In Australia we do not keep statistics on, or really discuss reciprocal domestic violence. We are not talking here about a victim responding with violence to protect themselves, we are talking about relationships where both parties are violent in their own right.
Why is this important you might ask? For two reasons, firstly it is yet another challenge to the popular understanding of domestic violence as a victim/abuser problem, and tells us that it might be more complex than that. Secondly, there may be children in the house when this violence is occurring.
We note that the reporting of reciprocal domestic violence (where both parties perpetrate ongoing intimate partner violence against the other) is very low and in most cases non-existent in Australia. While it is accepted that the rate of domestic violence generally is under reported, and that male victims probably don't report, there doesn't seem to be any public awareness of reciprocal domestic violence. This again goes back to a very basic understanding of domestic violence in Australia, men hitting or killing women, and women as victims.
In Europe this is a reported category and the authorities are working to better understand the causes. In fact an American study into reciprocal vs. non-reciprocal domestic violence found that the highest incidence of injury occurs in reciprocal domestic violence (you can see that study if you follow this link).
So what can we do?
When researching or talking about domestic violence remember that it is not a simple binary problem with a singular answer. Unfortunately human beings are really creative in the ways that they can hurt, control, influence and abuse one another. If you are serious about advocating for change or support in this area then realise that any radio bite or catch phrase that tries to give you one simple answer to the cause of domestic violence is wrong. It is attractive to think that we could tackle one cause and tackle the whole problem but honestly, that is like saying there is one cause to the problem of poverty. It is unhelpful and results in well intentioned people investing precious resources in the wrong programs.
If you would like to read more about Domestic Violence then click on the blue link to the left to read some more of our articles on this topic.