Don Dutton is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.
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Walter S. DeKeseredyOshawa, Ontario
My ongoing debate with Don Dutton about whether men are more violent than women in intimate relationships is starting to take on the appearance of a dog-and-pony show. Needless to say, though, there is nothing amusing about this heated dialogue, especially for the thousands of women who continue to suffer in silence. Contrary to what Dutton asserts, woman abuse is a major worldwide public health problem. For example, the World Health Organization conducted a multi-country study of the health effects of domestic violence. Over 24,000 women in ten countries were interviewed and the percentage of women who were ever physically or sexually assaulted (or both) by an intimate partner ranged from 15 percent to 71 percent, with most research sites ranging between 29 percent and 62 percent.
Another major international study—the International Violence Against Women Survey—interviewed 23,000 women in eleven countries and the percentage of women who revealed at least one incident of physical or sexual violence by any man since the age of 16 ranged from one in five in Hong Kong to between 50 percent to 60 percent in Australia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Mozambique. Furthermore, research shows that in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, 40 percent to 70 percent of female homicide victims are murdered by their current or former partners. Another unsettling truth is that 14 girls and women are killed each day in Mexico. Consider, too, that large- and small-scale surveys consistently show that every year approximately 25 percent of North American female undergraduates experience some type of sexual assault.
Certainly, some women physically assault men. Still, the number who do so pales in comparison to the rate of male-to-female violence in Canada and elsewhere. To reach the conclusion that women are as violent as men, Dutton continually artificially narrows the definition of violence between intimates to obscure injurious behaviours that display marked sexual asymmetry, such as sexual assault, strangulation, separation/divorce assault, stalking and homicide. As Molly Dragiewicz and I state elsewhere, these behaviours are commonly part of abused women’s experience, rather than an unacceptable or hysterical broadening of the definition of violence. Dutton downplays research on these forms of violence. As well, he pays little attention to differentiating between defensive and offensive forms of violence between intimates, a courtesy we extend to other victims of crime.