Domestic violence goes both ways, study finds

Where only one partner in a relationship is violent, it is more likely to be the woman, University of Otago researchers have found.

Researcher Kirsten Robertson, of the university's psychology department, said the finding indicated a change of thinking was required on domestic violence.

The researchers found that among people in violent relationships, 13.8 per cent of women said they were the sole perpetrators of violence, and only 2.4 per cent of men said they were the only violent one in the relationship.

"The problem is our society just accepts female violence - it accepts violence in general," Ms Robertson said.

"But there are always campaigns aimed at stopping male violence - we need to accept no violence."

People tended to find female violence amusing.

"When asked, 'does a man deserve to be hit', women often laugh. They said they did often deserve it as they did things that wound you up."

The research was done for Ms Robertson's PhD thesis on "intimate partner violence" studies.

She talked to three sample groups - students, a general group, and prisoners in Rolleston and Christchurch Women's Prison.

In the student and general samples, one in four people had used physical violence in the past year in their relationship. Among those in jail, the figure was more than half.

The violence often went both ways, and men and women were equally likely to be on both ends of it.

Ms Robertson said she did not look at whether incidents of female violence were in self defence, but the fact that in quite a few cases women were the sole perpetrators indicated that could not be the only explanation.

Those involved in the violence - men or women - tended to have a more hostile attitude towards others, and were more likely to blame their victim for their problems.

It indicated a lack of conflict resolution skills, Ms Robertson said.

"I wouldn't say victims were causing the violence - I would never say that - but in these relationships both partners were lacking those skills and that increases the hostility.

"We need to be teaching in schools how to deal with conflict."

Ms Robertson is now doing some lecturing at the university and studying conflict in flats.

Police Minister Annette King this week issued figures showing domestic violence arrests had doubled in the past 10 years.


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