Greg Andresen & Michael Flood

The following debates took place on the White Ribbon Day 2006 blog and in private emails by Greg Andresen in November and December 2006

debate number one


FLOOD:

Focusing on men’s violence against women does not mean that other forms of violence are okay or don’t exist

November 20th, 2006

The White Ribbon Campaign focuses on men’s violence against women. But this in no way means that this is the only type of violence that occurs, or that it is the most common form of violence, or that other forms of violence are unimportant. It simply means that violence against women is an important social problem that deserves attention.

Like other anti-violence campaigns, the WRC is motivated by the fundamental belief that *all* forms of violence are wrong, whether their victims are female or male, and whether their perpetrators are male or female. Organisers of the WRC would be delighted to see other campaigns focused on other forms of violence, such as violence against men, and these would complement the WRC.

There are important reasons to have a campaign focused on violence against women, rather than having a single campaign focused for example on all forms of violence, as follows.

Violence against women has specific dynamics that should be the focus of specific attention. For example, while the violence that men experience often occurs in public and by perpetrators who are not known to them, the violence that women experience often occurs in relationships and families and by perpetrators known to them.

Violence against women has specific causes that should be the focus of specific attention. For example, violence against women is sustained in part by cultural beliefs (held by a minority) that men have the right to physically punish their female partners, that males should be dominant in households, that some women ‘ask’ to be raped, and so on. Similarly, violence against men is sustained in part by cultural beliefs that if a man’s honour or status is challenged, he must respond with violence, violence between males is legitimate and exciting, and so on. If we had a campaign that lumped together these different forms of violence, we would be unable to address the specific features of these diverse behaviours. And our campaign would be ineffective as a result.

(For the same reason, campaigns focused on other social problems such as tobacco smoking or drink-driving often focus on specific populations and/or specific forms of this behaviour, as well as giving out the general message that such behaviours are unhealthy or wrong.)

The White Ribbon Campaign focuses on violence against women because this is an important social problem. And this campaign is compatible with, and would complement, other campaigns focused on violence against men or other, specific forms of violence (such as child abuse, homophobic violence, and racist violence).


ANDRESEN:

Dear Michael,

I’m a gender studies student with an interest in violence prevention and I wonder if you could help me. I’m a little confused as to what exactly you’re talking about. You’ve used two different terms interchangeably in your posting as if they had the same meaning. Firstly you talk about “men’s violence against women”, then you go on to talk about “violence against women” (which presumably includes violence against women by women and children as well as men). If the White Ribbon Campaign truly believes, as I do, that violence against women is an important social problem that deserves attention, and that all forms of violence are wrong, surely it cannot afford to ignore a substantial proportion of violence against women – violence perpetrated by other women. The ABS Personal Safety Survey 2005 (PSS) found that within the last 12 months, one in four women (66,500) who experienced physical violence did so at the hands of other women. It also found that since the age of 15, one in five women (389,300) who had experienced physical violence did so at the hands of other women.

My question then is, which form of violence against women does the White Ribbon Campaign target – just men’s violence against women, or all violence against women? If it is just men’s violence against women, I’d be interested to hear the rationale behind excluding female-female violence from your brief (I would also appreciate it if you could stick to using the term “men’s violence against women” rather than “violence against women”). If it is all violence against women, I’d be interested to hear why there is no information on your website and publications supporting the 66,500 Australian women a year who suffer violence from other women.

I have a few more questions about your posting that I hope you might be able to help me with. Undisputedly violence against women has specific dynamics that should be the focus of specific attention. I agree that the violence men experience often occurs in public. However almost as many men (120,900) as women (150,400) experienced physical violence within the home in the most recent incident during the last 12 month (PSS). In other words Australian men and women are currently almost equally likely to suffer physical violence within the home (the risk of physical violence in the workplace is also about equal between men and women). Men carry a much greater additional burden of risk of physical assault in the open, at licensed premises, in a private vehicle, using public transport, in an institution, at a sporting venue and at other locations compared to women.

I also agree that the violence men experience often occurs at the hands of perpetrators who are not known to them. However, during the last 12 months, men and women experienced physical violence from perpetrators who are known to them at exactly the same rate (28 per 1000 persons) (PSS). In other words Australian men and woman are currently equally likely to be physically assaulted by someone they know. Men carry a much greater additional burden of risk (44 per 1000 persons) of physical assault by a stranger compared to women (7 per 1000 persons).

I was interested to read your analysis of the specific causes of violence against women and violence against men. Are you able to cite evidence to support your view that “violence against women is sustained in part by cultural beliefs (held by a minority) that men have the right to physically punish their female partners, that males should be dominant in households, that some women ‘ask’ to be raped”. I ask you this because I’ve never heard any of these cultural beliefs expressed. Of course that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist, but I would really appreciate some evidence that they do.

Lastly (and then I’ll get off your back!), I wonder if you are aware of the World Health Organisation’s Global Campaign for Violence Prevention. It seems to be a wonderful example of a broad anti-violence campaign that doesn’t look at a “one size fits all” approach, but instead targets each specific type of violence in an appropriate way. I believe there is room for a broad anti-violence campaign in Australia of this kind. This doesn’t mean that the specific dynamics of intimate partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse, homophobic violence, racist violence, collective violence, etc, should be ignored – quite the opposite. The White Ribbon Campaign would fit very nicely within such a broad campaign.

Thanks once again for listening to my questions and concerns. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Kind regards,

Greg


FLOOD:

Greg, thanks for your queries.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN OR MEN’S VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN?

True, I’ve been a little sloppy in my use of these terms. And in the field more generally, the two often are conflated. Whereas, as you’ve pointed out, some violence against women is not by men but by other women.

Anyway, the White Ribbon Campaign focuses on men’s violence against women. The Resource Kit and other materials make this clear. And the rationale for this focus is the one I’ve already outlined.

Your next two points concern the fact that as with women, substantial numbers of men are physically assaulted (a) in the home and (b) by people known to them. This is broadly accurate, but you’re missing at least two key points here. First, men are being assaulted in the home often by other men (male family members and others), while in contrast, women are being assaulted in the home often by their male partners. Second, men are being assaulted often by men known to them, and so are women. In other words, the *gender* dimension is missing from your account.

VIOLENCE IN THE HOME

Yes, the number of men who experience physical assault in the home is close to the number of women who experience physical assault in the home. It’s important to note though that “in the home” does not mean that this assault necessarily was at the hands of their intimate partner. For a start, for half the men assaulted in the home, the perpetrator was another man. (He could have been a same-sex partner, but other data in the ABS survey shows that this is very rare.) And when the perpetrator was a woman, it wasn’t always his female partner. In fact, more men were physically assaulted by female family members or friends than by female partners.

To give these points some numbers, among the large numbers of men physically assaulted each year, in the most recent incident 65 per cent were assaulted by a stranger and only four per cent were assaulted by a female partner or ex-partner. In contrast, among the female victims of physical assault, 24 per cent were assaulted by a stranger and 31 per cent were assaulted by a male partner or ex-partner.

Among men who were physically assaulted in the last year, the perpetrators break down like the following, from highest to lowest. (Figures have been calculated from p. 30, and rounded to whole numbers. They add to more than 100 as some males and females have experienced physical assault by more than one category of perpetrator.)

Male stranger: 65%
Male other known person: 19%
Male family member or friend: 10%
Female family member or friend: *7%
Female current or previous partner: *4%
Female stranger: *3%
Female other known person: *2%
Male current or previous partner: -

*Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

By the way, the figures for female victims of physical assault break down like this;

Male current or previous partner: 31%
Male family member or friend: 28%
Male stranger: 15%
Male other known person: 12%
Female other known person: 10%
Female stranger: 9%
Female family member or friend: 9%

Female current or previous partner: -

VIOLENCE BY SOMEONE KNOWN TO THE VICTIM

You write that “during the last 12 months, men and women experienced physical violence from perpetrators who are known to them at exactly the same rate (28 per 1000 persons)”. I don’t know how you arrived at this figure, but I think it’s wrong. As the table on page 16 notes, among people who experienced physical assault in the last year, for 65.7 per cent of males this was by a stranger, compared to 21.9 per cent of females.

CULTURAL BELIEFS THAT SUPPORT VIOLENCE

You asked for evidence that cultural beliefs supporting men’s violence against women exist in Australia. That’s easy.

I’ve just pulled out some key findings from several studies, but it’s worth going back to the full documents for more. In general, these document that violence-supportive beliefs are endorsed by a minority of the population. But they exist nonetheless.

– Young People & Domestic Violence: National research on young people’s attitudes and experiences of domestic violence: A 2001 national survey of 5,000 young people aged 12-20.

14 per cent of young males agreed with the statement, “It’s okay for a boy to make a girl have sex with him if she has flirted with him or led him on.”

Males were more likely than females to agree with statements condoning violence such ‘most physical violence occurs because a partner provoked it’ (32 per cent, versus 24 per cent for females), ‘when a guy hits a girl it’s not really a big deal’ (31 per cent, versus 19 per cent for females), and so on.

– Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Community attitudes to violence against women. Progress and challenges in creating safe, respectful and healthy environments for Victorian women – A summary of findings of the Violence Against Women Community Attitudes Project. A 2006 report on Victorians’ attitudes by VicHealth, based on a survey of 2,800 Victorians over the age of 18.

Most Victorians do not hold violence-supportive attitudes. Most, over 97 per cent, reject the idea that violence is justified in various circumstances. But;

Some believe that violence can be excused. For example, nearly two in five people believes that ‘rape results from men not being able to control their need for sex’ (38% - 44% of men, 32% of women)

Nearly one in six (15 per cent) agrees that ‘women often say no when they mean yes’.

Nearly one in four (23 per cent) disagrees that ‘women rarely make up false claims of rape’.

I’ve left out a bunch of smaller surveys and data sources. The last *national* survey of community attitudes among adults is Community Attitudes to Violence Against Women, a 1995 report based on a telephone survey of 2,004 Australian adults. I’ve not summarised this here, but it’s not hard to find.

But if you really want to read the evidence, look at the report I co-authored on factors shaping community attitudes to violence against women. It’s available here. For example, read pp. 23-25 on how violence-supportive attitudes are grounded in wider attitudes and norms regarding gender and sexuality.

BROAD ANTI-VIOLENCE CAMPAIGNS OR CAMPAIGNS ADDRESSING PARTICULAR FORMS OF VIOLENCE?

Broad anti-violence campaigns like the WHO’s effort are highly desirable. They can integrate more particular campaigns and programs addressing particular forms of violence, populations, or issues. I agree with you, ‘the White Ribbon Campaign would fit very nicely within such a broad campaign’. For example, to the extent that Australia has a national violence prevention strategy, the WRC can be one element of this – addressing a particular form of violence (men’s violence against women), and working to engage a particular section of the population (men) in ending it. What’s the problem?

I’m starting to get the impression that your concern is *not* that violence prevention efforts in general should never focus on particular forms of violence (as otherwise you’d argue this e.g. for child abuse, etc.). Instead, you seem to be troubled by any focus on *men’s violence against women* - as if this focus is offensive or disturbing to you in and of itself.

Sincerely,

michael.


ANDRESEN:

Thanks for your reply, Michael.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN OR MEN’S VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN?

Thank you for clarifying that the focus of the White Ribbon Day (WRD) campaign is men’s violence against women, rather than (all) violence against women. I don’t believe the Resource Kit and other WRD materials make this clear - quite the contrary. Like your original post on this thread, all the WRD materials I have read have been sloppy with the use of these two terms, often conflating them. They talk about men’s violence against women and (all) violence against women as if they were the same thing. This sloppiness is confusing and misleading to the lay reader, who can easily assume that all violence against women comes from men.

Imagine a new campaign was launched called Little Ribbon Day (LRD) and the focus of LRD was women’s violence against children (“addressing a particular form of violence”). Imagine that the terms “child abuse” and “women’s violence against children” were conflated so that sometimes the materials talked about “women’s violence against children” and other times about “child abuse” (i.e. all violence against children). Imagine this was done using sloppy language so that the reader easily assumed these were one and the same thing. Imagine that general statistics about (all) child abuse were presented in the context of talking about “women’s violence against children”, but without clarification that they were actually talking about (all) child abuse. The end result of this sloppy use of language would be that the reader would come to believe that child abuse and women’s violence against children were one and the same thing. This would be incorrect, misleading and would vilify women. I believe the WRD materials do the same thing (perhaps unintentionally) to men.

I sincerely hope this can be rectified so that future WRD materials don’t make the same mistake.

THE GENDER DIMENSION?

I am quite aware that both men and women, on average, are more often physically assaulted by men than by women. I didn’t claim anything to the contrary. My focus, however, is on the victims of violence. Frankly, I don’t care whether men are being attacked by men, by women or by animals. They are still being attacked. They are still suffering. They still need our sympathy and concern. The burden of disease from violence against men in Australia is twice the burden from violence against women. These men need public health measures to reduce the level of violence against them.

Clearly, public health campaigns that target violence against men should be different to those that target violence against women because of the differences in the kind and location of violence, and the differences in perpetrator profiles for men and women victims. We need these campaigns for male as well as female victims of violence. In Australia in 2006 we have the White Ribbon Day campaign, the Amnesty International Stop Violence Against Women Campaign, the Australian Government “Violence Against Women, Australia Says No!” campaign, the Body Shop campaign and a host of state government campaigns (among others). All of these campaigns help female victims of violence. There are no campaigns at all that I am aware of that help male victims of violence, despite the fact that twice as many men are victims of violence as are women (in young people the ratio is three to one), and the burden of disease from violence is twice as high for men as it is for women. I know from your other posts that you agree with me on this point, Michael.

I’m a little confused as to why you seem to feel that a male victim of violence is somehow more deserving of society’s support if he has been attacked by a woman than if he has been attacked by a man. Is a victim of lesbian domestic violence less deserving of society’s support than a victim of heterosexual domestic violence? Is an aboriginal victim of violence less deserving if the perpetrator is another aboriginal than if the perpetrator is non-aboriginal?

VIOLENCE IN THE HOME

I’m quite aware that violence “in the home” is often not intimate partner violence. I didn’t claim anything to the contrary. I was merely clarifying your statement that “the violence that men experience often occurs in public”. The reader of your statement might assume that significantly more women than men are attacked in the home, which is not the case. Men and women are almost equally likely to be attacked in the home. Men suffer a significant additional burden of risk of attack in public places compared to women.

CALCULATING THE RATE OF VIOLENCE

Your statistics on perpetrator breakdowns of male and female victims of physical assault are misleading because they are percentages of the total number of men and women who have been victims of violence, rather than the total number of men and women in the population. Hence your figures are erroneously skewed by the fact that twice as many men as women are victims of violence overall. This makes your denominator for men twice the size of your denominator for women, and hence your percentages for men are half the size that they should be compared to women. If you want to know how likely it is for any Australian man or women to experience violence of a certain type, you must work from the total number of men and women in the population, not the total number of men and women who have been victims of violence. As far as I am aware this is regular public health statistical practice.

Here’s how the figures change when you do the maths properly.

The current rates (per 1000 males) for Australian males suffering physical violence from each perpetrator type is as follows:

Male stranger: 42.4
Male other known person: 12.5
Male family member or friend: 6.5
Female stranger: 1.7*
Female other known person: 1.2*
Female family member or friend: 4.8*
Current partner of the opposite sex: 0.7**
Previous partner of the opposite sex: 2.2*
Current or previous partner of the opposite sex: 2.8*

*Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
** Estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use

The current rate (per 1000 females) for Australian females suffering physical violence from each perpetrator type is as follows:

Male stranger: 4.6
Male other known person: 3.8
Male family member or friend: 8.7
Female stranger: 2.8
Female other known person: 3.2
Female family member or friend: 2.8
Current partner of the opposite sex: 4.0
Previous partner of the opposite sex: 5.6
Current or previous partner of the opposite sex: 9.6

I have put these figures on a graph to make them easier to compare.

Physical Assault Rates Graph (PSS)

As you can see, this brings out some interesting facts. For example, your figures make it appear that females are significantly more likely than males to experience assaults by a male family member or friend (28% versus 10%), whereas in reality it is much more even (8.7 versus 6.5 per 1000 females or males). Likewise, your figures make it appear that females are more likely than males to experience assaults by a female family member or friend (9% versus 7%), whereas in reality males are more likely (4.8 versus 2.8 per 1000 males or females). Also, your figures make it appear that females make up almost all victims of physical assault by a current or previous partner of the opposite sex (31% versus 4%), whereas the reality is quite different (9.6 versus 2.8 per 1000 females or males).

VIOLENCE BY SOMEONE KNOWN TO THE VICTIM

Here are my calculations from the ABS PSS for the rate of physical violence from perpetrators who are known to the victims of violence (28 per 1000 persons for both men and women).

Men:

Table 16 on page 30 gives the following figures:

Whether experienced physical assault, during the last 12 months

Male perpetrator / total partner: 0
Male perpetrator / family or friends: 48,400
Male perpetrator / other known persons: 93,700
Female perpetrator / total partner: 21,200
Female perpetrator / family or friends: 36,000
Female perpetrator / other known persons: 9,300
Total: 208,600

Page 6 gives the following figure:

All men: 7,478,100

Rate per 1000 men: 208,600 / 7,478,100 * 1000 = 28

Women:

Table 16 on page 30 gives the following figures:

Whether experienced physical assault, during the last 12 months

Male perpetrator / total partner: 73,800
Male perpetrator / family or friends: 67,100
Male perpetrator / other known persons: 29,300
Female perpetrator / total partner: 0
Female perpetrator / family or friends: 21,900
Female perpetrator / other known persons: 25,000
Total: 217,100

Page 5 gives the following figure:

All women: 7,693,100

Rate per 1000 women: 217,100 / 7,693,100 * 1000 = 28

CULTURAL BELIEFS THAT SUPPORT VIOLENCE

Thank you so much for citing the wide range of evidence that apparently shows that “violence against women is sustained in part by cultural beliefs (held by a minority) that men have the right to physically punish their female partners, that males should be dominant in households, that some women ‘ask’ to be raped”. As some of these references aren’t available online, I will look them up at the library this week and will get back to you about them in a future post.

BROAD ANTI-VIOLENCE CAMPAIGNS OR CAMPAIGNS ADDRESSING PARTICULAR FORMS OF VIOLENCE?

I’m glad we agree that both broad and targeted anti-violence campaigns are highly desirable. You ask “what’s the problem? [with addressing a particular form of violence (men’s violence against women), and working to engage a particular section of the population (men) in ending it]”. I have no problem with targeted anti-violence campaigns - in fact I believe they are the best way to reduce the overall level of violence within our community.

You also observe that I “seem to be troubled by any focus on *men’s violence against women* - as if this focus is offensive or disturbing to [me] in and of itself.”

The trouble I have is that we don’t have a level playing field in Australia in 2006 with regards to gender issues and violence. I would not troubled by a focus on “men’s violence against women” if Australian state and federal governments and other NGOs had broad anti-violence campaigns, and/or campaigns that focused on “men’s violence against men”, “women’s violence against women” and “women’s violence against men”. The fact that no campaigns of this kind exist, but Australia currently has at least three large national campaigns and many smaller state campaigns focusing on “men’s violence against women” gives the Australian public the misleading impression that men’s violence against women is either more prevalent or more important than other forms of gender-based violence (by the way, I’m please that you addressed this issue in your first post in this blog thread - thank you). At every conference I attend, without exception, I hear people say such incorrect things as “we know that women and children are the main victims of violence” and “our main aim is to protect women and children from violence”. I have a letter from Pru Goward, the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, stating that “my understanding of violence is that it is an overwhelmingly gendered phenomenon, with women much more likely than men to be victims”. I could cite many more examples.

This widespread but incorrect belief that men’s violence against women is either more prevalent or more important than other forms of gender-based violence encourages academics and researchers to focus only on men’s violence against women in their research. The 2004 AIC survey is just one example of this. This leads to the existence of a large body of research, evidence and statistics on men’s violence against women, but little to none on the other three forms of gender-based violence. Then when more research is done, researchers say “we would like to look at all kinds of violence, but there is little data available on male victims of violence, so we’re just going to look (again) at men’s violence against women.” The 2004 VicHealth study and the 2004 Access Economics report are both good examples of this. Can you see the vicious circle here?

Imagine that, back in the 1970s, a group of researchers decided to study male victims of sexual assault knowing that they formed the minority of victims overall, but saying, as you do “what’s the problem [with addressing a particular form of violence]?”. Imagine that the evidence they found prompted governments and NGOs to start campaigns on male victims of sexual assault. It also prompted more research into the area. Later researchers who wanted to study sexual assault in general found that lots of research had been done on male victims, but little to none had been done on female victims, so they published more data on male victims. Meanwhile, the general public, hearing regularly about only male victims of sexual assault in the media, decided that male victims must be more prevalent or more important than female victims. Soon the term “sexual assault” had been conflated with the term “male victim of sexual assault”. Can you see the problem here?

A focus on “men’s violence against women”, when it is the only anti-violence focus in our society, leaves the vast majority of victims of violence without a campaign that speaks for them.

The other problem I have with the WRD campaign is that it uses gender stereotyping language that would be considered unacceptable, discriminatory and vilifying if the same stereotypes were applied to race, religion, sexual preference or any other social category. In fact, as far as I know, most Australian universities have issued writing guidelines that strongly urge students to use non-gendered language at all times. If gendered language is inappropriate in our universities, why is it appropriate for the WRD campaign? If it’s OK to conflate “violence” with “male violence” because males are more likely to be violent than females, why not go back to the 1960s and conflate “pilot” with “male pilot” or “politician” with “male politician” or “engineer” with “male engineer” because males are more likely to hold these professions than females?

Let me give you another example. We know that Australians are three times more likely to experience violence by a man than by a woman. But why should all men feel guilt for the actions of a tiny minority of men who are violent? We also know that African American males are nearly eight times more likely to be incarcerated than White males. Should all blacks feel guilt for the actions of a tiny minority of blacks who are criminals? Imagine that, in a genuine attempt to reduce crime, a NGO in the USA started a Black Ribbon Day campaign, focusing on black crime against whites. Imagine they used the following language (I’ve used actual WRD materials here. All I’ve done is change the references to “men’s violence against women” into “black crime against whites”):

“Crime against whites is a black problem because:
- we have to deal with the impact of other black’s crime on the white people that we love.
- sometimes we are the bystanders to other black’s violence, and have to make a choice: do we stay silent and look the other way when our black friends and relatives insult or attack whites, or do we speak up?

Wearing a Black Ribbon makes a difference because:
- it is a visible sign that the wearer does not support or condone the use of violence against whites;
- most blacks are not criminals. Most blacks treat whites with respect. But a minority of blacks act criminally towards whites, and it is up to the majority of blacks to wear Black Ribbons and help create a culture in which this is unacceptable;
- blacks, as community leaders and decision-makers, can play a key role in helping stop crime against whites by speaking out and stepping in when black friends and relatives act criminally towards whites, and demonstrating their support and by wearing a Black Ribbon;
- whites can show their support for blacks and their commitment to working in partnership with blacks to end violence against whites by wearing a Black Ribbon.”

It is easy to see how offensive this language is when it is applied to a social category other than gender. By using gendered language, the WRD campaign is (perhaps unintentionally) vilifying all Australian males because of the actions of a small percentage of them who are perpetrators of violence. I’m aware that WRD materials contain disclaimers such as “most men do not use violence”, but this message is simply drowned out by the constant use of gendered language. Reading the phrase “men’s violence” umpteen times creates (perhaps unintentionally) the impression for the reader that “men are violent” (they aren’t: a small percentage of them are) or that violence somehow comes from “maleness” (it isn’t: otherwise all men and no women would be violent).

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post, Michael. I really appreciate it. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about what I’ve just written.

Warm regards,

Greg


debate number two


ANDRESEN:

I would like to draw your attention to the use of incorrect statistics by White Ribbon Day’s Andrew O’Keefe on last night’s 7:30 Report.

Mr O’Keefe stated that “The leading cause of death for women between 18 and 45 is not breast cancer but violence”. This statistic is clearly incorrect. The leading causes of death for women between 15 and 24 are transport accidents and intentional self-harm; between 25 and 34 are intentional self-harm and transport accidents; and between 35 and 44 are breast cancer, cancer of the digestive organs, and intentional self-harm. Violence doesn’t appear anywhere on the list of the top causes of death for women in these age groups. (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Causes of Death 2004).

My concerns about this use of incorrect and misleading statistics are twofold.

Firstly, they damage the credibility of Unifem and the White Ribbon Day campaign. If violence against women is to be reduced, organisations such as yourself must be seen to be credible by the general public or you will have little impact on the problem.

Secondly, they create an unwarranted climate of fear within the general public (especially among women and girls) which exacerbates the problem of violence against women. The research on violence against women shows that women’s fear of violence makes up a great portion of the burden of disease from violence against women. Increasing the level of fear among women and girls is both irresponsible and directly harmful to them.

I hope you will inform Mr O’Keefe of this error so that this false and misleading statistic isn’t used further in the lead up to White Ribbon Day.

Many thanks once again for taking the time to listen to my concerns.

Kind regards,

Greg


FLOOD:

Greg, thanks for your comment. You’re right: Andrew O’Keefe’s quoted comment is inaccurate. What he’s intending to refer to is the study released by VicHealth in 2004. It found that, among women under 45, intimate partner violence contributes more to their poor health, disability, and death than any other risk factor, including obesity and smoking. I’ll check on the details of the study tomorrow to find more precise details. But to the extent that Andrew is making the point that violence against women is a key contributor to poor health among women, he’s absolutely right.

Best wishes,

michael.


ANDRESEN:

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your reply. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on what I see as a serious flaw in the VicHealth 2004 study. The study made the incorrect assumption that if a woman reported ever having experienced physical and/or sexual violence of any kind, and if she also reported separately having ever been in a violent relationship with a partner, that she had always experienced this violence from her partner, rather than from other perpetrators. As the ABS Personal Safety Survey 2005 shows, most women who have experienced physical or sexual violence of any kind don’t experience it from their partner. Of the 3,065,800 Australian women who have experienced violence since the age of 15, only 160,100 (5.2%) experienced this violence from a partner. This means that the VicHealth study potentially overestimated the impact of intimate partner violence by a factor of 19. Even if you add in the figures for women who have experienced violence from a previous partner since the age of 15 (1,135,500), still less than half (42.3%) of women who have experienced violence of any kind experienced it from their partner or previous partner. This means that the VicHealth study potentially overestimated the impact of intimate partner violence by a factor of 2.4.

I agree that that violence against women is a key contributor to poor health among women. It is also a key contributor to poor health among men. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 1999 publication “The burden of disease and injury in Australia” shows that homicide and violence ranks 40th on the list of the leading causes of disease burden for men, and 69th on the list for women. The burden of disease for men from homicide and violence is 7,608,000 DALYs (0.6% of men’s total burden of disease) while for women it is 3,089,000 DALYs (0.3% of women’s total burden of disease).

It would be unfortunate if the use of statistics based on flawed methodology were to create an unwarranted sense of threat for women in the community or risk compromising the credibility of the White Ribbon Day Campaign as an accurate source of information. The safety of our mothers, sisters, daughters and partners is too important to risk getting the facts wrong. Our definitions and measurements of violence must be methodologically rigorous, transparent, and informed by contemporary scholarship. Unfortunately, I don’t know whether the VicHealth study fits these criteria. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Warm regards,

Greg


FLOOD:

Dr Flood replied by personal email, hence his reply cannot be published for privacy reasons.


ANDRESEN:

Dear Michael,

Thanks so much for your email and for keeping me updated on the VicHealth issue. I look forward to your thoughts once you hear back from them.

I'm sorry if my use of language caused you offence. I am a gender studies student with an interest in violence prevention. I found your article "Violence against women: Facts and figures" genuinely useful in my research, and my previous email to you was a genuine attempt to unearth more studies and statistics on violence against men. My apologies for neglecting to thank you earlier for sending me the references that you did - I found the references in the Men's Bibliography on violence particularly useful. Thank you.

I'm afraid I'm not quite sure what you mean by being "sympathetic", as that word has ideological connotations for me. For example, it makes sense to be sympathetic to a "cause", but one shouldn't really be sympathetic when writing a news article or scholarly paper (if one was, they could fairly be accused of bias toward the object of their sympathies). I am in the process of reading different studies on violence and questioning any methodologies that I find problematic in an effort to get closer to understanding "the truth" of violence. I believe this is normal academic and scientific practice. My postings on the White Ribbon Day blog weren't (unlike some of the questionable postings following mine!) an attempt to attack either yourself or WRD, and please accept my apologies if they read that way. One of my flaws, for good or bad, is that I'm a bit of a pedant/perfectionist. When I see people using what I perceive to be sloppy language or quoting incorrect or misleading statistics, I like to politely question them so that either the problems are rectified or my error is pointed out. I'm sure you would agree that sloppy language and incorrect statistics don't really help anyone.

Thanks again for your email. I'm currently in the process of looking up some of the studies that you referred me to in your response on the WRD blog. I will get back to you (via the Blog) when I've digested them.

Warm regards,

Greg


FLOOD:

Dr Flood replied by personal email, hence his reply cannot be published for privacy reasons.


ANDRESEN:

Hi Michael,

Many thanks for taking the time to chase that up for me. Actually, the article you just sent me is the source of my concerns about the validity of the report's findings. You will see that page 742 says:

"The only way to  distinguish IPV from violence perpetrated by others in ALSWH was to assume that anyone reporting "ever having been in a violent relationship with a partner" was abused by their partner if also reporting current or past, physical and/or sexual violence even though these were separate, unlinked questions."

As such, I can't see why my concerns aren't valid. Did VicHealth give any reasoning when they said that "much of what [I] say about the report is incorrect". And if much of what I say is incorrect, does that imply that some of what I say is correct? And if so, which bit or bits are correct?

Thanks again.

Kind regards,

Greg


ANDRESEN:

Dear Michael,

I replied to your most recent email and also posted a reply on this White Ribbon Day blog page on 28th November. As of today, my blog post is still awaiting moderation and I haven't heard back from you in reply to my email. Would you be able to let me know whether you have received both these items of correspondence, and advise me when you hope to be able to attend to them? Many thanks.

Best wishes for the festive season, and all the best for a fantastic 2007.

Kind regards,

Greg


FLOOD:

Dr Flood replied by personal email, hence his reply cannot be published for privacy reasons.


ANDRESEN:

Dear Michael,

Thanks for your email. I appreciate that your own work is your main priority, and wish you all the best for it. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into the WRD blog - it's really appreciated.

I look forward to hearing from you in the new year when you get a chance to go through my comments.

Kind regards,

Greg


FLOOD:

Dr Flood replied by personal email, hence his reply cannot be published for privacy reasons.


ANDRESEN:

Dear Michael,

I sincerely regret if you took offence at the appearance of some of our email correspondence elsewhere - it certainly was never my intention to offend you personally. My purpose is to seek intellectual rigor, to challenge erroneous logic and to discover unconscious prejudice.

I am of the opinion that if correspondence, in whatever form, contains material of a private, personal, or sensitive nature, then to publish that material is unethical. However, our email correspondence surely cannot be described in those terms. It was a strictly academic discussion: there was nothing of a personal nature in our correspondence other than your and my names. Being an academic I had assumed you would not only appreciate but encourage debate on scientific methodology and theory.

I had hoped that the material we eventually covered in our emails would be part of a public discussion on the WRD blog. However, as you chose not to publish the material that I attempted to post on the blog, the only remaining means for me to communicate further with you on such important issues was via email. The fact that you chose not to publish material posted by myself and my colleagues on the WRD blog appears to me to be a clear example of intellectual censorship. If you claim a right to censor legitimate debate, then I might argue that I have a right to publish elsewhere what you censor. This is not a circumstance where my contribution was offensive or inflammatory, in which case your role as moderator is unarguable. This is a serious question of whether your judgment to withhold publication of my challenges to your opinions is intellectually and academically justifiable. I think not, but I am happy to debate that with you. Please do not even attempt to argue that the readers would not have been interested in our discussion. These are very important matters that not only WRD bloggers but many others are vitally interested in. They are also highly socially relevant.

For me to have circulated elsewhere only some of our discussion (say the portion you chose to publish), that information would clearly not have constituted our entire debate. Moreover, I would have run the risk of quoting you out of context - something I wished to avoid. I could also have been fairly accused of exerting biased editorial censorship to promulgate only what is favourable to my point of view.

I find it disturbing that you are concerned about issues of privacy in your complaint to me, but that you host a paper on your website by M.C. Dunn called "The Politics of Father Rights Activists". It contains many quotes obtained from private e-mail lists and published out of context. You complain of personal offence when I publish, in its entirety, our academic debate but appear to regard publishing selected portions of other people's private material as legitimate. I find such ethical selectivity quite alarming.

I have circulated the material you have seen on dadsontheair.com to a number of colleagues who work in the area. I felt, as I have explained above, that as an academic you would not only be prepared but even be anxious to have your arguments subjected to rigorous review by your peers, as I am with mine. I agree that it would have been polite to confirm this assumption with you first, and I apologise for not doing so.

Nonetheless, because you took offence, I immediately removed your emailed material from my online postings wherever possible as soon as I received your email.

My apologies once again for any distress that I may have caused you. I sincerely hope it does not deter you from responding to the extremely serious concerns I have raised with you regarding the use of language and statistics by the WRD campaign. These matters surely are far greater than our bruised egos.

Kind regards,

Greg


FLOOD:

Dear Gregory,

>I am of the opinion that if correspondence, in whatever form, contains material of a private, personal, or sensitive nature, then to publish that material is unethical. However, our email correspondence surely cannot be described in those terms. It was a strictly academic discussion: there was nothing of a personal nature in our correspondence other than your and my names. Being an academic I had assumed you would not only appreciate but encourage debate on scientific methodology and theory.

Making the most general point first, it is unethical, or at least impolite, to quote individual e-mail correspondence without the author's permission. I did a quick Google search for "etiquette quoting e-mail without permission" and found e.g. the following: "Respect others' privacy. Do not quote or forward personal email without the original author's permission" (http://computing.wayne.edu/email/netiquette.php).

Regardless of your own judgement of whether material is "private" etc., it's simply wrong to quote an individual correspondent's e-mails without their permission. Perhaps particularly where you identify the author, but in general as well. I say "individual", because different rules apply to e-mail lists, websites, and other more public spaces.

Yes, our e-mail correspondence was academic. But this still doesn't give you the right to post it online without my permission, for the reason I've already identified. *And*, if you were more familiar with the norms of academic conduct, you would know that quoting a person's private correspondence without their permission is an even greater sin in academia. It's frowned upon strongly. (Again, we're not talking here about a published paper or book, which is by definition already in the public domain.) For example, people will even give conference papers and note, "Not to be quoted or cited without the permission of the author." My individual e-mails to you certainly don't qualify as public domain content, regardless of their academic tone, and you are not free to quote them as you wish.

>The fact that you chose not to publish material posted by myself and my colleagues on the WRD blog appears to me to be a clear example of intellectual censorship.

It's not censorship. It would be censorship if I prevented you from publishing your materials in the public domain (in print, on a website, etc.). You are free to publish your arguments in a wide variety of spaces. Indeed, you will find that your arguments receive far more space on the internet than mine do, given the internet's domination by anti-feminist advocates.

Yes, I prevented you from publishing some of your writing on the WRD blog. This isn't "censorship", as you've claimed. Yes, I did limit how much of your writing I allowed on this particular web space. And I did so for obvious reasons. The WRD blog is intended to promote the WR campaign, and it is not useful or appropriate for its comments section to be dominated by discussion of whether the campaign is legitimate in the first place, whether it's legitimate to focus on men's violence against women, whether men's violence against women is really as common or as serious as the campaign claims, and so on.

Yes, *some* debate on these issues is a valuable part of public discussion of the campaign. That's why I allowed it, and much of the comments section was spent debating these very issues. I put up 1,000 words of your comments, and large amount of other material from individuals critical of the basic purpose and orientation of the campaign. And yes, I did not put up a further 3,300 words of your comments.

>If you claim a right to censor legitimate debate, then I might argue that I have a right to publish elsewhere what you censor.

You have the right to publish your own writings, and with permission, those of others. You don't have the right to quote individual e-mail correspondence without the author's permission.

>This is not a circumstance where my contribution was offensive or inflammatory, in which case your role as moderator is unarguable. This is a serious question of whether your judgment to withhold publication of my challenges to your opinions is intellectually and academically justifiable.

The key issue is this. You seem to be stating that individuals and groups on the web have some kind of obligation to publish materials submitted to them by their critics or political opponents. By that same token, the moderators of fathers' rights websites would be obliged to publish my critiques of their work and claims if I sent them to them? Is that correct? (I certainly don't agree.) If so, please can you communicate this requirement as soon as possible to all the anti-feminist men's websites you know of, so that I can send them my critiques for immediate publication? (Yes, I'm being slightly sarcastic here. But I do ask that you consider what you're actually arguing here.)

>For me to have circulated elsewhere only some of our discussion (say the portion you chose to publish), that information would clearly not have constituted our entire debate. Moreover, I would have run the risk of quoting you out of context - something I wished to avoid. I could also have been fairly accused of exerting biased editorial censorship to promulgate only what is favourable to my point of view.

No, as soon as you quote anything from our private correspondence without my permission, you've stepped over the line. Quoting it in full doesn't mitigate this.

>I find it disturbing that you are concerned about issues of privacy in your complaint to me, but that you host a paper on your website by M.C. Dunn called "The Politics of Father Rights Activists". It contains many quotes obtained from private e-mail lists and published out of context. You complain of personal offence when I publish, in its entirety, our academic debate but appear to regard publishing selected portions of other people's private material as legitimate. I find such ethical selectivity quite alarming.

Dunn is quoting from e-mail lists - these are more public than our one-to-one correspondence, so the ethical issues are somewhat different.

>I have circulated the material you have seen on dadsontheair.com to a number of colleagues who work in the area. I felt, as I have explained above, that as an academic you would not only be prepared but even be anxious to have your arguments subjected to rigorous review by your peers, as I am with mine.

I certainly am. But when you say "your arguments", this should refer only to those arguments I have prepared for public scrutiny, not the comments I've offered in an individual e-mail.

>I agree that it would have been polite to confirm this assumption with you first, and I apologise for not doing so. Nonetheless, because you took offence, I immediately removed your emailed material from my online postings wherever possible as soon as I received your email.

Thank you for your apology, and for your quick remedy of this situation.

You have my permission to quote this letter, whether in part or in full.

Sincerely,

michael flood