Witnessing domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV) is harmful to children. The popular belief is that women are the victims of IPV and men are the perpetrators. Yet a comprehensive review of domestic violence research is challenging that notion. The study suggests that “women perpetrate physical and emotional abuse, as well as engage in control behaviors, at comparable rates to men.” The research also shows that most IPV is mutual, with both partners victimizing the other. Men are disproportionally arrested for IPV, especially in cases of mutual violence.
The risk factors for IPV and reasons for committing it are, more or less, the same for both males and females, and both men and women need services and assistance to escape the cycle of violence. The politics surrounding IPV have prevented the establishment of systems to help men cope with being victims. Without services, our society has created a Catch-22 for male victims of IPV – there are few services for male victims so they don’t report IPV, and since they don’t often report IPV, there aren’t services available.
What does this mean for Nebraska’s children and families? It means that some children are living in homes where IPV exists, but services are not available for men in need of help. It means that some fathers are being arrested for IPV in cases of mutual violence, and the mother, being assumed to be the victim, doesn’t get a chance to learn positive relationship and coping skills. It means that the cycle of violence will continue for some of these kids until appropriate services are in place to help everyone involved learn what it means to be part of a healthy relationship. Our Kids Count in Nebraska Report reported 26,736 Nebraskans (21,043 of them women) received services for IPV in 2011. In light of the emerging research, this is likely a large underestimate of the amount of IPV that is occurring in Nebraska’s families.