Saturday, October 18, 2008

California Appellate Court Finds Law Discriminatory Against Abused Men

A recent ruling of the California Appellate Court found that California domestic violence laws violate battered men's rights because they provide state funding only for women and their children who use shelters and other programs. Finally! Common sense wins out over ideology. Our agency specializes in working with men who are in relationships with abusive women so the question of why domestic violence shelter programs make it a rule not to offer abused men services has come up quite often. With over 2000 shelter programs in 50 states that specialize in services for battered women and children and NO shelters for battered men the question is a valid and important one. Although battered men have been treated like abusers and made invisible for the last 30 years of the battered women's movement they do exist and in greater numbers than many have been led to believe. No doubt research has found that women are the more injured group of victims but there are many facets to domestic violence and physically injury is just one of them. The movement that has brought public awareness and services to domestic violence has not been so much a movement to end domestic violence as it has been a movement to end violence against women. What's the difference you might ask. Well it's the difference between being able to protect yourself and your children and being in a great deal of danger. What if we gave military men the appropriate protective gear, guns, and hand grenades as they went into a battle and then turned around and told military women that there aren't enough of them to be concerned with so no equipment for you-- just duck and run really fast? That wouldn't go over too big now would it? Yet this is what our current domestic violence system does to battered men everyday in this country. According to the appellate courts decision 85% of California women's shelters offer services to battered men. That's not what we hear from battered men on our helpline. Domestic violence shelter programs responses to men calling for help run the gamut from, "we don't help men," to (although this isn't said directly it's inferred) "IF we believe he is a victim and not a perpetrator we may pay for one or two days in a hotel or refer him to a homeless shelter." If homeless shelters are appropriate and safe for male victims of domestic violence (and their children) to stay in then why is it that we have specialized shelters for victims of domestic violence?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Suicide Caused by Domestic Violence in India

Police invoke Domestic Violence Act in suicide case 4 Oct 2008, 0247 hrs IST, Asseem Shaikh,TNN Pune, India. A woman committed suicide by jumping off her sixth-floor apartment building after pushing her two daughters, ages 5 and 4 years, to their death ahead of her. The deceased woman's husband, his brother, and a young woman friend of theirs have all been arrested and charged under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (DVA) of 2005. Four other people including the the deceased woman's father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and another woman have also been booked. Using the DVA for criminal matters is new and it isn't clear what type of charges can be made under it against offenders. You can read more about the DVA in India here. The police justified the arrests by stating that the deceased woman's brother made a statement that his sister was constantly being harassed by her husband and in-laws for not getting some kind of financial assistance to help them by a flat (apartment). The brother claimed that his sister was fed up with daily harassment. She also complained to him about her belief that her husband was having an affair. This is the first time the DVA has been used to arrest someone, it has only been used in civil litigations in India prior to this time. The Assistant public prosecutor justified the police's action on the grounds that '“the accused had committed domestic violence on his wife Sunita by making frequent money demands to buy a flat”'. My opinion: With a suicide rate of 154,000 (recorded for whole of India in 2002) if this case is successful in opening up the DVA to be used in criminal cases when woman commit suicide men will be wise to avoid romantic relationships and stay single for life in India. The danger of hooking up with a mentally unstable person (after all mentally healthy people don't usually commit suicide) is significant and would seem hardly worth the risk.

Monday, October 6, 2008

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month - Are You Aware? It's that time again, time for thousands of newspaper articles across the country that will educate and enlighten readers about domestic violence. However, the main theme of most if not all of these articles will be on violence against women by men as it has been for the last few decades. So if you are suffering from intimate partner violence and you are not a heterosexual women being beaten by a male partner then there won't be much if any acknowledgment about your situation. The other theme for this season of awareness is on what men (the non abuser kind) can do to stop violence against women. Although research on domestic violence over the last twenty years has found that both men and women in heterosexual and same sex relationships can be abusive towards their intimate partner this fact has been lost on the media and the mainstream domestic violence advocates. If one mentions that men can be on the receiving end of domestic violence the average person usually replies, "I never thought of that," or "Men can't be victims, they are much bigger and stronger than women." Since we as a society have been taught to define domestic violence as a women's issue funding, services and public awareness for anyone other than women (and children) abused by men is sorely lacking in this country. And the extent to which advocates for women will go to keep the focus on abused women and discredit, refute and ignore male victims never ceases to amaze me. The fore-mothers of the battered women's movement had little use for men early on in the movement especially since, according to them, men are the reason we have this social problem. However, over the last five years or so there has been a big push to get men involved in ending men's violence against women. There is a whole list of things that good men can do all year round but especially during October to end violence against women. *In Florida guys can wear high heels to raise awareness of domestic violence and march down the street *In Indiana, men can rally on the public square carry banners and wear t-shirts and lapel ribbons that proclaim the message: “Another Man Against Violence Against Women. And then there are the ten things that men can do everyday to end violence against women: 1. Acknowledge and understand how sexism, male dominance and male privilege lay the foundation for all forms of violence against women. 2. Examine and challenge our individual sexism and the role that we play in supporting men who are abusive. 3. Recognize and stop colluding with other men by getting out of our socially defined roles, and take a stance to end violence against women. 4. Remember that our silence is affirming. When we choose not to speak out against men’s violence, we are supporting it. 5. Educate and re-educate our sons and other young men about our responsibility in ending men’s violence against women. 6."Break out of the man box"- Challenge traditional images of manhood that stop us from actively taking a stand to end violence against women. 7. Accept and own our responsibility that violence against women will not end until men become part of the solution to end it. We must take an active role in creating a cultural and social shift that no longer tolerates violence against women. 8. Stop supporting the notion that men’s violence against women is due to mental illness, lack of anger management skills, chemical dependency, stress, etc… Violence against women is rooted in the historic oppression of women and the outgrowth of the socialization of men. 9. Take responsibility for creating appropriate and effective ways to develop systems to educate and hold men accountable. 10. Create systems of accountability to women in your community. Violence against women will end only when we take direction from those who understand it most, women. It's really great that we are all encouraged to be a part of the solution to end violence against women but domestic violence won't end by stopping part of the problem. It will only end when we as a society acknowledge that both men and women can be perpetrators as well as recipients of family violence and take steps to end all family violence.