Study challenges gender assumptions regarding domestic abuse

Domestic violence is a serious problem in the United States and around the world. When most of us conceptualize domestic violence in heterosexual relationships, the man is generally assumed to be the abuser and the woman is generally assumed to be the victim.

This is not always the case, however, and these assumptions limit public understanding of domestic abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released statistics on the number of men and women “in the U.S. [who] have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by a partner, affecting some form of their functioning.” According to CDC statistics, about 29 percent of women and 10 percent of men are victims of these forms of intimate partner violence.

Generally speaking, men are physically stronger than women and statistically more likely to become violent. As such, it is understandable that domestic abuse is often thought of as a one-sided issue. However, abuse is primarily about exerting control, and physical violence is just one way of doing that.

According to the results of a recent British study, women in heterosexual relationships may be just as likely as men to commit intimate partner violence. Researchers conducted a survey of students in their mid-twenties, including 398 men and 706 women. The respondents were asked about the controlling behaviors (including physical violence) that they displayed toward romantic partners as well as others in their lives of the same sex.

The results showed that men were more likely to be physically aggressive toward same-sex others in their lives. However, women were reportedly more likely than men to be physically aggressive toward their romantic partners. The study also found that controlling behavior was more prevalent in women than men. This behavior (regardless of the aggressor’s gender) was a significant predictor of physical aggression toward a partner.

To be sure, domestic abuse is a serious problem whether perpetrated by men or women. While women seem statistically more likely to be victims of domestic abuse, the prevalence of domestic abuse committed against men is often underestimated and misunderstood.

Source: Medical Daily, “Domestic Violence Against Men: Women More Likely To Be ‘Intimate Terrorists’ With Controlling Behavior In Relationships,” Lizette Borreli, June 30, 2014

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