Women `more likely to initiate violence'

Women are more likely to initiate domestic violence than men, according to a researcher of domestic violence.

Women are more likely to initiate domestic violence than men, according to a researcher of domestic violence.

Dr Warren Farrell, author of Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say, was the keynote speaker at a conference on male victims of domestic abuse, held in Navan yesterday.

The conference was the second international conference on the issue organised by AMEN, a voluntary organisation supporting male victims of domestic abuse.

Dr Farrell, who has examined 54 international studies of the subject, said 53 of these found one of two things.

"Women and men batter each other about equally or women batter men more," he said.

"Almost all studies found women were more likely to initiate violence and much more likely to inflict severe violence."

He said prevailing attitudes that gave first priority to protecting wives was wrong. Policymakers assumed women were more locked into marriage and therefore less able to escape abuse, he said, but this ignored evidence that over 60 per cent of divorces were initiated by women.

It ignored findings that abused men also felt locked into marriage because they knew their wives were more likely to retain the children after divorce.

Ms Erin Pizzey, founder of the first women's refuge in Britain 30 years ago, Chiswick Women's Aid, said she had been very aware from the beginning that both men and women could inflict domestic violence.

Of the first 100 women who sought refuge at her shelter, she said, 62 had been violent towards the partners they had left.

"Over the last 30 years a huge movement has turned on men which said all the problems were men's fault," she said.

A large proportion of violent adults had experienced violent environments as children. Girls were just as susceptible to the effects of growing up in such an environment as boys. She said violence-prone women had often had no experience of gentle men.

"Most human beings just want to love and be loved," she said, adding that the reasons behind violence in intimate relationships were always very complex.

Awareness of the reality was the important first step towards addressing violence in relationships, she said, and the reality was that women were just as likely as men to have their "demons" and to be violent.

AMEN can be contacted at (046) 23718, or email: amen@iol.ie

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times