Why is There More Domestic Violence Against Women in Liberal, Secular Countries?

Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported on a study that reveals that European countries with the best record of gender equality also have the highest rate of domestic violence against women. In what is called “the Nordic paradox,” Enrique Gracia of the University of Valencia and Juan Merlo of the University of Lund found that Denmark, Sweden and Finland have higher rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) against women than countries like Poland, Croatia and Slovenia. Perhaps you might think that women in liberal countries are less repressed and thus more free to report violence against them, skewing the numbers upward. But as the Washington Post notes, “Gracia and Merlo consider this possibility but don’t seem to find it convincing.”

Washington Post reporter Adam Taylor was baffled by the findings: “This may come as a surprise. You might well expect better gender equality to mean less violence against women. To add to the intrigue, when you look at European countries with relatively low levels of gender equality—Italy or Greece, for example—they seem to have lower levels of IPV.”

But the findings are only a surprise if you, like Adam Taylor, ignore a crucial factor: religion. The chart of violence against women published by Gracia and Merlo is like a track of the least religious to the most religious countries in Europe. According to The New York Times, Denmark and Sweden are “among the least religious nations in the world.” Poland, which scores very low on the domestic violence scale, is a stronghold of traditional Catholic belief.

Although it’s rare to find this acknowledged in mainstream media, and despite what liberals think, traditional religious beliefs, particularly traditional Christianity, provide a level of love, support, and mutual respect that the secular state cannot replace. Orthodox religious observance in a place like Poland inculcates in men the idea that their wives and girlfriends are their partners in a sacramental journey that has been ordained by God.

It seems like every few months a study emerges that reveals that religious people are healthier, happier, live longer lives and even have better sex than secular liberals. For a few seconds the media expresses surprise, then they go right back to pushing the old narrative—religion is oppressive, people of faith are narrow-minded, etc.

As far back as 2006, Patrick Fagan of the Heritage Foundation observed:

“A small but growing body of research has focused on the links between religious practice and decreased family violence. For example, men who attended religious services at least weekly were more than 50 percent less likely to commit an act of violence against their partners than were peers who attended only once a year or less. No matter how the data were analyzed, regular attendance at religious services had a strong and statistically significant inverse association with the incidence of domestic abuse. Similarly, after controlling for all other factors, [one researcher] found that of all groups studied (unaffiliated, active conservative Protestant, active mainline Protestant, nominal conservative Protestant, and nominal mainline Protestants), religiously active conservative Protestant men were least likely to engage in domestic violence.”

For anyone who takes religious faith seriously, it’s not a surprise that men raised in a faith tradition such as Christianity are less likely to abuse women than their secular counterparts. As for The Washington Post and other news media that are shocked—shocked!—when research shows this to be the case, maybe it’s time to abandon the easy but incorrect narrative about men of faith and instead stick to the facts.


  • Donal

    I am just wondering if this research is reliable and credible. Do you know anything about the source?

    • HotKnife

      Um, there’s a link to the study in the first sentence

  • Donal

    Can we rely on reporting of domestic abuse in homes where the male attends church more frequently?

  • jose

    I’m calling bullshit.

    • Kenneth Vaughan

      How was the study flawed? Any methodological problems? What did the professors behind the research and the peer-reviewers at the secular scientific journal Social Science and Medicine miss? Improper data? Premises for the primary arguments untrue? Here’s a link to the original article http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027795361630140X

      • jose

        The article, not the science.


    so, I guess getting on the rug 5 times a day, just isn’t enough to prevent the MUSLIMS from BEATING their wives. maybe the problem is the religion.

  • John Brave

    The tone and conclusion of the article and the study imply that domestic violence is a man-specific problem that needs control and that religion is the one that stops men from becoming violent as if men were animals that are somehow out of control and they just lash out and can’t help but hit their nice powerless women.

    What a bunch of baloney.

    As the old saying goes ‘It takes two to Tango.’ In most cases that I’ve seen where there was male on female violence, in most cases, not all, but most, the woman is the instigator, the button pusher. A belligerent, stubborn and confrontational woman may push any man, even the most peaceful ones, far enough for him to lose control.

    In every society that I know, men who hit women are considered weak and pathetic and not real men. No man would simply hit his woman just like that (except for drunks).

    In religious societies, religion not only tell men to love and take care of their women, it also tells women to ‘honor and obey’ their husbands (the first of marriage vows that feminists rallied against and got rid of). That is the main factor in reducing male on female violence.

  • OldNHMan

    One thing the study didn’t look into in any meaningful measure was the incidence of domestic violence where the women is the perpetrator and the man is the victim.

    While I have no scientific data to back this up, it would not surprise me to find that domestic violence against men by women is very high in countries with higher gender equality as well. It is an under-reported crime here in the US (and I suspect in the other nations mentioned in the study), or the perpetrator/victim is incorrectly reported with the victim being reported as the perpetrator.

    I know of two cases personally where the man was accused of being the abuser when it was the woman committing the abuse. In one case the woman beat her husband unconscious. Once he came to (at the hospital) he was informed he was being charged with domestic violence. She didn’t have a mark on her. He had multiple broken bones including a fractured jaw and three broken ribs. It wasn’t until later when they started looking at his x-rays and saw a large number of older injuries that they came to realize he was the victim. When asked why he didn’t report the abuse he said something along the lines of “Do you really think anyone would have believed me?” Considering he was over a foot taller and over 100 pounds heavier than his wife, I have no doubt no one would have believed him at all.

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