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Date: Fri, 26 Aug 1994 19:18:30 EDT
From: Cathy Young [[email protected]]
Subject: Injury in domestic violence cases
Another point to ponder about domestic violence:

It has been commonly said -- by those who concede that the rates of violence are roughly equal -- that, at the same time, women are six or seven times more likely than men to be seriously injured by their partners. Straus and Gelles themselves have said this. This is based on their finding that about 3% of female victims of domestic violence, but about 0.5% of the male victims, reported having sought medical care as a result of a dom. violence incident.

I have no doubt that women are more likely than men to be injured (let's face it, if we take the average man and the average woman and she punches him in the face as hard as she can, it's likely that the worst that will happen is a bruise and/or a sore jaw; if he responds in kind, he's likely to knock some of her teeth out). But I'm beginning to doubt that the discrepancy is _that_ great. I think the 7-to-1 or 6-to-1 figure is partly due to the fact that more women than men may seek medical care for minor injuries such as a swollen lip or a superficial cut. I think it is generally true that females are somewhat more likely than males to seek medical attention for the same problems; this would be especially true, I think, in cases of domestic violence. The male with a bruised lip or a cut on his face may be especially reluctant to seek medical aid if he thinks medical personnel may find out he was hit by his wife. Some females, of course, may also be embarrassed to admit that they were hit by a partner; OTOH, if the woman is considering filing charges, she may go to the emergency room in order to have her injuries documented.

Studies that have asked about specific injuries rather than seeking medical assistance usually yield a smaller gap. In the recently published book THE VIOLENT COUPLE by Anson Shupe, Lonnie Hazelwood, and William Stacey (Praeger), based on case studies from the Family Violence Diversion Network in Austin, TX, the overall "injury index" (combined score of the percentages who have sustained a given type of injury) is 158 for men and 335 for women. In particular, 4% of men and 17% of women sustained broken teeth or bones (i.e., about 4 times as many women as men); 10% of men and 38% of women had a split lip; 4% of men and 21% of women had a black eye; and 10% of men and 47% of women had multiple bruises. Cuts were sustained by 22% of men and 31% of women; the same percentage of women and men -- 4% had cuts requiring stitches. More men than women (53% compared to 49%) had scratches.

Overall, the differences are obviously there but they are not as pronounced.

In the study "Determining Police Response to Domestic Violence Victims" (AMERICAN BEHAVIORAL SCIENTIST, May 1993), based on police records from Detroit, MI, Eve Buzawa and Thomas Austin conclude that while 85% of the victims in the reported cases were female, only 14% of the female victims compared to 38% of the male victims had "serious injuries." 85 x 14% = 11.9; 15 x 38% = 5.7. Thus, according to those numbers, women are about twice as likely as men to be seriously injured in a domestic violence incident.

If I had to guess, I'd say that 20 to 30% of serious injuries in domestic violence incidents are sustained by males. A minority, yes; but hardly an insignificant number. And it certainly doesn't justify 100% of public attention to domestic violence going to female victims.

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