USA Today

Monday July 23, 1999

Another ugly cycle: Moms abusing dads

By Amy M. Holmes, USA TODAY

The battle between the sexes just got worse.

Although the Justice Department reported this week that violent crime continues to decline, domestic violence remains stubbornly constant. And a new Justice study finds that women are as likely to be perpetrators of domestic violence as men.

"There were no tidy and distinct groups of victims or perpetrators," the researchers said.

The good news is that knowledge is power. The researchers identified certain key conditions leading to domestic violence. First among them is that domestic violence tends to be mutual and strongly linked to nonmarital cohabitation.

Although the causal connection is unclear, something about two people living together without the benefit of a formal commitment tends to ratchet up domestic disputes. The situation is even worse for unmarried parents: Young mothers were twice as likely as other young women to be physically abused by their male partners.

Seems like common sense, unfortunately. But in an effort to protect female victims from blame, domestic violence activists have misled women into believing that shacking up will be as safe (or as dangerous) as marriage.

As it also turns out, men who beat their partners often are the stereotypical hard-drinking, drug-injecting, chronically unemployed bar brawlers. Again, common sense, right? A man out of control with his family is likely to be out of control with his life, and vice versa. But tell that to the television producers whose fictional wife-beaters so often are fiendishly clever "pillars of the community."

No one doubts that some men are capable of hiding their private sadism. Women should have the benefit of knowing, however, that the man who's bad in public is, indeed, also likely to be bad in private.

The one finding that defied common sense was the startling evidence that women who hit, kicked, stabbed or otherwise maimed their partners exhibited none of the other personal and social problems of their male equivalents. While the strongest predictor for both men and women was a record of juvenile aggression, the only indication of an adult woman's propensity to violence was the bruise on her partner's face. O.J. Simpson, meet Lorena Bobbitt.

None of this will please the feminist community, which insists that domestic violence is fueled by testosterone poisoning. Attorney General Janet Reno, whose own department commissioned the study, insists women are victims and men perpetrators. "We've got to educate our communities to understand that the child who watches his father beat his mother comes to accept violence as a way of life," she said just last month at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America national conference.

She's only half right. The child who watches her mother beat her father is just as likely to continue the cycle.

Amy M. Holmes is a policy analyst for the Independent Women's Forum in Washington and a Fox News Channel contributor.

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