Press Democrat

Sexist reporting of violence studies

September 4, 2001
Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California)

Recently, a Harvard School of Public Health study found, "approximately one in five female students reported being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner." This became a national news story when the Associated Press ran a Aug. 1 story on the findings, which was also published by The Press Democrat on the same day.

The Harvard study surveyed only girls. Why? Because it's one more example of "advocacy research," research undertaken to "proving" conclusions that gender feminist researchers are ideologically committed to and find politically useful.

However, to the Associated Press' credit, they pointed out a separate study by the Center for Disease Control which found that nearly 22 percent of high school students were victims of an assault, with girls being "slightly" more likely than boys to have violence directed against them by an intimate partner.

Another teen dating violence survey (81,000 high school students) was released at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association on Aug. 26.

It found nearly one in 10 girls and one in 20 boys say they have been raped or experienced some other form of abusive violence on a date.

Almost all intimate violence surveys, including the Harvard study, combine "minor" and "severe" violence. If not pointed out, researchers can proclaim, in this instance, that physical and sexual "abuse" of girls is "extremely prevalent."

Yet, first, the vast majority of the assaults in question are minor and thereby do not necessarily constitute "abuse."

Second, when both girls and boys are surveyed, "An equal number of boys and girls experienced as well as initiated abuse." Nonetheless, the Harvard researchers, offering no evidence, declared that, "the portion of dating violence perpetrated by female partners is likely to be small."

Moreover, a review of published studies of both high school and college student dating violence found that, "rates for less serious acts (slapping, etc.) were very variable between studies, reported by 13 to 61 percent of the high school and college students. The most serious types of violence, such as threatening with or using a weapon, were much less common with prevalence rates ranging from 1 to 4 percent."

But aren't these girls and women simply acting in self-defense? When initiation of intimate violence is studied, such as the National Family Violence Survey, researchers find that females initiate minor and severe assaults at a rate similar to that of males.

So why all the media hoopla? Follow the money. Gender feminists, for both ideological and monetary reasons, tend to only showcase the maltreatment of females by males.

Sure enough, a bill (S.1) was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate calling for grants to "combat the impact of experiencing or witnessing domestic violence on elementary and secondary school children" that includes "addressing issues concerning children who experience domestic violence in dating relationships..."

But isn't "children" inclusive of boys? Not to the full extent.

Dating violence curriculums tend to use gender neutral language but cite police reports that show girls make up 95 percent of the victims. Yet, the two-sex survey data is much more accurate as dating violence is grossly underreported to police, especially by boys.

It's one more example of the strategy of "do a study, declare a crisis, get politicians worked up" that has been so effective for the activist feminists, in large part due to a cooperative and uncritical media.

If we are going to solve the problem of teen-dating violence, then we need to begin with accurate, unbiased research and reporting.

In releasing and propagating divisive, anti-male and one-sided science, gender feminist academics and journalists undermine their own credibility and cause in the long run.

They also send an infantilizing message to girls that they don't have to be held responsible for violence against boys, as well as a shaming message to boys that their inherent aggression is the culprit.

Petaluma resident Joe Manthey is the director of Kid Culture in the Schools. E-mail him at

Copyright © 2001 The Press Democrat