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The Underlying Causes of Domestic Violence

June 30, 2003

Re Norah Vincent's "Domestic Abuse Is Two-Way Street," Commentary, June 26: I always find it both amusing and unfortunate when journalists take a purely psychological, individualistic and de-contextualized view of what is a complex societal phenomenon. Domestic violence does not originate in some primordial conflict between male and female personalities; rather, it is deeply rooted in institutionalized forms of male supremacy and male ways of organizing everything -- from the economy, religion and the educational system to how we raise boys, from who gets to dominate political and civic bodies to how women's labor is depicted in TV commercials to how conflict is supposed to be resolved (in the world as well as in the domestic sphere).

Oh, how conservatives love to erase the forest when they rant about some sick tree.

Ricardo D.

Stanton-Salazar

Associate professor, Education and Sociology, USC

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Vincent quotes to us that "the results of recent studies ... endorse the notion that women can be abusers too, and that women play an active role in domestic violence, sometimes even initiating it." So that makes it OK, or is somehow "empowering" to women? The real issue is that not only are women injured more often and more severely than men, they are also killed far more often by their domestic partners.

No one's saying it's OK for women to hurt men; but the problem is overwhelmingly one of male-on-female aggression. And people who really want to provide a service use their public platforms to point out that there's no excuse.

Laura Karr

Tarzana

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Vincent skillfully analyzed the identity politics involved in the issue of abuse between men and women. The abuse of either a man or a woman is no less important. But there is a bigger issue, and that is the abuse of a child. Studies show that children abused by adults grow up to be abusers. If we want to curb abuse, we must begin with children.

Baby boomers grew up with Dr. Spock-type parental blame and Twinkie-defense-type excuses. As a result, we live in an era of apologies and entitlements. Teaching children personal responsibility for personal behavior will help to break the cycle of domestic abuse. If there is any oppressed group, it is certainly the children.

Joanne Law

Chatsworth

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