There is a persistent debate, in both community and academic circles, regarding domestic violence and gender, and in particular, whether women's domestic violence against men is as common as men's domestic violence against women. The following articles are useful contributions to this debate. While they acknowledge women's domestic violence, they show that the claim of gender symmetry in domestic violence is not supported by the evidence.
The evidence is that:
- The problem of domestic / family / intimate partner violence is largely a problem of violence by men, against women and children.
- Comparing men’s violence against female partners and ex-partners and women’s violence against male partners and ex-partners, men’s violence:
- Is far more common
- Has much worse impacts
- Is far less likely to be in self-defence
- If we only ‘count violent acts’, men appear to be 1 in 3 or 4 of victims of intimate partner violence. But as soon as we look at impact, meaning, context, and history, we find profound gender contrasts, demonstrating that men are a far smaller proportion of victims.
See below for key articles on domestic violence and gender, in full text. The articles by Allen, Braaf and Meyering (2013), and Meyer and Frost (2019) are good places to start. For a really short piece, see Flood's 2-page summary of his 2012 seminar. The articles include:
- Allen, Mary. (2011). Is there gender symmetry in intimate partner violence? Child and Family Social Work, 16(3): 245-254.
- Belknap, Joanne, and Heather Melton. (2005). Are Heterosexual Men Also Victims of Intimate Partner Abuse? VAWnet National Electronic Network on Violence Against Women, Applied Research Forum, March.
- Braaf, R., and Meyering, I.B. (2013). The gender debate in domestic violence: The role of data. Issues Paper 25. Sydney: Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse.
- DeKeseredy, W. S. (2011). Feminist contributions to understanding woman abuse: Myths, controversies, and realities. Aggression and Violent Behavior 16(4): 297-302.
- DeKeseredy, W. S. and M. Dragiewicz (2007). Understanding the Complexities of Feminist Perspectives on Woman Abuse: A Commentary on Donald G. Dutton’s Rethinking Domestic Violence. Violence Against Women, 13(8): 874-884.
- Dobash, Russell P., and R. Emerson Dobash. (2004). Women’s Violence to Men in Intimate Relationships: Working on a Puzzle. British Journal of Criminology, 44(3): 324-349.
- Dragiewicz, M. (2009). Why sex and gender matter in domestic violence research and advocacy. In E. Stark & E. S. Buzawa (Eds.), Violence against women in families and relationships, volume 3 (pp. 201–216). Santa Barbara: Praeger.
- Dragiewicz, M., & DeKeseredy, W. S. (2012). Claims about women’s use of non-fatal force in intimate relationships: A contextual review of Canadian research. Violence against women, 18(9), 1008-1026.
- Flood, Michael. (1999). Claims about husband battering. DVIRC Newsletter, Summer, Melbourne: Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre, pp. 3-8.
- Flood, Michael. (2006). Violence Against Women and Men in Australia: What the Personal Safety Survey can and can’t tell us about domestic violence. Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre Newsletter, Summer: 3-10.
- Gilfus, M. E., Trabold, N., O'Brien, P., & Fleck-Henderson, A. (2010). Gender and intimate partner violence: Evaluating the evidence. Journal of Social Work Education, 46(2), 245-263.
- Hamberger, L. K., & Larsen, S. E. (2015). Men’s and women’s experience of intimate partner violence: a review of ten years of comparative studies in clinical samples; part I. Journal of Family Violence, 30(6), 699-717.
- Hester, M. (2009). Who Does What to Whom?: Gender and Domestic Violence Perpetrators. University of Bristol [in association with] Northern Rock Foundation.
- Hester, M. (2013). Who does what to whom? Gender and domestic violence perpetrators in English police records. European Journal of Criminology, 10(5), 623-637
- Johnson, M. P. (2011). Gender and types of intimate partner violence: A response to an anti-feminist literature review. Aggression and Violent Behavior 16(4): 289-296.
- Kimmel, Michael S. (2002). ‘Gender Symmetry’ in Domestic Violence: A Substantive and Methodological Research Review. Violence Against Women, 8(11): 132-163.
- Lombard, N. (2013). ‘What About the Men?’ Understanding Men’s Experiences of Domestic Abuse Within a Gender-based Model of Violence. In Violence Against Women: Current Theory and Practice in Domestic Abuse, Sexual Violence, and Exploitation, Eds. N. Lombard and L. McMillan, London: Jessica Kingsley, pp. 177-193.
- Loseke, D. R., & Kurz, D. (2005). Men’s violence toward women is the serious social problem. In D. R. Loseke, R. J. Gelles, & M. M. Cavanaugh (Eds.), Current controversies on family violence (2nd ed., pp. 79–96). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Meyer, S., and A. Frost. (2019). The nature and prevalence of domestic and family violence. Chapter 2 in Domestic and Family Violence: A critical introduction to knowledge and practice. London & New York: Routledge (pp. 5-18).
- Nixon, Kendra. (2007). The power to name: Conceptualizing domestic violence as violence against women. Currents: Scholarship in the Human Services, 6(1).
- Saunders, Daniel G. (2002). Are Physical Assaults by Wives and Girlfriends a Major Social Problem? A Review of the Literature. Violence Against Women, Special Issue: Women’s Use of Violence in Intimate Relationships, Part 2. 8(12).
- Stark, E. (2010). Do violent acts equal abuse? Resolving the gender parity/asymmetry dilemma. Sex Roles, 62: 201–211
Also see the following:
- A detailed discussion of gender contrasts in women’s and men’s experiences of domestic violence victimisation and perpetration (Seminar, Flood, 2012);
- A short Australian piece debunking claims of gender symmetry (Flood, 2006).
- A bibliography of academic references on domestic violence and gender;
- Responding to male victims of domestic violence: An XY collection
- General introductions to men's violence against women (in full text).
For statistics and data on domestic and partner violence in Australia, see e.g.;
- Violence statistics in Australia: Useful series of resources, Powerpoints, and fact sheets on the data on violence, abuse, and neglect. By the NSW Health’s Education Centre Against Violence and the NSW Ministry of Health. http://www.ecav.health.nsw.gov.au/van-statistics-and-research/
- ANROWS, Violence against women - Accurate use of key statistics (2018): A quick reference guide to key statistics on violence against women in Australia for use by the media and other commentators, including government officials, academics, sector leaders and community advocates. https://www.anrows.org.au/publication/violence-against-women-accurate-use-of-key-statistics/.
Update: Advocates of claims regarding gender symmetry in domestic violence, and critics of feminist perspectives, include people such as Dutton and Straus. Recent critiques of Dutton's and Straus's work are made for example by DeKeseredy, Gondolf, Johnson, and Stark, and samples of their work are now available below.