Book By: Walter S. DeKeseredy & Martin D. Schwartz
Review by: Susan V. Iverson
University of Maine
Gender inequality is a disturbing and well-cited problem on North American college and university campuses. DeKeseredy and Schwartz name woman abuse in college dating as one of the major symptoms of this inequality. Their claims in Woman Abuse on Campus are well supported by data derived from the Canadian National Survey (CNS), a national representative sample survey of community college and university students.
A variety of studies have found, in Canada as in the United States, that there is a high frequency of male-to-female physical and sexual abuse in university and college dating relationships. DeKeseredy and Schwartz’s results, consistent with findings of a similar study of sexual victimization of U.S. college women (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000), illustrate that “college and university dating relationships are indeed ‘dangerous domains’” (p. 62). Further, the authors add that the prevalence of male-to-female victimization is supported by our patriarchal society. DeKeseredy and Schwartz point out that “momma’s perfectly innocent little altar boys don’t go to college and just happen to come under the influence of aggressive fraternity men who teach these new students…exploitation and victimization of women” (p. 37). Rather, these behaviors are inextricably linked to an oppressive gender legacy called patriarchy (Johnson, 1994). Yet, DeKeseredy and Schwartz don’t simply paint a disturbing picture; they challenge all individuals—women and men—to be part of the process of change.
An academic reader may take umbrage with the absence of a specific hypotheses derived from the theoretical perspective. Likewise, individuals who grapple with statistics may feel labored at times when reading the reliability scores included in this text. However, this book is written in a style accessible to a wide readership, and thus will likely hold an appeal for higher education practitioners. Each chapter can be read and digested independently of the others. For instance, one may want to read “But women do it too” (chapter 3) for the authors’ findings about gender differences in dating violence. Growing criticism of the partner abuse research argues that women commit comparatively as many acts of violence as men do (Fekete, 1994; Renzetti, 1994). However, DeKeseredy and Schwartz conclude that “much of the violence by Canadian undergraduate women is in self-defense and should not be labeled ‘mutual combat’ or ‘male partner abuse’” (p. 91).
Other chapters offer practitioners an overview of risk factors and dating abuse (chapter 4) and delineate strategies, informed by the CNS data, for preventing abuse, responding to behaviors, implementing policies, and increasing awareness (chapter 5). As the authors point out, “faculty…and other members of the academic community still have much to learn” (p. 152) and some may “indirectly or directly endorse the anti-feminist backlash against strategies to raise awareness about date rape and other forms of male-to-female victimization” (p. 125). For this reason, it is critical for academic advisors to be informed of the prevalence of intimate partner violence, have an awareness of educational and interpersonal interventions, and, as the authors emphasize, to develop a collective responsibility for achieving the goal of gender equality in institutions of higher education.
Fekete, J. (1994). Moral panic: Biopolitics rising. Montreal: Robert Davies.
Fisher, B.S., Cullen, F.T., & Turner, M.G. (2000). The Sexual Victimization of College Women. Research Report published by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Johnson, A. (2005). The gender knot: Unraveling our patriarchal legacy, revised edition. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Renzetti, C. (1994). On dancing with a bear: Reflections on some of the current debates among domestic violence theorists. Violence and Victims, 9, pp. 195-200.
Woman Abuse on Campus: Results from the Canadian National Survey (1998).
Book by Walter S. DeKeseredy & Martin D. Schwartz. Review by Susan V. Iverson. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. 212pp. $24.95. ISBN 0-7619-0566-9.