Sunday, September 18, 2011

Unacknowledged Victims of Domestic Violence

Not long ago, someone I dearly love was tormented, degraded, and beaten by a spouse.   Nobody stepped in to stop it.  Including me.  Those of you that know I'm from a small town may chalk it up to a small town mentality, to backward people that haven't caught up to the modern world, people that have no problem leaving a woman in her place.  There's one small problem.

I never said the victim was a woman.

I was one of them that laughed when I heard about what Lorena Bobitt did.  I think a lot of us did.  More recently, co-hosts on CBS's daytime show The Talk ridiculed a man who had been poisoned or drugged and then tied up by his ex-wife, who proceeded to cut off his penis and put it down the garbage disposal.*  I realize this is a departure from my usual content, but this issue has greatly affected both my personal and professional life and the anger I feel, as a woman and a mother, urges me to speak.




Many of you may not know that domestic violence in which the female is the aggressor is a growing problem.  Then again, perhaps it isn't growing.  Maybe the incidence of violence against males isn't so much on the rise, but it is being reported more often.  Either way, over 250 studies** have found that women are equally as aggressive as men, and many myths pervade the public's view of domestic violence.

If the notion of men as victims strikes you as odd, consider the following.  Men have a lot to lose when it comes to being trapped in a violent relationship.  I remember the most common response when the man I knew tried to talk about what was happening.  Folks would scoff and say, "Oh, boo-hoo.  She's half your size."  Catherine Becker and Jenny Kazemi have proven that a size difference matters little.  The man I knew never defended himself because he knew if he laid a hand on her in self-defense the police would never believe he didn't initiate it.

Even if you can't see a man as a victim in any way,  if a woman is willing to slug a guy twice her size, do you honestly think that she treats defenseless kids any better?  I cannot count the times I've seen women use their kids as a weapon against their ex-husbands or boyfriends.***  Even if they don't lay a hand on their kids, the children of such women very rarely have a healthy home environment.

If nothing else, I hope that double-standards bother you as much as they bother me.  If men strike their spouses, they're abusive bastards.  If women strike their husbands, they were driven to it.  The idea of women being driven to violence is so pervasive that it seems to be a standard defense.  I'm not saying that there aren't situations in which women were driven to violence as a last resort.  I am saying that many use that defense when there were non-violent options available.

So, there's double standards.  So, girls hit guys.  Big deal.

It's a very big deal.

  • Women can milk the court system for all its worth, especially in family courts.  I know of a particularly infuriating situation in which children in an abusive situation have nowhere to turn because of the innate bias that rules the family court in their state.  
  • Some courts, like Utah, seem to actively aid and abet paternity fraud and other related matters.  Men have no protection in many respects because they are assumed to be perpetrators.  Thus, courts have built in no checks or balances to ensure that family matters are handled fairly.  
  • Speaking of courts, have you ever noticed that male teachers who sleep with students are treated like scum-bag sex offenders (which they are), but female teachers that do the same thing tend to walk away with a slap on the wrist?  If we decide as a society that sex offenders are one of the worst things walking on Earth, then we need to be consistent and hit the female offenders just as hard, sex offender registration and all.  
  • Some schools make high school girls attend self-defense classes while the boys attend "safe relationship" classes.  (In other words, how not to be an abuser.)  I've personally seen how subtle double standards can lead girls to think they are untouchable by authority, both by how women treated my mom, the bouncer and sheriff's deputy, and by how girls treat boys at school.
  • Additionally, if a man and his children need to flee his wife in the middle of the night, most of them cannot go to a domestic abuse shelter.  Some shelters will take men and children both, but it's very rare, as far as I know.
  • Women are not all helpless victims, and as a woman it pisses me off when it's implied.  The suggestion that women need special protection really puts a burr under my saddle.
Something we have to remember is that sexism, racism, ageism, indeed, all -isms are the same thing:  a bias caused by the fear of the other.  Bias is a human reaction that increases a group's cohesiveness, and I believe historically feminists have vilified men to strengthen their position.  I'm thankful for the changes that have happened for women over the last century, but we have to remember that whenever an inequality is corrected by denigrating the formerly dominant group, one just makes another inequality that bites a person in the ass later down the road.  People all over the world are capable of great good, regardless of origin, sex, or creed, but  I've learned that cruelty and malice know no barrier, either.  In my eyes, we've accidentally created a political situation that allows malicious individuals to legally torment others.

I'm no lawyer.  I don't know how to fix the law to make it fair.  I don't know how to make anyone else see that this is a big, big problem.  Women historically have been the victims in domestic violence.  That is a fact, but times are changing.  Men and women are now victims in equal measure.  I know I'll proably take a lot of heat for what I've said, but we need realize that an injustice against a few is an injustice against us all.

Please feel free to comment.  I'd like to hear your thoughts and feelings on the matter.

Notes:


*Please realize that I didn't create the video.  All of the clips I found had commentary attached, and this had the tamest user commentary that I could find.  Some were quite toxic, and it's not my goal to engage in inflammatory propaganda.

**Click here for a list of studies.  Please note that this is a reference list that will allow you to find the studies mentioned.

***I wish I could give examples to support my claim, but I'm bound by confidentiality laws and cannot divulge things I've seen while at work.

Links:

Violent Relationships: Half are Reciprocally Violent, Females the Aggressors over 70% of the time in Non-Reciprocally Violent Relationships

CAMP-Countering Abuse Misinformation Project



4 comments:

  1. I think this is a very valid issue that is being ignored. I haven't seen it personally (that I know of) but I remember seeing an episode of Dr. Phil where he was talking to a couple where the woman was the abuser. He asked the woman if she ever hit her husband in front of her kids and she said, "No, I have taken my son up to his room and started a video because I wanted him out of the living room because I knew when I walked back in it I was going to hit my husband."
    How crazy is that? If a man did that, he would be considered a monster.

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  2. Thanks, Dawn. I've been sweating buckets after posting this, so I really appreciate your thoughtful comment. The most abusive person I've ever known was a woman, and she didn't care if her kids saw it.

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  3. My husband is an advocate and does pro bono work in Alexandra (a previously disadvantaged township near Sandton)- he often gets male victims of abuse coming to him for help.

    This is a serious issue that needs to be openly addressed. As women become more and more powerful, we (as women) need to be consciously aware that, with power, comes responsibility.

    Female victims of domestic violence get a lot of sympathy as victims of male power that is abused - it seems only just that male victims of female power that is abused garner some of that care and concern as well.

    Well done on bringing this issue to light!

    Judy, South Africa

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  4. Thanks, Judy. I was afraid folks would turn on me for saying it. Some men's advocates have had their houses and jobs picketed by extreme feminists. The fact that it's a problem even in South Africa speaks volumes.

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