Domestic Violence against Men: Historical Overview

Toronto Domestic Violence Symposium, June 5, 6 and 7th, 2015.  Get your tickets here.

By: Karen (Woudstra) Stephenson – TorontoDV

For hundreds of years women were considered chattel, and in some cultures it was acceptable to beat your wife. Although there are some cultures today that still mistreat women it’s safe to say that as a society we have made some incredible gains. The reality is that we have not reached the goal of eliminating wife abuse and chances are, we won’t get there. Human beings as a whole can be outright foul at times and there is the element of not being able to keep anger under control. Women are not the only ones who have struggled in making positive changes, men have as well.

Battered husbands have historically been ignored or worse, they have been subjected to ridicule. In France, battered men in the seventeen hundreds were forced to wear “an outlandish outfit and ride backwards around the village on a donkey” (Steinmetz & Lucca 1988).

Throughout the centuries this topic has been largely ignored for obvious reasons; a man who was abused by his female partner was considered either a liar or he was laughed at. This contributed greatly to why researchers and authorities steered away from this topic as it was thought to be an exceedingly rare occurrence. Another reason this was typically ignored was that women were viewed as being the weaker of the two genders; the predominant attitude was that a diminutive woman could never have the ability to physically assault her 200 pound husband. (This view has somewhat changed over the years.)

The Men’s Movement
In the early 1970’s there were many cultural changes happening including the growth of the feminist movement. Most men’s movement historians date the men’s movement back to the early seventies. In 1970, according to Anthony Astrachan (author of “How Men Feel”), the first men’s centre opened in California and the magazine “Liberation” published an article by Jack Sawyer entitled “On Male Liberation.” In that article Sawyer discussed the negative effects of stereotypes of male sex roles.

Men’s discussion groups started popping up across the United States in 1971 as well as the formation of the National Task Force on the Masculine Mystique by Warren Farrell. Many of these discussion groups included men supporting women’s rights but there were groups that were created strictly for men to have their concerns heard. However, Warren Farrell is the one person who could be labeled as the individual who started the men’s movement. He supported the women’s movement in the late 1960’s and this led to the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter asking Farrell to form a men’s group.

Farrell became a sought-after public speaker as he was known for creating audience participation role-reversal experiences. This enabled the audience to see life through a clear glass from the opposite gender’s perspective.

It wasn’t until about the mid 1970’s that Farrell had a change of heart. The National Organization for Women spoke out against the presumption of joint custody in divorce cases. In a 1997 interview with Steven Svoboda, Farrell stated: “I couldn’t believe the people I thought were pioneers in equality were saying that women should have the first option to have children or not to have children–that children should not have equal rights to their dad.”

Suzanne Steinmetz
The seventies saw an increase of university researchers noticing that there may be some validity to the claim that men were being abused by their wives. Perhaps one of the most recognized of these researchers was Suzanne Steinmetz (1941-2009). She earned a B.S. in education from the University of Delaware in 1969 and after returning to school as a divorced mother of three children she earned her PhD in sociology in 1975.

Steinmetz was recognized world-wide as an expert in domestic violence making a plethora of important contributions to the field of family studies. She published almost twenty books and over 60 research articles. She established herself as a pioneer in the academic study of family violence with the publication of her co-edited volume, Violence in the Family (1974). That book marked the beginning of a remarkable career that paved the way for many scholars who sought recognition for the academic legitimacy for the study of family violence. She was credited with opening a field of research that established family violence as one of the major areas of study throughout the world.

Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family, is a book she co-authored and this book was one of the first to explore the entire range of family violence. This book received accolades and it was used as support for women’s groups opening shelters for battered women. Her later article “The Battered Husband Syndrome” in Victimology raised plenty of controversy.

In 1977, Steinmetz released results from several studies showing that the percentage of wives who have used physical violence is higher than the percentage of husbands, and that the wives’ average violence score tended to be higher, although men were more likely to cause greater injury. She also found that women were as likely as men to initiate physical violence. She concluded that “the most unreported crime is not wife beating – it’s husband beating”.

Other Researchers
Around this time there were many university researchers who became recognized as seeing husband abuse as a societal problem and there were countless studies showing that indeed, husband abuse exists.

In 1980, Steinmetz along with Murray Straus and Richard Gelles created a nationally representative study of family violence and found that the total violence scores seemed to be about even between husbands and wives, and that wives tended to be more abusive in almost all categories except pushing and shoving.

Other notable researchers in the late 1900’s include: Erin Pizzey, Russell Dobash & Emerson Dobash, Malcolm J. George, Eugen Lupri, Elaine Grandin, Roger Bland, Merlin Brinkerhoff, Reena Sommer, Jeff Archer, and so many others. Thanks to the work they completed, many writers and family violence researchers were able to get a better understanding of what was happening in homes across Canada and the U.S.

1990’s Movement in Canada
The 1990’s saw a flood of support groups for men popping up across Canada and the United States. It wasn’t just the issue of husband abuse that was making headlines but also men who were falsely accused of abusing either their wife or their children. Another issued that surfaced was the inequality in the family court system when it came to child custody.

Many men and women were at the forefront of trying to get these issues into the mainstream news. Canadian Senator Anne C. Cools was paramount in helping to get domestic violence being recognized as a human issue. In 1994 Senator Cools connected with Karen Woudstra (author of Under Attack Toronto Sun Sunday Magazine; June 19,1994) and asked Woudstra to help organize the first Canadian consultation addressing violence against men. Dr. Murray Straus was keynote speaker for this two-day conference in June 1995. Notable speakers for this event included Professor Ferrel Christiansen (founder of MERGE), Dr. Hazel MacBride, Alan Gold (Solicitor), Eric Nagler (children’s entertainer) and many others professionals. Due to the success of this event Senator Cools held three additional consultations across Canada.

There are many men and women who stepped forward to help this movement gain momentum. Don Theroux of Sudbury was the first person in Canada to open a shelter for men. Chuck Ferrauto in Hamilton was the second. Both these individuals spent a lot of their own resources to make this happen as there was no public funding to be had. Unfortunately both these shelters (that had clients) had to close their doors before their first anniversary.

Ferrel Christiansen, PhD., founded Balance Magazine and this hardcopy publication ran almost two years. This publication was a part of MERGE (Movement for the Establishment of Real Gender Equality)

Two Canadian men are noteworthy as being an integral part of the men’s movement. Earl Silverman, founder of Family of Men, struggled for years in Calgary to keep M.A.S.H. (a men’s shelter) afloat. A victim of domestic violence, Silverman was interviewed in various media and spent decades fighting an uphill battle helping men have a voice. Sadly, in August 2013, Earl Silverman took his life.
Greg Kershaw, founder of F.A.C.T. in Toronto, was very active in helping men and women have a voice in what he called “a broken system.” He spent countless hours counseling men in his spare time and he engaged in public speaking. In 1997, Kershaw, his wife Nardina Grande and Karen Woudstra created the Men’s Television Network on Roger’s Cable. The pilot episode featured Senator Anne Cools as their special guest. This was as far as they got due to the content being considered too controversial. Sadly, Greg Kershaw passed away in 2008 due to a massive heart attack leaving behind his wife and child.

After the turn of the century this movement went into auto pilot because those who were very active in the 90’s suffered burn out, or they felt there was no more they could contribute, and some moved forward in their lives.

During this time there were many efforts happening in the United States as well. Perhaps the largest men’s group today was formed in 1990; however, the Promise Keepers have a different focus being a men’s ministry.

Today the battle continues. There have been some gains by the men’s movement but not enough. There is not a doubt that women still have an uphill battle to gain true equality and fairness; but so do men. As Senator Anne Cools was always noted as saying, “Domestic violence is not a gender issue, it is a human issue.”

The Future
There is not a doubt that over the years there were hundreds of men and women who unselfishly gave their time to help bring this topic to the media. What needs to happen now is a domestic violence symposium to help raise a stronger awareness that domestic violence is equal between men and women. Domestic violence can be attributed to men committing suicide and this must stop. A domestic violence symposium needs to target those who can make a difference, our lawmakers, police, medical doctors and those in the judicial system.

J. Steven Svoboda (1997). “Interview with Warren Farrell”

25 thoughts on “Domestic Violence against Men: Historical Overview”

  1. These are the undeniable facts that the feminist-dominated DV industry must stop ignoring and silencing. If the “other half” of DV is not addressed, the problem will never be solved or even mitigated.

    It’s looking more and more like the current DV industry wants to PERPETUATE the violence that keeps donations and tax dollars pouring into its coffers.

  2. Although I appreciate this article, to say women were ever considered chattel is flat out untrue. Pre-feminism, women had the EXACT same legal status as children do today (including protection from neglect and cruelty), and no one would argue children are chattel.

    1. THANK you, Denis. This (women were treated like chattel…) is one of the biggest lies/myths that’s ever been perpetuated by feminazis and the Western media. Unfortunately, it seems all those years of persistent brainwashing (by feminazis and the so-called education system) has ingrained this myth in people’s heads and now most people take it for a fact -just like the many other lies perpetuated by them about the so-called “oppression of women”. Even many of the MRAs believe this myth because they grew up hearing it all the time. And like they say, repeat a lie a thousand times -or much less than that in fact- and it becomes a fact.

      Your second paragraph (Being able to beat someone does not …..) is exactly my thought. It never seizes to amaze me how stupid people can be. It’s amazing how you can condition people to see and react to one thing but completely not see and completely ignore another that’s exactly equal to the first. Like you said, parents hit their children all the time… Parents limit their freedom, control them, put rules for them that they must follow or be punished or kicked out, told what to do and what not to do….yet all that is perfectly acceptable and even advocated for by society and no one calls that “abuse”… and the children are never called “chattel” or “property” when in reality they’re nothing but that (if you judge by how they’re treated by their parents). But if a husband tells his wife she can/cannot do something, suddenly she’s seen as “chattel”, “property”…and she’s “abused” !

      I know the author of this article is trying to do good but I’m just so sick and tired of the same old thing (women were mistreated, chattel, property…..) being repeated religiously every time we talk about men, women and society. The simple fact is both men and women -mostly men though- have always been abused one way or another by society. Why do we always drop the abuse of men but we always make sure to mention the “abuse of women” ??? I’m sure even a million years ago there were wives who abused and beat their husbands. It’s only the nature of some humans to abuse and treat others like garbage. It’s nothing new. The author should know this because she herself gave examples of husband abuse in some societies many centuries ago. She says “Although there are some cultures today that still mistreat women…”. Yeah, but what about cultures that mistreat and abuse men ? Like the Western cultures that see men as a 3rd class citizens whose not only suffering but even their lives don’t matter or count ?

  3. Karen, thank you so much for this clear and honest article. It would appear that balance may be returning to public discourse?

  4. It is time to condemn every feminist who has denied the reality of female violence. It is especially time to condemn the feminists on Jezebel who boastfully celebrate their own violence against men.

  5. How are we ever going to end DV without getting women to stop hitting too? Every time they hit, someone learns violence. Is it any wonder the violence gets repeated? It is senseless to ignore half the perpetrators.

    1. I was very surprised to learn at the 2014 TorontoDV Symposium that 80% of violence against children is at the hands of mothers. In fact the abuse of my own two boys by their mother was something that was unbelievable to me. When my mother warned me, I thought she was mistaken. I was so wrong to think that no mother would every harm her old children.

      What do these so called VAWA and Violence Against Women organizations like The White Ribbon Foundation think will happen if we ignore, arguably, the root cause of DV namely by mothers? What are these mothers teaching boys and girls by causing DV against them? How can they seriously think we can mitigate DV and IPV if we ignore half the perpetrators, women? How can they expect DV to stop if they only demand half the perpetrators to stop, while turning a blind eye to the other half, women?

      It is time to change this tune and teach mothers to stop being violent with children the same as fathers. This is where it begins. It is time to teach women, not just men, that DV and IPV hurts everyone, particularly our children, our future.

      1. While it’s a very inadequately studied issue, it seems undeniable that male rapists were far more likely to be heterosexually abused during childhood. That’s where much of the rage originates.

        It’s a strange thing, that by denying women’s violence and the abuse mothers inflict on children, feminists make intervention far more difficult and thereby only increase the number of heterosexually abused boys who will go on as men to sexually assault and rape women.

  6. …”What needs to happen now is a domestic violence symposium to help raise a stronger awareness that domestic violence is equal between men and women….” —- and there are strong need to raise awareness that we must FIRST! start to break the vicious circle of violence in the family and because children still are growing up in females hands and women/mothers are using more often violence against children then fathers so the first step in stopping domestic violence must come out from us women. Women must stop use violence on children and fathers must protect such children from abusive mothers! We can stop domestic violence between partners only if we first STOP violence on children!

    1. Correct. Violence against children, with mothers acting alone being the primary perpetrators of child abuse, is very, very credibly supported by the Department of Health and Human Services yearly “Child Maltreatment” reports. Anyone wanting to do close research is well advised to start there.

  7. DV by women against men is as big a problem as DV against women but feminist REFUSE to acknowledge it which is an act of violence on it’s own.

    Feminist lies about domestic violence and omission of violence against men published in the Guardian corrected

    CDC Study: More Men than Women Victims of Partner Abuse
    National Study: More Men than Women Victims of Intimate Partner Physical Violence, Psychological Aggression

    Women more aggressive to partners than men, The British Psychological Society

    Woman As Aggressor: The Unspoken Truth Of Domestic Violence
    There’s something very important that we’re not talking about when we talk about domestic violence.

    Women more aggressive to partners than men
    Domestic Violence Against Men – Women More Likely To Be ‘Intimate Terrorists’ With Controlling Behavior In Relationships

    This pdf contains over 160 pages of newspaper articles and Government of Canada statistics based on self reporting studies on family violence which state that men experience domestic violence nearly as much as women and when they complain to police, they are ignored. Men are socially conditioned “to take it like a man!” and not report domestic violence to police, many of whom are indoctrinated with the idea that women are always the victims, no matter what happened.

    Here is a study that shows women are just as violent in domestic situations as men. Note the sample size (over 1/3 of a million people) and over 300 references.
    SUMMARY: This bibliography examines 286 scholarly investigations: 221 empirical studies and 65 reviews and/or analyses, which demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. The aggregate
    sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 371,600.

    1. Thank you. But the sheeple remain blind. This is human intelligence !! where billions of the “intelligent beings” have been duped, fooled, defrauded, manipulated, brainwashed, conditioned (by a small minority of liars and social terrorists)……….to ONLY see violence against women (by men) !

      1. That is why we all need to band together and set the record and the minds of people straight about DV and IPV. Spread and share the word and the story herein.

        1. I wish it were as easy as that. Unfortunately, when it comes to issues like men’s rights or women’s violence (especially on men), you’re going against not just a strong current but a tidal wave. The ‘men are privileged class, men are violent, men are oppressors, women are underprivileged, peaceful delicate flowers and an oppressed class’ is so deeply ingrained in people’s heads – East, West, North or South- that you have better luck getting them to change religions before you get them to believe women can be and often are as violent, evil and as oppressive as any man can be. Like a guy on some forum said, “Humans are closed minded. Once they have an ideology, no amount of evidence gets them away from their ideology. Proof gets distorted, denied, censored, misinterpreted. Or the messenger gets threatened.There probably is no way to easily open up the human mind to reason, science, and argument once ideology has closed it down”. I think the guy couldn’t be more right. This accurately describes humans. Most of us are so resistant to anything that doesn’t conform or goes against what we’ve been raised to believe. Women abuse men ? Women beat their husbands ? Women sexually abuse and rape children or even adult men ? No way. That’s the attitude of the majority of people.
          I’ve tried to talk to a few of my friends about this. Guys that like to think of themselves as “educated” and “enlightened”. They didn’t want to listen, or at the very least their disinterest was very clear. You see, they’re so indoctrinated with garbage like “men are oppressors and abusers, women are oppressed” that they’re not even willing to hear any other view on the issue.
          Anything short of mass campaigns (tv, radio, printed media, bill boards, conferences and even rallies….) it would be next to impossible to counter the pollution and poisoning of minds that the feminazis and their collaborators are causing to people.

  8. On this topic I am admittedly HUGELY jaded after having survived a murder attempt. Only to somehow be labelled the the violent man who ended up with all the actual physical damage.

    I just have to ask one question. How many years of a monologue has there been? And how effective has it been? And what is the honest opinion of a positive outcome playing the same game?

    1. It’s a shame that the plight of an oppressed woman is labelled as ‘narcissism’ by tyrannical men.

      1. Its a shame that mentally disturbed women don’t have anything of relevant to say

        1. You better be ashamed of yourself because somewhere you and like-minded men compel women to go mad.
          You torture the poor women so much

          1. Number 1) I don’t respond to shame games.
            Number 2) Seems lots of women are mad at everything
            Number 3) I am not torturing anyone.
            Number 4) How many different personas do you guy by? And you fail at making a reasonable point with all of them

      2. Ah ! yes talking about the plight of men should be banned because it’s tantamount to labeling “oppressed” women as narcissists !
        Oh! btw , a lazy person feels oppressed by work, an entitled bitch feels raped if the wrong dick impaled her in her drunken stupor,etc
        But whether these oppressions are genuine is debatable.

        1. Shame on you, for speaking about women in such derogatory terms. I am convinced now that men who make such dirty comments are the ones who lurk in the dark waiting for an opportunity to pounce a lone woman walking down a street and tear her clothes to shred and then make her an object of their sickening lust.

          – Rashmi Singhania

          1. Looks like it doesn’t take much for you to get convinced.If you want to talk like an adult then stop with your nonsensical shaming.Stop your childish trolling.

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