October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Most articles and public service announcements this month focus exclusively on female victims, while at the same time stereotyping all abusers as male. Federal laws such as the Violence Against Women Act codify gender discrimination and gender profiling.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
The whole month of October is dedicated to spreading the word about domestic violence (DV).
Of course, domestic abuse is a serious issue. And it affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. It can take many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, and economic abuse, and it can have long-lasting effects on the health and well-being of victims.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about this issue and to support survivors. Many organizations offer resources and support.
Violence Against Women Exaggerations
Women’s advocates claim that virtually all domestic violence victims are women, therefore discrimination is justified. They repeat often-cited claims such as “the number one reason women age 16 to 40 end up in the emergency room is violence,” “95 per cent of DV is committed by men,” and “the chance of being victimized by an intimate partner is 10 times greater for a woman than a man.”
Yet these “statistics” cannot be verified and are repeatedly contradicted by both government and private studies. A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report found the leading causes of women’s injury-related emergency room visits are accidental falls, motor vehicle accidents, and accidental cuts. Homicide or injury purposely inflicted by others (including strangers and intimates), was the least likely cause, exceeded even by injuries due to animal bites and venomous plants. (National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 1992 Emergency Department Summary).
Male Victims are Ignored
Proof that women are not the only victims of domestic violence appears in the 1998 Justice Department report “Intimate Partner Violence.” Of 1830 DV murders, 510, or almost 1/3, were men. The study also indicated that males are 13 per cent less likely to report being a victim of intimate violence than females.
Another 1998 Justice Department report, “Violence Against Women Survey,” found that while 1,309,061 women were assaulted by an intimate partner in the prior year, 834,732 men were victims of DV, 39 per cent of the total.
Extensive research concludes that men and women are almost equally likely to initiate DV (e.g. Strauss and Gelles, 1975 and 1985). While women may be more severely injured when domestic abuse escalates, they can and do commit serious crimes of violence against men.
In many cases, when a woman uses physical violence against a man, it is portrayed as humorous or as an acceptable form of revenge. However, it is unlikely that the same situation involving a man using violence against a woman would be portrayed in the same way. This double standard reinforces the idea that violence against men is acceptable or humorous, while violence against women is not.
Women’s advocates continually downplay the existence of female violence. This obscures the fact that men are at risk of being victimized, and leaves them less prepared for the potential for violence against them.
Should an important public policy debate be about which sex is the most important victim? Should a female victim be more important than a male victim? Was Melanie Edwards (murdered by her husband in a divorce/custody battle) more important than Chuck Leonard (murdered by his wife in a divorce/custody battle)? Was Gertrudes Lamson (shot and killed by her husband) more important than Donyea Jones (doused with gasoline, set afire, and burned to death by his wife)?
Female Perpetrators Given a Free Pass
Many male victims are ignored or ridiculed by a system that seems to recognize only female victims. When women are the abusers, they are more often than not given a pass.
Recent cases I have personal experience with involve men who have been hit, punched, gouged, choked, and threatened with weapons by their spouses. Despite reports to police, none of the women were charged with crimes.
These local cases, and their numerous national counterparts, demonstrate that domestic violence is not the sole province of male perpetrators and female victims.
Yet we are constantly told that women are the only ones at risk. Had there been more education about the potential for violence by both men and women, men like Chuck Leonard and Donyea Jones may have been able to take precautions and avoid a deadly risk.
The issue of men being DV victims has often been overlooked in both the media and in legal settings. By raising awareness about the stigma and double standards, we can work towards saving lives. If you’re a man experiencing any form of abuse, do not hesitate to speak out and seek help. Support is available, and there are people, somewhere, who will listen and support you.
A Need to Be More Realistic
Myths and distortions about male and female violence have no place in the debate about stopping family violence. Despite a continual barrage of reports about how epidemic domestic violence has become, the truth is that most men and women are law-abiding citizens, loving spouses and caring parents.
The 1998 Intimate Partner Violence report indicates steep declines in domestic violence against both men and women. The Justice Department numbers cited above indicate that only 1.3 per cent of women (and 0.9 per cent of men) are actually victimized each year.
Yet DV advocates promote the myth that American women live in constant terror of violence from husbands or boyfriends. It is simply irresponsible to falsely demonize fully 50 per cent of the population, further fanning the flames of gender warfare.
During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, let’s not let the zeal to protect one class of victims perpetuate a bias that unfairly stereotypes an entire gender.
It is noble and well-meaning to advocate for female victims. Yet denying the existence of male victims of female violence demeans and ignores these victims, puts them at further risk, and reduces the likelihood that female abusers will be held accountable for their crimes.