Popular misconceptions aside, which insist that 95% of domestic violence is committed by men, most experienced responding police officers know that women are just as likely to start domestic disputes as men are. The "dominant aggressor doctrine," which discourages dual arrests - often an appropriate measure - and instructs police to downplay who struck the first blow, is also quite questionable.
Unfortunately, police are often directed to focus in on who appears to be more in control of the situation and who appears to be more in fear for their personal safety. This misguided orientation often translates into the inclination to arrest the male in a heterosexual relationship, or to ask the male to leave the home. It should be noted, however, that domestic violence occurs between same sex couples and between other same sex household members and relatives as well.
Current data supporting the "95%" myth is virtually non-existent. In fact, the US Department of Justice 1998 Report on the National Violence Against Women Survey concluded that men comprise nearly 40% of all domestic violence victims.
Domestic violence researchers Susan Steinmetz, Richard Gelles and Murray Straus, early advocates for battered women and authors of Behind Closed Doors: Violence in American Families, conducted two major studies for the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, both of which found similar rates of abuse between husbands and wives. Additionally, studies by researchers R.L. McNeeley and Coramae Richey Mann show that women compensate for their lesser physical strength by their greater use of weapons and the element of surprise. According to Phil Cook, author of Abused Men the Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, while abused women tend to be seriously injured more than abused men, often it is men who receive the most serious injuries, because of the weapons factor.
Once a finding of domestic violence and a domestic violence restraining order is entered against a male heterosexual partner, it can be exceptionally difficult for him to extricate himself, absent the woman's willingness to drop the matter and abandon the restraints. Many women's advocates correctly note that these drop requests can at times be motivated by economic dependency or because women are unfairly made to feel guilty for nonviolently "provoking" violent men. However, it is much more common that women request drops because they know that they initiated the violence, or that they participated equally in it, and they do not want their male partners to be prosecuted unfairly.
Male victims of domestic violence by their female partners often face an agonizing choice. By doing nothing, they allow the abuse to continue and quite possibly escalate. By attempting to defend themselves, they take the chance that someone will call the police and that they - and not their abusive female partner - will be arrested. By calling the police, they are placing themselves in danger of being arrested and prosecuted for what is really their female partner's violence. While there are many male victims of domestic violence, they often do not report it. Although anyone who is attacked by their partner should call the police, male victims do not want to risk being drawn into a system, which may be prejudiced against them.
That being said, Domestic violence still remains the most common cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44. According to the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, nearly one in three women in the United States will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. This results in between three and ten million children being exposed to the ill effects of domestic violence each and every year.
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