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Letter to the Editor   |    
Violence Against Women
RICHARD B. FELSON, Ph.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2004;161:1509-1509. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.161.8.1509

To the Editor: The review of my book by Gail Erlick Robinson, M.D., F.R.C.P.C. (1), Violence and Gender Reexamined(2), was an ideological attack that completely misrepresented its content. Yes, I criticize the feminist approach (still legal here in Pennsylvania), but I do not blame nagging wives for violent husbands nor excuse rapists for their uncontrollable sexual urges. Dr. Robinson imagined that.

My book examines how violence against women is different from other forms of violence. Are men who assault their wives more likely to be motivated by a desire for control than women who assault their husbands or men who assault other men? Is violence against women less likely to be reported to the police than violence against men, and are female victims more likely to be assigned blame? Is violence involving couples different from other violence, regardless of gender? These comparisons are odious from an ideological perspective but necessary from a scientific perspective.

The central conclusion of my book is that violence against women should be understood as violence, not sexism. Misogyny plays at most a trivial role in violence toward women. Typically, men who commit rape or assault their wives commit other crimes as well and have no more negative attitudes toward women than do other criminals. Male dominance and control may play some role in spousal violence, but that role is trivial, at least in Western countries. Evidence suggests that American wives are just as controlling as their husbands, although husbands use violence more often for that purpose.

We do have higher rates of violence against women than many other countries, but we have higher rates of violence against men as well. If offenders attacked people randomly, wouldn’t half their victims be women? In fact, women are less likely to be the victim of violence than men (here and everywhere). If we are interested in gender differences in victimization, we need to explain men’s greater victimization, not women’s. Ask not why men hit women; ask why they don’t do it more often. Evidence suggests that the chivalry norm is at least part of the answer. That norm leads to the protection of women and more police intervention on their behalf.

Dr. Robinson completely ignored the extensive statistical evidence presented in the book, giving the excuse that there was not enough methodological detail to evaluate it. In fact, I used standard data sources and provide plenty of detail. I encourage readers who are interested in violence and gender from a scientific perspective to look at my book.

Robinson GE: Bk rev, RB Felson: Violence and Gender Reexamined. Am J Psychiatry  2003; 160:1711–1712
[CrossRef]
 
Felson RB: Violence and Gender Reexamined. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 2002
 
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References

Robinson GE: Bk rev, RB Felson: Violence and Gender Reexamined. Am J Psychiatry  2003; 160:1711–1712
[CrossRef]
 
Felson RB: Violence and Gender Reexamined. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 2002
 
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