A summary of facts and statistics obtained from the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge (PASK) project—the most comprehensive domestic violence research database available.
Partner Abuse State of Knowledge
Over the years, research on partner abuse has become unnecessarily fragmented and politicized. The purpose of The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project (PASK) is to bring together in a rigorously evidence-based, transparent and methodical manner existing knowledge about partner abuse with reliable, up-to-date research that can easily be accessed both by researchers and the general public.
In March 2010, the Senior Editor of the Partner Abuse journal recruited family violence scholars from the United States, Canada and the U.K. to conduct an extensive and thorough review of the empirical literature, in 17 broad topic areas. Researchers were asked to conduct a formal search for published, peer-reviewed studies through standard, widely-used search programs, and then catalogue and summarize all known research studies relevant to each major topic and its sub-topics. In the interest of thoroughness and transparency, the researchers agreed to summarize all quantitative studies published in peer-reviewed journals after 1990, as well as any major studies published prior to that time, and to clearly specify exclusion criteria. Included studies are organized in extended tables, each table containing summaries of studies relevant to its particular sub-topic.
In this unprecedented undertaking, a total of 42 scholars and 70 research assistants at 20 universities and research institutions spent two years or more researching their topics and writing the results. Approximately 12,000 studies were considered and more than 1,700 were summarized and organized into tables. The 17 manuscripts, which provide a review of findings on each of the topics, for a total of 2,657 pages, appear in 5 consecutive special issues of Partner Abuse published between April, 2012 and April, 2013. All conclusions, including the extent to which the research evidence supports or undermines current theories, are based strictly on the data collected.
The following countries are included in the PASK database:
- Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
- Africa: Botswana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
- Asia: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, East Timor, India, Japan, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
- Europe: Albania, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
- Latin America: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Curacao, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.
- Middle East: Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey.
Domestic Violence (DV), or Intimate Partner Violence, is defined as the physical and psychological maltreatment of an intimate partner.
1. Prevalence of Physical DV Victimisation
- Overall, 24% of individuals were victimized by physical DV
- 23% of women and 19.3% of men victimized by physical DV
- Higher victimization for male high school students
- Higher lifetime victimization rates for women
- Higher past-year victimization rates for men
2. Prevalence of Physical DV Perpetration
- Overall, 25.3% of individuals have perpetrated physical DV
- 28.3% of women and 21.6% of men perpetrated physical DV
- Wide range in reported rates due to variety of samples and definitions
3. Prevalence of Psychological and Control DV
- Overall, 80% of individuals have perpetrated psychological DV
- Expressive abuse (in response to a provocation)
- 40% of women and 32% of men reported expressive abuse
- Coercive abuse (intended to monitor, control and/or threaten)
- 41% of women and 43% of men reported coercive abuse
- Sexual coercion
- 4.5% of women and 0.2% of men reported sexual coercion
4. Bidirectional versus Unidirectional DV
- Large population and community samples
- 57.9% was bidirectional DV
- 28.3% was female unidirectional DV
- 13.8% was male unidirectional DV
- School and college samples
- 51.9% was bidirectional DV
- 31.9% was female unidirectional DV
- 16.2% was male unidirectional DV
- Female-oriented legal/clinical/treatment samples (non-military)
- 72.3% was bidirectional DV
- 14.4% was female unidirectional DV
- 13.3% was male unidirectional DV
- Military and male treatment samples
- 39% of was bidirectional DV
- 17.3% was female unidirectional DV
- 43.4% was male unidirectional DV
5. Motivations for DV Perpetration
- Power/control motives (9 comparisons)
- 3 reported no differences, 1 reported mixed findings
- 1 reported women had higher power/control motives
- 3 reported men had higher power/control motives
- Anger/negative emotional motives
- 2 reported women were more likely to be motivated by anger
- None reported men were more likely
- Self-defence motives (10 comparisons)
- Endorsed only by a minority of men and women
- 4 reported no differences
- 5 reported women were more likely to report self-defence motives
- 1 reported men were more likely
- Men highly reluctant to report self-defence motives
- Non-perpetrator samples
- 5%–35% for women and 0%–21% for men
- Perpetrator samples (who may have reasons to overestimate)
- 65.4% of women and 50% of men
6. DV Worldwide (85 Countries)
- Physical DV (117 comparisons)
- Higher rates of female perpetration in 73 comparisons (62%)
- Higher rates of physical injury for female victims
- Psychological/control DV (54 comparisons)
- Higher rates of female perpetration in 36 comparisons (67%)
- Sexual coercion (19 comparisons)
- Higher rates of female perpetration in 7 comparisons (37%)
- IDVS ‘dominance’ scores (32 nations)
- Womens’ scores explained 47% of female DV
- Mens’ scores not predictive of male DV
- ‘Human Development Index’ not a predictor of either male or female DV
- ‘Gender Inequality Index’ not a predictor of either male or female DV
7. Risk Factors for DV
- With few exceptions, risk factors the same for men and women
- Married couples at lower risk than dating couples
- Higher risk for separated women
- Depression more strongly associated with female DV
- Alcohol use more strongly associated with female DV
8. Judicial Decision Making in DV Cases
- Women more likely to be cited rather than be taken into custody
- Men more likely to be convicted
- Men more likely to be given harsher sentences
- Protective orders more likely to be granted to women
- Even in cases involving minor partner conflicts
- Mock juries more likely to assign blame to men
- Even when presented with identical scenarios
- Dual arrests more likely in same-sex couples
“Males were consistently treated more severely at every stage of the prosecution process, particularly regarding the decision to prosecute, even when controlling for other variables (e.g., the presence of physical injuries) and when examined under different conditions.”
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There is little doubt that PASK is one of the most impressive undertakings in social science in recent years. PASK’s comprehensive reviews cut through the politicization of DV to raise some very important points.
DV is not the major social issue that it is made out to be.
The majority of what is picked up as ‘abuse’ in DV research consists of trivial conflicts that most people would hesitate to call ‘violence.’ When domestic conflicts are examined by severity, only a very small proportion—between 5–10%—of couples engage in severe domestic conflicts. These figures are not even remotely close to the scale portrayed by heavily politicized campaigns and reports on DV.
Where DV occurs, it is mostly perpetrated by women.
While most DV is mutual, over two-thirds of non-mutual violence is perpetrated by women, in both trivial and severe domestic conflicts, against both male and female partners, worldwide. DV-related deaths, which are rarely taken into account, are also disproportionately high among men. These are not recent findings. Historical records show that women have always been the predominant perpetrators of violence in domestic and intimate environments. The first empirical studies of DV conducted in the 1970s reported equal or higher rates of perpetration by women. Thus, PASK’s reviews have largely extended upon what has already been evident.
The major confound here is that female-perpetrated DV is under-reported. Unlike women, men tend not to consider themselves ‘victims’ of partner conflicts, nor do they view an assault on them by a woman as a ‘crime.’ As a consequence, men are hesitant to report domestic conflicts whereas women readily do so. Within the same couples, self-report of DV victimization by men is less than half the self-report of perpetration by women, but the reporting disparities reverse for perpetration. There is also the other side of the coin. Women are known to pass off their own violence as that by their victim. In mock scenarios, women show a clear prejudice, attributing perpetration to men much more than to women. Mock juries readily assign blame responsibility to men, even when they’re presented with identical scenarios. When the victim is male, observers view the situation as less serious, with the victim as more responsible, and are more likely to ignore the situation.
Evolutionary psychologist Steve Moxon notes that men—unlike women—usually do not have an emotional support network outside their own household: they stand to lose not only their partner, but also their children, their home, their savings and most of their income. For a man, this is absolute destruction whereas for a woman, all she stands to lose is her partner. Men are thus very hesitant to report domestic conflicts because they are aware of the prejudice stacked against them. Even worse, men fear that if they are displaced from the household, their abusive partners may turn their children into objects of violence—a very real fear that is evident in women’s history of violence in the domestic environment.
Politicization of DV causes more harm than good.
It is said that “there is more false, falsely framed, or disingenuously deceptive information about domestic violence than any other significant public and social issue.” In the last 40 years, the entire approach to DV has been premised on the non-scientific feminist notion of ‘patriarchal dominance,’ according to which “domestic violence is all about power and control.” Consequently, there is a remarkable absence of empirical evidence to support the notion that DV is primarily perpetrated by men. These ideological constructs have not only misled the public and the officials but are actually escalating partner conflicts and discouraging genuine victims from receiving aid.
The politicization of domestic violence, both as a social issue and as an important part of social science, is covered in depth in the follow-up article: [Link Set To Private]
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