Women Are Aggressors in Household Violence Too

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(WOMENSENEWS)– Times are changing. Girls aren’t so "girly" anymore.

Perhaps it began with early female action figures. Perhaps with "Charlie’s Angels." Or maybe with scores of elementary girls playing soccer, or with older girls playing contact sports at elite levels.

Most likely we will never know exactly how or when it became okay to talk about female aggression–female-to-female aggression and female-to-male aggression. Whatever its origins, this new narrative is challenging the once omnipresent scenario of the male violent aggressor–passive female victim scenario. It is now increasingly acceptable to talk openly about female aggression and to conduct serious research on this topic.

The Truth about Girls and Boys: Challenging Toxic Stereotypes about Our ChildrenWe now know that women-on-women aggression is far from rare and that women are often the initiators of male-female aggression. Surveys of U.S. households have found rates of wife-to-husband violence "remarkably similar" to those of husband-to-wife violence. And an early cross-cultural survey did not find that men were significantly more aggressive than women.

Aggression, as opposed to anger, conveys an intent to hurt or harm and can be expressed physically, verbally or by withdrawing. There is general agreement that men exhibit higher levels of physical aggression than women, but the differences are small to moderate. After a thorough review of the literature on who initiates violence in couples, Murray Straus, of the University of New Hampshire, reports: "It is painful to have to recognize the high rate of domestic assaults by women. All six major studies which have investigated this topic found that women initiate violence in a large proportion of the cases."

Research Example

love is not abuseFor example, of the 495 couples in a 1985 National Family Violence Survey for whom one or more assaults were reported by a female respondent, the man was the only violent partner in 25. 9 percent of the cases, the woman was the only one to be violent in 25. 5 percent of the cases and both were violent in 48.6 percent of the cases. Of 446 women who reported that they were involved in violent relationships, their partners struck the first blow in 42 percent of the cases. The women hit first in 53 percent of the cases, and they could not remember who hit first in the remaining cases.

The great difference here is that women are far more often seriously hurt or killed than men. A woman may start a fight with a slap, which is mildly painful to the man, but he retaliates by punching her and throwing her against the wall, breaking her jaw.

But it is important to recognize that although men are predominantly the murderers, rapists and batterers in human society, relatively few men ever perpetrate these acts. If you discount the extremely violent behavior of those few, the behavior of most men resembles that of most women.

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Excerpted from "The Truth About Girls and Boys" by Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett. Copyright copyright 2011 Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett. Used by arrangement with Columbia University Press.

Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett are also authors of "Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children and Our Jobs" (Basic Books 2004). Barnett is senior scientist at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University and Rivers is a professor of journalism at Boston University.

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15 thoughts on “Women Are Aggressors in Household Violence Too

  1. Sorry, but given the statistics for rape, murder and battery, it is impossible to believe that it is all perpetrated by only a few men. Either way, the number of perpetrators are enough to ensure that the male has dominance in this society. If it wasn’t, there would be more.

    • Does this (???) really believe that men have a QUOTA of domestic violence, rape, murder, and battery? “If it wasn’t, there would be more?
      Like we all get together in Yankee Stadium to compare statistics and plan a coordinated attack. Worse yet, she thinks men are dominant in society. She needs to read up on all the perks for women that exist, beginning with the fact that 90-97% of child custody awards in divorce go to the mother,and they get a support award in 80% of cases, vs. 29% for custodial fathers. No wonder that women initiate divorces in 88% of cases. Women get prison sentences at a rate that is five times LESS than men convicted of the same crime, and those sentences are FIVE TIMES less severe than those imposed on males. The truth, as shown by Dep’t of Jusice studies, is that women perpetrate 45% of spousal murders, and 55% of child murders. As for rape, a number of studies have shown that rape accusations are FALSE in 60% of cases. A woman complaining of male dominance is like an undertaker trying to look sad at a million dollar funeral.

  2. “The great difference here is that women are far more often seriously hurt or killed than men. A woman may start a fight with a slap, which is mildly painful to the man, but he retaliates by punching her and throwing her against the wall, breaking her jaw.” -That is the key statement, not that hitting is done by both. Women could surely find ways to actually physically harm their male partner, but, do not, while men do, much more often, use hitting to physically harm, thus the issue of hitting is only relevant if and when it is done to harm! This article, then, does not carefully identify the difference between planned hurt and planned action to not hurt. When actions are planned to hurt and are out of control with the woman unable to be strong enough to hurt the man, this should be identified as such in the article. When women are that weak, they have been ‘managed’ in such a way, in their lives to become weak instead of strong, which is a longterm form of abuse that can begin when they are children. Thus, the ‘pink-is-cute’ kind of campaign that uses the color pink to make young and older girls feel cute and helpless, so they learn helplessness instead of self-sufficiency.
    The subtitle that includes “Girls aren’t so ‘girly’ anymore” is also, on this basis quite wrong. It is the ‘girly’ girls who are most likely to hit uncontrollably, and to do so with little or no effect on the man. Because they have learned their helplessness, they are also more likely to have married a man who is aggressive, as an obvious sign of his manliness, not the kind of mature signs of manliness, that a less ‘girlie’ girl, more mature kind of woman is likely to choose.

    • ” Women could surely find ways to actually physically harm their male partner, but, do not”

      This dialogue is simply false.

      According to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/10989615/
      women are only somewhat more likely to be injured, and constitute 62% of those injured in dv.

      It is strange to see you to juggle the idea of women being weak/helpless while at the same time realizing that women are not incapable idiots. Surely you can put two and two together, and see that the since women are capable of hurting a man, and some of them are aggressive, that some women will injure men by means of surprise, weapons, drugs, or sleep.

      And I hope you do not seriously mean to say that hitting someone without injuring them is not damaging. Not only is that bad in and of itself, but it can lead to escalation and it will damage the children who see it.

      You only help men and women by being honest about the problem and stopping the cycle.

      • Many, many women are abused daily and stay with their husbands , because they do not see a way out, because they are concerned about the wellbeing of their husbands, and/or because it is the only way they are able to protect their children – these are facts. I mention that women could harm and do not, because that is also the fact the majority of the time, by far, in comparison to women who use the methods you mention. I do not juggle; I differentiate those real women who have learned personal helplessness from those who have not or who have over-come it. I personally have compassion for women, children, and men, and for all ages of adults; that said, I have never liked to see anyone physically or emotionally harmed, and I work to prevent this. I support shelters for women, children, and for men, that protect those who have come to harm by any means, including family violence. I encourage you to look at the ways that you agree with my concerns, especially if you are concerned to stop the destructive cycles that hurt people.
        Good wishes, merry Christmas and happy New Year to all who are concerned enough about helping distraught people to achieve safer, more healthy and fulfilling lives to be reading these articles and responses.

    • Not really true. Studies have shown that women resort to WEAPONS in 82% of domestic violence events. Where a woman may get a bloody nose, or even a broken jaw, from a man’s fist, the man is more likely to suffer gunshot or knife wounds that threaten life itself. Note the increasing number of genital mutilations being perpetrated by women against men. Lorena Bobbit in far from alone. Furthermore, it is really STUPID for women to START a fight, which they do in 64% of cases, with someone who is bigger,stronger, and better prepared to defend himself. Don’t cry about injuries, when you’re the aggressor.

  3. I suggest people to do a search for “women shelters save men’s lives”.
    WHY? Women are provided with an option; kill or seek support services!!
    Men do not have that option. Statistically men and women are equally victims and perpetrators, BUT women have support services and shelters where men do not.
    To save women;s lives; provide a dv support services for men.

  4. There is nothing new in this report. Dr. Murray Straus was finding equal rates of violence between men and women since 1985, when his national study and resulting book were published. The authors of this article seem to want to ameliorate the bad news for feminists, so they write about how more women are hurt in domestic altercations. The truth is, women themselves report INITIATING THE VIOLENCE in 64% of cases. And an increased risk of injury is an expected result when you pick a fight with someone who is bigger, stronger, and better prepared. What wasn’t said was that women resort to WEAPONS in 82% of such fights. While women suffer black eyes and bloody noses, men are suffering gun shot and knife wounds. What Rivers and Barnett ignore, perhaps for personal reasons, is the rate of violence in LESBIAN relationships. Such female on female violence occurs in approx. 46% of such relationships. That’s almost FOUR TIMES the violence of male vs. female relationships.

  5. As an attorney who has done family law work for more than 30 years, I am very saddened when I see women attacking women based on flawed research that has been well and truly debunked by knowledgeable and aware researchers. The Murray Straus “research” that the authors base their conclusions on has been shown over and over not to be valid and to be based on flawed assumptions and stereotypes. Yet it marches on as fact just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Blaming women is such a cottage industry I guess it’s hard not to make money on it when we can.

    • ” I am very saddened when I see women attacking women”

      I fear you bring this into your practice of family law. Claiming that women can be violent and men can be victims is meant take away the myth that all women are morally pure. How many dv shelter and support programs are there for male victims? Yet your really threatened by calling out women in their part in domestic violence so that maybe we can start dealing with the male victims we all know are there… (And deal with female abusers, instead if ignoring them).

      Also the claim that women commit about half of the domestic violence is not inaccurate. About Murray, his reseach (back in the 70’s I think) showed that women commit violent acts towards their partners as often as men do. He was criticized for not giving the context of DV, like who initiated the violence. That is why he did another study that did look at the context and he found that women were as likely to initiate violence. In both studies the reports coming from the men mirrored that coming from the women, which is a good check for reporting errors.

      Much more important though, is that these results (or near to) have been independently reproduced in hundreds of scientific studies ( http://csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm), includes ones which even better checks for accuracy.

      Imo, women’s involvement in domestic violence is one of the best known sociological phenomena because it has been studied so many times amidst such mistrust.

      So you have things backwards when you talk about myths and the Easter bunny. And no, it is not misogynistic to say that women are human and can get violence just like men.

    • What saddens me is the aggressive rejection experienced by victims whose only crime is being the wrong gender or, even more pitifully, being abused by somebody of the wrong gender. What clinically depresses me is victims being called liars and/or laughed at by services promising to help victims. What angers me is the ongoing parade of female sexual abusers being treated as a victim and NEVER punished. What makes me borderline murderous is the woman who rapes a twelve year old boy and then gets child support from her victim with the help of government agencies and lawyers.

      I hope you and others enjoy your political and legal shenanigans way up there in your air conditioned ergonomic offices. I get to see and deal with the real casualties and it is not pretty. We’re sick to death of the lies. We’re sick to death of gender political doctrine erasing victims from view. Look inside yourself critically for a change. If your allegiances to women are what drives you rather than concern for all victims then get the h*ll away from ANYTHING to do with victims. Every lie you allow inevitably hurts another victim somewhere.

      “Blaming women is such a cottage industry I guess it’s hard not to make money on it when we can.”

      This did the trick though. Eusticia must be weeping at the cynicism done in her name.

  6. As a victim advocate, I am very aware that there are male vicitms of domestic violence and that many do not report the abuse…..just as the majority of female victims do not actually report the abuse. However,when looking at male and female initiated violence, it is also important to keep in mind how the researcher defines violence and acts of aggression. Check out Jack C. Straton, Ph.D.’s article, The Myth of the “Battered Husband Syndrome” for a critique on Murray Straus’research methods, available at: http://www.nomas.org/node/107 . It is also important to look at the research/study/survey methods on which the findings are based…however, there isn’t enough information in the “Women Are Aggressors in Household Violence Too” article
    on the research/studies used to support this finding and to really analyze its validity. Links to the actual research/studies/surveys would be helpful.

    This also reminds me of Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE)’s One in 10 Falsely Accused of Abuse: Survey (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/one-in-10-falsely-accused-of-abuse-survey-2011-10-17) and why it is important to take a close look at the actual studies/research that these sort of “findings” are based on. This survey claims to be “the first of its kind to be undertaken, and uncovers distressing trends within the American abuse-reduction system” but I find that the survey was very poorly conducted and really doesn’t provide us with any exciting new information. I would be very careful to jump to any conclusions concerning “FALSE ACCUSATIONS OF ABUSE” based on the SAVE survey. Their findings are based on incredibly unreliable methods. Using a phone survey, their findings are based on the following: 1.) individuals reporting that they have been falsely accused of committing abuse. Hmm…that doesn’t seem like a very reliable means of determining whether or not someone has been falsely accussed. I have a feeling that if you ask those serving time in prisions for committing a crime that a high percentage of them will also claim that they have been falsely accused or a crime. 2.) claims of innocence by friends/family members on behalf of the accused. This also doesn’t seem to be a very reliable method considering the fact that there have been several cases in which the accused actually admits to having committed the crime of domestic violence or sexual assault and the guilty’s family and friends continue to deny it simply because they can’t handle the thought that their loved one could commit such an act. And it isn’t surprising that more males were “falsely” accused of abuse than females based on their methodology. They ask if anyone you know has ever been accused of abuse or if you have been falsely accused of abuse (although we don’t really know how many females are committing acts of abuse against males due to underreporting, based on numerous studies and crime records, it still appears that more males commit acts of violence than females) therefore, since the majority of the research and crime data shows that more males commit acts of violence than females, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that more males claim to have been falsely accused of abuse than females because more males than females would have been accused of abuse in the first place. They also don’t provide a breakdown of respondents according to sex/gender….how many males and how many females participated in this survey? That could make quite a difference in the results as well. It’s not that I don’t believe that false accusations happen….they do. I just have my doubts concerning the validity of this survey. Especially since they are lumping together domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault to come up with their “one in 10 adults has been falsely accused” result. SAVE states that “child abuse is the commonest false charge — about twice as many people have been falsely accused of child abuse as of domestic violence or sexual assault” yet they are using this survey to support their “Campaign 2012, a grassroots effort to reform U.S. domestic violence laws.” Hmmm…I smell a “hidden agenda” with this survey and its results. Well, perhaps not so hidden as a visit to SAVE’s website reveals the following beliefs: they quote a psychologist stating that females are actually more frequently violent than males (I’m not denying that females can be violent, they most definitely are…but where is the actual research and crime statistics to back up this statement?); that the “predominant aggressor law enforcement policy tells the officer to arrest the bigger and stronger person, even if the female turns out to be the perpetrator” (that’s not the policy that I have seen for any department concerning identifying the predominant aggressor, nor is that the training that law enforcement officers receive on identifying the predominant aggressor; that the courts are overzealous in their sexual assault prosecutions (the many individuals whose cases never even made it to court because no one believes them, and large number of acquittals don’t support this statement, not to mention the backlog of rape kits); that counseling and treatment are preferred over criminal justice interventions, especially for minor and one-time incidents (yes, it is ok that you beat the crap out of your partner, it was just that “one time” (its not that I’m opposed to counseling and treatment, but they haven’t exactly produced great results when it comes to domestic violence perpetrators and sexual offenders. I can’t speak on the subject of those who commit child abuse as I’m not familiar with the results of counseling on them). I would love to have information as to who is actually funding and supporting SAVE, information not available on their website. Again, I am very aware that there are male victims and I strongly believe that we need to provide them with support (and, through the victim advocacy program that I run for the Quileute Tribe, I have and will continue to do so) and I am also aware that people sometimes make false accusations. But considering the fact that domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse are underreported, combined with the very poor methods used to obtain these results, I find it difficult to support/believe their findings.

  7. Apologies to editors and authors for my impassioned response to user29293. In what I do and where I come from a broader ignorance is understood even if not welcomed. Taking advantage of it in the way implied is too close to creepy for mine.

    I wonder if WeNews would be interested in publishing, or writing about, some of the stories of the victims of female abusers. Among them are men AND women many of whom write or communicate very well. Many of those were victimised as children. It could add some deeper perspective and empathy to the Ms’s Rivers and Barnett’s writing.

    I’ve noticed a tendency in my(Australia) country’s womens’ media to cover individual instances only from the perspective of a perpetrator. They let her tell HER story. I’ve never seen any room given to the victims. There at the checkout in every supermarket in the land, in big letters we all get to see “Schoolboy Lover” and/or “Schoolboy Father”. I continue to wonder just what it is that media and it’s consumers are thinking. Do any of them have sons?

    Well done for being willing to broach the broader matter of female abusing. I urge you to consider adding some real human depth. For the victims it’s not enough to acknowledge that it can happen. The harm, either direct or in potentia, needs to be understood as well.

  8. Great, a feminist news source is spewing men’s rights and father’s rights propaganda. Why call yourselves feminists at all?

    Strauss’ research, while helpful, is severely limited — these surveys are based on self-report, don’t pick up serious violence, don’t pick up homicide, don’t provide context, don’t include violence during separation or divorce — women and girls’ highest threat for violence and homicide.

    So why use this crap? Why not state the studies limitations like good academicians?

    In regard to the comments about male domestic violence shelters — there ARE male domestic violence shelters so you’re spewing more lies & myths too. The shelters are empty – they are in New Mexico or Arizona (a reporter named Pein, I believe, covered it); there’s another one in the mid-west, started by an MRA. When men leave a violent woman, they leave violence behind — not so for women – abusers follow them. Look into this before you start promoting more false statements.

    Moreover, what you guys always seem to overlook is that since VAWA more men’s lives have been saved than women’s (look at FBI stats or any other DV homicides stats). And while you say VAWA discriminates, you never seem to mention how the REsponsible FAtherhood grants discriminate — a very selective memory, in deed.

    IN regard to Fieberts’ studies – big deal – there are THOUSANDS of studies on domestic violence – less than 200 surveys are no match.

    Credible sources — which these writers chose to ignore – like the CDC, put domestic violence at 85 – 15. We aren’t saying women are not violent – they can be. We aren’t saying men can’t be victims – they can be. But using this crappy data you end up getting more defensive viewpoints than you do if you collaborated – now, hey, there’s an idea.

    But the misogynist MRAs and FAthers Rights folks would rather promote women as violent, women as child abusers, women as false accusers, etc. etc. and they could care less about credible research – they’d much rather build on stereotypes and debunked research (and they’d much rather fight than collaborate).

    And now the feminists are doing it too.

    Go to the other side where you belong. They’ve already proven they don’t want to play with us – they’re more happy punishing us, as evidenced by their viewpoints, web sites, and forums. If they were truly interested in helping men they’d be doing a lot more than fighting women.