Glens Falls Post Star
- Letter to the Editor
Male Domestic Violence Victims Need Help Too
Daniel C. Romand
Glens Falls Post Star
July 18, 2005
Domestic Violence, a phrase that evokes an image of a woman beaten and battered by her husband. This perception is portrayed in the media on a daily basis. But is perception reality? The answer is no.
Much has been written about the "epidemic" of domestic violence (DV). Most of what has been written is from the viewpoint that DV is defined as male = batterer, female = victim. Occasionally, a token male victim will be shown, but the real extent of the problem is being hidden. It's America's darkest secret.
Thirty years of research show a significant number of men are victims. A Dept. of Justice report on DV (2000) showed 1.3 million female abuse victims annually. The same report also stated 835,000 men were abused. This was by no means the exception; hundreds of studies have found men were the victim anywhere from 35-50% of the time. A local hotline "Stop the Violence, Inc." reports that over 40% of their calls for assistance are from men.
Despite these numbers, the lack of services for men in the local area is appalling. In upstate New York there isn't a single shelter available for men, and funding to assist men is non-existent. The NY Department of Criminal Justice report on grant funding shows that Saratoga County spent 40.8% of the budget on "Violence against Women", Warren County spent 32.2% and Washington County spent 28.0%. As of June, spending this year in these three counties totaled almost a half million dollars to help women. In contrast, not a single penny was funded to assist men.
Another problem is the failure of men to speak out and seek help. As an advocate for male victims I am often asked why this is the case. There are many reasons, but primarily it comes down to men fearing they won't be believed. Accordingly, they feel ashamed and hide their being abused.
Men fear that if they speak out they will be forced from their home, lose their children, have to pay their batterer alimony, child support and the court system/society will view them not as the victim, but as the abuser. They see this happening to others around them everyday and therefore don't seek help.
This belief is extenuated by TV shows such as the King of Queens which portray the wife hitting her husband as "funny". Furthermore men are bombarded by news reports every time a man is accused of battering a woman, yet when it is a woman doing the battering it is relegated to the back pages, if it's even reported. Public Service messages always portray the woman as the victim. This leads men to believe that they are the only male victim, which only deepens their shame.
When men find the courage to seek help from shelters, they are treated with disbelief. My own experience was that I was hung up on, told to go away, told I was the "enemy" and that they are "not allowed to help men or they would lose their funding."
On a daily basis I hear from others who report similar experiences. Few shelters have men on staff, so the male victim has no one to speak to who can empathize with their plight. The few men that are given assistance speak of the humiliating way they are treated. Many report the "services" they are given treat them as the batterer. As several victims have told me when asking about getting shelter for themselves and their children, they are told to leave the children behind as there is no place for them, and then given a hotel voucher for a day or two at most.
What are the solutions?
First, politicians like Senators. Schumer and Clinton (who refuse to acknowledge the issue) and the DV industry itself must acknowledge the fact that a significant number of men are being abused by women and reach out to them. The stigma of only men as abusers and women as victims must be ended. DV must no longer be portrayed as a gender issue, but a societal one. Funding must be provided to open shelters for men and their children to go to where they can feel safe and get any assistance needed. Outreach services, via newspaper, radio and TV ads, must be started to let men know they are not alone and that help is available. Finally, men must not only be encouraged to speak out, but also treated with respect and dignity when they do.
Dan Romand is Secretary and Saratoga County Coordinator for the Coalition of Fathers and Families of NY (Fafny.org). In addition he is co-host of The Family Forum and leads a local support group for non-custodial parents. He also lobbies elected officials on behalf of the rights of non-custodial parents and male victims of Domestic Abuse. Dan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.