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Gender Bias in the Issue of

Domestic Violence

Who's Ever Heard of a Battered Men's Shelter ?

By Dave Burroughs


A 1998 Department of Justice study found that 834,000 or 36% of the 2.3 million victims of domestic violence are men. Over 100 other studies support that finding.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence there are over 2,000 shelters in the United States serving female victims of domestic violence.

There are two known to provide shelter to male victims.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence advertises itself as a feminist organization and in furtherance of that political agenda deliberately and purpose- fully promotes the false myth that only women are victims of domestic violence

Under rules promulgated by the Department of Justice's Violence Against Women Office, organizations seeking funding to serve male victims are denied eligibility for the four billion dollars provided under the Violence Against Women Act to end domestic violence and assist it's victims.

Because of the pervasive dominance of the bias National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and it's state chapters on the issue of domestic violence state agencies, law enforcement and state sponsored domestic violence councils are locked into the feminist based model of female victims/male perpetrators.

The result of this bias and of the denial of funding for male victims is a near total absence of shelters and services for male victims and their children, of law enforcement and judicial training specifically designed to deny the existence of male victims and of men left feeling they have nowhere to turn.


Until a decade or so ago domestic violence was society's dirty little secret. It was frequently condoned and almost always excused. Largely by the efforts of some dedicated members of the women's movement society has begun to seriously address the scourge of domestic abuse . Unfortunately, it is the very fact that the issue was left to be advocated by the women's movement that the issue has been colored by a gender based world-view . The language and discourse on this issue is almost uniformly framed in the context of men as perpetrators and women as victims . But this contradicts the reality and the research.

In Delaware, where the Forum for Equity and Fairness in Family Issues is most active, the Delaware State Police Statistics Division reports that of all criminal domestic violence cases, in 32% of the cases men are the victim. In non-criminal cases the figure jumps to nearly 50 %.

Nationally, the U.S. Justice Department reports in a study released just this past November that of the 2,335,000 persons abused annually by their opposite sex partner, 835,000 or 36% of the victims are men. Further, all of the 54 english language studies that have included both men and women have found that women use violence in their relationships more often then men and at every level of severity. In the May/June issue of the respected progressive-liberal magazine Mother Jones, reporter Nancy Updike reports that the U.S. Justice Dept. will soon release another study authored by Psychology Professor and researcher Terri Moffitt that confirms these studies. Ms. Updike opens her candid article with the words , " After 20 years of domestic violence research, scientists can't avoid hard facts....women report using violence in their relationships more often than men." But how can that be when the statistics on people filing for Protection From Abuse Orders reflects that 82% are women? And of course who has ever heard of a Battered Men's shelter? Or Battered Men's Syndrome?

In a study of several prior research projects, Barbara J. Morse of the Institute of Behavior Science, University of Colorado clearly established that women commit acts of violence against intimate partners with the same frequency as men. The only significant difference is, due to obvious biological differences in size, women suffer greater physical injury. But likewise for the same reason women use deadly weapons more frequently. Specifically, the National Youth Survey (NYS) which surveyed 1,725 individuals periodically over 17 years starting in 1976 found that women commit acts of violence toward intimates at a rate slightly higher than men. Moreover many other researchers such as Straus & Gelles (National Family Violence Survey) established the same fact. This fundamental fact is reconfirmed in the exhaustive research of Philip W. Cook in his recently published book, " Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence".

In a society in which little boys are taught from early on to " take it like a man ", that "men don't cry " and that to be a "sissy" is to be avoided at all cost, it comes as no surprise that men do not seek protection in the Courts or at shelters. Worse our society daily sends the message that female violence against men is acceptable. In a three week period during April of last year this writer observed four different promos on television for upcoming sitcoms which, in 30 short seconds, showed a man being slapped or hit by a woman. In the April 13 issue of Newsweek magazine the American Greetings Card Co. attached to a full page ad a copy of a greeting card featuring on it's cover a sketch of a woman and the words, " Men are always whining about how we're suffocating them. " Inside the card are the words " Personally, I think if you can hear them whining, You're not pressing hard enough on the pillow ". Imagine such a card being displayed in a national magazine if those words were being expressed by a man about women.

Despite these realities the Violence Against Women Act, with it's billions of dollars in funding, has created and sustains a nationwide system of shelters, advocacy organizations and counseling programs that operate upon and promulgate the false and destructive idea of females as victims and males as perpetrators exclusively. Not only have we abandoned the 1/3 to 1/2 of the victims of domestic violence who are male by opting for a Violence Against Women Act, rather than a Violence Against Intimates Act, but we have literally established a network of government and private organizations dedicated to denying their suffering. On behalf of those 835,000 men that the U.S. Justice Dept. acknowledges are victimized annually, F.E.F.F.I. pleads with Senator Biden to re-title and redirect his pending V.A.W.A.II to embrace and support all the victims of domestic violence.

There need be no debate that many women suffer abuse at the hands of angry and dysfunctional male partners. But to deny the reality that domestic abuse is committed by both men and women is to deliberately skew the issue to support the popular view. The result and perhaps motivation is that the millions of government funds allocated toward stopping domestic violence and aiding victims is nearly exclusively targeted to benefit one sector of our society. Further, the propagation of this gender oriented view of domestic abuse permeates the law enforcement and justice system in a way that views men as perpetrators and women as victims. Causing male victims of abuse to not even recognize they are victims and, when they do seek help, to find themselves not being taken as seriously as a woman claiming victimization. When was the last time anyone saw a public service message on domestic violence in which a man was shown bruised and battered and clutching a child to his breast ?

Of equal concern is the affect of this bias on women. For as long as women are absolved of culpability for their violence we not only put men at risk but stoke the fires that so often result in injury and death from domestic violence. When a women is physical with a man because she believes that it is OK for a women to hit men she only contributes to a situation that can often end in her suffering serious injury.



This writer and survivor of domestic violence applauds the efforts of those who have struggled to raise the level of social concern about domestic violence . However, no serious social issue can be effectively dealt with from false premises. As long as we as a society ignore the reality that domestic abuse not only crosses all economic and educational strata but gender as well we will only be putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging problem . It is time we began to talk about the other dirty little secret of domestic violence - that women do it too - and begin to address the problem as one of people not gender .



SOLUTIONS FOR SECURING

EQUAL PROTECTION FOR ALL

The re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act due in 2005 should be re-titled to the Intimate Partners Violence Act and specific language should be inserted mandating that funding under the act is to encompass sheltering and services for all victims of domestic violence regardless of their gender and providing for a 10% set aside to fund affirmative action at the state and local level designed to educate male victims and the public as well as law enforcement and the judiciary on the issue of male victims of domestic violence.

States should be mandated under both the Intimate Partners Violence Act and the Family Violence Prevention Act to take affirmative action to remedy the bias that has permeated state and local policies and funding against male victims and be prohibited from discriminating on the basis of gender.

Under the Legal Aid legislation organizations receiving government funds should be required to proactively promote their legal services to male victims of domestic violence and be prohibited from discriminating by either policy or application against male victims of domestic violence.

All agencies of the Federal government such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice's Violence Against Women Office and the Department of Defense should be directed to cease discriminatory policies that deny male victims of domestic violence equal protection and/or equal recognition as a class.



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David R. Burroughs is the Chairman of the Forum for Equity and Fairness in Family Issues (F.E.F.F.I.). He is a member of the Cecil County Maryland Family Violence Coordinating Council. and a member of the Delaware Domestic Violence Task Force (inactive). He has authored several locally published articles on domestic violence and has been a lecturer/Presenter on the issue of male victims at several national conferences. He is a graduate Widener University School of Law and authored a law school thesis for U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden titled, State Discrimination Against Male Victims of Domestic Violence and Congress' Authority Under the Fourteenth Amendment to Prohibit Such Discrimination.

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