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No Safe Place
No Safe Place: Violence Against Women
Interview: Robert McGinnis

Director, Family Research Council, Washington, D.C.

Transcript of Interview

Q: What is the Family Research Institute?

Well, the Family Research Council is a pro-family advocacy organization that seeks through the media, through publication of various documents to influence legislation on the hill in regard to issues such as abortion, welfare, the legitimate rights of men and women in this country and the promotion really of the traditional family. We would like to find that moms and dads of America take responsibility for their children, and we think when they do that, that's going to produce a healthy adult of the future whose going to know the rights sorts of things that are going to keep this country the great country that its always been.

Q: What is your role?

I'm a policy analyst and I am a government relations liaison basically. I deal with crime issues and then also military issues, and I take the work I do and go to the hill and talk to various legislators in regard to those issues that have an impact on pending legislation. We try to influence them to promote pro-family issues as we interpret it.

Q: What are your views about feminism and the family?

Well, we think the family is under assault in the United States. As you look out there you see that there are organizations that are promoting feminism that are promoting individual rights, but we don't find a lot of organizations promoting the idea of an integral family. A mom, a dad, and the children and looking out for their best interests and if we can do that, we think that that's certainly brought us success over the last two hundred years. We would hope that if we focus appropriately along those lines that in the next two hundred years they'll survive and we'll have a productive society.

Our focus is on promoting the traditional family where you have a mom, a dad, and children, and they're working together to do their best to raise those children so they can become productive citizens and so we don't focus just on one gender. We're not focused just on women's rights or on men's rights. We're focused on family rights and what's in the best interest of the family. I think that our perspective is different from those other groups you've named.

Q: Why is the family important?

It's important because traditionally this country has been based on a mom and a dad and children working together -- whether it's on a farm or its in an inner city or whatever it happens to be in this country, and that's just been a part of the solution that we've found across this nation. It's held communities together and it's given us the victories of the past both economic a certainly militarily and just sociologically. And so we need to focus on family units cause they're the building blocks that make this society great and that's why we want to sustain that.

Q: Why do you think feminism is detrimental?

Well, I think it's detrimental because it only focuses on one gender. We need a focus on both men and women working together in unity inside marriage and fostering a sort of relationship that promotes those children, both men or girls and boys to become productive citizens and by role modeling what a mom is, what a woman is, what a father is, what a man is and then therefore we're going to have, I think, a better society as a result of that and not just focusing on one gender or another.

Q: How would you define violence against women?

Violence against women is any time a woman is assaulted, whether it be physically, verbally or through emotional trauma, and certainly we oppose that. You know, it doesn't matter where it happens, if it's inside a marriage relationship or it's inside a friendship or it's just a stranger coming up and hurting someone, either purposely or not purposely, we oppose that and we certainly are behind the laws of this land that strictly enforce these types of actions against women.

We are concerned, though, that at the same time we don't need to blow this out of proportion. In some regards, for instance, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, tends to focus too much at the national level where we need some local solutions, where for instance, there may be a real problem on a particular college campus, say in Mississippi with student rape. Well, they need to do something down in Mississippi on that college campus and maybe put more lights up or more police out there and educate the student body. But let's not take that sort of solution and put it everywhere else in the country because college campuses in New York may not have that problem. Let the local people decide that sort of thing, so we're opposed to federal legislation that is going to be forced upon local authorities to do something that really is not going to fix the problem. But we certainly are going to come out in favor of harsh punishments for those that perpetrate violence against women or for that matter against men.

Q: What are the myths of domestic violence?

Well, we've come up with what we call four myths of domestic violence. You know, there's a lot of publicity about the O.J. Simpson case right now, and there will be for some time. As our fatherhood campaign, we have a safe-sex campaign that's in Seventeen Magazine, a whole bunch of magazines this month that's where we're promoting abstinence before marriage.

Q: You've mentioned the O.J. Simpson trial. Hasn't it brought to light the pervasiveness of domestic violence?

We're all enthralled by the O.J. Simpson trial and it's full of intrigue. One of the things that has been promoted in the media is that the O.J. Simpson trial points out that domestic violence is on the increase, but unfortunately the Justice Department statistics don't bear that out. Over the last twenty years, it's been only a slight increase and in fact only ten percent of all domestic violence incidents in the Justice Department has found are related to husbands abusing their wives. You know, one of the other problems is as we know in the O.J. Simpson situation the police didn't arrest O.J. right away, and that's a common occurrence. The police not only don't arrest him, but when they do arrest domestic violence offenders, they don't necessarily keep the same charges. They reduce the charges and interestingly also the police are very hesitant about going into those sorts of situations because that is where police get the most fatalities. And so understandably there are some problems. About one-third of all domestic violence situations that should be reported are not reported. And it may be for a variety of reasons, either they don't trust the police or they don't think anything will be done or because of what I've just gone through.

Q: You have also challenged the notion that domestic violence is directed only at women. Could you elaborate?

Well, you know we've hear the myth that violence, domestic violence is directed only at women, and it's a product of patriarchal domination. Well, the facts are that both men and women equally start fights. But it's the unfortunate reality that women aren't as strong as men, they don't have the same upper body strength, they don't have the same cardiovascular fitness and they don't have as much testosterone. And that's, testosterone makes men more aggressive and stronger. So when you take all that into account, you find out that in the emergency room, where women report domestic violence, they are going to be hurt more often.

Studies show that about seven percent of all reported domestic violence situations in this country result in some sort of medical attention being required. But there was a peer reviewed medical journal report a couple of years ago that said that clearly half of all spouses that are involved in therapy, half of them had no injury at all. And an additional 31 percent had only slight bruises. We do no endorse violence in any situation, especially in a marriage situation or a partnership situation. But the facts just don't bear out the myth that men are beating on women more often than women are beating on men.

Q: You've also said that women are in more danger from friends and boyfriends single men than from spouses, which has led you to say that marriage is part of the solution to domestic violence.

Well, women who are in relationships are more likely to be beaten by a boy friend or an ex-spouse about twice as many times as they are by a current spouse. So that's sort of a myth that's been propagated in many cases by the feminists that are concerned on this issue. And we all need to be concerned at the same time. But women tend to be murdered by a friend more so than they are by a spouse.

But it's the single men of this society that we need to be really concerned about. They're five times as likely to be violent as a married man. They're five times as likely to rape a women as a married man and also we need to take into account what marriage does to men. It's sort of the medicine that causes men to curb their aggression and to become more productive and to reach out and do the right sort of thing. You know, young boys who grow up in families where there is a husband and their natural father at home, those young boys have a far lower probability of becoming abusers themselves. So we should be encouraging marriage and not discouraging it. Let's not make men the object, especially married men, the object of all our derision. Let's focus on promoting legitimate life styles by married men and women working with young boys to really rear them to respect women.

Q: Are you concerned that men are being unfairly labeled as violent when not all men are violent?

I think men are demonized by certain groups and that all men for some reason are perpetrators or rapists or violent offenders, they hate women and that's just not the right sort of message out there. Most men do not do these sorts of things. Yes, there is an element of the male gender out there that are perpetrating terrible crimes and they deserve to be in jail, but let's not put this burden on all men of society today.

Q: Don't statistics show that men are typically the offenders and women the victims?

Well, that's another one of the myths that's propagated out there, that men beat women more often than they beat other men. But once again, the Justice Department doesn't say that. Men typically are the offenders, the assaulters in society, and they typically assault other men. The numbers are very clear. And especially never-married men, single men today, are twice as likely to assault another man as a married man is to assault another married or another man or a women. So, the true facts show that men typically offenders of assault and the victims of assault far more than are women.

Q: Isn't it more likely that if a fight turns physical, it's the woman who will be hurt?

All men, and I think it begins at home, need to understand their strengths and their limitations. You know, women get just as angry as men. And when it comes to an intimate emotional relationship, whether that be marriage or otherwise, the men are going to win out when it comes to fists `t cuffs. When you know women throw plates, or you know they throw words or whatever, the man if he responds, has a higher probability of hurting the woman, especially if he hits her, than the woman has of hurting the man. And the man's inevitably going to win unless there is a knife or a gun involved and in those instances, you know someone generally ends up critically ill or dead.

Q: What do you see as the causes of domestic violence?

You have relationship factors and environmental factors. Relationship factors, one of the things that causes tension in any relationship where there's a male, a female, is sexual jealousies, whether or not you're cheating on someone, or if its inside of marriage, that can also be a factor. You have isolation and you have emotional immaturity. Some people aren't prepared for a relationship. And as a result, they respond in a physical or at least a verbal very derogatory manner. And so that is a major factor in a lot of domestic violence situations.

Then you have environmental factors. And where there's stress, if there's an unemployment or if there's a death in the family, a variety of things that contribute to stress in one's life, they react and in a close relationship, you're going to react against your partner in many cases. So that's a factor. You have alcohol and drug abuse which when you really aren't controlling yourself very well and you react to that person based on the substance abuse, our society has a lot of violence in it. If you look at the themes of a lot of movies, a lot of music today, certainly television, our magazines, pornography is a big promoter of violence against women. All of those factors are part of the environment in which we live and work every day and they contribute a major way to the problems that we have with not only domestic violence but violence against women.

Q: What do you see as the solution to violence against women?

Well, I think clearly we need to have harsh punishment for those that are perpetrating crimes against whether it's a man or a woman. We need to provide treatment for men and women who have been abused and are abusers and they need to be treated properly. Go through a therapy and there are some good programs out there that are helping people to recover from what really is a pathology. And they need treatment, they need help. The lawmakers need to understand that these issues need to be resolved at the lowest possible level. They need to put together places for women that are abused so that they can go get help. They need programs that have hot lines that you can respond to. And say I need help. Police need to enforce the law. If someone is legitimately being hurt by a partner, the law needs to be enforced, that the abuser needs to be taken out of the home or away from that person and court orders need to be issued. And so those are some of the things that need to happen and happen at the local level though. I don't think it has to be legislated from the national level. But local people are concerned about local problems and that's a local problem across this country.

Q: You've said that married women are safer than single women when it comes to violence. That marriage is an answer.

Well, we never endorse anyone being hurt. But the numbers once again are clear, that never-married women are four times more likely to be assaulted than married women. That sends a clear message. The good news today is that the safest place for a woman in America is to be married and living in a home with a husband. The safest place in America today.

So I think women, for a variety of reasons, should embrace the idea of marriage. You know, the idea that you know your partner, which you are not really committed to in terms of a marriage, because that's a contract. If you're not committed to them, you know at least enough to get married to them that sends a message. And unfortunately that message translates into a lower or a higher incidence of assault against that woman. You know, there is the idea that the women can be used and cast off. Where in marriage we have certain laws that say you just can't do that. You need to treat this person with respect and if you can't then we've got laws to take care of that too. So, we really need to promote marriage and legitimate roles withing marriage to help young boys and girls to understand the legitimate roles for men and women in society, and I think we can begin to turn the problem of abuse against women around if we do that.

Q: What about domestic violence in the military?

Well, the military has probably a worse problem than the general society in terms of domestic violence. The army published a year ago, the summer of `94, a study that showed that the incidence of domestic violence was on the rise, and if you consider their statistics in comparison to national statistics, it was very, very high. And the explanation once again goes back to stress.

We have men and women in uniform today who are constantly deploying, they're concerned about their security of their job and those factors contribute to who do they take it out on, in an authoritarian environment, you take it out on, not your boss, because your boss can put you in jail, you take it out on the most vulnerable person that you have a relationship with and unfortunately that ends up being your spouse or your children. And so we find not only spousal abuse, but child abuse, on the rise in the military. Until such time as we stop going to Haiti and Somalia and we stop those sorts of things, we're not going to find a decline. And also keep in mind that military men and women are equipped with skills of violence. We need our armed forces to be prepared to act violently. But a lot of these young people, especially in their late teens and early 20s, don't know how to control those violent urges and the violent training they've acquired and as a result, they use that violence at home when they shouldn't. And so they need to develop emotional maturity and that's hard to teach someone when they're in their late teens or early 20s.

Q: What should be done with sex offenders?

Well, sex offenders are a serious problem and we have a lot of rapists who should be left in jail forever, until they die, especially repeat offenders. I think the Violence Against Women Act of `94 increases repeat offender sentences, which is good. These are people for the most part, especially repeat offenders, that are just desperately sick. And they need treatment. They don't need to be released back into society to perpetrate their crimes. Local communities need to have very strict sex offender laws. They need to make sure that they're protecting the communities. If you have a sex offender, a known sex offender, living next door, I would think you'd be concerned about the welfare of your children, about the welfare of your spouse and we've got to have strictly enforced laws at the same time we have to have some mechanism to help people. To help them over come this. And in many cases they fall victims themselves. They were raped as a child, they became victims of pornography which is a real pathology, they know one thing or another could have caused them to become like that, but we can't allow them to perpetrate their acts on society as a direct result of what they've done.

Q: You've challenged a lot of the statistics. Are they faulty?

The President indicated four to five million domestic violence incidents each year, about one every twelve or fifteen seconds, and the fact is if you look at the numbers, it just doesn't work. There are a little over thirty-one million seconds per year, and if you have one every fifteen seconds, that would mean about 2.1 million incidents. So that blows that one out of the water quickly. If there were five million incidents a year, then we would end up having one every six seconds. So it's fancy footwork with numbers and that just doesn't work at all.

You know, there's another one that in testimony before the senate last year in prior to the Violence Against women's Act of `94 which is part of the crime bill, and Ms. Magazine went in and reported on their sexual revolution in the late 1970s. They reported on their study that looked specifically at rape on college campuses. The rape on college campuses they reported was something like fifteen percent of all women on college campuses were raped, twelve percent, there was an attempted rape. And then they extrapolated across all college campuses in the United States and they said it's about 6.6% of college women are victims of rape and about ten percent are victims of attempted rape. And that comes out to a high figure of 166 incidents of rape for every thousand college women. Well, the FBI disagrees. The FBI didn't look at thirty-two college campuses, but five hundred college campuses. And the FBI looked at five million college students, women. They found only sixteen per one thousand. You know, that's not necessarily a good figure either. Because as we know, a lot of those incidents are not reported. But is it a thousand times difference? I don't think so.

Somewhere in between what the Ms. Magazine reports and what the FBI reports is truth. I suspect it's a little closer to what the FBI is reporting than what Ms. Magazine is reporting. And so you know we need to consider really how the numbers are being used. Are they being used for the good of the cause? No one in this country that's rational is ever going to endorse violence against women. But at the same time, we need to use legitimate figures. And unfortunately some of the advocacy organizations out there are not promoting legitimate figures. The FBI I think has some pretty good numbers.

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No Safe Place: Violence Against Women is made possible in part by a grant from the Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation and the Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation. The documentary is a production of public television station KUED in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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