Advocacy Research by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.

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Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.

Johann von Goethe

Scientific research, because of its openness, honesty, and constant critical self-evaluation holds a special place of trust in society. But, as with any human enterprise, there are charlatans and frauds who use that trust to further their own agendas.

Any scientist who hopes to continue doing research must present their results in the most favorable light if they are to obtain additional funding. However, scientists are constrained by peer review and the realization that if their work doesn't withstand such review they will be much the worse off.

Plagiarism is unforgivable in science as well.

Such constraints do not stop charlatans from attempting to put forth biased and unsupported results as though they were fully substantiated by extensive randomly-sampled data, testing, theory, and peer-reviewed analysis of said results. One such method for doing this, currently popular among radical feminists, is called "advocacy research." Many blatant and disgraceful examples of this behavior applied to issues of intimate partner violence are presented by Dr. Murray Straus in a following article and as illustrated in the following cartoon.

Under the veil of social science, elaborate research methods are employed, or made to seem to have been employed, in an attempt to persuade the public and policy makers that a problem is vastly larger than commonly recognized.

According to Gilbert (1993, p. 127) this is done in several ways:

(a) By measuring a problem so broadly that it forms a vessel into which almost any human difficulty can be poured;

(b) By measuring a group highly affected by the problem and then projecting the findings to society at large;

(c) By asserting that a variety of smaller studies and reports with different problem definitions, methodologies of diverse quality, and varying results form a cumulative block of evidence in support of current findings; and

(d) When research is criticized, by changing definitions and revising data in the hope that no one will examine the facts as originally reported.

Gilbert (1993, p. 127) goes on to say that:

"[Advocacy research] is practiced in a wide variety of substantive problem areas and supported by groups that...share an 'ideological imperative' that maintains that findings politically acceptable to the advocacy community are more important than the quality of research from which they are derived, playing fast and loose with the facts is justifiable in the service of a noble cause, and data and sentiments that challenge conventional wisdom are to be condemned or ignored."

With a little practice it is easy to recognize advocacy research articles:

• First, very little, if any, actual data are presented. If actual data are given they almost never withstand close examination.

• Secondly, they talk almost exclusively in terms of percentages, e.g., wife beating increased 150% last year in Podunk, without showing the underlying data or any indication whether such an increase, if real, may simply be a statistical fluke.

• Third, they survey only a carefully selected group, e.g., occupants and staff of shelters for battered women, different questions of men and women are asked, or male responses may be excluded entirely.

• Fourth, they invariably call for increased funding, the need for further research, and complain of low pay for the people doing the work.

• Fifth, their critics are reactionary fools who simply don't understand the problem and the needs of society. And peer review, if used, is restricted to those of like mind.


 

Feminist credibility

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Excellent examples of the use of advocacy research in radical feminist propaganda are presented by the Independent Women's Forum Take Back The Campus list of Ten Most Common Feminist Myths.

One such example of advocacy research is the widely-quoted statistic used by the NCADV, and many other feminists, that 22% to 35% of women who visit hospital emergency rooms are there for injuries related to on-going abuse.

In her syndicated column, Kathleen Parker recently recalculated these values based on a Justice Department study. The facts are that

"...one-third of all emergency room visits by women are owing to injuries. Of those injuries, 3% are a result of violence. Of all violence-related injuries, one-third are caused by domestic violence. In other words, 0.3% of women's injury-related emergency room visits are owing to domestic violence."

Rounding off to the nearest whole person, the formula is as follows:

Of every 1,000 women who go to an emergency room:

One-third are for injuries of all kinds = 333 women.

Of all injuries, 3% are the result of violence of all types:

333 injured women x 0.03 (3%) = 10 women have violence-related injuries.

Of the ten women with violence-related injuries, one-third are domestic:

10 violence-related injuries x 0.33 = 3 domestic-violence injuries.

Of the original 1,000 women, 3 have domestic-violence related injuries:

3 DV injuries/1,000 original sample = 0.003 or 0.3%

Gibbs has reviewed the JAMA article that underlay the feminist agitprop and notes that in the very-limited survey only 2.2% of the women presented for acute trauma from abuse by an intimate partner. Much of this violence is "shack-up" violence as well, as substantiated by demographic data from Colorado. Data from the Justice Department and the Centers for Disease Control suggest that, overall, less than 1% of emergency-room visits by women are due to assaults by male partners.

And, of course, no data on male victims of domestic violence in emergency rooms is ever presented in the radical feminist literature.

Leading causes of injury

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For the year 2010 the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Dept. of Health and Human Services examined the leading causes of injury to women. Significantly, all of the leading causes of injury were unintentional.

HRSA also found that of all visits to emergency departments related to injuries, 19.9% were women with unintentional (accidental) injuries and only 1.4% were women whose injuries had been inflicted intentionally. In the latter percentage no distinction was made between injuries inflicted by intimate partners and strangers.

Clearly, injuries inflicted on women by intimate partners are a very small fraction of the injuries women receive in a given year from all causes.


 

A blatant example of advocacy research

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The following newspaper article appeared in the Springfield, Massachusetts Republican newspaper on Friday, May 28, 2004. Note the broad conclusions drawn from a sample size of just 39 women who produce only self-serving evidence. Also, only women who were dissatisfied with the court system were sampled. The "shocking" thing about this story is that Silverman is doing work at Harvard.

Courts' custody orders 'shocking'

by Patricia Norris

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.

Massachusetts family courts consistently dismissed or minimized the relevance of domestic abuse when awarding male abusers custody of their children, according to upcoming research published in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Researcher Jay G. Silverman from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston said his analysis shows the courts exhibit a recurring pattern of human rights violations, including violations of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

"Their right to due diligence is being ignored, and the rights of women and children are not being adhered to," said Silverman, an assistant professor of Society, Human Development and Health at Harvard.

Researchers interviewed 39 women [emphasis added] in 10 of the 12 Massachusetts family court districts. All women had experienced violence from intimate male partners with whom they had children and later battled for their custody.

While the women were chosen based on their dissatisfaction with the court system, Silverman said all possessed documentation of abuse they endured, including police reports, witness affidavits, restraining orders and other things of that nature. [emphasis added]

"I think there is a culture (within the court system) that derides these allegations as a tactic in divorce litigation," Silverman said. "They (judges) were judging these documents to be irrelevant. Both judges and court investigators were dismissing multiple violations of restraining orders. It is really shocking," he said.

Women's and children's rights were trampled in several ways, said Silverman. Violations include: Granting physical custody of children to men who had used violence against mothers, children or both; granting unsupervised visitation of children to men who had used such violence; failing to accept or consider documentation of domestic violence as relevant in child custody determination; and failing to investigate allegations or consider documentation of child abuse.

Mary Cousineau of Chicopee was not surprised by the report. Her daughter, Heidi Raleigh, is the poster child for the dilemma, she said.

Raleigh has been on the run for the last year after a Florida judge awarded custody of her two daughters to her ex-husband, Derek Smith of Cape Coral, Fla. Raleigh maintains she is in hiding to save her and her daughters' lives.

Smith, however, vehemently denies abusing Raleigh. Both he and his lawyers have repeatedly said Raleigh is purposely maligning him to retain custody of their children.

But both Raleigh and an another ex-wife of Smith's testified in Florida and Massachusetts courts about being abused and produced multiple restraining orders against Smith after Raleigh appealed to the Massachusetts courts for help last year.

"They (Massachusetts Courts) could have helped Heidi," said Cousineau.

Hampden County Family and Probate Judge Stephen A. Rainaud, who presided over the case here, initially overturned a Florida unsupervised visitation order for Smith. But two months later, he reversed his decision saying he had no jurisdiction over the case.

Dawn MacKinnon, Heidi Raleigh's lawyer, respectfully disagreed with the judge at the time, saying she has affidavits that show the children remain at risk for "serious emotional harm." An emergency order through Massachusetts courts could have helped them, she said.

MacKinnon said Raleigh is not her only client who has endured questionable rulings. Just this week MacKinnon had a client who had taken out a restraining order on a partner who was drunk and disorderly. The man dragged the woman out of her home by her hair. The presiding judge allowed the father to return home with unsupervised visits with his children as long as he had alcohol counseling.

"I just don't get it," said MacKinnon.

Silverman said court officials are continually not adhering to the law that would protect children in these cases.

"The Massachusetts Presumption of Custody Law directs judges not to award custody to abusive parents," said Silverman. "From all we can tell this law is not being implemented even though it is on the books."

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| EJF Home | Join the EJF | Comments? | Get EJF newsletter | Newsletters |

| DV Home | Abstract | Contents | Authors and Site Map | Tables | Index | Bibliography |

 

| Chapter 4 — Domestic Violence Statistics |

| Next — Processes explaining the concealment and distortion of evidence on gender symmetry in intimate partner violence by Murray A. Straus, Ph.D. |

| Back — Domestic violence against men is the most underreported crime by Tom James, Esq. |


 

This site is supported and maintained by the Equal Justice Foundation.

Last modified 10/7/16