Australian National News

An equal share of violence

By Michelle Gunn, Social affairs writer
The Australian
12 August 1999, p3

WOMEN are just as likely as men to assault their partners physically, and may even inflict as much damage, according to the results of a national survey, released today.

The report controversially debunks the stereotype of men always being the perpetrators - and women the victims - of violence within a marriage or a relationship.

It shows that similar proportions of men and women report being hit, scratched, slapped, kicked, punched or shaken by their partner in the previous 12 months. Even more contentious is the finding that men and women report experiencing about the same levels of pain and need for medical attention as a result.

Titled Domestic Violence in Australia: Are Women and Men Equally Violent?, the report was written by Bruce Headey and Dorothy Scott, of the University of Melbourne, and David de Vaus, of La Trobe University.

It is based on a representative national survey of more than 2000 people and echoes the findings of recent American surveys on the same topic.

Overall, 4.7 per cent of the sample reported being physically abused, 5.7 per cent of men and 3.7 per cent of women, in the previous 12 months. "This remains an unacceptably high rate of domestic violence, although it is not quite the 'war on women' referred to in the media," the study says.

A 10-year study in the US supported the contention that women initiated violence as much as men but found that this violence rarely resulted in major injury to men and often caused the females themselves to be hurt.

The Australian study also found that people whose parents were violent towards each other were only marginally more likely to be violent themselves. Most people whose parents were violent did not assault their own partners.