Sunday, August 21, 2011

Advocacy Research and the Creation of Urban Legends

There are some pretty fantastic urban legends in the femos-phere; 1 in 4 women are raped; 3 out of 5 women in the U.S. will be battered in their lifetime; domestic violence is the leading cause of death among women; domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44, ect. ect. ect.  Much of the demonization of men and masculinity is a result of the perpetuation of fraud that profit the "non-profit industrial complex."

In a piece that contains, what can only be described as stunning admissions, feminist academics Mary Haviland, Victoria Frye, and Valli Rajah, wrote a paper entitled, “Harnessing the Power of Advocacy-Research Collaborations: Lessons From the Field” (hereinafter “Advocacy Research paper”)  about the methods they used to conjure up an earlier paper, “The Family Protection and Domestic Violence Intervention Act of 1995: Examining the Effects of Mandatory Arrest in New York City” (hereinafter “Mandatory Arrest paper”)

The impetus for the research for the ladder paper was that New York States domestic violence law, The Family Protection and Domestic Violence Intervention Act of 1995, incorporated a mandatory arrest policy that ended up with the unintended consequence of too many “victims” being arrested.  As they wrote in the Advocacy Research paper:

“[A]lthough the law seemed to be working (domestic violence arrests in New York City rose by 140% between 1993 and 1998), it also had some unintended consequences, such as increased victim arrest. Victims were being arrested at the scene of a domestic violence incident as one party to a “dual arrest” (when both parties claim a crime has been committed against them and both are arrested) or as the only party arrested as a result of a complaint by the abuser.”

Besides the use of Orwellian language in the paragraph, any academic should be horrified at their research methods.  Here are some excerpts:

“Feminist scholars point out that lack of objectivity is not synonymous with inaccuracy.”  (Advocacy Research, page 256)

“The advocacy–research partnership has been identified as a key method of conducting the feminist and activist research that is important to domestic violence.” (Advocacy Research, pg. 247)

“[P]articipatory action research (PAR) principles played a smaller yet substantive role in our methodological choices… proponents of PAR underscore the importance of social change as a major goal of advocate researcher collaborations and, therefore, integrate an element of activism into the research design (Reinharz, 1992; Small & Uttal, 2005)." (Advocacy Research, page 249)

“[H]istoric tensions between advocates and researchers have affected the practice of such collaborations. The quantitative population-based studies that find an equal prevalence of violence perpetrated by men and women in intimate relationships may have hampered attempts at collaboration (Edelson & Bible 1999; Gondolf, Yllo, & Campbell, 1997; Schechter, 1988).”  (emphasis mine) (Advocacy Research, page 250)

In other words, they weren’t getting the answer they wanted with “quantitative population-based” studies, so in order to collaborate for social change, they needed to use different research methods.  This pretty much puts the lie to the statement that “…lack of objectivity is not synonymous with inaccuracy.”

In a subsection unfortunately entitled, ENSURING GOOD RESULTS, the “scholars” admit:

“Defining what the end results of the research endeavor should be is crucial to a successful collaboration… [T]he goal of influencing policy and practice was paramount, particularly in our initial formulation.” (Advocacy Research, page 268)

As any good researcher knows, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the concept flew over the heads of our three acolytes, one must define one’s terms.

So, what are good results for advocacy research?  For our "scholars," the answer seems to be the acquisition of funding for non-profits.  How else is a Women’s Studies major, or a Sociologist supposed to make a living?  For those not familiar with San Francisco, the concept of the “non-profit industrial complex” permeates our local politics.  Much of the work that should be done by government is outsourced to San Francisco’s non-profits.  As I’ve written before, non-profits and their activists in our fair city take money from the County of San Francisco, and then become activists against the very government that funds their programs.

You may have read my piece entitled, “Advocacy Research and Junk Science - For Fun and Profit”, which talked about a piece in the San Francisco Weekly which described how an organization called the “Women’s Funding Network” brought in a fake research team, The Shaprio Group, to conduct a “study” on human trafficking.  The Shaprio Group are not academics, but instead political consultants.  Needless to say the “research” was garbage; “It's now clear it used fake data to deceive the media and lie to Congress.  And it was all done to score free publicity and a wealth of public funding.” (Pinto, Nick; Weird Science, SF Weekly, March 23-29, 2011).  But, in the end, it did exactly what it was intended to do – get public funding for the organization.

“[T]he woman who commissioned the Schapiro Group study Kaffie McCullough first approached the [Shapiro] group about conducting a study of juvenile prostitution in Georgia in 2007 when, as director of A Future Not a Past, she realized that having scientific-sounding numbers makes all the difference.”

"In early 2007, McCullough approached the Georgia Legislature to ask for money for a regional assessment center to track juvenile prostitution. ‘We had no research, no nothing. The legislators didn't even know about it,’ she recalls. ‘We got a little bit. We got about 20 percent of what we asked for.’"

"McCullough touts the fundraising benefits of the study whenever she can…’I would say, 'The research costs money, but we've been able to broker — I don't know what it is now, I think it's over $1.3, $1.6 million in funding that we never would have gotten,' she says.”

Which brings me to the Violence Against Women Act.  I’m not going to discuss the Act.  It is a huge document that is problematic for many, MANY reasons, starting with its title.  But, what did feminists say about it?

The quotes below are taken from this ACLU website.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) published an article by Pat Reuss and Courtney Aguirre in Spring 2005, titled ‘VAWA 2005: New Prevention Initiatives Address the Needs and Fears of Young People and Work to Break the Cycle of Violence’.: 

“VAWA impacts so many women because it allocates vital funding to a variety of programs—everything from research grants and legal assistance to community initiatives and assistance for immigrant families.”

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center newsletter Spring/Summer 2004 issue published an article by Susan Lewis, PhD, titled "Ten Years of VAWA, Strengthening Anti-Sexual Violence Work," which stated:

"According to almost everyone associated with victim services or prevention of violence against women, the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 made an enormous, positive difference. This landmark legislation provided new life to small struggling rape crisis centers and shelters by offering a major transfusion of lifeblood in the form of federal funding."
Joseph R. Biden, Jr., JD, Senator (D-DE), stated in a June 8, 2005 press release, “Biden, Hatch, and Specter Usher Violence Against Woman Act into 21st Century with VAWA 2005”:

"We broke tremendous ground in 1994 and 2000. We wrote new domestic violence laws. We outlawed marital rape. We distributed over $3.8 billion dollars to states and towns to train and support police, lawyers, judges, nurses, shelter directors and advocates to end domestic violence and sexual assault…”

A footnote to the afore-cited Advocacy-Research paper is telling; “Although the coordinated community response approach to domestic violence may have become less prevalent as the movement has institutionalized, it is still a very important concept in the field of domestic violence. Another example would be the collaborative relationships required to receive Violence Against Women Act funds.”

“In our case, we concluded that to be more effective in achieving some of the recommendations of the report, the team needed greater resources and staff time dedicated to the achievement of the action goals. Raising funds to pursue policy changes is a challenge. Many federal grants do not allow expenditures for lobbying and many private sources frown on allocating resources for such purposes. In addition, not-for-profits can jeopardize their tax-exempt status by lobbying. We suggest a loosening of some of these proscriptions as well as increased awareness of the importance of dedicating resources to these activities.” (Advocacy Research, page 270)

In the Mandatory Arrest paper, they write, “There is a need for funding of training programs for domestic violence service providers in assisting victims of domestic violence who are affected by the mandatory arrest law, particularly those who are arrested.” (Mandatory Arrest, page 80)


The distribution of public funds cannot be predicated on junk science by propoganda whores who willingly lie to support their ideology.  Much of rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment discourse is based upon fictions, in order to get funding to create propoganda, to get more funding, in a vicious cycle that has real victims.  It needs to stop.


  1. Great paper Ma99ie.

  2. Superb! I'm so impressed with this article. It's humiliating, eviscerating, ... FATALITY!