Irish Times

Monday, February 26, 2001

Admission women are violent is welcome

By John Waters
Irish Times

At last there is something upon which I am in agreement with the National Women's Council. I read in last Wednesday's Evening Herald that the council's chief executive, Christine Ross, had responded to a district judge's remarks about women and violence by saying: "What he is doing is singling out women. Violence in any form is unacceptable. Men are equally to blame."

This is a radical departure from previous stances of the council, which only a few years ago called for the abolition of the presumption of innocence in cases of alleged assault where the alleged assailant is male and the complainant is female. The notion that men "are equally to blame" for violence would seem to suggest that women, too, are "equally to blame".

Ms Ross is entirely correct. Men and women are equally to blame for violence, at least in the context in which Judge Michael Connellan made his remarks. The incident in question, although it occurred in a public place, would, since it involved men and women knocking lumps out of each other, qualify as a "domestic" affray. As I have written many times, the evidence of every reputable, independent, gender-neutral study in the Western world has found that such violence is a 50-50 phenomenon, i.e., it is perpetrated to a roughly equal extent by men and women.

Whenever I write this, there follows a rash of missives to the letters page opposite, demanding to know my sources. I will mention one survey in particular. British Home Office Study 191 (1999), the biggest in the world, canvassed the experiences of over 16,000 people, asking the same questions of men and women. The core finding was that 4.2 per cent of women and 4.2 per cent of men had been assaulted by a current or former partner in the previous year.

A research report commissioned last year by the Department of Health, with a brief to summarise the international position, has still to be published, although delivered last June. I have contacted the Department and have received the following response: "The present position is that the research report has been completed and presented to us and we are currently engaged in some internal consultation involving both ourselves and the health boards as to the implications of the report's findings. We also propose to circulate the report to the Departments of Education and Science, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and the gardaí, before making it publicly available."

If the report contains what I believe it must, the "implications" are fairly drastic for the present policies and attitudes towards domestic violence in Government departments, courts, police stations, doctors' surgeries and agencies like social services and health boards. Virtually all of these are governed by the propaganda of the violence-against-women industry, which has insisted - at least until the startling recantation of Christine Ross - that all violence is the responsibility of men.

The Department of Health has allocated £8.3 million in respect of female victims of violence in 2001, and made a zero allocation for male victims. It is unsurprising that the Department is taking some time to consider the "implications" of the facts.

As for Judge Connellan, his remarks were no more than a belated assertion of the obvious. "It seems to me," he said in dealing with an assault charge arising from an altercation between a man and a woman in Newbridge, "that women are getting drunk and acting like alley cats. Then they are fighting like savages. I can't say I blame the man for hitting her if she attacked him."

The appalling vista he described is the result of the licence taken by some women from three decades of propaganda suggesting that women can do what they like so long as there is a convenient man they can blame.

I note that some feminists, less enlightened than Ms Ross, have objected to the judge's words on the basis that, as the Labour Party TD, Jan O'Sullivan, put it, it was "unacceptable" for the judge to defend physical violence against women. This would seem reasonable, except that for years feminists have been doing precisely this in relation to female violence against males, saying that women who assault men do so only because they are provoked. Indeed, there are many cases of women walking away from murder charges having alleged that the deceased had assaulted them.

Judge Connellan's remarks represent a rare, aberrant instance of an authority figure stating what common sense tells us is the case: that some women, like some men, are violent, and that what is sauce for Father Goose is sauce for Mother Goose also. This, inevitably, ensured that Judge Connellan would find himself in conflict with the feminist ayatollahs.

The Fine Gael TD Frances FitzGerald said his comments raised the issue of the "sensitivity of the judiciary to violence against women". Decoded, this means that we are to regard it as alarming that the judge has strayed from the paddock of propaganda into the field of common sense. Common sense and facts, being, I suppose, "social constructs", are the great enemies of modern feminism.

jwaters@irish-times.ie

© 2001 ireland.com