Resolution On Male Violence Against Women

Whereas violence against women is a major cause of reduced quality of life, distress, injury and death for women and has serious secondary effects for families, communities, and the economy;

Whereas violence against women takes many forms, including battering, sexual harassment, and rape;

Whereas more than one in five adult women experience at least one physical assault by a partner during adulthood; as many as one of every two women are affected by sexual harassment over the course of their working lives; and approximately one in eight women have experienced a sexual assault in their lifetimes.

Whereas research reveals a high prevalence of acute and chronic mental and physical health consequences resulting from violence against women;

Whereas being assaulted by or witnessing assaults toward family members in childhood or adolescence increases the likelihood of mental health problems, substance abuse, and involvement in abusive relationships for both women and men;

Whereas gender and gender relations play critical roles in directing male violence toward women;

Whereas cultural norms and expectations play critical roles in promoting and shaping male violence against women and in determining the consequences to the victim and the responses of society;

Whereas understanding male violence against women requires examining the power inequalities between men and women, including legal, economic, and physical power inequalities;

Whereas women living in poverty are at especially high risk for all types of violence-particularly severe and life threatening assaults;

Whereas research focused on violence against ethnic minority, poor and older women, lesbians, and women with disabilities is limited;

Whereas psychologists, as researchers, service providers, and policy advocates, have important roles to play in educating the public and preventing and treating violence against women;

Whereas levels of assaultive and lethal violence against women remain high, despite two decades of increased awareness and legislation;

Therefore be it resolved that the American Psychological Association:

  1. Support public policy initiatives in research, prevention and intervention areas, including legal and legislative reform.

  2. Support legislative efforts that seek to redress gender-based power imbalances, including legislation on civil rights, dependent care and family support, and pay equity.

  3. Explore avenues to improve training of psychologists to recognize and treat victims of violence and to conduct research on prevention and intervention with the women themselves, their children and perpetrators.

  4. Explore interventions for children and adolescents who have been exposed to family violence and who are therefore at risk for violent behavior or victimization.

  5. Explore avenues to disseminate materials available on violence against women including those of the APA Task Force on Male Violence Against Women to policy makers, professional communities, church and community groups, educational institutions and the general public.

  6. Explore ways to increase public and private funding for research on violence against women.

  7. Explore avenues for showcasing, in the Association's publications, research on male violence against women so as to increase the extent to which it is viewed as within the mainstream of psychological concerns.

  8. Explore avenues for greater collaboration with legal, medical, and other professional disciplines on international, national, regional, and local levels to prevent violence against women.

  9. Explore psychoeducational and sociocultural interventions designed to change male objectification of women.

  10. Statistics taken from the Report of the Male Violence Against Women Task Force: Koss, M.P., Goodman, L.A., Browne, A., Fitzgerald, L.F., Keita, G.P., & Russo, N.F. (1994). No safe haven: Male violence against women at home, at work , and in the community. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Justification for APA Resolution on Male Violence Against Women

Relevance to psychology and psychologists and importance to psychology or to society as a whole

Male-perpetrated violence is a major cause of fear, distress, injury, and even death for women. Such violence crosses the lines of ethnicity, economic status, and age…During the past two decades, scholarly, public, and policy attention to this social problem has increased dramatically, and a number of important national policy reports have identified violence against women as a critical economic, criminal justice, and public health issue (American Psychological Association Task Force on Male Violence Against Women, 1994). By the most conservative estimates, almost 1,000,000 women experience violent victimization by an intimate each year. In 1993, roughly 1,300 women in the United States were reported to have been murdered by partners or former partners, and this reported total is likely an underestimate since the relationship between victim and perpetrator is often not identified (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998).

Male violence against women remains an enormous problem in the United States. Devastating consequences have been documented for women and their families as well as for society. More than one in eight adult women in the United States is raped or sexually assaulted (National Victim Center, 1992), a minimum of 22% (over one-fifth) report experiencing physical assault by an intimate partner (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1996), and close to half of all women are affected by sexual harassment during the course of their working lives.

Researchers report that women visiting primary care providers who have been raped experience more symptoms of physical illness and practice more negative health behaviors, including alcohol use and smoking, than nonvictimized women. They also visit their physicians more than twice as often (Koss, Koss, & Woodruff, 1991). Approximately one fifth of all women using emergency surgical services are suffering from the physical sequelae of partner abuse (Browne, 1993). Murders by intimates account for 30% of all female murders (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998). Gender-based victimization accounts for almost one in every five healthy years of life lost to women aged 15 to 44 in established market economies (Heise, with Pitanguy, & Germain, 1993).

Victimized women suffer from depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Many exhibit negative cognitive and emotional aftereffects and consistently show among the highest rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) associated with any type of traumatic event. Accordingly, PTSD is also a common diagnosis for many victims of violence. Violence against women has economic as well as psychological and physical costs. For example, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (1995) estimated the cost of sexual harassment to the government over the course of the 2-year reporting period of their study (from April 1992 through April 1994) at $327.1 million in job turnover, sick leave, individual productivity, and workgroup productivity. The same study also found that nearly 21% of sexual harassment victims reported suffering a decline in productivity. The average rape in the United States is estimated to cost $92,100 in tangible expenses, emotional distress, and lost quality of life (Miller, Cohen, & Wiersema, 1994).

Psychologists have been actively involved in research and prevention efforts, individual and group counseling, and psychotherapy of both victims and perpetrators. The American Psychological Association organized two task forces to address this important issue. In 1994, the Male Violence Against Women Task Force issued, No Safe Haven: Male Violence Against Women, at Home, at Work, and in the Community. In 1996, the Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family issued Violence and the Family. Both document the pervasiveness and devastating consequences of violence against women and in the family, as well as what psychology can do to help.

The APA Task Force on Male Violence Against Women noted that violence has multiple causes, but it remains fundamentally a learned behavior that is shaped by sociocultural norms and role expectations that support female subordination and perpetuate male violence. Preventing violence against women, among other things, requires that interventions focus on cultural conceptions of the masculine gender role. Psychologists have a long history of expertise in attitude and behavior change and have a critical role in violence prevention. Likewise, psychologists' expertise in program evaluation, individual and group counseling, and psychotherapy continue to be essential in efforts to prevent and treat violence.

This resolution focuses only on male-perpetrated violence against women. The confluence of individual, social, cultural, and institutional factors that shape relationships between men and women and contribute to the problem of male violence against women is complex and requires specific prevention, research, and intervention attention.

Quality and quantity of psychological data and conceptualization relevant to it

Psychologists and psychological research have contributed greatly to the knowledge base on male violence against women. Psychologists and other mental health practitioners have been active in developing the policy agenda that now governs funding for services and research, creating and evaluating violence prevention programs, and providing treatment to women suffering the emotional aftereffects of intimate violence, which often include PTSD. Psychologists also treated perpetrators of male violence and are involved in research and intervention efforts.

Psychologists have been involved in the investigation and treatment of violence against women for decades and have amassed a large body of high quality psychological research. While this work has been critical, the problem is far from solved, and more work is needed. This resolution addresses some of the needs identified in the APA Male Violence Against Women Task Force report and seeks to respond to the critical need for organized psychology to take a leadership position in addressing these issues for psychologists. These should include, for example, training needs for psychologists, better data collection methods, and increased funding for psychological research and prevention efforts. Because the National Institute for Mental Health no longer has a violence branch, and because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Justice now provide the majority of funding for violence research, psychology needs to focus increased attention on these agencies where the critical importance of the involvement of psychology may be less well understood.

Likely degree of consensus

Consensus on this resolution from all sections of APA is highly likely. The association has focused attention on violence, and there seems to be a widespread acceptance of organized psychology's critical role in addressing issues of violence.

Likelihood of the resolution having a constructive impact on public opinion or policy

The APA has already been actively involved in major policy initiatives on violence against women, for example, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and VAWA II. Additionally, APA submitted a Brief of Amicus Curiae to the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Teresa Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., a sexual harassment case. The Supreme Court decision quoted substantially from the APA brief. These and other initiatives demonstrate APA's ongoing commitment to the prevention of violence against women. However, the availability of a resolution on violence against women would more decisively show our commitment to addressing these issues to collaborators at the federal, state and foundation level as well as legal, medical, and other professional disciplines and community organizations.

References

American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family. (1996). Violence and the family. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Browne, A. (1993). Violence against women by male partners: Prevalence, outcomes, and policy implications. American Psychologist, 48, 1077-1087.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1998, March). Violence by intimates (NCJ167237). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

Heise, L, with Pitanguy, J., & Germain, A. (1993). Violence against women: The hidden health burden. Discussion paper prepared for the World Bank. Washington, DC: The World Bank.

Koss, M.P., Goodman, L.A., Browne, A., Fitzgerald, L.F., Keita, G.P., & Russo, N.F. (1994). No safe haven: Male violence against women at home, at work, and in the community. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Koss, M.P., Koss, P., & Woodruff, W. (1991). Deleterious effects of criminal victimization on women's health and medical utilization. Archives of Internal Medicine, 151, 342-357.

Miller, T.R., Cohen, M.A., & Wiersema, B. (1996, February). Victim costs and consequences: A new look. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice.

National Victim Center. (1992). Rape in America: A report to the nation. Arlington, VA: Author.

Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (1996). Violence against women: Preliminary findings from the Violence and Threats Against Women in America Survey. Denver: Center for Policy Research.

U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. (1995). Sexual Harassment in the Federal Workplace: Trends, Progress, Continuing Challenges. Washington, D.C.: Author.