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. http://www.justice.gov/olc/2010/vawa-opinion-04272010.pdf
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?


  1. Dear Ms. Brown,

    I'm the moderator for a three year old community at Reddit.com dedicated to Men's Rights One of my frequent contributors recently suggested link to your blog, which I hadn't seen before, although I've linked to DAHMW for some time. I feel like I've missed out on years of excellent commentary from you and your writers. I just wanted to thank you.

  2. Hello, this article really points out alot about the gaps in the family system.
    I have had male friends ask me about writing on my blog too about male abuse at the hands of a woman.
    By chance, do you have a way to contact you by email. My blog is at http://www.the-upperhand.blogspot.com/ and I am now following yours, I would be open to chatting more about mens issues like the ones you cover.
    Flora Loveday

  3. Hi Flora,

    I hope you receive this email as I haven't been able to find an email address for you. You can contact me directly at: dahmwagency@gmail.com
    I look forward to chatting with you. Jan Elizabeth Brown.