Are Single Women – and specifically Never Married Women – More Likely To Be Victims of Abuse? Rebuttals to this view
The study mentioned on this page below is familiar. I read about it over a year ago. Someone did a study claiming that women who never marry are more likely to be abuse victims.
I’m not sure if I totally understand the study correctly.
I’m a never-married woman who is over the age of 40, but I fail to see how my single status supposedly makes me more vulnerable to being a crime victim than that of a married woman.
Or, given that some conservatives are using this study with the assumption that it’s single women who are “shacking up” with a man who are more prone to being victims, I guess I understand that, though I do not necessarily agree.
That is, some conservatives are using this study to shame single women from having pre-marital sex, or from not having a live-in lover. They are using this to pressure single women to force their live-in lover to marry them.
I understand the Bible does not condone “shacking up” or pre-marital coitus, but, I am not a fan of my fellow conservatives using such “scare” or “shame” tactics to convince single women from not having pre marital sex or live-in BFs. I think it’s a distasteful, sexist approach.
You can read more about all this stuff using these links:
First, here is the offensive, sexist editorial – I mean, how can they blame WOMEN for being the victims of violence?
They should be calling out the men who are abusing these ladies and/or the children. Also note, on the “One Stop Thread” page of this blog, I have link after link to news stories of married men who were caught sexually or physically abusing their OWN kids or someone else’s!
Again, here is a link to the offensive editorial:
(Link): One way to end violence against women? Married dads.
- by W. BRADFORD WILCOX AND ROBIN FRETWELL WILSON June 10
The data show that #yesallwomen would be safer with fewer boyfriends around their kids.
… The bottom line is this: Married women are notably safer than their unmarried peers, and girls raised in a home with their married father are markedly less likely to be abused or assaulted than children living without their own father.
The Bible no where suggests that a woman needs to marry or is obligated to marry – Jesus and Paul, in the New Testament, actually depict singleness as being preferable to marriage and parenting!
If it were true women were safer being married, I think Jesus and Paul would have taught on the topics of marriage and singlehood differently than they did.
Here are various rebuttals and commentary in response:
The story, which was originally titled “The best way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married,” got re-named after wise Internet users made a rightful stink over its controversial content. Also noteworthy: the sub-header read “The data show that #yesallwomen would be safer hitched to their baby daddies.”
Now it’s called “One way to end violence against women? Married dads.” But I think the Post should have taken it down completely.
Using legitimate data to back up their claims (nothing says “I’m telling you the truth!” like a graph), authors W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson do the world a great disservice by making it sound like women have the power to avoid being abused — and it apparently comes down to what they should be doing with their bodies, their kids, and their lives.
…. Further, Wilcox and Wilson feign total ignorance of a problem they themselves are perpetuating — institutional sexism and misogyny, which are major factors in the widespread problem of violence against women and children.
By drawing the conclusion that a simple marriage certificate is actually responsible for the stats, they’re doing both genders a huge disservice, and they’re tricking readers into thinking abuse doesn’t have anything to do with misogyny.
As they write, “The bottom line is that married women are less likely to be raped, assaulted, or robbed than their unmarried peers.”
Well, that’s certainly an interesting point. How did they arrive there, and what explains it? Is it true that getting married can protect you from abuse?
Actually, no. Because correlation doesn’t mean causation. While they back up their conclusion with legitimate data points, the statistics say more about healthy relationships than they do about the institution of marriage.
- The most serious problem with the Washington Post’s sloppy journalism is that it none-too-subtly suggests that all partner violence against women can be boiled down to a single factor: your relationship status.
Decades worth of research blow that simplistic idea out of the water in two seconds.
[snip research quotes]
So you see what the Washington Post article did? It marginalized all the other risk factors for partner violence and simply focused on one of them — whether you’re in a married relationship or not.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Link): have a handy list of all the risk factors associated with partner violence as found by the research. It’s a longer list, and the one thing not even listed there? Marital status. Same with this research summary from the National Institute of Justice.2
Karma Cottman, executive director of the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said it’s the “responsibility of the Washington Post, specifically when they’re looking at this issue” to use better judgment in publishing “even when it comes to editorials and opinion pieces, because it’s dangerous.
It’s dangerous in terms of the reporting. It’s dangerous in terms of survivors that are reading this and feel like they don’t have support from their community. And it’s dangerous in terms of continuing the rape culture that we’re all working toward ending.”
It also speaks to, Cottman said, public opinion related to sexual assault and dating violence, as well as the position of women in this country. “Safety is a basic human right,” she said of the suggestion that women would be safer once they’re married.
The D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence wants to see the Post release a statement about the pieces and highlight resources for survivors. “While these are opinions, they can be harmful and the Washington Post [needs to] highlight that,” Cottman said, adding that the paper needs “to take care in what they publish” and recognize the impact it can have. They also plan to submit a letter to the editor.
While it doesn’t surprise Cottman that an editor wouldn’t recognize the problematic nature of these pieces, the Washington Post, she said, has “traditionally done a really good job reporting on these issues.”
The Huffington Post | By Nina Bahadur
According to a Washington Post op-ed, there’s a simple way to end violence against women — have all those single ladies get married and stop “taking lovers.”
A June 10 column by W. Bradford Wilcox, the director of The National Marriage Project and law professor Robin Fretwell Wilson presents data claiming that women and children are much safer in households where a woman is married to her children’s biological father, featuring some incredibly tone-deaf commentary on how women can make themselves safer in their relationships:
The bottom line is this: Married women are notably safer than their unmarried peers, and girls raised in a home with their married father are markedly less likely to be abused or assaulted than children living without their own father.
The original headline of the piece placed the onus on women and mothers in domestic violence situations, calling for them to “stop taking lovers” and marry their “baby daddies”….
The authors claim that marriage “tames” men, the implication being that because men are less likely to abuse their biological children, women should lock down that engagement ring. “Marriage seems to cause men to behave better,” Wilcox and Fretwell Wilson write.
“That’s because men tend to settle down after they marry, to be more attentive to the expectations of friends and kin, to be more faithful, and to be more committed to their partners — factors that minimize the risk of violence.” Apparently, the responsibility rests on women to marry men and prevent them from becoming violent.
The piece acknowledges that there are married men and biological fathers who do abuse their wives and children, but focuses on how unmarried women can — and should — take themselves out of danger by getting hitched.
The authors do not investigate other factors that may make never-married women more likely to be victims of domestic violence, like poverty and fear of homelessness. Instead, they tie women’s safety to marriage without mentioning other economic or social factors.
The routine conservative exhortations to single women to hurry up and get married already became downright irresponsible on Tuesday with W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson’s piece in the Washington Post titled “One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married.”
It’s not a well-argued essay (clearly) but kudos to Wilcox and Wilson for managing both to blame women for male violence and guilt-trip them for not marrying the first man they meet with a pulse. If only they had worked in a dig about cats.
…Of course, while playing the game of manipulating statistics, they pointedly ignore the fact (Link): that domestic violence rates have been falling at the same time marriage rates are falling. I guess correlation only equals causation if it serves the right cause.
While Wilcox and Wilson tacitly admit that the correlation between marriage and lower rates of violence might be because “women in healthy, safe relationships are more likely to select into marriage,” most of the piece is an attempt to convince women that it’s the presence of a wedding ring itself that reduces violence more than the likelier story, which is that abusive relationships often fall apart before the marriage begins.
… Look, there is no doubt that there’s a correlation between being married and lower rates of violence, but it’s not likely because marriage itself provides protection.
It’s because the same privileges that lead to higher rates of marriage—higher incomes, more education, older age—also lead to living in safer neighborhoods and having lower rates of interpersonal violence.
Hijacking women’s experiences of violence in order to bully them about being single isn’t just tacky, but dishonest.
by: Sarah Jonesmore from Sarah Jones
Tuesday, June, 10th, 2014, 8:07 pm
Washington Post had an epic disaster of a column today, in which they managed to blame women for violence against women and literally tell women to fix it, they should get married. “One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married.”
Never mind that three women a day are murdered in this country by an intimate partner, or that on yet another day of mass shooting, gun ownership by an abuser increases a woman’s chances of being murdered. Oh, no. It’s all the ladies’ fault, and they can fix it by getting married.
… I’ve seen some egregious reporting before, but this Washington Post article by Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson is not only so academically compromised as to not even merit a quote, but more importantly it’s dangerous in its failure to comprehend the issue. It’s a wonder that when the editors chose to change the title, they didn’t pull the article. Their own 538 column said the authors misused the data.
…Some of the statistics cited in this article are from one of the author’s own papers and disagree with the stats I’ve cited for years, which come from the FBI and experts in actual statistics regarding crimes against women. Her papers come laden seemingly with the burden of blaming women for the violence of a small percentage of men.
But even “unskewed” statistics have to be misunderstood in order to sell this load of dangerous tripe. Correlation does not equal causation, so saying that married women experience less violence does not automatically mean that marriage cures abusers. Actually, that’s a dangerously inaccurate thing to suggest.
Real statistics show that younger women are more likely to be victims of violence. Younger women are also more likely to be unmarried as opposed to older women. So marriage isn’t the cure or the causation of “safer” times for married women.
Shannon Catalano, the author of the DOJ study cited by the WaPo article and a statistician at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, explained this as well, writing to 538, “The BJS chart used here is limited to one variable, household composition, when we know from previous research that violence is associated with a multitude of factors.”
538 points out that there are other unaccounted for factors — “the marrying kind tend to be more educated, wealthier and whiter” — while accurate, this could be misleading as it could feed into the too commonly accepted stereotype of an abuser. In fact, lethal abusers aren’t contained to the poor, uneducated, or the minority population, nor are they the types to be given the sort of practical endorsement by our legal system that others are.
Furthermore, from one of the studies they cited, “Females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence.” Yes. Prime age for pregnancy, which is one of the biggest dangers for a woman.
But also, “unmarried” women being larger victims of violence does not equate to getting married protecting a woman. Rather, the second most lethal time for a woman is when she leaves or has left her abuser. The DOJ study they cited even says, ” Separated females experienced the highest rate of intimate partner violence during the 18-year period.”
…A violent boyfriend does not stop being violent when he marries a woman. This suggestion is the equivalent of blaming women for the actions of a small percentage of men. It is absolutely wrong to suggest that women could fix an abuser by marrying him or that marriage somehow inoculates a woman from violence.
Women need to stop taking lovers and then they won’t be hurt or killed anymore – that was the original premise. Women have free will and they are entitled to free will. They do not owe some man their bodies or their lives.
This kind of attitude is part of what condoned the sick attitudes of the Santa Barbara shooter. In fact, a sense of entitlement is a sign of lethality on the lethality assessment chart. Washington Post should be ashamed to contribute to that.
Furthermore, even if women did as WaPo suggested, guess what? It doesn’t work. There is no appeasing an abuser with compliance. Women are killed for being pregnant, for cooking a hamburger the wrong way, for not cleaning the kitchen to his standards and for not being subservient enough. There is never enough compliance to assuage the needy and insecure abuser.
The two most lethal times for a woman are when she is pregnant and when she is trying to leave an abuser. What kind of culture do we have that blames women for this and leaves them on their own to survive being hunted down like an animal?
The authors of the Washington Post article never thought to discuss why these men abuse women and children, let alone how articles like WaPo’s excuse said violence.
Instead they blamed the women for it all by suggesting that if she married, these things wouldn’t happen. In order to make this argument, they relied on survey data that they misinterpreted and misappropriated for a cause.
But this isn’t just bad reporting.
This very article is indicative of the American culture of violence against women.
Even with a revamped headline (“One way to end violence against women? Married dads. The data show #yesallwomen would be safer with fewer boyfriends around their kids.”) the message remained unaltered.
Violence against women, according to the columnists, is a result of women remaining single, versus entering into a marriage contract.
…The multitude of studies cherry picked by the article’s authors are problematic on their own.
After all, when it comes to violence against women, 30 percent of it globally is instigated by an intimate partner, and 38 percent of all women murdered are murdered by an intimate partner.
It’s not surprising that the authors would be inclined to play with statistics to try to promote their “pro-marriage” viewpoint.
Wilcox has already been accused of skewing data to help support legal arguments for same-sex marriage cases. Publishing in one of the country’s most prestigious news outlets now gives their version of “facts” an air of authenticity they could not get by continuing to preach to the religious right family values crowd.
Also sadly unsurprising is the introduction of yet another article full of theories of how women and girls can protect themselves from violence, rather than creating some true solutions to stopping abusers from committing acts of violence and assault, both physical and sexual.
Advising women and girls to marry as a means of protecting themselves against abuse doesn’t actually fix the problem, as domestic violence statistics show, and even if it did, promoting it as a solution moves our talking points back to a realm where it is up to male partners to offer protection from other men’s attacks.
- In their piece, Witcox and Wilson wrote:
- (start quote)
- As Erin pointed out yesterday, and as FiveThirtyEight’s Mona Chalabi points out today, the piece ignored the connection between wealth and marriage. But Witcox and Wilson also used a chart that, according to the study author, didn’t explain the whole picture.
- It turns out that not only was W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson’s Washington Post editorial offensive, they misinterpreted a major data point cited to back up their claims that if women were married, there would be less domestic violence. They also totally downplayed the real threat here: men.
by Kate Dries
Women are also safer in married homes. As the figure above (derived from a recent Department of Justice study) indicates, married women are the least likely to be victimized by an intimate partner. They are also less likely to be the victims of violent crime in general. (end quote)
Overall, another U.S. Department of Justice study found that never-married women are nearly four times more likely to be victims of violent crime, compared to married women.
The bottom line is that married women are less likely to be raped, assaulted, or robbed than their unmarried peers.
The figure above isn’t enough however. Shannon Catalano of the Bureau of Justice Statistics says that this chart only looked at household composition, but “we know from previous research that violence is associated with a multitude of factors.” (Do we ever.)
“Though other researchers have examined these factors, the purpose of the BJS report was not to identify these other factors,” Catalano told Chalabi, adding that if the BJS had controlled for other factors – like age – the results would change:
We know, for example, that victimization (for several types of violence including intimate partner violence) is much higher for younger males and females, particularly between the ages of 18-24.
- The Washington Post has just published an op-ed entitled “One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married” (the paper later changed the headline). To that, I say: Washington Post: Stop Posting Bullshit And Set Yourself On Fire.
Less than 48 hours after posting an atrocious column by George Will, wherein the venerable conservative thought leader who has made a career out of being smugly wrong about everything called being a rape victim a “coveted status” and then dismissed the college sexual assault crisis as just another made up thing in Obama’s America (TM),
the Washington Post has outdone itself with a column by conservative think tank denizens W. Bradford Wilcox, (the director of the National Marriage Project) and Robin Fretwell Wilson (who endlessly beat the BUT RELIGIOUS LIBERTY!!! drum after New York legalized gay marriage in 2011) that claims — seriously, as far as I can gather —
that the best way for women to avoid violence is to stop slutting around with “baby daddies” and get married. It’s truly breathtaking in its idiocy. I’m sorry for subjecting all of you to this, but, here we go.
This social media outpouring makes it clear that some men pose a real threat to the physical and psychic welfare of women and girls. But obscured in the public conversation about the violence against women is the fact that some other men are more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence: married biological fathers.
If you were playing a NOT ALL MEN drinking game with this column, your first shot comes in the second paragraph, and by the end, you’d be dead of alcohol poisoning and despair.
Wilson and Wilcox (who I’ll be henceforth referring to as SonCox to both eliminate the redundancy of the Wil and convey my disdain for this piece of piping hot garbage) are asserting that yes, some men hurt women, sure. But some men are not bad.
Once women get married, Bad Men who might hurt them transform magically into Good Men who will protect them from Bad (unmarried) Men who prowl around looking for kids and ladies to rape.
That’s because, they argue, men care more about their female partners and kids after they get married because ~*marriage*~.
The pair also seems to believe that in addition to magically turning Bad Men into Good Men, marriage covers women with a Mithril-like cloak of protection that thwarts other (Bad) men who are out there victimizing single ladies left and right. Because there’s a statistical relationship between being married and not being crime victims, therefore the aura of a husband must be the root cause of this statistical association.
… They also argue that married women are more likely to live in better neighborhoods, that kids are less likely to be abused and are more likely to have engaged fathers.
It doesn’t take a pair of conservative think tank darlings wearing their most blindery, agenda-driven thinking caps on so tightly that it cuts off all circulation to their brains to realize that attributing all of these things to marriage is either stupid or deliberately obtuse. Everything that SonCox has dubiously attributed to marriage is actually — and solidly — associated with wealth.
Wealthy people are more likely to marry, and they’re more likely to wait until after they’re married to have children. They’re also more likely to live in the sort neighborhood where random street crime doesn’t happen as often due to the fact that it’s full of rich people.
… and non-rage stroke-inducing scholarly works have concluded that the key to reducing violence against women is empower them economically, not get them married off. Victims are much more likely to stay with a partner who physically harms them or their children if they feel like they lack the resources to survive without him.
- The reaction was swift and sharply critical.
“Don’t Post Everything,” wrote Policy Mic’s Jared Keller. “Someone actually wrote this headline?” tweeted the DNC’s Mo Elleithee.
“Straight from the 1950s, here’s the @washingtonpost! Want to end rape? Well gals ‘Stop taking lovers and get married,’” tweeted Pro Publica’s Megan McCloskey.
“Going back to my regimen of reading through old detention reports, because they’re less depressing than the Post’s full-throated patriarchy,” tweeted The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman. “Sorry to all the great Post reporters whom that piece is going to detract attention from.”
Not long after the piece went up, Wilcox, one of the authors of the piece, tweeted that he wasn’t happy with the headline and was “working to match (the) title with (the) text.”
- By Tom Hawking on Jun 10, 2014 4:09pm
In case you’re lucky enough not to have seen it yet, the Washington Post just ran a genuinely astonishing piece on violence against women.
It was written by two academics by the names of W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson, whose names aren’t the only thing out of the 19th century: the article looks at a bunch of statistics in regard to violence against women and children, and concludes that “the data show that #yesallwomen would be safer hitched to their baby daddies.”
I swear I’m not making this up.
If you want to read the whole thing, in all its jaw-dropping troll-baiting wrongheadedness, you can (Link): click here (don’t worry, it’s going via DoNotLink, so you’re not giving these asspuddings any clicks). Otherwise, just take my word for it: this is the nadir, and hopefully the death knell, of the recent trend toward “data journalism.”
The authors take as their starting point a pretty epic report to Congress by the the DHHS. (They also, curiously, cite a report from 1994. Which… was published in 1994, by the way.)
The DHHS report weighs in at a hefty 455 pages, and goes into a shitload of detail about various causative factors in violence against women and children.
Here is what Wilcox and Wilson take from these 455 pages (I’ve helpfully screencapped the original headline, which the Post has since changed — yes, they really did use the phrase “baby daddies”):
“One Way to End Violence Against Women? Stop taking lovers and get married. The data show that #yesallwomen would be safer hitched to their baby daddies.”
So, what we have here is two people looking at a bunch of statistics showing that women suffer disproportionate violence from men… and concluding that the responsibility for this falls on women for not getting married.
It’s a textbook example of victim blaming — and also a convenient case study of how to make pretty much every mistake in the book when it comes to the interpretation of statistics.
For a start, there’s the conflation of correlation with causation. We have numbers showing that married men are statistically less abusive to women and their children than their unmarried counterparts.
So what’s more likely: that the sort of man who abuses women is statistically less likely to have any interest in marriage, or that the act of standing in a church in a white dress on one day of your life means that your children have a magical shield around them protecting them from violence? I’m gonna go with the former, but then, that’s a reflection of my ideology.
Which brings us to the second point: confirmation bias. The hoary old cliché about lies, damn lies, and statistics is a cliché for a reason: because you can use numbers to demonstrate pretty much anything. W&W’s article notes that “married women are less likely to be raped, assaulted, or robbed than their unmarried peers.” OK, great.
But is that an effect of marriage? Is there any evidence of causation? Because another way of interpreting these statistics might be doing a little more research (seriously, guys, two fucking Google searches) to discover that marriage is less prevalent in poorer communities, wherein violence against women and children is more prevalent.
In other words — violence and marriage rates both correlate with socioeconomic status, with one declining as the other increases.
… W&W don’t address this point at all, instead arguing that “marriage also seems to cause men to behave better.” Well, if you say so.
But even if you do believe that putting a ring on a man’s finger somehow has the mystical power to curb his violent urges, the conclusions W&W draw from their numbers are asinine in the extreme.
Women should marry to minimize their risk of violence, and if they don’t, well, whose fault is that?
I mean, no doubt the data also suggests that staying in bed every day is far safer than getting up and going to work, because who knows, you might get hit by a bus, or fall in front of a subway train, or booted in the face by one of the “it’s showtime!” kids.
Would W&W thus conclude that if any such thing happens to you, it’s your own fault for leaving the house in the first place?
… As an example of how meaningless this all is, you could conceivably use this same data that W&W used for their article to conclude that men are statistically a menace to society and thus should be castrated en masse and cast into outer darkness for all eternity.
It’s just as valid and reasonable a conclusion to draw from the data as the one that W&W do draw, i.e., it’s simplistic and ridiculous and would be laughed out of the room by anyone outside a lunatic fringe, the only difference being that in this case the lunatic fringe is at the super-radical feminist end of the ideological spectrum as opposed to the misogynist fuckwit end.
- by KATIE MCDONOUGH
Some geniuses have found the way to turn violent men away from violence: Marriage contracts and diamond rings!
Probably the best thing about the latest piece of garbage that the Washington Post has given the Internet is that an editor seriously thought that he (or she) could save the piece by changing its headline and subhead.
So while it was first announced as, “One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married,” with the subhead, “The data show that #yesallwomen would be safer hitched to their baby daddies,” the piece soon became, “One way to end violence against women? Married dads,” with the subhead, “The data show that #yesallwomen would be safer with fewer boyfriends around their kids.”
Shockingly, people stayed pretty mad about the whole thing. Because the headline was hardly the only problem.
Rather than present the social science with the heavy dose of qualifiers, context and skepticism deployed by the the actual researchers who produced it and the experts who have grappled with it, writers W. Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson — a professor of psychology and a professor of law, respectively —
decided to go all in and argue that women should stop being so promiscuous and/or selective about whom they legally bind themselves to if they don’t want to be raped or violently abused. Because apparently marriage contracts and diamond rings have the power to turn violent men into not violent men?
Now both of these writers are going to call this a misrepresentation of their argument. They will probably say that they are just presenting social science and data as it stands and not trying to turn it into a behavioral proscription, despite the fact that the piece is exactly that.
And here are the reasons why these excuses will be bullshit.
The piece leaves out everything that actually makes the presence of a husband or father in the home a sometimes positive indicator when it comes to physical and sexual abuse. Here is one of the experts Wilcox and Fretwell Wilson referenced in a passing link — without actually going into any detail about — on what’s actually more important than the mere presence of fathers and husbands in the home:
David Finkelhor, a professor at the University of New Hampshire and director of its Crimes against Children research center, said that how a father relates to his family matters more than his mere presence in reducing sexual abuse.
“I do think the quality of the parental relationship is the most important thing,” he said. “Having an open, secure and communicative relationship with at least one parent is important.”
… Here’s another one of those experts on what having a husband or father in the home does to deter violence: “There is no effect in the home.”
So the actual lesson of the social science is not that marriage is the solution to violence against women, but that cultivating nonviolence, trust and open communication in our relationships — and in men — really matters.
Having these things in place with even one parent or trusted adult can make a world of difference to a survivor of abuse. But the way that Wilcox and Fretwell Wilson frame this information is dangerously misleading.
… Being legally married to a woman does not mean that a man will not violently abuse her. Being the biological father of a child does not mean that a father will not violently abuse that child.
And rather than abuse being contingent on women’s decision to marry or not marry, these findings boil down to the most obvious point imaginable: Men who are not abusive do not abuse women.
But abusive men will abuse women regardless of the nature of the relationship.
Abusive men abuse women they are married to. Abusive men abuse women they are dating.
Abusive men abuse women they do not know.
The problem is not unmarried women. The problem is abusive men.
I am not in complete agreement with all views in this piece (specifically, I do not support homosexuality, as this author does; she also seems to assume the WaPo writers were targeting black women, but I did not pick that up), but she makes some decent points about the hetero marriage issue:
- And they’re also ensuring that once again, the onus falls on (female) victims of violence to end the wrongs done to them, rather than on the perpetrators of violence to stop committing criminal acts, or even on society or media to rethink the perpetuation of damaging cultural narratives.
Wilcox and Wilson start off by appropriating the #YesAllWomen hashtag, wherein thousands of women the world over spoke out about the violence, abuse, and assault they experience at the hands of men, for their own purpose: the reinforcement of patriarchy.
This social media outpouring makes it clear that some men pose a real threat to the physical and psychic welfare of women and girls. But obscured in the public conversation about the violence against women is the fact that some other men are more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence: married biological fathers.
What follows is an astounding exercise in “Not all!” rife with bad, and badly biased, social science with a laser-focus on singling marriage out as a magical panacea for intimate partner and child abuse. The authors initially draw on a 1994 Department of Justice data survey, arguing that because “never married” women are most likely to be the victims of violent crimes (all violent crime, not just intimate partner violence), the clear solution is at the altar.
Never mind the fact that, using the same data set, one could just as easily argue that women who have had “some college” are about as likely to be victims of violent crimes as women who never graduated high school— but there’s no easy get-back-in-the-kitchen cultural prescription there.
For both men and women, the most reliable academic data shows that income level, not marital status, is the clearest indicator of whether they will be personally affected by violence. People with fewer resources are more likely to be victims of violent crime—they’re also less likely to marry.
But that doesn’t mean marriage ends violence—indeed, according to that 1994 Department of Justice study, divorced and separated women are the most likely, in terms of marital status, to be victims of violent crime.
Guess marriage wasn’t the cure for those families, after all.
Using Wilson and Wilcox’s logic and drawing from that DOJ study, the best way to not be a victim of violent crime, for a heterosexual woman, is to be widowed—to have a dead husband. Whither the WaPo think piece, “One way to end violence against women? Dead dudes.”
… In fact, when people “demand marriage,” they might very well be abusers themselves: Pressuring a partner to commit quickly to an exclusive relationship is one of the brightest red flags when it comes to identifying a domestic abuser.
This is a pattern of behavior obscured by notions of “romance” in popular heteronormative narratives, seen in everything from Twilight to big box-office rom-coms featuring a reluctant female lead and her dogged pursuer, relentless in his attempts to cajole her into giving him a chance.
Never discussed in the Wilcox and Wilson piece is the idea that marriage might make some people who experience domestic violence far less likely to report it—and less likely, if it is reported, to pursue charges. Spouses cannot be compelled to testify against their spousal abusers. Marriages are much harder to leave, legally and logistically speaking, than are other domestic arrangements.
Indeed, Wilcox and Wilson fail to take into account any of the underlying reasons that make some people more likely—and more able, and more inclined—to get married in the first place, and attribute some of the benefits that people enjoy, post-nuptials, to the marriage itself rather than the wide array of factors that enable and encourage them to marry at all. ….
The idea that marriage itself would cause men to behave better is patently preposterous—as if slapping on a tuxedo for a night and driving away into the sunset in a can-clanging convertible is going to automatically disabuse a man of any notions he ever had about entitlement to women’s bodies, and ownership thereof.
This is retro-nostalgia dressed up as academic legitimacy, a fundamentally patronizing and backward-thinking yearning for days when Mom greeted Dad at the door with a martini and a roast in the oven—days that never existed for most working Americans.
In the midst of it all, some good has come out of the WaPo piece: the hashtag #AbuserDynamics, started by Mikki Kendall and Lauren Chief Elk in the wake of a powerful Twitter conversation about manifestations of abuse in their own lives and in the larger social sphere.
- Wilson and Wilcox point out that “married women are less likely to be raped, assaulted, or robbed than their unmarried peers.” But here’s another statistic, from 2007: of female murder victims, 24 percent were killed by a spouse or ex-spouse, 21 percent by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Women are much, much more likely than men to be killed by their “intimate partners.” So marriage protects against violence in some cases, if you believe the Wilson/Wilcox argument; in other cases, it quite literally kills.
How does that make sense? In fact, it seems more likely that marriage doesn’t cause either one; and that marrying into an abusive relationship is no more a solution to violence than simply dating the abuser.
In fact, being legally bound through matrimony may make it significantly harder for a woman to get out of an abusive situation. A blanket recommendation to marry certainly doesn’t solve this problem.
… This gets at the most troubling aspect of this reductive essay, which is the way the authors make abuse the woman’s problem. Framing it this way, not surprisingly, leads to a more conservative argument.
The notion that women should get married so they don’t get beat up sounds curiously similar to an argument other cultures propose, which is that women should cover themselves because men cannot be trusted not to look, touch, and worse.
The whole point of the #YesAllWomen campaign, which the authors cite, isn’t that women need one man to protect them from another man, but that men need to take responsibility for their own violence and misbehavior.
The solution to male violence is neither that we should cover ourselves more, nor that we need cloak ourselves in the supposed protection of marriage. The solution is men behaving better, and our culture demanding more of them.
- by Robyn PennacchiaJun 10, 2014
When it comes to male-perpetrated violence against women, when it comes to sexual assault, women are not the fucking problem.
It’s not something we’re doing wrong, it’s something these men are doing wrong. We are tired of walking around in circles with our keys held in our hands like a weapon.
We are tired of mincing our words for fear we will offend the fragile male ego and end up with our heads blown off.
We are tired of being told it’s because we’re slutty, because we wore a skirt, because we drank too much, because we walked alone at night, because we led him on.
Enough already! Trust us when we say that we’ve heard it enough, it doesn’t work, and we’d like to start talking about something else now.
- The studies Wilcox and Wilson reference find that children in homes with two parents are less likely to be sexually assaulted, and women are less likely to be abused by a husband than a boyfriend. But this could be correlation, not causation.
Poor women are more likely than wealthy women to experience all kinds of violence, including sexual assault. Married women tend to be wealthier, older, and better educated, and therefore better able to safely extract themselves from toxic situations.
…Wilcox and Wilson’s argument is as baffling as it is insulting, until you read his bio: Wilcox “directs the Home Economics Project at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies.”
AEI is a right-leaning think tank. Conservatives have been pushing the idea of marriage as the cure to all societal evils for years.
Apparently, making men the good guys and unmarried women the cause of their own misfortune is part of that strategy but, once again, the argument falls apart, unless the two can prove how marriage would end sexual assaults on college campuses and in the military.