Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dr. Phil and His Viewers Don't See Eye to Eye on Women's Domestic Violence Against Men

In our October 2010 Newsletter, I wrote a letter to Dr. Phil: A Letter to Dr. Phil From Jan Elizabeth Brown "Dr. Phil, you are an intelligent, well read man so I can’t for the life of me understand how you can continue to ignore the truth regarding domestic violence. Your recent announcement declaring that your show’s ninth season will be devoted to “ending the silence on domestic violence,” falls flat for those of us who support all victims. How are you going to “end the silence” given the fact that you are guilty of being tight lipped yourself about the over 834,000 straight, gay and transgender male victims of intimate partner violence each year? Your website shares plenty of stats of female victims but no mention of how many male victims there are each year even though the stats are available. You have invited everyone to join your campaign and become a “Silence Breaker!” but if you won’t even be a “Silence Breaker!” how can you ask anyone else to do so?” I challenge you to read some empirical data on male victims by Dr. Hines and Douglas’s and Dr. Gelles testimony before US Senate Committee on the Judiciary this year and then tell me you can continue to ignore this much under served group of victims." I stopped watching Dr. Phil's show because of his myopic views on domestic violence, however, a news alert I received had a link to his the message board for the January 10th show titled, "Afraid of My Husband." Looking at the comments on this message board I see that nothing has changed with Dr. Phil; he is still being tight lipped and ignorant about male victims. Worse yet, on this January 10th show he made excuses for a wife's violence towards her husband, calling the abuse she perpetrated against him a "relationship issue." Dr. Phil’s reasoning that the husband was bigger and stronger and therefore the abuser did apparently not sway the commentors. Oh Dr. Phil when are you going to put that old myth to rest? A person who is 5’4”, prone to violence, and very angry can do a lot of damage to someone who is 6’2” weighs more, and is a non-violent person. Size, weight, and/or being muscular are not good indicators of whether or not a man will be a victim or a batterer. This myth focuses only on the physical aspects of domestic violence. An abuser does not need to be bigger or stronger to throw a meat cleaver at you, rip the phone of the wall and use it as a weapon, cut up all your clothing, or threaten to call the police and tell them that you are abusing them. Violence is a matter of personal choice, not body size. [Excerpted from our paper on our website called, "Myths and Realities of Domestic Abuse Against Men,” Myth #2] Domestic or intimate partner violence is an intentional and methodical pattern of abusive tactics used by one partner in a relationship to gain power and exert control over the other partner in the relationship. A person doesn't have to be bigger or stronger to be the abusive one in the relationship. Dr. Phil got a reaction from quite few of his viewers who watched this show, however, probably not the reaction he expected. Viewers were quite upset by his comments about this couple’s domestic violence, so much so that some viewers who don't usually go online to write felt compelled to do so to voice their opinions on how wrong Dr. Phil was in this situation. Viewers were none too pleased with the way he handled the domestic violence going in Sonya and Lawrence’s relationship. As a matter of fact, of the 190 comments made on Dr. Phil’s message board only a handful were in support. It seems he touched quite a few nerves with his justification of the wife’s violence towards her husband. Here are just 12 of the 190 comments made (spelling and grammar errors left in the messages to keep them original): By:nsturner I heard Dr. Phil tell Sonya that what she was doing was a relationship issue not an abuse issue. In my mind spitting and hitting someone is assult, no matter the gender of the person doing it.Sonya admitted to spitting on her husband while he was walking down the stairs to leave the confrontation. I believe this comment made by D. Phil is a blow to the Stop the Violence campaign because he is saying that if a man hits a woman it is abuse but if a woman hits a man it is a relationship issue. By:sehealey55 I believe Sonya is not afraid of her husband. I have been afraid of someone in my life time I would not get in his face or follow him. You try your best not to set the person off. Sonya followed her husband when he tried to get away from her. She broke two of his lap tops (what a waste of money in this economy glad she has the money to waste). She is a very abusive person. Man or women should never inflict pain on anyone they do not have the right. She does not have a relationship issues she has a control issue she wants total control. I am very disappointed in you Dr. Phil. I watch your show every day when possible. You really blew it on this one. By:talithafree I enjoy watching Dr. Phil and I find his show interesting. Generally he treats people fairly. Today, I was so surprised by the way he was willing to just breeze over Sonya's treatment of her husband and label it as "relationship issues" because she is not as strong as he is? This woman had this man hiding in closets, SHE destroyed two laptops and a television. She admitted to spitting in his face, which I think is despicable as well as abusive. I wonder if doctor Phil is not aware of recent documented case studies of women abusing the men that they are in relationship with? This is documented. I am so sad and frustrated Dr. Phil basically gave Sonya a green light on her behavior. It isn't abuse after all. When women are portrayed as victims in every situation and are not required to take responsibility for their actions it is wrong just as it is wrong when men historically were not required to take responsibility for abusing the women in their lives. It would have been so much better if Dr. Phil had made the point that abuse by anyone is wrong and not just laid all of the blame on the the husband. By:kimmie813 I never go online and comment, but I have to say something about today's show. I have always been a huge fan of Dr. Phil, but I could not believe what I was hearing today. I kept waiting for Dr. Phil to let Sonja have it at some point. Abuse is abuse! No matter if it is a woman or a man who is dishing it out. I am not taking his side, but I actually started feeling sorry for Lawrence. He looked like he was at the end of his rope. He was getting blamed for everything. She was not innocent! Really??? She chased and spit on him, hit him, kicked him, kicked in the TV, threw his laptop and SHE is afraid of HIM??? She admitted all of this. He would sleep in the car and lock himself in a room to get away from her! NO man has a right to put his hands on a woman or child in anger or violence, but this goes for a woman too! His own kids defy him and say they will just wait until mom gets home? That is so wrong! This guy got thrown under the bus and she got away scott free. It was all so completely one sided! I saw a smug woman laying a lot of blame and a man that was completely worn down emotionally. I am just blown away by today's show and how unfair it was. (Shocked!) By: baatma Let me start by saying I love Dr Phil. DVR the show every day. I just watched this show and my mind was blown. I am all for ending domestic violence. Domestic violence does not just mean a man abusing a woman. This woman on this show admitted to trying to get to her husband while he was in a closet with his feet against the door trying to keep her off him. That to me sounds like he fears her. In this case it is clear that she is the aggressive one. I really hate to say this but SHAME ON YOU DR. PHIL!!!! You gave this lady every excuse to abuse her husband because "its a relastionship issue". The children in this case have clearly learned how to manipulate and play the parents against each other. I have been afraid of one of my parents and I would have never told him that I would just wait till mom got home, because he told me to read my book. My mother was also afraid of him and she would have never chased him into a closet!!! I also have a sister that is 4' 9" and her husband is 6'2" and regardless of size my sister is the abuser there. Yes she has gotten hurt during their fights but when he has to get away from her and she is in his face then the only way away from her is through her. This show was like seeing my sister and bro in law's life. The husband should have never laid a hand on her and I think he gets that ... The wife should have never laid her hands on her husband.... They are BOTH victims of domestic violence!!! By:chrboy I have watched your show from the beginning. I have disagreed ocassionally, but I can't remember ever just saying you blew it. but YOU BLEW IT !!!!! To say that Women are exempt from having their violence called abuse because they are smaller is nothing short of insane. When she bloodied his lip was that not imposing her will on him. and another thing , she was more of a problem in the marraige than he was. Have you ever seen an Abused person chasing the abuser into another room and the abuser using his feet to keep the abused from getting to him. SHE IS NOT being abused. YOU OWE BOTH THE HUSBAND AND HIS SISTER AN APPOLOGY !!!!!!!!!!!!!! By:majriti I could not, for the life of me, understand why the wife was not considered an abuser today. And it was little details that made the woman look like a vile manipulator. For example, she talked about how they can't watch TV because they don't have one. Yet in another part of the show, she and her husband talk about how she kicked the TV in her anger. And I don't understand how the husband can have the power to isolate her financially, when he admitted to gambling as a cry for attention - he knew his wife would discover the frivolous spending because his wife does the business' books. The husband is running away to the closet while she screams and hits him, yet this isn't abuse? And his running away to the car ends up being a tool to isolate her, rather than a defense mechanism to isolate himself? The whole time the show was on, the wife managed to take everything being said and turn it so that she was talking about herself as the victim. Poor me this. Poor me that. It's all about me, me, me. Not her husband. Not her kids. Not her family as a whole. Her son even touched on this when he said he felt like he was trapped in the middle between his parents. His mom would come talk to him about his dad and "why they were fighting." She's feeding him poison against his own father - the kid knows it, and he doesn't want to be forced to take it, but she just won't let up. By:kttnajj I could not believe what I was hearing on today's show. There have been a few times I have adamantly disagreed with Dr. Phil and this certainly is one of those times. Talk about double standards, Dr. Phil! It looked like the wife was sitting there, feeling vindicated and smug while you were throwing her husband under the bus. What if she were the bigger of the two...would you have referred to HER as the abuser in that case? The husband was no saint, and shame on both of them for acting the way they do in front of their little kids, but to call his behavior "abuse" and hers "a relationship issue"...come on.... are you trying to be politically correct or something, Dr. Phil? You threw him under the bus, but you should have thrown her under as well. I think that, in a lot of cases, a wife can be physically and mentally is not only the husband. I can just hear it now.... when they left the show, she no doubt felt like you were taking her side, even though you DID mention that what she was doing was wrong too, but hey! She can probably brag to her husband now saying "See? See? Even Dr Phil says YOU are the abuser, not me!" You let her get away with it.... and which of them felt remorse at the whole thing? NOT HER. HE was the one who broke down. Oh,she dabbed at her eyes, but there seemed to be no tears to dab! You got it wrong this time, Dr. Phil By:canadianmandy Never before have I felt such a strong need to comment on one of Dr. Phil's show, as I do today. I'm a divorced mother of two, who was in an abusive marriage years ago. I totally understand what it is like to be mentally, verbally and physically abused. I also understand the importance of stressing that there is absolutely, unequivocally no reason to ever lay a hand on a woman (or child)..end of story. NO excuse. It's just wrong, period. That said though, I was not only angered, but disgusted (for the first time ever) when Dr.Phil simply referred to what the wife was doing as 'relationship issues'. Dr.Phil.. SERIOUSLY?! Come on. I don't care what his size is in comparison to her. I don't care what his 'muscular' make up compared to hers is.. Abuse is abuse..period. And when that man has to take refuge in a closet from her..that IS abusive behaviour. NOT simply a relationship issue. Don't get me wrong. I did not, nor ever will agree with raising a hand to a woman as ever 'justifiable' and yes, someone needs to take the high road when situations escalate, but please don't ever minimize the abusive situations that some men find themselves in again as 'relationship issues'. Men have found themselves being slapped, punched, kicked.. with or without objects/weapons, men have found themselves being mentally and verbally abused..and I won't ever believe that is any less 'abusive' simply because the victim may be 'larger' and male. It is a statement like you made tonight on your show that could have men NOT come forward should they find them-self in an abusive relationship. Sorry, I mean having "having relationship issues" with their wife/girlfriend. I've been a loyal fan of the show since it first aired..and will continue to be so. D.Phil is an incredibly warm, kind, intelligent man who has my utmost respect, but todays show he really disappointed me. By:lollydunc I absolutely feel as though domestic violence is a real thing I also agree that both husband and wife on the show today need to change. However, I feel as though Dr. Phil needed to also put some pressure on the wife. I do not buy into the whole labels deal where the husband is the abuser and the wife is just having relationship issues. I grew up in a household where my parents fought and sometimes it would get physical. I have seen my mother get in my dads face, chase him around the house taunting him to "hit her". Then turn around and claim that she is scared of him, like the wife did today. I think that is false. If you are really frightened of someone, you would not try so hard to get them to react physically. I absolutely believe that women can be abusive as well and should be held accountable for their actions. I feel Dr. Phil totally excused that ladies actions today and I do not agree. Yes, the husband needed some kind of self control and anger management but the wife did also. I hate seeing men, like my dad, who get barraded because they are "men and stronger" when you only see that side when the wife is provocing the situation. What would Dr. Phil say about a 250 lb lady who is physical with a 150 lb man. Would it still be her having relationship issues? By: sehanoch I cannot believe what I am seeing! I should say that I am a survivor of domestic violence and was able to find a wonderful man for 12 years now. Today's show did NOT depict domestic violence! In fact it MOCKED it! How dare you say that a woman who baits and attacks her husband is equal to a woman who is legitimately beat and abused! How dare you demean women who are actually in situations of true abuse! Men may be stronger and have an advantage over a women however, women are more emotionally adept and can, will and DO abuse, manipulate and destroy men emotionally. I get very angry at people who just blame the men, it adds to taking the power from women. I was able to leave my first husband and rebuild my life, making strong boundaries in my life to assure that it didn’t happen again. To see someone like this woman, who baited, demeaned, and chased her husband in violence is repugnant! She does have relationship issues in that she went to her children to complain, why didn’t you discuss that emotional molestation? This, Dr. Phil, is not pure domestic violence, it is a troubled couple and a man who has no idea what to do when his 'helpmate' wants nothing but to emasculate him. I am very disappointed in you. My disappointment doesn’t matter to you but , in this case, you are very wrong. By: jaegergirl6 I found todays show really upsetting. I think you did everyone a dis-service by not holding that woman responsible to the same degree you did her husband. I have been in an abusive relationship. In fact as have many abuse women -I have been in a few abusive relationships. I can tell you that woman is in an abusive relationship of her own making! It seemed to me that she was equally as abusive and that she has adopted the drama queen attitude that wants to get everyone over to her side in order to keep the game going. "Look how hard I try and how awful he is!" "I am so sorry how awful your father is now lets go home and provoke him into being truly terrible to us so that I can feel better about myself' Poor poor pitiful me" I really think you missed the boat on this one today and it is to bad because there is real abuse happening out there and this wasn't it. These two people are both in need of help but neither one of them is more to blame than the other. Their poor kids. Oh and I think you owe his sister an apology. Thanks Dr. Phil! Your ignorance on male victims and female perpetrators helps us to bring more public awareness to this issue. It would seem that we are not the only ones who are sick and tired of excuse's being made for women's violence and seeing male victims being portrayed as abusers just because they are men. Take heed Dr. Phil, the truth is finally coming out! Soon no one will believe the myth that only women are victims and men abusers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's Not a Conspiracy Guys, It's the Law! Or Is It?

I happened upon an article in the Lawrence Journal World News (LJWorld) that caught my attention. The article was about how the Douglas County (KS) prosecutors and Lawrence Police Department were awarded a one year STOP grant, made available through the federal Violence Against Woman's Act (VAWA).

The article mentioned that obtaining this grant would allow these prosecutors and police to create a new position within the prosecutor’s office to fight domestic violence and other crimes against women, promote a police officer to detective so that he/she could investigate domestic violence and other crimes against women and hire on a new police officer to replace the promoted one. Good news for victims in Douglas County right?

Of course, being the ever vigilant domestic violence victims advocate that I am my keen eye focused in on the fact that this grant would be used exclusively for investigating and prosecuting domestic violence and other crimes against women. So I wondered as I often do in reading articles such as this, "Why just female victims, why not for domestic violence and other crimes against both women and men in heterosexual and same sex relationships?" After all, didn't these fine folks realize that at least 30% of the domestic violence victims ages 20 to 59 were male and 25% of the suspects/offenders age 20-59 were female in the State of Kansas in 2009.

By the way I found no mention of sexual orientation of victims or suspect/offenders in the crime stats report so your guess is as good as mine as to how many male victims were perpetrated against by their female or male intimate partners and how many female suspect/offenders perpetrated against their male or female intimate partners. The report also stated that roughly 38% of the victims and offenders were boyfriend/girlfriend, about 16% were spouses, 4% were ex-spouses and in 12% of the cases the victim was the suspect...not sure what to make of that last statistic.

Douglas County has a population of about 115,000 people. More than likely there were male victims and female suspect/offenders in the 975 domestic disturbances that the police responded to and 598 incidents of domestic battery and 11 stalking cases that were investigated in that County in 2009.

Now gender inclusive domestic violence advocates like me in reading this LJWorld article might think it's a conspiracy, the police and prosecutors (and the battered women's advocates) will do anything to keep male victims from being acknowledged, seeking services and receiving help. However, it's not a conspiracy guys, when it comes to using VAWA i.e. STOP grant monies it's the law.

Dr. Richard Gelles, who is a Dean at the University of Pennsylvania and has done extensive research on family violence over the last four decades, testified in from of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary in May 2010 on, "The Economic Downturn and Violence Against Women," made these remarks (in part):

"...VAWA...not only...ignore[s] services and resources for male victims of intimate partner violence but the law is unique in terms of federal legislation aimed at the problem of violence and abuse in families. No other federal legislation dealing with an aspect of family violence, including child maltreatment, sexual abuse, and elder abuse singularity focuses on one sex. Even though females are much more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than males, federal legislation on various aspects of sexual abuse does not limit programs funding and protection to only females.
...While funding and regulations from VAWA may well protect a portion of the victims of intimate partner violence current funding and programs fail to provide the appropriate spectrum of care for all victims of family violence..."
VAWA, this unique law first enacted in 1994, has placed billions of federal dollars (in fiscal year 2009 alone the STOP Program awarded almost $116 million in grant funds, VAWA funds for 2007-2011 $ 3.935 billion) into the prevention, intervention and prosecution of crimes against women. While laudable on its face from the onset over the years its discriminatory nature has taken a devastating toll on male victims of heterosexual and same sex domestic violence and left them in harm’s way with nowhere to turn for help.

Five years ago, after lots of persistence and knocking on legislative doors, male victim advocates were finally able to get mention of abused men included in the 2005 reauthorization of VAWA, almost a decade after it was first voted into law. Finally, male victims would be recognized and granted the same respect, support and services that female victims were given. Not so fast…
According to a 2007 document, Frequently Asked Questions on STOP Formula Grants, on the US Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women website;

Q: Can STOP funds support services for men?
A: "Yes. However, funding may only be directed to those entities whose primary focus is combating violence against women...."The STOP statute states that "[t]he purpose of this subchapter [part] is to assist States, State and local courts (including juvenile courts), Indian tribal governments, tribal courts and units of local government to develop and strengthen effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies to combat violent crimes against women, and to develop and strengthen victim services in cases involving violent crimes against women." 42 U.S.C. § 3796gg (a). However, sub grantees must provide services to a similarly situated male victim in need who requests services. Under the anti-discrimination provision of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. § 3789d(c)(1), STOP-funded programs may not exclude any person from receiving grant-funded services on a number of prohibited grounds, including that person’s sex. In addition, in the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA 2005), Congress specifically provided that "Nothing in this title [which includes the STOP statute] shall be construed to prohibit male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking from receiving benefits and services under this title."
For years advocates for LGBT victims had questions about whether or not VAWA funding could be used for victims of domestic violence in same sex relationships. That question was clarified to some extent in April of 2010 in a memorandum opinion from the Justice Department regarding whether or not the criminal provisions of VAWA apply to conduct when the victim and offender were the same sex.
So the good news as of the 2005 reauthorization of VAWA is that the entities that primarily provide services to female victims must now provide services to male victims who request services. The bad news...prior to that 2005 reauthorization attention, funding, outreach and services had been focused exclusively on female victims for nearly a decade. After nearly a decade of promoting domestic violence as a social problem who's victims are female and perpetrators are male how many "similarly situated" male victims are going to come forward and request services? Nothing in the reauthorized VAWA mentions that male victims are entitled to the same outreach or that those entities that primarily focus of domestic violence and crimes against women now need to educate the public about domestic violence and crimes against men.
Is there any reason to think that male victims will ever be anything more than a teeny tiny footnote to battered women's advocates?