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The Changing Face of Domestic Violence

A Miami mother was recently charged with domestic violence. The Miami Herald reported that she allegedly beat her young son with a rope and then killed the child’s puppy. According to a Miami police report, the 8-year old boy had been abused on other occasions, with evidence of bruising and other injuries on his body.

The woman was put in jail when she attacked her boyfriend. Her reason for the attack? The boyfriend’s mother gifted clothes to her children.

The woman’s case is part of a growing trend in domestic violence that suggests that the face of domestic violence in America is changing. Violence against women is a serious problem, with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reporting that one in four women will suffer from domestic violence over the course of their lifetimes, with an estimated 1.3 million women suffering from assault in a given year. These sobering statistics do not take into account the fact that men are increasingly becoming victims of domestic violence.

According to the Zur Institute, there has been a growing trend of women acting as victimizers in relationships. Every year, approximately 835,000 men suffer violence from their partners. Furthermore, men are less likely to report domestic violence when it occurs. Domestic violence is often considered a problem only women have to face, and men who report domestic violence may face ridicule from society, their families, and their workplaces. To make matters worse, the police themselves may even participate in this humiliation of male victims of domestic violence.

Culturally, society may assume that women who hit their partners do so in self-defense. While self-defense is a valid (though sometimes dangerous) way for women in domestically violent situations to protect themselves, in some cases, women’s violence against men cannot be justified as self-defense.

Furthermore, when men commit domestic violence, they often do so by overpowering women with shows of force. In the case of female perpetrators, weapons are often used. Additionally, women face greater degrees of retaliation when they commit violence, meaning that women may still be at greater danger, even though some researchers believe that both women and men perform acts of violence in similar numbers.

Yet, if the rates of domestic violence among women are so high, why isn’t domestic violence committed by women discussed more frequently? A variety of reasons may be at play, including years of female oppression at the hands of men, and a culture of machismo and shame for male victims of violence.

Jezebel recently reported on the issue, explaining that women engage in emotional violence in addition to physical violence. Women are more likely to spread rumors, gossip, glare, and eye-roll. According to Scientific American, women were actually found to be more prone to physical violence than men, with women’s rates of aggression being higher than men. Feminists performing these studies have been able to replicate these results, finding mutual rates of aggression between men and women.

Why, then, are men so frequently pictured as perpetrators of domestic violence? One reason might be that women are still more likely to be injured by violence than men. Male violence often involves punching or choking the victim, while female violence involves scratching or slapping.

New models of relationship violence are being explored where domestic violence can be perceived as taking place within a couple’s relationship, as a system of violence. Physical violence often goes hand in hand with emotional violence. As more studies uncover more information about how, when, and why domestic violence occurs, and in what contexts, social services, the police, and other community organizations will have more resources and be able to better respond—to all victims.

Sadly, many victims, male and female, suffer in silence. The solution isn’t to remain silent. Speaking out, seeking the help of community resources, and even the help of adomestic violence lawyer can lead to positive change.