Lariat Letters: Gender differences must be recognized in domestic violence cases

I’m writing in response to the Lariat editorial “New definition of rape will lead to justice for unrecognized” which ran on January 24.

Specifically, I’m responding to two paragraphs in the editorial that address the Duluth Model, a philosophy for responding to domestic violence that was created at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, where I work, in Duluth, Minn.

The paragraphs name fairly common criticisms of the Duluth Model: that it unfairly targets men as the sole perpetrators of domestic violence; that it is based in “sexist, outdated beliefs that fail to reflect reality”; and that domestic violence is a gender-neutral issue—that men and women in relationships use violence against each other with equal frequency, purposes, and effects.

Our experiences tell us that men who use violence against women most often do so to gain or assert power and control in their relationships, and that women who use violence against men most often do so to resist or defend themselves against men’s abusive power and control. From a certain perspective all that violence can seem identical in purpose and effect. From a perspective developed by talking to men and women who have used violence and had violence against them in relationships, and by paying close attention to the short- and long-term effects of violence on men and women, differences between battering and resisting become obvious.

We acknowledge that there are women who batter men. Our experiences tells they are FAR less common than men who batter women, and that men’s violence against women is overtly and subtly supported by many forms of culture and socialization that teach boys and men to dominate and girls and women to be deferential.

We resist notions of gender neutrality in domestic violence because our experiences tell us it doesn’t exist.

We’re always eager to have conversations about these matters. We’re confident in what our work and experiences tell us, but we’re also grateful for opportunities to learn from and share with folks whose experiences are different from ours.

—Chris Godsey

National Training Project

Co-Coordinato, Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs

Duluth, Minn.