When most people think of domestic violence, they immediately assume that a man has beaten or battered a woman. However, domestic violence is not as one-sided as many people believe, and female-on-male violence is vastly underreported.
According to a study published in the
American Journal of Public Health
, women may be responsible for the majority of non-reciprocal domestic violence. The study tracked 18,761 heterosexual relationships and found that 24% of relationships included violence by at least one partner, while almost half of those included reciprocal violence, or violence by both partners towards each other. In non-reciprocally violent relationships, women were responsible for 70% of the incidences of abuse.
Additionally, while men are overwhelmingly more likely to commit a
, these acts are largely directed at other men. In the context of intimate relationships, women are far more likely to initiate acts of violence. This violence is not only directed at romantic partners. A study reported in the
Journal of Family Violence
found that women are also more likely to commit violence not only against their partners, but also toward children, elders, female relatives and other non-violent men.
Why then is there a discrepancy between public assumptions and the actual statistics? First, while women initiate many acts of domestic violence, men are generally bigger and stronger than their female partners and are more likely to cause an injury. Second, many law enforcement officers have outdated attitudes and will either refuse to believe a male victim of domestic violence, or will expect that he will shake it off and "take it like a man." As a result, many male victims fear that they will not be taken seriously or will be looked at as less of a man if they report these assaults.
With the evidence mounting that women can be just as violent as their male counterparts, men are increasingly winning claims of self-defense in domestic violence cases. Domestic violence laws are gender neutral, and anyone can be either an aggressor or a victim of violence.
In California, a person can claim self-defense as a justification for a domestic violence charge if his or her actions were reasonable under the circumstances. This means that a person must have reasonably believed that he or she was in imminent danger of being killed or injured, and that he or she used reasonable force to prevent that from happening.
The most important part of a self-defense claim is proving that the person used reasonable force. In general, the amount of force used must be reciprocal. For instance, if a woman is battering a man with her hands and fists, the man cannot shoot her in self-defense. The force used in that situation is not nearly close to equal. However, a man who pushes, shoves, or hits a woman who is attacking him would likely be using reasonable force.
In the context of female-on-male violence, reasonable force can be a tricky issue, especially when the two parties are outmatched in size. A 5' 1" woman who weighs a 110 pounds cannot inflict as much force as a 6' 5" man weighing 280 pounds. In this situation, it may be difficult for a jury to believe that the man was simply protecting himself. It takes a skilled criminal defense attorney to present the situation as it is - an act of self-defense against domestic violence.
At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, we understand that domestic violence takes many forms. If you were acting in self-defense, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to stay out of jail. To learn more about defending yourself from domestic violence or assault and battery charges, or to schedule a consultation, call 866.902.6880 today or visit us online at