A Local View column (Nebraska needs to revise domestic violence policies, June 30, LJS) in the Lincoln Journal Star cited the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Study, which concluded that women and men commit physical and emotional abuse at comparable rates, as well as being victimized at comparable rates.
While the study did represent sizable research, it unfortunately failed to factor in the type of violence that was considered for the study, and it highlighted misleading information with regard to the actual act of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or financial abuse to establish and maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
It does not include resistive violence to escape, a one-time use of violence in response to a situational conflict or pathological violence used by individuals with mental illness.
Effective research in the area of domestic violence must evaluate whether the violence was a part of a larger pattern of using coercion and power in order to maintain control over an intimate partner. While a victim in an abusive relationship may use reactive violence, this does not meet the definition of domestic violence, as it is a form of self-defense as the victim attempts to survive.
A recent and extensive study, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The baseline data collected in 2010 shows that women are more likely to be affected by violence: 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetimes, compared to 1 in 71 men; 1 in 6 women have been stalked, compared to 1 in 19 men; and 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, compared to 1 in 7 men. The study reports, “Women are disproportionately impacted. They experience high rates of severe intimate partner violence, rape and stalking.”
The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence reported that “Men and boys are more likely to be the perpetrators of intimate partner abuse. At the same time, it is necessary to recognize that there are some women and girls who are abusive and violent to their intimate male partners. This is estimated to be in five percent or fewer of the cases.” (Belknap & Melton, March 2005)
Nebraska’s definition of domestic violence is more restrictive than many laws across the nation requiring “a pattern or history of abuse.” When courts are faced with allegations of abuse in cases involving the custody of children, lawyers and judges are required to show more than one incident of abuse.
Domestic violence policies are being called into question because these policies are in fact successfully meeting the safety needs of victims and their families. As abusers lose control, they may use the tactic of challenging the policies designed to protect their victims.
In a 2010 article, Dr. Michael Flood, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Wollongong, considered research from Canada and the United States and determined that allegations of domestic violence raised during the family law proceedings are more often than not substantiated by evidence. He notes that research suggests that false allegations of abuse and allegations that cannot be substantiated by existing evidence are more often made by men than women.
The Violence Against Women Act has been in effect since 1994. “Bureau of Justice Statistics and FBI data shows that between 1994 and 2010, the annual incidence of domestic violence dropped by sixty-seven percent.” (Nebraska Lawyer, Finken, July 2013) This illustrates that effective practices and policies are in place.
Nebraska’s domestic violence and sexual assault programs recognize that men, women and children can be victims of domestic violence and the programs provide a safety net of services that are available to all victims.
It is the mission of the Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition to enhance safety and justice by changing the beliefs that perpetuate domestic violence and sexual assault. We will continue to serve all victims until the violence can be stopped.
Lynne Lange is executive director of the Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition.