the papers in full where they are available:
From the 1999 summer edition of the DVIRC [Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria] Newsletter, Michael Flood’s article Claims about ‘Husband Battering’ says:
Men in fathers’ rights groups and men’s rights groups have been claiming very loudly for a while now that domestic violence is a gender-equal or gender-neutral phenomenon – that men and women assault each other at equal rates and with equal effects. They claim that an epidemic of husband-battering is being ignored if not silenced.
To substantiate their claims, men’s rights and father’s rights groups draw on a body of American studies which use a particular methodology for measuring violence. This is the [Conflict Tactics Scales] (CTS) […] There are four problems with the claims about ‘husband battering’ made by men’s rights advocates. Firstly, they only use these authors’ work selectively, as the authors themselves disagree that women and men are equally the victims of domestic violence. Secondly, they ignore the serious methodological flaws in the CTS. Thirdly, they ignore or dismiss a mountain of other evidence which conflicts with their claims. Finally, their strategies in fact are harmful to men themselves, including to male victims of violence.
The authors of the American CTS studies stress that no matter what the rate of violence, women are 7 to 10 times more likely to be injured in acts of intimate violence than are men (Orman, 1998). Husbands have higher rates of the most dangerous and injurious forms of violence, their violent acts are repeated more often, they are less likely to fear for their own safety, and women are financially and socially locked into marriage to a much greater extent than men. In fact, Straus expresses his concern that ‘the statistics are likely to be misused by misogynists and apologists for male violence’ (cited in Orman, 1998).
The [Conflict Tactics Scales] (CTS) has three key flaws as a way of measuring violence. Firstly, it leaves out important forms of violence, such as sexual assault, choking, suffocating, scratching, stalking, and marital murder. Most importantly, CTS studies exclude incidents of violence that occur after separation and divorce. Yet Australian data, e.g. from the Women’s Safety Survey, shows that women are as likely to experience violence by previous partners as by current partners (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1996: 8). And that it is the time around and after separation which is most dangerous for women. International data shows similar patterns. […]
Secondly, CTS studies such as Headley et al.’s treat violent acts out of context. They only count violent acts. They do not tell us whether the acts were in self-defence. They do not distinguish between offensive and defensive acts. They do not tell us whether they were a single incident, or part of a pattern of violence. They do not tell us whether the act was intended to hurt the other person; a joking kick or a slapped hand are counted the same as a violent kick or a blow to the face. Most CTS studies do not tell us whether the victim was injured, or how badly (Dobash et al, 1992). These studies only look at violence in one year, and they don’t consider the history of the violence in the relationship. And, obviously, the murder of partners and ex-partners cannot be measured by self-report surveys.
Headey et al.’s survey did ask about injuries, and they found that men are as likely as women to be victims of domestic assaults that lead to injury and pain (and the need for medical attention). They note that this runs counter to medical and police records, that this is the finding in which they have least confidence, and that these issues need further research (Headey et al. 1999: 60-61).
Most CTS studies also ignore the issue of fear and intimidation. Headey et al.’s survey did ask about threats and intimidation, and it was here that they found the only statistically significant gender difference in domestic violence in the survey. More women (7.6 per cent) than men (4 per cent) said they felt ‘frightened and intimidated’ (Headey et al. 1999: 59).
Rather than seeing domestic violence as referring only to physical acts such as hitting or pushing, we need to recognise that verbal, psychological and emotional abuse is an important aspect of domestic violence.
Thirdly, the CTS depends only on reports either by the husband or the wife despite poor interspousal reliability. Like other CTS studies, Headey et al.’s study only questioned one respondent from each household and did not include people married or partnered to each other (Headey et al. 1999: 57). Other studies show that wives and husbands disagree considerably both about what violence was used and how often it was used, and that wives are more likely than husbands to admit to their own violence (Szinovacz, 1983; Jouriles and O’Leary, 1985).
Take note of the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS) here, it will keep appearing. What this 1999 newsletter tells us (besides the fact that MRA’s have been at it for a long time), is that in order to find parity in violence between men and women, researchers in the 1980’s and 1990’s (the CTS may have been updated since then) used a flawed research method that excluded much male violence against women, and exaggerated female violence against men.
From the December 2002 volume of the journal Violence Against Women, the paper ‘Are Physical Assaults by Wives and Girlfriends a Major Social Problem?: A Review of the Literature’, says in its abstract:
Research that shows approximately equal rates of dating and domestic violence by men and women has been used to challenge the priority given to services for abused women. This article reviews the scientific evidence for gender equality in rates of lethal and nonlethal intimate partner violence. Among the problems noted in studies showing gender equality are the ways in which questions about violence are framed, exclusion of items about sexual abuse and stalking, and exclusion of separated couples. Studies without these problems show much higher rates of violence by men. Furthermore, the physical and psychological consequences of victimization are consistently more severe for women.
This paper reports similar problems as the 1999 newsletter, including use of the CTS, “The critiques of the CTS are very important to consider, given that almost all of the studies in major reviews (e.g., Archer, 2000; Fiebert, 1998) use the scales or very similar scales. A possible effect of the sampling differences and screening biases noted above is that two distinct types of violence are being uncovered, what one team of researchers calls “intimate terrorism” and “common couple violence” (Johnson & Ferraro, 2000).” And again, sexual violence was often not included in studies, “Another problem with most studies is that they neglect to include sexual abuse. Rates of sexual abuse of women by an intimate partner were more than 5 times higher than rates of sexual abuse of men by an intimate partner in a large-scale study of college students (Makepeace, 1986), from 2 to 60 times higher in high-school samples (Molidor & Tolman, 1998; O’Keefe & Treister, 1998), and 20 times higher in a random survey of the U.S. population (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Thus, inclusion of sexual abuse is likely to show clear gender differences. In response to criticism that the CTS did not include sexual coercion items, they were recently added to its latest version (CTS-2) (Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, & Sugarman, 1996).”
From the November 2006 volume of Journal of Family Violence, the paper ‘Victim or Offender? Heterogeneity Among Women Arrested for Intimate Partner Violence’ says in its abstract:
Mandatory arrest laws for intimate partner violence (IPV) have increased both the number and proportion of arrests that involve female defendants. Whether these numbers should be as high as they are remains a source of controversy. Most practitioners argue that women are usually arrested for defensive actions used in the face of assaults perpetrated by their spouse/partner. Others believe that these higher arrest rates more accurately reflect the true prevalence of physical aggression perpetrated by women. One way to help clarify this debate is to take a closer look at the women charged with IPV. The present study used self-reported information and criminal justice records on prior aggression to classify 485 women convicted of IPV into four distinct subtypes (i.e., no prior violence, primary victim, primary aggressor, and primary aggressor not identified). Despite the fact that all of these women were arrested for and convicted of IPV, analyses consistently found that few of the women could be considered as the primary aggressor in their relationship. Nor, however, were all of the women classified as primary victims. Methodological issues are discussed as well as the policy, practice, and research implications of this study.
This is a smaller, detailed, study, compared to those referenced above, and does not rely on the CTS; it is a useful contribution towards establishing an overall picture of the nature of male and female interpersonal violence.
From the December 2009 volume of Journal of Interpersonal Violence, the paper ‘Sex Differences in Intimate Partner Violence and the Use of Coercive Control as a Motivational Factor for Intimate Partner Violence’ says it its abstract:
Research argues that coercive control (CC) is a special case of intimate partner violence (IPV). The present study hypothesized that instead CC is the motivator for other types of IPV, with control of the victim as the goal. When CC fails, physical types of IPV are used. This hypothesized relationship was tested using a large matched sample of 762 divorcing couples participating in divorce mediation. Structural equation modeling was used to analyze the data with CC predicting two latent common factors of the overall level of victimization separately for men and women. Significant causal relationships between CC and the latent construct of victimization for both members of the couples were found. In addition, CC, psychological abuse, sexual assault/intimidation/coercion, threats of and severe physical violence were disproportionately reported as perpetrated by men against women whereas reports of physical abuse (e.g., pushing, shoving, scratching) were not.
This, again, appears to be different type of study, not relying on the CTS; its results are another useful contribution towards establishing an overall picture of the nature of male and female interpersonal violence.
From the May 2015 volume of Journal of Family Violence, the paper ‘Men’s and Women’s Experience of Intimate Partner Violence: A Review of Ten Years of Comparative Studies in Clinical Samples; Part I’ says it its abstract:
The present paper reviews literature published between 2002 and 2013 regarding gender differences in the perpetration, motivation, and impact of intimate partner violence (IPV) in clinical samples in order to update and extend a previous review by Hamberger (2005). Results showed that although both women and men are active participants in acts of physical IPV and emotional abuse, women’s physical violence appears to be more in response to violence initiated against them. Although both men and women participate in emotional abuse tactics, the type and quality appears to differ between the sexes. Men tend to use tactics that threaten life and inhibit partner autonomy; women use tactics that consist of yelling and shouting. Men are the predominant perpetrators of sexual abuse. Analysis of patterns of violence and abuse suggests that women are more highly victimized, injured, and fearful than men in clinical samples. Research and clinical implications are discussed.
Here we have another paper showing a disparity in intimate partner violence between men and women.
From the 2016 volume of Psychology of Violence, the paper ‘Self-report measures that do not produce gender parity in intimate partner violence: A multi-study investigation’ says it its abstract:
Objective: Gender patterns in intimate partner violence (IPV) remain a controversial topic. Some self-report measures produce gender “parity” in IPV rates. However, other self-report surveys do not produce gender parity, nor do arrests, reports to law enforcement, homicide data, helpseeking data, or witness reports. This methodological inconsistency is still poorly understood. The objective of these studies is to explore the effects of item wording on gender patterns for victimization reports in a range of samples. Method: In Study 1, 238 undergraduates were randomly assigned either the standard Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS) physical victimization items or a version which changed the partner-specific wording to generic wording (“Someone” instead of “My partner”), with perpetrator information collected in follow-up. Studies 2 and 3 compared the standard approach to items with stems intended to reduce false positives (either “Not including horseplay or joking around . . .” or “When my partner was angry . . .”), among 251 college students and 98 agency-involved women, respectively. Study 4 implemented the “not joking” alternative from Study 3 in a large rural community sample (n = 1,207). Results: In Studies 1 and 2, significant Wording × Gender analyses indicated that some item wordings yielded higher rates of female than male victimization. Study 3 showed similar patterns across forms for highly victimized women. Study 4 found higher female than male victimization for a new scale and every item. Conclusion: The CTS and similar behavioral checklists are unusual in their inattention to false positives. Self-report measures designed to minimize false positives produce results consistent with other IPV methodologies; that is, they do not demonstrate gender parity. The Partner Victimization Scale, described here, can be used when a scale that has multimethod convergence with other IPV methodologies is desired.
Here we have the reappearance of the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS), still with the same criticisms against it. This study adjusted the wording of the CTS, and found that there was no longer parity in intimate partner violence between men and women.
My conclusion, from this admittedly small sample of papers, is that studies that show parity of violence between men and women, rely on a flawed methodology, the CTS, which has been criticised by academics for decades.
The specific type of sexual violence against men called ‘made to penetrate’ (which is sometimes referred to by more hysterical MRA types as ‘envelopment’, as if the vagina were some kind of Giger monster that can detach itself from the female body and go hunting for penises), is another MRA obsession. The claim that men are ‘made to penetrate’ as frequently as women are raped, comes from an amateur interpretation of a 2010 study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an interpretation rejected by the CDC.
MTP is a form of sexual violence that some in the practice field consider similar to rape. CDC measures rape and MTP as separate concepts and views the two as distinct types of violence with potentially different consequences. Given the burden of these forms of violence in the lives of Americans, it is important to understand the difference in order to raise awareness.
Sexual violence is common. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes. Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 38 men have experienced completed or attempted rape and 1 in 14 men was made to penetrate someone (completed or attempted) during his lifetime.
1 in 14 men have been ‘made to penetrate’ (completed or attempted) and nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped (completed or attempted), therefore almost 3x as many women have been raped as men have been ‘made to penetrate’, and of those men, 21%, over a 5th, reported male perpetrators, so it is not true to say that women are committing sexual violence against men at the same rate as men are committing sexual violence against women.
The only fields where men unequivocally outperform women are physical and sexual violence. There have been “almost 50 deaths […] linked to incels across North America in recent years” with the latest killing in Canada being treated as a terrorist attack.
There is not a single case in all of recorded human history of a woman going on a killing spree because she couldn’t get laid; the number of female serial killers and spree killers is tiny compared to the number of men, even tinier when you look at women who weren’t acting with/for a male partner.
I will conclude with the challenge I give to all MRA’s who insist women are just as violent as men: show me the bodies! Show me the two men a week in England and Wales murdered by a current or former partner; show me the three men a week in the USA murdered by a current or former partner; show me which country in the global south has an epidemic of ‘androcide’ (men being murdered by women).
QotD: “A Canadian teenager is facing the country’s first “incel”-related terrorism charges in connection with a machete attack at a Toronto massage parlour that left a young mother dead”
A Canadian teenager is facing the country’s first “incel”-related terrorism charges in connection with a machete attack at a Toronto massage parlour that left a young mother dead.
It is believed to be the first Canadian terror case not tied to Islamic extremism and could mark a turning point, experts say, as the authorities crack down on the misogynistic incel or “involuntary celibate” movement, which has its roots in online chatrooms.
The 17-year-old suspect, who as a minor cannot be named, is accused of entering an erotic massage parlour in Toronto in late February and killing Ashley Noell Arzaga, 24.
He also allegedly stabbed the shop’s owner as she wrestled the machete from him. Reports of the incident suggest another man was injured before an arrest was made.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) initially charged him with first-degree murder and attempted murder but upgraded both charges to include “terrorist activity” on Tuesday in light of new evidence discovered by Toronto police. The suspect was in attendance at court via video link.
“Terrorism comes in many forms and it’s important to note that it is not restricted to any particular group, religion or ideology,” the RCMP said in a statement.
Incels — usually indignant, sexually frustrated men — blame women for their inability to form romantic relationships. Some openly call for violence against women, or “Stacys”, and “Chads”, the men they date. The RCMP now class it as an “ideologically motivated violent extremist movement”.
Almost 50 deaths have been linked to incels across North America in recent years, prompting calls for such attacks to be classified as domestic terrorism. Suspects tend to be lone wolves using easily accessible weapons, such as knives and vehicles, and lack ties to specific organisations, all of which hinder police efforts to stop them.
The authorities have declined to level terrorism charges in similar cases, including a 2018 attack in Toronto where ten people were killed and 16 injured when a van drove into pedestrians on a busy road.
Even though the suspect, Alek Minassian, allegedly told police that he identified as an incel and hoped to “inspire future masses” to join his “uprising”, he was not charged with terrorism.
Minassian was allegedly inspired by Elliot Rodger, who is believed to have perpetrated the first incel-related attack in 2014 when he killed six and injured 14 with a knife, gun and car in Isla Vista, California.
Prosecutors declined to pursue charges against a man accused of assault because of fears he would claim it was consensual sexual behaviour — a decision that will intensify pressure to outlaw the “rough sex gone wrong” defence.
The woman involved said she had been physically and sexually assaulted but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told her that “the suspect could say you consented to these assaults”.
The Labour MP Harriet Harman wrote to Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions, yesterday asking him to review the case. “If that’s what is going to happen, there could be no prosecutions of sexual offences at all, because in every case the defendant could say ‘she wanted it’,” Harman said.
MPs and campaigners want to ban what has been called the “Fifty Shades” defence, in which men who admit to causing fatal injuries to a woman claim they resulted from a consensual sex game. The name comes from the bestselling novels about a couple involved in bondage and submission.
A key pillar in the defence of the killer of the British backpacker Grace Millane, strangled in New Zealand last year on the night before her 22nd birthday, was that she enjoyed “rough sex”. He was found guilty of murder.
There is cross-party support for outlawing the defence, with Harman leading the parliamentary campaign alongside the Conservative MP Mark Garnier. The pair have backed an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which will go to a bills committee this week, to try to prevent men who have committed murder escaping justice by using this defence. Ministers have pledged to look into it.
Campaigners led by the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), a legal charity, also want the bill to make strangulation a specific offence. Nogah Ofer, a solicitor with CWJ, said strangulation was a “red flag” that indicated victims of domestic abuse were at the highest risk, but “police often minimise the crime as it doesn’t leave many, or sometimes any, visible signs . . . so perpetrators are only charged with common assault”.
The letter from the CPS to the alleged victim in the assault case stated: “A prosecution could follow in relation to this offence, but the courts have shown an interest in changing the law so that the suspect could say that you consented to these assaults. This would be difficult to disprove,” citing the specifics of the case.
It went on: “If I prosecuted this offence it is likely to lead to lengthy legal proceedings in which the background to the case would have to be visited as far as the sexual practices that led to and accompanied the infliction of the injuries. In my opinion it is not in the public interest to pursue this charge.”
Since 1972, men have used “rough sex” as a defence following the deaths of 60 women, according to the campaign group We Can’t Consent To This. Just under half of the men did not face a murder charge.
The CPS said: “We carefully consider all the facts of every individual case before making a charging decision. If we are satisfied that the legal test for a criminal offence is met, then we will always prosecute.”
As countries around the world have tracked Covid-19, they’ve seen a sharp spike in another scourge, one of far longer duration and with no known cure: domestic violence. In the last weeks and months, confinement necessitated by the pandemic has caused an increase in calls to police and crisis centers, reporting severe beatings and murder-suicides in the home.
At the beginning of April, for example, in a Chicago suburb, a fifty-four-year-old man convinced that his girlfriend had contracted the virus (she had not) shot her in the head, then killed himself. In the US, calls are pouring into the National Domestic Violence Hotline, whose chief executive told The New York Times, “We’re having really difficult conversations,” advising women to sleep in their cars to escape violent partners and, during arguments, to stay out of dangerous spaces, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
In the UK, at least sixteen domestic abuse killings of women and children occurred during a three-week period from late March to mid-April, double the average. The Canadian Women’s Foundation has been circulating a one-handed signal—fingers entrapping a thumb—for women to use on video calls to silently alert authorities that they need help. A quarantined woman in China told the Times that her husband beat her with a metal high chair while she was holding their infant, until she had no feeling in one leg. A health care worker in Herat, Afghanistan—a country where more than half of all women experience domestic abuse in their lifetime—reports that she has lost touch with many victims in quarantine. She fears for their lives.
Spain has seen an 18 percent rise in calls to hotlines; the UK, 20 percent. French police have reported a 30 percent rise in calls. In Italy, hotel rooms had to be requisitioned when shelters were shut down. The United Nations has called for governments to “put women’s safety first.”
But that has never happened in any country, crisis or no crisis. As Rachel Louise Snyder reveals in her invaluable, deeply reported book No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us, the prevalence of domestic violence is nothing new. Household barbarity is not only a “global health problem of epidemic proportions,” according to the World Health Organization, it is also the bare twisted root from which other violence in American society stems, from school shootings to mass murder.
Within the first few pages, you will learn that such violence is not an “unfortunate fate for the unlucky few.” In fact:
Each day, 137 women are killed throughout the world by domestic partners or “familial violence.”
• There are more than a dozen countries where violence against a spouse is legal.
• In 2017, 50,000 women were killed worldwide by partners or family members. Or as Snyder emphasizes, “Fifty thousand women.” Those are global pandemic numbers.
• Fifty American women are shot and killed every month by “intimate partners.”
• Between 2000 and 2006, there were at least 10,600 domestic homicides in the US. During the same period, 3,200 American soldiers died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• In the US, twenty people “are assaulted every minute by their partners.”
• Homicide is the leading cause of death for young African-American women; domestic violence the second most common for all African-American women; the third most common for Native American women; the seventh for Caucasian women.
• Homicide is the leading cause of mortality among pregnant women in several cities and states, including New York City, Chicago, and Maryland.
• 54 percent of mass shootings in the US involved domestic violence.
Snyder’s discussion of that last statistic, regarding mass shootings, is particularly astonishing, drawn from a 2017 report by the activist group Everytown for Gun Safety. Guns are a huge part of the problem, and Snyder is unsparing on that score. But it is revelatory to learn that many notorious mass shootings originated in acts of domestic violence. According to one expert, more than half of mass shootings are, in fact, “extreme incidents” of such brutality, including Charles Whitman’s 1966 sniper attack at the University of Texas at Austin that killed sixteen: his spree began the night before, with the murder of his wife and mother. John Allen Muhammad’s 2002 trail of terror, culminating in shootings in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., began in Washington State, where he had long abused his wife. Omar Mateen, who shot and killed forty-nine people at an Orlando nightclub in 2016, was in the habit of beating and strangling his wife; had he been charged with and convicted of that, the other attack might never have occurred. Adam Lanza killed his mother before moving on to murder twenty-six children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; a document was later found on his computer defining women as “selfish.” And on and on and on. This April, in Nova Scotia, the largest mass shooting in Canadian history began with a domestic abuse assault.
Among the persistent themes of No Visible Bruises is the basic need for society to grasp the physical, emotional, and generational toll of domestic violence. The economic cost is known: $3.6 trillion in the US, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, including $2 trillion in medical expenses and $73 billion in criminal justice and court costs. Yet however widespread and homicidal, however entrenched in every class and stratum, from the most disadvantaged to the highest officials in the land, its devastation is still overlooked. Snyder laments the very name it goes by, which can seem to trivialize the issue, making it possible for officials to dismiss “domestic” crimes casually, as a mere nuisance, implying that “assaults from a family member deserve lesser attention than those of a stranger.” Other terms include “intimate partner violence” or “intimate partner terrorism,” which is a bit more like it.
Describing the rampages of one former offender, Snyder calls him “a domestic terrorist.” That would be Jimmy Espinoza, a former San Francisco pimp and gang member who served his time and is now a graduate and group leader of the Resolve to Stop the Violence Project (RSVP), a county jail program aimed at rehabilitation. “Terrorist” is a polite version of what Espinoza calls himself. Owning up to his long history of abuse, he’s more apt to identify as a “bottom-feeder” or a “low-life motherfucker.” Espinoza offers a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the perpetrator, both his own mind and those of the men he’s training, teaching them how to recognize the ways in which they’ve bullied, blamed, demeaned, and tormented the women in their lives, not simply through brute force but also through browbeating, their abusive narcissism evident in everyday language. He tells them to watch out for words such as “just,” “if,” and “but,” as in “I just pushed her a little. She’s overreacting.” He forces them to realize that self-control will be a struggle every day, comparable to dealing with addiction; he urges them to confront the fact that many were themselves sexually assaulted as children. (Fifty percent of boys who grew up in foster care suffered such abuse; an estimated 12 percent of those in county jails have as well.)
RSVP has posted impressive statistics: 80 percent of inmates who spent time in the program have lower recidivism rates for violent crimes. Yet even Espinoza backslides, on one occasion disappearing for a time back into narcotics and then turning to rehab. He refuses to talk to Snyder further when he learns she’s interviewing his former girlfriend, Kelly, who was twice kidnapped and held by him, once with a knife and once, for days, at gunpoint. After she escaped the first time and ran to a police station, the cops told her to go back and retrieve the knife for evidence. She declined. Kelly, who has a child with Espinoza, tells Snyder that she believes he has changed his abusive behavior but trusts him only so far. She says, “I will never allow myself to be alone with Jimmy again in my life.” While gun crimes would be preventable with sane regulations, the larger unanswered question that hangs over Espinoza’s story and the book as a whole is: Is violence preventable?
The theme of No Visible Bruises is that the male of the species is far and away deadlier than the female. As Hamish Sinclair, a cofounder of RSVP who has dedicated himself to grappling with the problem, puts it:
“Every commonly available…statistic, and every anecdotal account about domestic and all other kinds of violence throughout the United States and around the world, point clearly to the fact that men almost monopolize all sectors of violence perpetration.”
Snyder isn’t satisfied even with that, writing, “It is men who are violent. It is men who perpetrate the majority of the world’s violence, whether that violence is domestic abuse or war,” an assertion validated by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime, which has calculated that an average of 95 percent of those convicted of homicide are men. In addition to school shootings and mass murders, we have “gang warfare, murder-suicides and familicides and matricides and even genocides: all men.” Therefore it’s men, she says, who are going to have to “learn nonviolence.”
Any attempt to describe violence in a nongendered way is, according to Sinclair, itself a form of “meta-violence…aiding and abetting” denial of the problem, amounting to “a careful attempt not to see this crucial piece of evidence,” distorting attempts to deal with it. “Domestic violence is like no other crime,” Snyder writes, and by the time you finish this book, you will believe it.
A British academic whose new book is about why women are blamed for crimes committed against them has been subjected to thousands of coordinated attacks from alt-right trolls over the last week, culminating in her personal computer being hacked.
Dr Jessica Taylor, a senior lecturer in forensic and criminal psychology, is due to publish her exploration of victim blaming, Why Women are Blamed for Everything, on 27 April. Looking into what causes society to blame women who have been abused, raped, trafficked, assaulted or harassed by men, the book has drawn increasing publicity, including an appearance on Woman’s Hour.
But since 17 April, Taylor has been targeted by what she describes as a “group of organised trolls” who align themselves with the “alt-right”, men’s rights activists, incel (involuntary celibates) and Mgtow (men going their own way) movements, who have posted thousands of messages on her public Facebook page, including rape and death threats. On 21 April, Taylor contacted police when the screen on her laptop was remotely accessed. The investigation is ongoing.
“They had total control of my keyboard and mouse. I tried to stop them … after about 30 seconds of this, I realised how serious it was and I shut my laptop down and ran inside to turn my wifi off and shut all other devices down,” Taylor told the Guardian on Friday.
For five days, she was receiving 100 comments every few minutes, “everything from telling me to die, kill myself, messages saying ‘I will rape you’, messages saying I am not a real psychologist or PhD, that I’m fat, ugly, disgusting, dyke, ugly lesbian, barren, infertile, will die alone, that my parents hate me etc … When we started banning and blocking, they really ramped it up and it became violent and abusive.”
By Friday, more than 2,000 accounts had been blocked from her Facebook page.
Taylor is the founder of VictimFocus, an international research, teaching and consultancy organisation which aims to challenge the victim blaming of women subjected to violence and abuse. Her book is based on her doctoral research and on her 10 years of practice with women and girls, including interviews with women who were blamed for being raped, and the professionals who supported them.
“I knew the book needed to be written – but I didn’t know it needed to be written this badly. The targeted attacks from men in the last week have been appalling. I will always centre women in my work and I will keep making misogynists uncomfortable. Abuse and trolling is scary and it’s exhausting, but it’s never going to get me to a point where I say, ‘I will just stop talking about the abuse of women and girls,’” said Taylor.
She said the book was “written for every single woman and girl who has been told that she had to do something differently, change something about herself or make her life smaller so she isn’t subjected to male violence. I’ve had enough and millions of other women have had enough, too … [This book] has made a lot of men angry. You have to ask why that is. What are they frightened of?”
Nazir Afzal is best known for helping victims of the Rochdale sex abuse ring get justice. When he became a chief crown prosecutor in 2011 he overturned a previous decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to take the case forward, suggesting that as the perpetrators were Asian, “white professionals’ oversensitivity to political correctness . . . may have contributed to justice being stalled”. Nine men were later convicted of a catalogue of offences including rape, sexual activity with a girl under 16 and trafficking for sexual exploitation.
This fast-paced memoir, cantering through some of the most complex, violent and fascinating cases he oversaw, explores what led him to become a champion of the ignored. Afzal grew up in 1960s Birmingham in a Pakistani Muslim family who often felt that “without any warning, we might be told to leave”. The book opens with a powerful account of a young Afzal being assaulted in a racially motivated attack. Afterwards his father tells him: “The police are not interested in you. Justice doesn’t mean anything to us.” Afzal says he felt determined to ensure that justice really was for everyone.
He was an industrious student. Law school beckoned and by the end of the 1980s he was a defence solicitor. A second epiphany came when he was defending a rapist who he knew was lying. “The sex was consensual,” said the man. Afzal resigned that same day. Eventually he realised his calling lay with the CPS, even though the work was “relentless”. What Afzal, who left the CPS in 2015, confronted repeatedly is an anachronistic legal system, with archaic laws and courts that force victims to stand outside with the suspects’ families.
The main thrust of his career focused on what he terms “gender terrorism”: violence against women and girls, including so-called honour killings and forced marriages. He scrutinised in particular the way victims of honour killings were often treated as partly responsible for their own murders. One such case was that of Heshu Yones, a 16-year-old girl from west London whose father slit her throat after she started dating a boy. In court she was portrayed as “wayward” and when the judge sentenced the father, he said that he understood what it must be like to have a daughter who was out of control. The killer received a reduced tariff as a result. Afzal realised there were systemic problems with the way honour killings were handled by the police, by social workers, by the legal system — and started trying to educate them.
A similar victim-blaming attitude was present in Rochdale, where the girls were initially dismissed as not being credible. What had occurred was an epidemic of grooming and abuse; teenagers plied with alcohol and coerced into unprotected intercourse with multiple, much older men. In one case a man poured petrol over a 14-year-old with learning difficulties and threatened to set her alight unless she carried out a sex act on him. It was a world before #MeToo and these girls were brave silence-breakers.
Now Afzal sees the grooming trial as “one of the most important cases in the history of modern British justice”. The repercussions were huge; police officers were investigated and social workers struck off. I wish Afzal had gone into more detail on the case, though — it feels worthy of its own book.