Edmonton Journal

Tuesday 20 June 2000

Gender bias in pamphlet, says human rights officer

Men unfairly blamed for most family violence, lobby group says

Duncan Thorne, Journal Staff Writer
The Edmonton Journal

A publicly funded agency's pamphlet on family violence discriminated so strongly against men it was likely to expose them to hatred or contempt, the Alberta Human Rights Commission has found.

The human rights commission found that Edmonton's Family Centre discriminated against men in the pamphlet Family Violence: Breaking the Silence.

An HRC investigation, spurred by a complaint from the Movement for the Establishment of Real Gender Equality, found the brochure was, to quote Alberta's human rights act, "likely to expose a person or a class of persons to hatred or contempt."

Later pamphlets used to replace the first were still discriminatory, the investigation found.

The conclusion by human rights officer Dave Haynes is not what the HRC considers a formal ruling, which can come only from one of its panels. The investigator's finding stands because the Family Centre chose not to appeal it to a panel.

The brochure focused exclusively on females as victims of violence and males as perpetrators, Haynes wrote in his report.

He said MERGE presented research to support its claim there's little difference in the frequency of family violence by men and by women. Haynes said the Family Centre produced almost no opposing research.

Haynes said a later version of the centre's pamphlet acknowledged abuse of men -- but included the comment: "Some researchers state that one per cent of the cases of violence in the home is husband abuse. Others believe that it occurs more frequently."

The Family Centre did not defend the statistic or refute MERGE's charge that no researcher has used the one-per-cent figure, Haynes wrote.

MERGE president Ferrel Christensen announced the finding Monday at a news conference, saying there's a mountain of research showing women attack their partners as often as men do, and the harm is typically equal. He acknowledged women appear to be the victims of two-thirds of the cases of serious physical harm.

"What the public has been told has been shaped by ideology more than by science," said Christensen.

AT A GLANCE

From the Family Centre family-violence pamphlet:

"Myth: Family violence is rare.

"Fact: Not true. It is estimated that one in eight women in Alberta is being abused by her spouse/partner."

"Myth: Women drive men to violence.

"Fact: Not true. Violence is never the appropriate way to solve problems."

The pamphlet, no longer used, listed programs for abusive men and abused women.

Ferrel Christensen, president of the Movement for the Establishment of Gender Equality, has stirred controversy in the past. The retired, unmarried, 58-year-old University of Alberta philosophy professor:

- has attacked a push by the provincial government to make strippers wear G-strings, saying it reflected an inbred cultural conditioning that sex is degrading and unclean;

- was part of a drive to stop what he saw as some university departments hiring more women by taking gender into account;

- once said shouts of "shoot the bitch," aimed at a female engineering student during a skit night were not sexist, as there were also negative portrayals of male students;

- has accused feminists of wrongly turning the 1989 murders of 14 Montreal women by Marc Lepine into a "men-versus-women problem."