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Battered Men - The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence

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No excuse for domestic violence. Period

© 1997 by Cathy Young

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This story based in part on:

Battering woman's story forces change in Michigan policy 

Shelters must detail help for men By Gary Heinlein and Becky Beaupre / The Detroit News. Shelters for domestic abuse victims must tell the state what services they offer to battered men under a new reporting requirement, said officials in Lansing. A follow on to the Detroit News Special Report: No place to run for male victims of domestic abuse: Shelters, support groups rare for men whose mates batter them at home, which includes Spotlight on Female Abuser: For 13 years, he never hit her .


The Detroit News series generated a flurry of mail. Detroit News columnist Cathy Young (author of tCeasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality) wrote a column about the responses, which she has been kind enough to provide to MenWeb.

No excuse for domestic violence. Period

Cathy Young
Cathy Young

Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality
by Cathy Young
A "dissident feminist" links feminist advocacy to the growing gender antagonism in politics, society, and culture--and proposes in its place a new focus on equality for both sexes.

Order on-line

In recent years, tougher domestic violence laws have had an unintended consequence - unintended, that is, by the advocates who pushed for these policies: more arrests of women. In many jurisdictions, female offenders now account for 20 percent to 25 percent of all domestic abuse arrests.

When the media have noticed this phenomenon, they have usually given the politically correct spin: Innocent, victimized women are being arrested by sexist cops and framed by their wicked male partners. Commendably, The Detroit News has not followed this orthodoxy in its April 20 and 27 special reports on the "other side" of domestic violence and on sex discrimination by domestic violence shelters.

Battered women's advocates have responded with the standard charges of giving aid and comfort to abusers. Their letters reiterate the party line: All but a fraction of the victims are female; most men claiming to be battered are really the bad guys.

In fact, the police statistic published by The News - about 20 percent of domestic assaults are female-on-male - is probably too low, reflecting men's reluctance to call the cops. Dozens of studies find that about half of all spousal violence is mutual, with women as likely as men to hit first, and that when only one partner is violent, it is equally or more likely to be the woman.

Are we talking about a little woman slapping a big man? Research suggests that women are three or four times more likely to be hurt in domestic combat, though in some studies the gap is smaller. A review of domestic calls from Detroit police records a few years ago showed that while 85 percent of the victims were women, male victims accounted for 30 percent of the serious injuries.

In light of this, the claim of one letter writer to The News, Karen March, a physician, that she has seen many battered women but not one male victim of domestic abuse may say more about her selective vision than about men's victimization.

Why are the advocates so loath to recognize male victims of abuse? One answer is that most organizations in the domestic violence field are dominated by "gender feminists" who believe that, as one brochure from such a program states, "Battering is the extreme expression of the belief in male dominance over women." The existence of gay and lesbian battering, which many programs acknowledge, casts serious doubt on this theory; but to acknowledge that women batter men would really blow it to bits.

One New Jersey case in my files speaks volumes about most advocates' view of female violence. Brenda C. was admitted to a shelter after being arrested for assaulting her husband (during a divorce) and ordered out of their home. A letter to her attorney from a shelter counselor gave a fairly accurate account of what happened: In an argument, "Mrs. C. grabbed Mr. C. by his necktie (and) he pushed her away. Mrs. C. then punched his face and her nail cut his neck." This was listed as "physical abuse" of Brenda by her husband.

Are the shelters biased against men? With a few exceptions, they are. The proposal by Michigan state Rep. David Jaye, R-Washington Township, to withdraw state funding from programs that engage in such discrimination is a long-overdue idea. While he is at it, Rep. Jay might also want to take a look at the treatment of men by police and the courts: In the aforementioned Detroit study, nearly all female victims but none of the male victims were satisfied with their treatment by the police.

In the meantime, Detroit News writers Becky Beaupre and Kenneth Cole deserve an award for reporting that promotes true gender equality. As for their critics, the amusing thing is that in their effort to deny bias against male victims of domestic violence, they end up proving the point.

Ila Schonberg, coordinator of the Alternatives to Domestic Aggression Program in Mt. Clemens, writes that even if men make up 20 percent of domestic abuse victims, that means 80 percent are women - so there's no reason to run an article that focuses on the minority. Never mind that until now, close to 100 percent of the media coverage has ignored the minority. I wonder, too, if Schonberg objects to articles about the problems of women with AIDS, who make up only about 10 percent of AIDS patients.

Reader Dawn Rogers does her one better. She opines that to focus on women who batter misses the point because "the constant verbal abuse, emotional neglect and bullying that provoke assault and battery are ignored by the law." This is, of course, the stereotypical excuse of the male batterer: "She provoked me, Your Honor."

For years, battered women's advocates have passionately - and rightly - argued that, no matter what the provocation, "there is no excuse for domestic violence." But maybe that's only for men - while for women, any excuse will do.

Cathy Young is vice-president of the Women's Freedom Network. She is the author of Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality. She can be reached at

Related: Official Washington State Policy: The Gender Neutrality Joke Funding for a state-wide initiative to increase public awareness about battered men and to serve them would violate state law requiring gender-neutral programs. Is the state's domestic violence response system and battered women's shelter system gender neutral? Shelters must detail help for men By Gary Heinlein and Becky Beaupre / The Detroit News.

Related: Gender Polarization in Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programs: The "Duluth Model" The widely-used "Duluth Model" teaches that domestic violence is just one more sign of men's oppression of women. Women don't "do" violence.

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Domestic Violence in Washington: 25,473 Men a Year
According to a Nov. 1998 Department of Justice report on the National Violence Against Women Survey, 1,510,455 women and 834,732 men are victims of physical violence by an intimate. In Washington, that's 42,824 women and 25,473 men. That includes 2,754 on whom a knife was used, 5,508 threatened with a knife and 11,016 hit with an object. Here are the data.

Help for Battered Men Practical suggestions, Hotline numbers, on-line resources. Print it out and hand it to a man you think may be battered--your caring opens him up to talking about it.

Men's Stories Here are some personal stories by battered men, and links to sites with more of them. The more we talk about it, the more we tell our stories, the more we increase public awareness that men are battered and encourage battered men to get the help they need. Send us your story, so we can post it here (anonymously, of course, unless you tell us differently.)

What's Wrong with the Duluth Model? The "Duluth Model" is the approach most widely used for perpetrator treatment--but it gender polarizes the "people problem" of domestic violence.. What's wrong with the Duluth Model? It blames and shames men. It's based on ideology, not science. It ignores drinking, drugs and pathology. Only one cause, only one solution. There's no real evidence it works. It ignores domestic violence by women. Women who need help can't get it. It's taught by wounded healers.

Latest Research Findings National Violence Against Women survey shows 37.5% of victims each year are men. Men are at real risk of serious physical injury. Murray A. Straus looks at controversies in DV research. Martin Fiebert examines reasons women give for assaulting men. JAMA emergency room study shows equal number of men, woman victims.


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