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A few days ago, as part of an outdoor arts event, I read excerpts from two stories in Silent Girl, one of them “Kesh Kumay,” which takes place in Kyrgyzstan. I related the statistic that a third of marriages in Kyrgyzstan result from non-consensual kidnappings (versus the consensual kind we call elopements). A woman came up to me afterward and told me she had traveled extensively in countries we criticize for their treatment of women.

“We shouldn’t be too quick to judge them,” she said. Maybe a third of marriages result from kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, she noted, but “one in four women” in our country are assaulted by their partners. “Exotic” abuse is always more interesting to talk (and write) about.  We should mind our own business before pointing fingers overseas.

So, is it one in four – 25%? The latest stats I could find, from Family Violence
in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2005
from Statistics Canada, indicated that seven per cent of women and six per cent of men end up abused by their current or former partners. In terms of numbers, that works out to an estimated 653,000 women and 546,000 men. The reported abuse included having something thrown at them and/or having been:

•    pushed, shoved or grabbed;
•    threatened to be hit;
•    beaten or choked;
•    slapped;
•    kicked, hit or bit; and
•    sexually assaulted

The data showed that female victims of spousal violence were more than twice as likely to be injured as male victims. Women were also three times more likely to fear for their life, and twice as likely to be the targets of more than 10 violent episodes. And, overall, female victims were twice as likely as male victims to be stalked by a previous spouse.

So, women are at greater risk of serious injury than men but what are we to conclude about the nearly equal numbers of men and women reporting spousal abuse?

When I began writing my story “Deep Dark Waves,” I intended to portray a  “typical” domestic abuse situation: man as aggressor, woman as victim.  But my research unearthed a more intriguing scenario: woman gets off on violence, is in fact addicted to it. It was so much more interesting to me as a writer. But I realized the story could be controversial. A woman who interviewed me on the radio said she was “conflicted” when reading “Deep Dark Waves” for that reason.

Several people have reviewed the book but, so far, the radio interviewer is the only one who has commented on the disparity between what we believe to be true about domestic violence and the scenario my story presents. Because we don’t believe that women are violent, we don’t have any services in place to counsel those who are. And because our society considers a man who can’t defend himself against a “mere” woman to be weak, he may be too ashamed to seek help. If he does, we can’t offer him much. So, our beliefs aren’t doing us much good.

That is…if we believe the stats. Do you?

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FROM THE BOOK