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In the News

Friday, March 27, 2009

Los Angeles Conference Shatters Myths About Domestic Violence

Contact: John Hamel, LCSW
Phone: (415) 472-3275
Fax: (415) 472-3285
Email: johnmhamel@comcast.net

SACRAMENTO, CA: The recent media attention to the Chris Brown-Rihanna allegations of domestic violence has led to national interest again for this serious problem. It has also, unfortunately, reignited many common misperceptions concerning domestic violence. The world's leading experts in the field will address these misperceptions, and present the latest, most cutting-edge research findings at what has been billed as the "Domestic Violence Conference of the Decade," From Ideology to Inclusion 2009: New Directions in Domestic Violence Research and Intervention, June 26-28 at the Airport Marriot Hotel, Los Angeles, California.

The electronic media tend to simplify and distort domestic violence causes and consequences and perpetuate unexamined half-truths. Stanley Katz on the Larry King show claimed that while women could be aggressive, only men could be "abusive" and that, if a man hits his wife, he will hit his children. Looking with intense certainty into the camera, Oprah Winfrey told her audience "if he hits you once he will hit you again." Denise Brown, sister of Nicole Brown- Simpson, stated "if he threatens to kill you, he will." These claims, which have a risk of being inflammatory and fear inducing, have all been contradicted by a large body of rigorous and methodologically sophisticated research.

A national survey that assessed chronic, controlling, fear-inducing violence in Canada revealed that 4.2% of women and 2.6% of men reported being so victimized; and studies in community populations reveal that only 6% of men who abuse their wives will also abuse their children. A study done at the University of New Hampshire by Dr. Murray Straus, one of the Los Angeles Conference's featured speakers, examined the inevitability of repeat domestic violence. In a group of husbands identified in a national survey as using severe violence repeatedly toward their wives, one year later follow-ups revealed that 57% were still using severe violence, 33% were non-violent, and 10% had reduced their violence to a minor level. These men, however, had changed their behavior on their own. Moreover, if men seek cognitive-behavioral treatment and complete it, only one in five repeats the violence.

It is important, of course, that a once-violent client complete their treatment and honor their promises, but it is simply not true that everyone who is violent once will repeat. As for the claim that threats of homicide lead to homicide, the evidence again says something else. In a national study of adults in the age group of Chris Brown, credible threats to kill were made by males at 500 times the homicide rate, and by females at 2000 times the actual homicide rate. People often say things they will never carry out. Unfortunately our ability to predict who will carry out the threat is imperfect. While no one wants to minimize the risk for domestic violence, it is important to keep things in perspective and not misstate that risk. No one is well-served by alarmist and inaccurate rhetoric.

This rhetoric persists because for many years the field of domestic violence has been politicized, rendering discussion of significant issues such as male victims, female perpetrators, mutual abuse and alternative, evidence-based policies difficult at best.
In the media, for instance, one rarely hears about male victims, even though men suffer one-third of all domestic violence related injuries. (Scant coverage has been given to Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Geno Hayes, who on March 7 was stabbed in the head and neck by his girlfriend.)

Once again co-sponsored by the California Alliance for Families and Children (www.cafcusa.org) and the Family Violence Treatment and Education Association (www.favtea.com), and featuring editorial board members from the new peer-reviewed journal, Partner Abuse (www.springerpub.com/pa), this year's program seeks to build on the themes explored at the historic 2008 event, with a total of 20 exciting presentations examining domestic violence from a research-based, rather than an ideological perspective. In addition to Dr. Straus, presenters will include:
  • Deborah Capaldi, PhD — on Gender and the Dynamics of Partner Violence
  • Daniel K. O'Leary, PhD — on Multivariate Models of Partner Aggression
  • Don Dutton, PhD — on Gender Bias in the Family Court System
  • Denise Hines, PhD, Jan Brown and Carol Crabsen, LCSW — on Providing Services to All Victims Regardless of Gender
  • Richard Gelles, PhD — on Partner Violence and Children
  • Lynette Feder, PhD — on the Need for More Vigorous Research Methods
  • Christopher Maxwell, PhD and Joel Garner PhD — on Public Policy and Improving Our Responses to Domestic Violence
  • Daniel Sonkin, PhD — on Domestic Violence and the Neurobiology of Attachment
  • Richard Felson, PhD — on Partner Violence and Criminality
  • Ken Corvo, PhD, Christopher Eckhardt, PhD, Lonnie Hazelwood and Michelle Carney, PhD — on Recent Research on Batterer Intervention Programs
  • Ellen Bowen, LCSW and Kimberly Flemke, PhD — on Working with Abusive Women
  • Sandra Stith, PhD, Eric McCollum, PhD, John Hamel, LCSW, Jodi Klugman-Rabb, MFT, Wendy Bunston, and Arlene Vetere, LCSW — on Systemic, Couples and Family Interventions
  • Carolyn West, PhD — on Treating Partner Violence in African-American Families
  • And Special Guest Erin Pizzey, founder of the battered women's shelter movement, answering questions in a special Q&A.

The conference schedule, with presentation abstracts and bios, and registration information, are available at www.cafcusa.org.

Donald Dutton, PhD
Ken Corvo, PhD
John Hamel, LCSW, Conference Co-Chair
Michael Robinson, Conference Co-Chair

  • Donald Dutton, Ph.D., was the expert for the prosecution in the OJ Simpson spousal homicide case. He has written over 100 peer reviewed articles and four books on domestic violence. He is Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia.
  • Kenneth Corvo, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Syracuse University and has worked, taught, and written extensively in the field of domestic violence.
  • John Hamel, LCSW, is a certified Batterer Intervention Provider in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a researcher, with three published books, and Editor-in-Chief of Partner Abuse, a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by Springer Publishing.
  • Michael Robinson is the Executive Director for the California Alliance for Families and Children (CAFC) and a Policy Consultant in the area of Family and Juvenile Law, Foster Care and Youth Services, and Domestic Violence.

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