Violence Knows No Gender

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Domestic violence against men is the subject of my graduate thesis.  From my research, I have come to realize that, despite the increased media attention it has received lately, people still know very little about this form of abuse - especially two of its most common components.


   The first is that men, as a group, endure about as much violence to their possessions as they do to their bodies.  My research has uncovered scores of anecdotes from men who have experienced, what I call, "domestic vandalism."  Typically, their stories are punctuated with moments where the abuser, "bashed out the windows of my cherry red Camaro" or "cut up my varsity letter from high school."  In spite of all the anecdotal information, I have yet to come across any published material specifically on domestic vandalism.  Nor have I ever heard of anyone calculating a total cost of men's destroyed possessions.  Whatever the monetary cost is, the emotional cost is likely to be higher; it is not at all uncommon for abusers to purposely choose a keepsake as the object to be bashed in or cut up.

   The other component of domestic violence against men that few people seem to be aware of is the method with which women usually gain the upper hand in violent encounters.  As much of the research points out, women are often able to neutralize men's greater strength, or at times even dominate them, by using a weapon.  But after digesting the accounts of numerous male victims, I have concluded that it is not physical weapons that give women the upper hand.  What puts women in a position to cause serious injury is the weapon that all good generals throughout history have known to be the most effective - the element of surprise.  In countless cases where men were seriously injured, the abuser used surprise as her chief weapon.  One such victim appeared on an Oprah Winfrey telecast devoted to domestic violence against men.  He reported that, in one instance, he was not aware his wife was behind him as he started down the stairs of their home.  She gave him a good shove causing him to tumble down the steps; he ended up with a concussion.

    The resultant problem for male victims is that, like everybody, they have to eat, sleep, shower and just take it easy.  Living with a spouse whose number one weapon is surprise, male victims are likely to be constantly on guard  -  a frame of mind that could produce a psychological toll as well.  With this in mind, the need for shelters for male victims becomes even more imperative.  Yet, such shelters are practically nonexistent.  Some cities offer very short term services such as two or three free nights at a hotel, while others offer space at only the most inaccessible shelters.  Among the 20 or more women's shelters in Los Angeles, the only one that also accepts men is about 70 miles from downtown L.A.

    Why no services for men?  Because no funding exists.  According to the Bangor Daily News, "the Violence Against Women Act allocates $3.3 billion to help abused women but contains no money to help male victims."  Legislators allot no money for men even though a mammoth body of scientific research dating back to the 1970's shows women to be as frequently violent in relationships as men.  (For a list of 122 such scholarly articles see: http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm) Plus, researchers agree that many domestic assaults against men are probably not being reported because of the humiliation the victims would suffer.

    Perhaps more shameful than society's lack of funding for male victims is the greater problem from which this slight seems to stem  -  our compulsion to use partisanship rather than principles as a basis for public policy, a stance that has only produced divisiveness.  It is high time men and women started working together to stop abuse ..... no matter the gender doling it out.

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