His primary thesis? That women, well young women at least, are as violent as men, so domestic violence campaigns targetting men do not work.
The last government’s strategy was to place the burden of responsibility for domestic violence always on men. To suggest otherwise was heresy, so the bureaucrats produced advertising campaigns solely targeted at stopping men being violent towards women.
Sadly, domestic violence continues unabated. This may well be because the government doctrine of “Blame the Bloke” ignores some very real scientific research that questions the conventional thinking on the issue.
Russell Brown has produced a fine blog critiquing Bill’s column to which I have a few things to add.
Firstly, as Russell points out, David Fergusson acknowledge his findings do not fit with Police, Child Youth and Family or Women’s Refuge data about who commits domestic violence.
This could be because the Conflict Tactics Scale has a number of shortcomings. The first version had to be revised, because it missed out sexual violence – quite a source of conflict, as it happens, but perhaps one it is easy to overlook if you are designing a tool with specific outcomes in mind.
Now revised, it measures how many times particular types of conflict happen. So I punch you, knocking out your tooth. You push me away.
We score one each in the Conflict Tactics Scale.
Or what about the fact it is solely self-reporting? Any issues with that? Do we think violent people typically like acknowledging how violent they are?
Secondly, David Fergusson is a controversial researcher who tells us he has women’s best interests at heart while he presents research into the negative consequences to mental health of abortion. The problem with this? The same with the Conflict Tactics Scale really – no context. We don’t know why women might find abortion a difficult choice – it could be anything from personal beliefs to judgmental medical practitioners to religious parents. Or it could be that abortion is inherently wrong and must be stopped.
What about the mental health consequences of unwanted pregnancy? I don’t think Dr Fergusson got around to that, sadly.
Thirdly though, I take issue with Bill’s conclusions:
The truth is, both sexes can be bad and trying to attribute blame to just one sex is senseless and futile.
If the huge budget currently being spent on targeting violent males and trying to convince them to change their nasty ways was, instead, used to treat the real cause – social disadvantage, deprivation and mental illness – we might start seeing some results. The cost to taxpayers from domestic violence might reduce.
I did wonder, reading this, how Bill was quite so sure of his facts. Years spent working with domestic violence perhaps? Because I’ve been working with victims of male violence for two decades, and the men hurting the women I have seen were not all non-white, poor, or mad.
Which is what his “real causes” list above seems to imply. Off the top of my head, women I’ve seen have been abused by sane lawyers, social activists, musicians, professional sportsmen, police officers, judges, accountants, doctors, dentists – white, black, brown and asian.
No, I would suggest the real reasons we have appalling rates of domestic violence in New Zealand relate to loneliness and depression, isolation and an inability to talk about emotions articulately. Oh, and a large dose of violence working for the person using it.
The final nail in the coffin of New Zealand’s domestic violence problem is, of course, the fact we find it so hard to acknowledge there is a problem in the first place. Thanks to the “smug” men of the “It’s Not OK” campaign – I value your solidarity with women and children, and men, hurt by domestic violence.
Bill Ralston describes treating domestic violence as a gendered issue as “the conventional approach.” Where has he been? There was no such thing as domestic violence until 1982, when the Domestic Protection Act introduced penalties for assaulting someone you were in a relationship with. That’s just 27 years ago Bill – before that, Police literally used to turn the other way, because there was no crime taking place.
So did the magical feminist consensus arrive in 1982? Or, did, perhaps the generations of social convention which preceded that date take a little while to work their way out of people’s minds? Ideas like it being impossible for a man to rape his wife, because once married a woman had consented to being available for sex at anytime.
The “conventional approach” to domestic violence is to minimise the problem and blame women for it happening at all. Not so dissimilar to Bill’s column, in fact, which ignores the statistics of domestic violence:
45 women killed by their partner or ex-partner between 2000 and 2004. 3 men killed by their partner or ex-partner.
91% of people who apply for protection orders are women.
Seems to me the “It’s Not OK” campaign is only likely to be a failure if we keep up our denial of the problem ala Bill Ralston.