While the vast majority of perpetrators of domestic violence are men, women are arrested in three of every 10 incidents and men in only one of 10, a study says
Friday 28 August 2009 11.10 BST
Photograph: Don McPhee
Women were more likely to use a weapon, but often to protect themselves … a victim of domestic abuse.
Men are responsible for most cases of domestic violence, but women are three times more likely to be arrested for incidents of abuse, research reveals today.
A report into domestic abuse and gender by Bristol University found that the majority of cases involved alcohol misuse, that women were more likely to use a weapon to protect themselves and that children were present in the majority of cases.
Previous research has shown that the vast majority of domestic violence perpetrators recorded by the police are men (92%) and their victims mainly female (91%), with many more repeat incidents recorded for male than female perpetrators. While the majority of incidents of domestic violence recorded by the police involve male-to-female abuse, little is known about the nature of incidents where men are recorded as victims and women as perpetrators, nor about the circumstances where both partners are recorded as perpetrators.
The new study, by professor Marianne Hester of the University of Bristol’s school for policy studies and carried out on behalf of the Northern Rock Foundation, looked at 96 examples from 692 “perpetrator profiles” tracked from 2001 to 2007.
The research looked at 32 cases where women were the aggressors, 32 where men were in that role, and 32 where it was both partners.
It found that 48% of the cases were related to couples still in a relationship, 27% involved violence after separation and the rest involved couples in the process of splitting up.
Some 83% of men had at least two incidents recorded; one man had 52. In contrast, 62% of women recorded as perpetrators had only one incident recorded, and the highest number of repeat incidents for any woman was eight.
Men were significantly more likely than women to use physical violence, threats and harassment, and to damage the women’s property; women were more likely to damage their own.
Men’s violence tended to create a “context of fear and control”, the researchers said, whereas women were more likely to use verbal abuse or some physical violence.
But women were more likely to use a weapon, although this was often to stop further violence from their partners.
All cases with seven or more incidents, most of which involved men, led to arrest.
But in general, women were three times more likely to be arrested: during the six-year period, men were arrested once in every 10 incidents and women arrested once in every three.
Issues of divorce and child contact were common in “dual perpetrator” cases, and also included the greatest number of instances where both partners were heavy drinkers.
Children were present in 55% of cases when the violence or other abuse took place. In cases involving post-separation violence, problems of child contact were cited in 30% of cases.
Hester said: “Both men and women can be violent, but there are significant differences in the way men and women use violence and abuse against their partners and also the impact of such behaviour.
“This needs to be taken into account if we want to ensure greater safety for individuals. The research has crucial lessons for the criminal justice system in this respect.”