Look at full spectrum of family violence

My turn

Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2001

What kind of family violence program do we have in our community? Does our local program encourage the healing of families, or do we take the "divorce" approach? Does the family violence prevention program in our community devote as much attention to females as it does to violent males?

Violence against children by women is an issue where the public attitude is very different than the fact revealed by formal studies. The Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-3) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (call 1-800-FYI-3366 for a copy) reveals data about child abuse by mothers.

Women commit most child abuse in intact biological families. When the man is removed from the family the children are at a greater risk. Mother-only households are more dangerous for children than father-only households.

Children are three times more likely to be fatally abused in mother-only households than in father-only households, and many times more likely in households where the mother co-habitates with a man other than the biological father.

Children raised in single-mother households are eight times more likely to become killers than children raised with their biological father.

Other studies reveal more about female violence against children:

Women hit their male children more frequently and more severely than they hit their female children.

Women commit 55 percent of child murders and 64 percent of their victims are male children.

Our culture learns to be violent from our mothers, not our fathers. Yet 3.1 million reports of child abuse are filed against men each year, most of which are false accusations used as leverage in a divorce or custody case.

The fact is that women usually initiate spousal violence episodes (they hit first) and women hit more frequently. Women are documented as using weapons three times more often than men. This combination of violent acts means that efforts to find solutions to the family violence problem need to include appropriate focus on female perpetrators. We need to recognize that women are violent and we need nationwide educational programs that portray women as perpetrators. Other studies show that men are becoming less violent at the same time that women are becoming more violent. Educating men seems to be working. Educating women to be less violent should now be the main thrust of public education programs.

Any family violence program that accepts the "male abuser-female victim" paradigm is based on a false premise. These kind of family violence programs actually perpetuate the problem of abuse and do not deserve to be supported by private citizens or government agencies. Many government agencies and legitimate charities have been funding a feminist political cause rather than funding rational, solution-focused family violence prevention programs.

We need a family-friendly agency in our community that delivers services to all family members and works to preserve families, not tear them apart. We don't need gender activists with an anti-marriage, anti-family political ax to grind.

We need to separate gender politics from the issue of family violence. We need to look at the full spectrum of family violence, not just female victims. We need to consult scientific studies when we make policy decisions. We cannot hope to implement rational, solution-focused programs and policies until we face the fact that "behind closed doors" women are just as violent as men.

Jim Scholz lives in Juneau and is a member of SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone).

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