The attention paid to wife beating led inevitably to the rediscovery of husband beating. Starting in the late 1970s, several social scientists began to challenge the stereotype that men almost always were the initiators of violence and the obvious victors in lovers’ quarrels. They reported that their data on family violence had uncovered an overlooked problem—husband battering. Survey findings revealed that there was some truth to the old cartoon images of women slapping men’s faces, or wives chasing husbands with rolling pins or throwing dishes at them.

Some studies indicated that women attacked their intimate partners (by slapping, kicking, biting, punching, throwing something, or threatening with a weapon) about as often as men assaulted women (see Steinmetz, 1978a; Straus and Gelles, 1986; Mignon, 1998; and Straus, 1999).

A meta-analysis of journal articles concluded that about 28 percent of females and 22 percent of males reported that they had perpetrated physical violence in intimate relationships; this finding under- scored the need to acknowledge the use of force by girlfriends and wives (Desmarais et al, 2012).

Researchers referred to the possibility that women were the offenders in intimate partner abuse about as often as men as “gender symmetry” (see Belknap and Melton, 2005). But that conten- tion set off a debate. Skeptics argued that the full story or entire sequence of events, and the social context surrounding the history of violence in tumultuous relationships, was not recorded in these surveys and studies. Much of the self- reported violence acknowledged by these women probably was carried out in self-defense and did not qualify as aggressive initiatives. When women do perpetrate violence that goes beyond self-defense, their resort to physical force usually is a means of releasing pent-up anger and resentment and consti- tutes a response to male provocations or an act of retaliation to avenge past abuse. Women don’t use physical force to control or intimidate their part- ners, as men try to do. Because men tend to be bigger than their partners, their use of brute strength is far more likely to be intimidating and injurious (Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2005). Many female combatants were previously victims. And the overwhelming majority of instances of severe aggression in which someone winds up in an emer- gency room are male-on-female offenses. There- fore, husband abuse should not be mistakenly equated with wife abuse, and a recognition that men can be injured too should not be used to undercut the urgency of tackling the much more pressing issue of women battering, feminists argued (see Pleck et al., 1978; Lewin, 1992; Cose, 1994; and Belknap and Melton, 2005). The insistence by men’s rights groups that intimate partner violence

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cuts both ways represents a depoliticized gender- neutral view that lacks social context and harkens back to the old individual pathology explanation, which ignores feminist insights about unequal power relationships (Dragiewicz, 2011).

Actually, statistics from official sources do not show females to be as violent as males. On the contrary, about 80 percent of all victims of partner violence were girls and women, according to a massive study of NCVS findings from 1994 to 2010. The victimization rate for females was about five times higher than for males over those years (Catalano, 2012). Gender-neutral mandatory arrest policies targeting the “primary physical aggressor” led the police to take women into cus- tody in about one-quarter of all domestic distur- bance cases in some jurisdictions (see Goldberg, 1999; and Young, 1999). Similarly, less than 15 percent of the defendants charged with misde- meanor and felonious assault against intimate part- ners were females, according to a study of cases prosecuted in state courts in large cities (Smith and Farole, 2009). Surprisingly, battered men seem more inclined to call the police than battered women. About 70 percent of men assaulted by an intimate partner (who was also a male in 20 percent of these cases) reported the attack to the authorities, compared to just about 50 percent of the females who suffered IPV in 2008 (Catalano et al., 2009).

But pro-arrest policies can hurt the same indi- viduals the criminal justice system is supposed to protect. Mistakenly condemned as aggressors, some women are compelled to attend batterer intervention programs originally designed to reha- bilitate violent men. This is an unintended conse- quence of relying too heavily on arrest and prosecution as a means of quelling intimate partner violence. The superficial gender neutrality of the criminal justice process actually leads to “gendered injustices” when women who really are not bellig- erent are treated the same way as violence-prone men (Miller, 2005).

Battered men report hostile reactions when they seek solace and support from domestic violence hotlines (see Douglas and Hines, 2011).These men face several unique problems. First of all, those who

report their plight to the authorities do so with great reluctance. If they call the police, they face either disbelief or mockery and scorn. Deep skepticism can cause officers to act on the basis of negative stereotypes, presume these males actually were the initiators, and arrest them. Because males tradition- ally are supposed to be physically adept and to “take charge of situations,” for battered husbands/boy- friends to publicly admit their wives/girlfriends won the lovers’ quarrels is to confess that they are not living up to manly standards. They face ridicule for not being able to control their mates (unless the battered men are elderly or physically infirm). Their failure to measure up to the prescription to be the head of the household might add to their confusion and distress. This special stigma might inhibit them from seeking help and can only contribute to their sense of isolation. Second, if they overcome their feelings of inadequacy, self-loathing, and shame, and dare to come forward, they do not have access to the same resources now available to battered women, especially support groups, professional counseling, and temporary shelters. The first sanctu- ary for battered men was established in 1993 in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the first women’s shelter had been set up more than 20 years earlier. It housed at least 50 men in its first six months. In most cases, however, battered husbands have one crucial advan- tage over battered wives: Their ability to support themselves financially encourages many of them to leave their troubled relationship. Furthermore, when they separate, they are rarely stalked, brought back, and beaten again (Chavez, 1992; Lewin, 1992; Cose, 1994; Straus, 1999 and Hines et al., 2013).

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