The hidden half of domestic violence
How to have eternal life
Philip Cook talks about it.
From the Oregonian newspaper: http://www.oregonlive.com/oped/index.ssf?/oped/00/11/ed_71cook04.frame
Violence against men also deserves society's attention
Congressional act does a disservice when it limits funding for programs only to women
Saturday, November 4, 2000
IN MY OPINION Philip W. Cook
With the unanimous support of the Oregon congressional delegation, Congress has approved spending $3.3 billion to combat domestic violence -- but only against women.
Proponents of the Violence Against Women Act contend that this discrimination doesn't matter because a majority of victims are women. One wonders how this view might sit with civil libertarians if it was African Americans or Jews, for example, who were denied government services because they're a minority.
In fact, a large number of domestic violence victims are men: A national survey financed by the act put the figure at 35 percent. The lead researcher, Patricia Tjaden of the Center for Policy Study in Colorado, called that "a significant number." The study, she said, "should not be taken to mean there should be no concern or resources for them."
Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., has responded to inquiries about the act's shaky constitutional ground by contending that there is legally "exceedingly persuasive justification" for a gender-biased law, because there are more women victims. The U.S. Supreme Court however, has decided on only one aspect of VAWA, throwing out the portion that would have allowed suits in civil court. Arguments that it violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution have yet to be heard.
Wu also believes that it is the intent of Congress that funding can be used to provide services to men. The Department of Justice, which administers the act, apparently hasn't gotten the message. According to Linda Mansour, a Justice Department spokeswoman, "This is the Violence Against Women Act. We cannot fund the men's groups." A number of applications seeking funding for male victims have been denied.
It is not just the federal government however, that wants to ignore services for men. The Portland YMCA says it isn't interested in establishing a domestic violence program for male victims similar to the YWCA effort for women. Chemeketa Community College in Salem has sponsored Oregon's largest domestic violence conference each year, but experts on male victimization simply aren't invited.
It may have made more sense in the past to ignore male victims, because of an imbalance of economic power that kept many women tied to their abusers. Things have changed, however; one-third of married women now earn more than their husbands. Given that abused men face a greater likelihood of losing contact with their children, and when one considers that there are no crisis lines, shelters or other services specifically for abused men, the inhibitors against leaving a violent home life are at least fairly equal.
Abused men may have an even tougher time leaving because they face a level of ridicule and lack of sympathy that women most often do not.
Due to a lack of public education about the complexity of domestic violence -- half the time it involves mutual combat -- a lot of people have difficulty believing that a man can be abused in the same manner a woman can. The facts tell us, however, that women frequently make up for size and weight differences by attacking with objects and weapons.
With the support of the Oregon congressional delegation, the federal government has acted to ignore the full reality of domestic violence. Oregonians should tell their representatives in Congress that they do care about half the population and that discrimination on any basis is wrong.
Philip W. Cook of Tualatin is the author of Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence." His Web site is:
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