Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wife Beating Number Crunching.

Julie Bindel's latest column is relatively sane so I wouldn't normally blog about it, but she reminds me of a story that was making the rounds a few months ago:
As highlighted in The Way Forward, there is evidence that young boys consider it fine to hit a woman or force her to have sex; and that there are some young girls who think that this way of behaving is acceptable.
I think this refers to the Home Office report of a few months ago. They asked a bunch of questions as to how acceptable it was for a man to hit his girlfriend in a variety of circumstances, and usually there was 1 or 2 percent saying it was acceptable, 75% or 90% saying it is never acceptable and 10% to 20% saying it was sometimes acceptable.

At first glance then it does look as if a significant proportion of people believe that it can be OK. However using my favourite survey of the week, it seems that something more subtle is going on. They asked 1000 respondents in Great Britain whether it is acceptable for a man to beat his wife, with a score of 1 meaning it is never acceptable and a score of 10 meaning that it is always acceptable. The results were as follows:
  1. 87.6%
  2. 7.0%
  3. 1.6%
  4. 0.6%
  5. 0.9
  6. 0.6
  7. 0.2
  8. 0.4
  9. 0.3
  10. 0.8
The majority of those who do not say that it never acceptable by selecting 1, choose 2 which looks to be as though they are saying that there are almost no circumstances in which it is acceptable. Whilst it would be better if the 2s chose 1, the fact they haven't doesn't necessarily mean that there is a large groundswell who support wife beating but could simply mean that 7-8% of people don't like being categorical in their answers so avoid saying that it is never justified.

More international data on the same sunject from the same survey can be seen here via here.


Anon1 said...

This sort of discussion requires a level of maturity that Guardian readers are probably congenitally incapable of demonstrating.

When I think of couples I know, it's possible to detect two separate things:
1. What is their stated attitude to violence.
2. How do they actually behave.

Let me illustrate.

During an argument, one wife picked up a plate of food and flung it across the room, shattering on the wall. I don't believe this means that she thinks violence is acceptable. However one can acknowledge that during the heat of the moment things may be said or done that are regretted later. Nevertheless the couple probably move on a laugh about it.

I would suggest that many in the survey who answered "wrongly" understand the distinction between idealised positions and the reality of human frailty and have the maturity to distinguish between routine domestic violence and rare crossing the lines.

alison said...

It's never acceptable to hit a woman. You can of course use real force to prevent her hurting you. If I was faced with those questions and toying it up then that is the most reasonable answer. So either the 2s are depressingly real in their judgment that they would prefer to hit than restrain. Or we have a country full of men who don't feel capable of even that in preferance to a good punch. Either way it's a big fat ugh.

Also I am not sure how the evidence relating to the young kids who think slapping a bitch about a bit acceptable links to that survey. More generally I think a certain kind of entertainment culture teaches them that.

Ross said...

"It's never acceptable to hit a woman. You can of course use real force to prevent her hurting you. "No, but it seems to me as though the sort of people who answer 2 are simply not confident enough to be absolute about it, particularly if as other surveys suggest they are disproportionately from the less educated part of society.

Daphne said...

I'm a little surprised by the 7% choosing number two, seems a bit high for my comfort zone, but you may be right in your interpretation, Ross.

I fail to understand any mind set that considers actually hitting a spouse/partner (of either gender) an appropriate action or reaction to an angry situation. Walking away seems a more rational choice.

I understand the urge to hit, I don't understand the lack of self control that allows anyone to whale away as they see fit when pissed off, for whatever reason.

If you have a sizable number of young men/boys who thinks it's fine to smack around women, you've got a problem. I don't exactly see from the article that you do.

Ross said...

"If you have a sizable number of young men/boys who thinks it's fine to smack around women, you've got a problem. I don't exactly see from the article that you do."I'd assume that it goes without saying.

My point is that the data is used to damn society and is presented in such a way that it suggests that domestic violence is acceptable to a large proportion of the population and therefore not abnormal. When in fact the actual number looks a lot smaller to me.

4 or 5% is still too much, but you'll have a hard time finding anything short of murder which at least that many people won't excuse.

Ross said...

Just by way of example about my final point about almost nothing being condemned by almost everyone, here is another question from the same suvey:

Which of these two statements do you tend to agree with?

A) There may be certain circmstances where terrorism is justified.

B) Terrorism for whatever motive must always be condemend

The results are that only 86% of people agree that terrorism can never be justified. Which is pretty much the same as the proportions who believe that wife beating is never justifiable. And I bet that the vast majority of those who don't agree would accept that it is almost always unjustifiable.