The most recent large-scale study of domestic violence was published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2007. (Differences in Frequency of Violence and Reported Injury Between Relationships With Reciprocal and Nonreciprocal Intimate Partner Violence) The researchers analyzed data concerning 11,370 respondents. According to the researchers, “[H]alf of [violent relationships] were reciprocally violent. In non-reciprocally violent relationships, women were the perpetrators in more than 70% of the cases.” (This study is illustrated in the diagram below from the Psychiatric News, 8/3/07).
A quarter of the women surveyed admitted perpetrating violence, and when the violence involved both parties, women were more likely to have been the first to strike.
Such findings are consistent with decades of domestic violence research. The National Institute of Mental Health funded and oversaw two of the largest studies of domestic violence ever conducted, both of which found equal rates of abuse between husbands and wives.
Martin Fiebert, a professor at California State Long Beach University, maintains an online bibliography summarizing 219 scholarly investigations, with an aggregate sample size exceeding 220,000, which concludes “women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners.”
A meta-analytic review of 552 domestic violence studies published in the Psychological Bulletin found that 38% of the physical injuries in heterosexual domestic assaults are suffered by men.
Dr. Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling of the University of South Alabama says that as she and other researchers grappled with this research, “Every time we tried to say that women’s intimate partner abuse is different than men’s, the evidence did not support it.”
According to Dr. Donald Dutton, author of Rethinking Domestic Violence, research shows that domestic violence is actually more common in lesbian relationships than in heterosexual relationships. For example, one study of 1,100 lesbian or bisexual women who are in abusive lesbian relationships found that the women were more likely to have experienced violence in their previous relationships with women than in their previous relationships with men.
Domestic violence treatment providers justify their exclusion of male victims by citing crime and/or crime survey statistics which show that most reports of domestic violence are by women. Dr. Dutton explains:
“Domestic violence ‘research’ has been misleading, in that data has been extracted from crime reports and/or crime victim surveys, in which men under-report more than women, and have been publicized as indicating domestic violence is a gender issue, (male=perpetrator / female=victims.)
“In fact, when larger surveys with representative samples are examined, perpetration of domestic violence is slightly more common for females…”