Public Release: 

Studies often ignore domestic violence committed by women

Letters: Domestic violence, BMJ Volume 325, p 44

BMJ

It's not only men who commit domestic violence, yet scientific studies rarely look at female-to-male violence, according to two letters in this week's BMJ.

Responding to a recent editorial on domestic violence, Dr Mark Horner argues that the clear implication is that men are the oppressors and women suffer. Sadly this is often true, but it is far from being the whole picture, he writes.

According to the 1996 British crime survey on the extent of domestic violence in England and Wales, 4.2% of women and 4.2% of men said that they had been physically assaulted by a current or former partner in the past year.

Indeed, when one considers that most violence against children is committed by women, in terms of gender it is women who are most likely to be perpetrators of domestic violence, says the author. Why is domestic violence so often portrayed in such a partisan and unscientific way?

The justification for this slant in the domestic violence literature has been that female victims vastly outnumber male victims, writes Dr Chris Carlsten in an accompanying letter. Many data however suggest otherwise.

For example, one study found that 86% of marital aggression was reported as reciprocal between husbands and wives. Another found that female-to-male violence was reported to be higher than male-to-female.

Such reporting bias ignores many thousands of male victims and alienates those who demand a more balanced presentation, says the author. "Let's keep working to get better data, but let's recognise the bi-gender nature of this societal ill," he concludes.

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