The Washington Post Promotes Domestic Violence With Article Blaming Women for Being Abused


Washington Post had an epic disaster of a column today, in which they managed to blame women for violence against women and literally tell women to fix it, they should get married. “One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married.”

Never mind that three women a day are murdered in this country by an intimate partner, or that on yet another day of mass shooting, gun ownership by an abuser increases a woman’s chances of being murdered. Oh, no. It’s all the ladies’ fault, and they can fix it by getting married.

Chris Geidner of Buzzfeed captured the before and after headlines at WaPo as they scrambled, ineffectively, to be less offensive:

I’ve seen some egregious reporting before, but this Washington Post article by Bradford Wilcox and Robin Fretwell Wilson is not only so academically compromised as to not even merit a quote, but more importantly it’s dangerous in its failure to comprehend the issue. It’s a wonder that when the editors chose to change the title, they didn’t pull the article. Their own 538 column said the authors misused the data.

Some of the statistics cited in this article are from one of the author’s own papers and disagree with the stats I’ve cited for years, which come from the FBI and experts in actual statistics regarding crimes against women. Her papers come laden seemingly with the burden of blaming women for the violence of a small percentage of men.

But even “unskewed” statistics have to be misunderstood in order to sell this load of dangerous tripe. Correlation does not equal causation, so saying that married women experience less violence does not automatically mean that marriage cures abusers. Actually, that’s a dangerously inaccurate thing to suggest.

Real statistics show that younger women are more likely to be victims of violence. Younger women are also more likely to be unmarried as opposed to older women. So marriage isn’t the cure or the causation of “safer” times for married women. Shannon Catalano, the author of the DOJ study cited by the WaPo article and a statistician at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, explained this as well, writing to 538, “The BJS chart used here is limited to one variable, household composition, when we know from previous research that violence is associated with a multitude of factors.”

538 points out that there are other unaccounted for factors — “the marrying kind tend to be more educated, wealthier and whiter” — while accurate, this could be misleading as it could feed into the too commonly accepted stereotype of an abuser. In fact, lethal abusers aren’t contained to the poor, uneducated, or the minority population, nor are they the types to be given the sort of practical endorsement by our legal system that others are.

Furthermore, from one of the studies they cited, “Females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence.” Yes. Prime age for pregnancy, which is one of the biggest dangers for a woman.

But also, “unmarried” women being larger victims of violence does not equate to getting married protecting a woman. Rather, the second most lethal time for a woman is when she leaves or has left her abuser. The DOJ study they cited even says, ” Separated females experienced the highest rate of intimate partner violence during the 18-year period.”

So what is WaPo saying, that these women should not leave?

The study they cite even explains exactly what I’m saying– note the huge jump in violence for separated women (women are at their most endangered when they leave an abuser):

From 2000 to 2005, the rate of intimate partner victimization remained stable for married females, while rates for females who were never married (down 31%), divorced or widowed (down 31%), or separated (down 30%) declined.

In 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence for married females (2.0 victimizations per 1,000 females age 12 or older) was about four times less than the rates for never married females (8.0 victimizations per 1,000), about three times less than the rate for divorced or widowed females (6.5 victimizations per 1,000), and about 30 times less than the rate for separated females (59.6 victimizations per 1,000).

Additionally, married women have a larger motive (investment) for not reporting, let alone prosecuting. So do children regarding their biological parents. Experts know that underreporting is a huge problem in violence against women and sexual molestation. Speaking of “reporting”, this DOJ study was a survey study, as noted by 538. Surveys are notorious for underreporting.

Yes, “The rate of female intimate partner violence in 2010 among households comprised of one female adult with children was more than 10 times higher than the rate for females in households with married adults with children” but we do not know why. Did these women leave an abuser? If random boyfriends are to blame for violence against these women with children, this is clue that predators will be predators. Single parents tend to be vulnerable. Why isn’t anyone blaming the absent parent for this? And why aren’t we doing something as a culture to support and protect the vulnerable instead of blaming them for being prey in a system designed to make them prey?

A violent boyfriend does not stop being violent when he marries a woman. This suggestion is the equivalent of blaming women for the actions of a small percentage of men. It is absolutely wrong to suggest that women could fix an abuser by marrying him or that marriage somehow inoculates a woman from violence.

Women need to stop taking lovers and then they won’t be hurt or killed anymore – that was the original premise. Women have free will and they are entitled to free will. They do not owe some man their bodies or their lives. This kind of attitude is part of what condoned the sick attitudes of the Santa Barbara shooter. In fact, a sense of entitlement is a sign of lethality on the lethality assessment chart. Washington Post should be ashamed to contribute to that.

Furthermore, even if women did as WaPo suggested, guess what? It doesn’t work. There is no appeasing an abuser with compliance. Women are killed for being pregnant, for cooking a hamburger the wrong way, for not cleaning the kitchen to his standards and for not being subservient enough. There is never enough compliance to assuage the needy and insecure abuser.

The two most lethal times for a woman are when she is pregnant and when she is trying to leave an abuser. What kind of culture do we have that blames women for this and leaves them on their own to survive being hunted down like an animal?

The authors of the Washington Post article never thought to discuss why these men abuse women and children, let alone how articles like WaPo’s excuse said violence. Instead they blamed the women for it all by suggesting that if she married, these things wouldn’t happen. In order to make this argument, they relied on survey data that they misinterpreted and misappropriated for a cause. But this isn’t just bad reporting. This very article is indicative of the American culture of violence against women.

I speak of this matter sadly as an expert, both as a survivor of an attempt on my life and as someone who has studied the issue for years. Just weeks ago when writing about this for the first time after the Santa Barbara shootings, I was inundated with stories from women and men who had dealt with violence against them or a loved one. This is as serious as it gets. Thus, in honor of all of the women murdered in this country by intimate partner abuse and terrorism, the esteemed paper needs to apologize.

Until then, I dedicate the graves of the statistically three women murdered every day by intimate partners to the editors at the Washington Post who thought this was acceptable. Women’s lives matter. We are not garbage and we do not deserve to be blamed for the culture of violence that threatens our safety and that of our children.

I challenge the WaPo writers and editors to a real dialogue about this issue. Get a panel of victims and experts together so they can not only learn what they got wrong, but be a positive part of educating others. They are one of the best papers out there, and they could steward a huge awakening that would help millions.

25 Replies to “The Washington Post Promotes Domestic Violence With Article Blaming Women for Being Abused”

  1. Read it earlier and my jaw just dropped. Fred Hiatt has really turn that paper into the moonie times jr.

  2. Is it just a coincidence George Will writes for the Wapo? Seems to be an entire culture at that paper.

  3. Hell yeah, just stick around and you’ll be fine> Don’t know where these idiots crawled out of but where ever it was they have had their heads inserted in their rectums.

  4. Conservative Washington Post preaching old school stiff — blaming women (victim) instead the perpetrator (abuser) for being abused.

  5. What a complete load of nonsense this is.

    Firstly, domestic abuse and violence is wildly over-sensationalized. More women each year die from falling off stepladders and down stairs than are killed by their partners.

    Secondly this is just obvious – women (and their children) are much safer when her partner is her husband and the children’s biological father, rather than a boyfriend.

    Here in the UK almost every single case of a child murder is one where the killer is a boyfriend of the mother (usually, but not always, acting with the mother)- Daniel Pelka, Jasmine Beckford, Peter Connolly – I could list dozens if there was space.

    I’m sorry if this disturbs your liberal narrative, but no-one’s going to buy this rubbish. Women thrive, and are much safer, in marriage and children thrive, and are much safer, when their natural father is in the home.

    ‘Are you saying stepfathers are evil?’ ‘You’re blaming women etc. etc.’ no of course I’m bloody not.

  6. Who doesn’t just love getting the shit kicked out of them because they are physically weaker; welcome to the world according the present day press ;what was once a proud defender of the truth has now become a propagandizing rag.

  7. “Firstly, domestic abuse and violence is wildly over-sensationalized. More women each year die from falling off stepladders and down stairs than are killed by their partners.”

    Care to elaborate with statistics to back up your post?

    What exactly do you mean by “wildly over-sensationalized?”

  8. “Care to elaborate with statistics to back up your post?”

    Well, I can only quote for the UK, but I’m sure the figures are similar for other countries:

    2012 – fatalities by falls from ladders/stepladders and stairs (women only) 103
    2012 – deaths (women only) due to homocide (categorised as intimate partner perpetrator) 77

    Source: ONS and BCS

    Conclusion: as a woman you’re far more likely to be killed by that stepladder in a corner of your kitchen, than you are by your partner.

    This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be doing everything we can to stop domestic abuse, whether the victim is a woman OR a man, but it’s important to have perspective.

  9. Well, I can only quote for the UK, but I’m sure the figures are similar for other countries:
    See that’s where you fail at. Would you agree that the UK has the rate of gun deaths of the US?

  10. Sasha, that is the most ridiculous piece of drivel I’ve read in ages, and as a woman in the U.S., I’m more concerned about the murder/abuse rate of women here by their partners than I am in “here in the U.K.”. Stick to the Daily Mail or one of your other tabloids.

  11. “See that’s where you fail at. Would you agree that the UK has the rate of gun deaths of the US?”

    Well no, obviously, but the proportions are going to be similar aren’t they? I mean I bet more US women die from falls than are killed by their partners. Google it by all means, but I’m sure it’s true. Any woman (or man) is infinitely more likely to have their lives saved by a man than they are to be killed by one. All of the firefighters (>350) who died on 9/11 were men – and all the (<20) terrorists too – you can't gender men's violence negatively for the latter without recognising the immensely positive sacrifice of the former. Men do much more FOR women, than they do against them (and likewise).

  12. Sasha, this is not the UK. If you are so sure the figures are “similar” for the USA, then find them and prove it.

    Have you ever been physically abused?

    If not, try it sometime..then let me know what your perspective is.

  13. Somehow, none of that really matters now does it? The facts are, a very large number of people die every year from guns. It doesnt matter how many die in the UK. And we cant seem to do anything about it

  14. Se another fail. Most deaths by falling are by senior citizens, Now a lot of factors are involved but intentionally making them fall is not one them

    Now over 300,000 women will suffer from domestic violence with about over 1700 will be murdered which is intentional. Please don’t waste my time because you don’t have any common sense

  15. That is quite an example of ignoratio elenchi, isn’t it? But to address the point you were trying to evade, the percentage of deaths caused by falls from ladders has noccorrelation with gun ownership in a population. The percentage of violent homicides does. Assaults that would culminate in a simple battery in the absence of a firearm are far more likely to result in murder where one is present. Moreover, a firearm can kill at a distance, sometimes a great distance; it can kill numbers of people in an instant. The United States has both a culture of violence and a culture of guns, and the latter are readily available. You cannot extrapolate from the UK, where firearms are scarce and limited to classic hunting weapons, to the US where any lunatic can avail himself of military-grade firearms and swagger down the street openly with them. To do so is to argue in bad faith.

  16. Sasha, I was just thinking about your fall/stepladder statistics. I would imagine that the number of stepladders/stairs per capita in the U.K. is similar to the of the U.S. Do you also conclude that that applies to guns?

  17. Sasha- you are laboring under the false assumption that all domestic abuse is reported. The truth is that there are far more instances of domestic abuse than people realize. Many women, particularly married women with children, do not report their husbands/partners when they are physically abused- either out of fear of retribution, losing their kids, their reputation, their financial security or their lives. Domestic abuse is a very real problem that affects both men and women, and needs to be addressed, but not by blaming the victims.

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