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Editorial: On the other hand ... or fist

Last updated 05:00 09/07/2014

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OPINION: Looks like we may need to reconsider some of our assumptions about domestic violence.

In recent days we've had a brace of reports on the subject.

One, compiled by the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse from government agencies, services and survey data, concludes that reported violence is on the increase but we need more community-based research to know the extent to which more abuse is actually going on - or is more being reported because people now feel empowered (or at least impelled) to come forward.

And how much of the increase reflects police getting better at handling historic cases.

These are fair-enough questions. But a longitudinal study of families from Otago University is likely to stimulate even more debate.

It offers a profile of the young person at risk of being a domestic violence perpetrator or victim as being one raised with many adversities, exposed to child abuse and family violence and showing long-term adjustment difficulties through childhood.

Hardly surprising, right? What may surprise is that the study strongly challenges the dominant view that inter-partner violence arises mainly from males assaulting females.

That is clearly the case in the most severe, and inevitably high-profile, instances involving death and extreme physical harm. But on average the findings suggest that young men and women are equally violent to their intimate partners.

In fact, though there wasn't much difference between males and females when it came to who was reporting victimisation, more females reported being the perpetrator.

Lunkheaded counter-reproach is not required here. But even though at the extremity of the problem males are doing the worst damage, we do seem to need to reset, or at least carefully reconsider, a gender bias when it comes to some long-held assumptions about this being, quite so emphatically, an across-the-board problem of male behaviour.

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- The Southland Times

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