Malta has the second-highest percentage, out of 32 countries, of relationships that are classified as severely violent with the female partner as the perpetrator, according to an international study.
The study was presented at a conference titled “Trends in Intimate Violence Intervention” in New York last year; a total of 68 universities and 13,601 students in 32 countries participated in the study
Malta ranked second, after New Zealand, with 50 per cent of females inflicting severe violence on their partner.
However, both Malta (four per cent) and Sweden (1.7 per cent) had the lowest rates of severe violence (defined as hitting the partner with an object, punching or kicking), as opposed to Taiwan (23.2 per cent) and Tanzania (19.8 per cent).
Furthermore, Malta had the lowest rate of severe violence between both partners – 12.5 per cent.
Malta had a better ranking when it came to slight assault (defined as throwing objects) – fourth from last with 19.1 per cent, followed by Israel (18.6 per cent), Sweden (17.9 per cent) and, finally, Portugal (16.6 per cent). Iran came first with 77.1 per cent, followed by Mexico (44.1 per cent).
In the category of “any physical violence”, Malta also had a very high rate of male-only violence (21.7 per cent) only surpassed by Greece (26.2 per cent). However, Malta also came fourth (30.4 per cent) in the female-only violence category.
The study’s results challenged the common assumption that violence between partners is mainly a male crime, and that “when women are violent it is self-defence”.
It queried the assumption that violence by male partners is an effort to dominate and control while violence by female partners is attributed to self-defence or “as a justified response to an overwhelming pattern of domination and degradation”.
The author quoted several studies, which showed that these cases are a very small percentage of partner violence.
More importantly, the study found that in none of the 32 participating countries was violence perpetrated by males, the largest category. However, the most predominant pattern was one in which both partners were violent.
The second largest category was couples where the female partners was the only one to carry out physical attacks when it came to both severe violence “such as punching and hitting with objects, as well as to minor violence”.
This “contradicts the widely held belief that partner violence is predominantly a crime committed by men.”
The author also quoted several other studies, which suggest that whenever there is dominance of one partner, there is an increased risk of violence by the dominant partner to maintain the dominant position. However, he added, there is an added risk if the subordinate partner tries to achieve something blocked by the dominant partner or to change the power structure.
As a result, the study called for a “fundamental revision” of almost all partner violence prevention and treatment programmes and to align these programmes with the data found.
It pointed out that “prevention and treatment of partner violence could become more effective if the programmes recognise that most partner violence is mutual”.
Furthermore, it said that the domestic violence service system needs to replace the assumption that “partner violence is primarily the product of male dominance” but should be instead that partner violence is dominantly mutual violence.
However, the study did point out that not all cases fall into this pattern and that it is usually women, as opposed to men, who fit the “classical image of an oppressed and battered spouse”.
Furthermore, the harmful effects are far greater for women and even though services for male victims are essential, “the need for services for female victims will continue to be greater”.
The researcher stated that his assumptions on partner violence changed and contradicted by a “mass of empirical evidence from my own research and from research by many others”.
He added that research has shown him that there is overwhelming evidence that “women assault their partners at about the same rate as men and that the motives for violence by both males and females are diverse”.
However, he said many other researchers who reached his same conclusion have not expressed their opinions publicly “for fear of the type of ostracism I have experienced”.