Men Benefit More from Domestic Violence Programs

Most of the following information is taken from the Dugan-Rosenfeld Study

The campaign against domestic violence began about 1970. Since then public awareness has increased dramatically, and there is now an extensive network of shelters and legal resources for "battered" women.

A study of 29 cities shows that the system has saved thousands of lives. The surprise is that most of them were men. Since 1976, the number of men killed by their girlfriends, wives, and ex-wives has dropped by more than two-thirds nationally. The number of women slain by their "intimate" partners is still high.

This is surprising because most of the services offer help to women. Most domestic violence resources are aimed at getting women to change their behavior--to leave an abusive relationship before they feel they must use deadly force to protect themselves. Men who kill...more often act out of rage or a desire to maintain control. [The result is] they may be inflamed rather than calmed by programs that try to split up warring couples.(1)

Comparison of Men/Women Killed by Their Partners Nationwide.(2)

Year Men Women
1976 1,357 1,437
1997 430 1,174


Male deaths dropped most sharply in cities that added domestic violence services--[especially] legal advocacy programs that help battered women navigate the court system. Richard Rosenfeld, a University of Missouri criminologist (co-author of the study) said the strongest link (instead of divorce, marriage rates and economic status of women) was between expanded domestic violence programs and declining male slayings.(3)

Researchers say one reason the programs have been less successful at heading off homicides of women is that, in some cases, programs that encourage women to leave their mates can help trigger the rage that leads to their deaths. "If she leaves early, she doesn't kill him. But if she leaves early, he still may kill her," says Susan R. Paisner, a Maryland criminologist.(4)

Emphasis continues to be placed on the victim (most commonly a woman / child)

Typical question:

More appropriate:



One woman has stated, "We need to look at this as a community issue rather than just something between a him and a her." She was fired from her job at a law firm because her abuser repeatedly called the wives of attorneys, accusing her of having affairs with their husbands. She moved three times, changed her phone number 50 times and enrolled her son in four different elementary schools and her daughter in 10 different day cares. She encountered police who didn't believe her and laws that would have given her abuser harsher penalties if he attacked a stranger, not his wife.(5)






1. Laura Dugan, Carnegie Mellon University and Richard Rosenfeld, University of Missouri criminologist, Study, funded by the National Consortium on Violence Research; from Masters, Brooke A., "Study of Domestic Violence Yields Surprising Twist," The Washington Post 03/15/99, reported in The Kansas City Star, 03/15/99, p. A7

2. Alan Fox, Northeastern University, Analysis of FBI statistics; from Masters, Brooke A., "Study of Domestic Violence Yields Surprising Twist," The Washington Post 03/15/99, reported in The Kansas City Star, 03/15/99, p. A7

3. Laura Dugan, Carnegie Mellon University and Richard Rosenfeld, University of Missouri criminologist

4. Brooke A. Masters, "Study of Domestic Violence Yields Surprising Twist," The Washington Post 03/15/99, reported in The Kansas City Star, 03/15/99, p. A7

5. Mary Sanchez, "Women Perceive Domestic Violence as a Community Issue," The Kansas City Star, 09/30/99, p. B8