The above graphic has been circulating the internet for at least a couple weeks now. It references the incident between former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator. I think the image above only serves to show the bias most people have when it comes to domestic violence, namely, that the woman is virtually always the victim. As a matter of statistical reality, men are as likely to be victims of domestic violence as women, and a majority of the time, it is the woman who strikes first.
(ScienceDaily) — The [University of Washington] study also found no independent link between an individual’s use of alcohol or drugs and committing domestic violence. In addition it showed that nearly twice as many women as men said they perpetrated domestic violence in the past year including kicking, biting or punching their partner, threatening to hit or throw something at their partner, and pushing, grabbing or shoving their partner.
(University of Florida) – In a survey of 2,500 students at UF and the University of South Carolina between August and December 2005, more than a quarter (29 percent) reported physically assaulting their dates and 22 percent reported being the victims of attacks during the past year. Thirty-two percent of women reported being the perpetrators of this violence, compared with 24 percent of men. The students took selected liberal arts and sciences courses. Forty percent were men and 60 percent were women, reflecting the gender composition of these classes.
(American Journal of Public Health) — Almost 24% of all relationships had some violence, and half (49.7%) of those were reciprocally violent. In nonreciprocally violent relationships, women were the perpetrators in more than 70% of the cases. Reciprocity was associated with more frequent violence among women (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=2.3; 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.9, 2.8), but not men (AOR=1.26; 95% CI=0.9, 1.7). Regarding injury, men were more likely to inflict injury than were women (AOR=1.3; 95% CI=1.1, 1.5), and reciprocal intimate partner violence was associated with greater injury than was nonreciprocal intimate partner violence regardless of the gender of the perpetrator (AOR=4.4; 95% CI=3.6, 5.5).
(Baltimore Sun) — Men are often the victims of their girlfriends or wives. Ned Holstein and Glenn Sacks (“The violence we ignore,” July 16, 2009) cite a 2007 Harvard study that says, “according to both men’s and women’s accounts, 50 percent of the violence in their relationship was reciprocal (involving both parties). In those cases, the women were more likely to have been the first to strike.”
The article continues: “Moreover, when the violence was one-sided, both women and men said that women were the perpetrators about 70 percent of the time.”
What makes me shake my head at the image is its intended message. Even though Janay, Rice’s then fiancee and now wife, was more severely hurt in the altercation, she was the first to commit assault. I’m not defending Rice’s Mike Tyson-like close-fisted punch to her face. Not at all. The image, and the media, omit this salient detail: that she spit on, and struck Rice prior to his actions. She also committed assault and was a perpetrator of domestic violence.
A man’s ability to inflict greater damage not withstanding, there is a perception that when there is physical abuse in a relationship, that it’s the man who is the abuser. Images of a husband coming home to find his dinner burned and slapping his wife for ruining his meal still lingers in the minds of many people.
My questions are why do we, as a society, suppress the reality of domestic violence? Why do we only seem to care when someone we view as weaker is abused? If men and women are supposed to be equals, should her employer also fire her, if she is employed given the circumstances? What do you think would happen to someone who might try to correct the current (mis)perception of domestic violence?