The Ray Rice scandal brought out our collective instincts to protect women and now we have a social experiment to support that natural response. The Domestic Violence Experiment staged by improv group OckTV set up an experiment to test the public’s response to a man roughing up his girlfriend, and then reversing the roles with a woman doing the same to her boyfriend. Both scenarios were staged in busy public areas.
In the experiment, the public unfailingly intervened 100% of the time when the woman was the victim, but laughed and even took video when the man was under attack. One bystander joined in to help the woman by hitting the guy on the head.
What does this indicate about our assumptions and beliefs surrounding gender and domestic violence?
A man should be able to protect and restrain himself.
A man should be held accountable for his violent acts against a woman.
A woman should be protected by others and is not expected to restrain herself.
A woman should not be held accountable for her violent acts against a man.
Admittedly and without a doubt, the physical force and ensuing damage from a man to a woman can be exponentially different than woman to man. But does that make it okay for a woman to hurt a man?
Watch the extended version of the Ray Rice video. We see two-way arguing and yelling, and it appears that his girlfriend spit on him immediately preceding the knockout punch. I know, the results are vastly different. Let’s switch it up. How would we react if roles were reversed and we witnessed the girlfriend delivering a knockout punch to Mr. Rice after he spit on her? Would we be appalled or would we cheer?
Valuable intimate partner violence data shows that women often initiate domestic violence.
Am I bashing women? Or justifying domestic violence from a man to a woman in any way? No, I am not. My point is that we should take a look at our own bias about male vs. female initiation of violence and stop overlooking it regardless of who initiates it. When we overlook it, we enable it.
Intimate partner violence is never okay and much of it could be prevented with skills training to help regulate behavior. Unfortunately, this usually comes through court-mandated training after the event. What could be done to prevent it? Strong consequences. In the case of the NFL, players control their on-field behaviors to avoid penalties, e.g. post-touchdown celebrations. Enacting and enforcing off-field zero-tolerance consequences for domestic abuse, without fail, would surely make an impact.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. These organizations have helpful information about domestic violence: http://www.ncadv.org/takeaction/DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth.php and http://nnedv.org/getinvolved/dvam.html
Megan Hunter is a speaker, trainer, consultant and CEO at Unhooked Media. She is co-founder of High Conflict Institute and was a Family Law & Child Support Specialist at the Arizona Supreme Court. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.