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Battered Men in Washington

Official Washington State Policy:

The Gender Neutrality Joke

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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 the forthcoming book Ceasefire: 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.

The Gender Neutrality Joke


I heard a funny joke the other day. I phoned the state Department of Social and Health Services to find out about the possibility of a statewide program to reach out to the 25,000 or so men who are battered in the state each year. (estimate derived from National Institute of Justice, Center for Disease Control, National Violence Against Women survey.) She informed me that state law requires gender neutrality and would bar funding a program focusing on men's needs.

John Marshall
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

... include the tale of a 30ish Seattle therapist who, under physical attack by his lover, was fending off her blows while trying to shield his two young children.

The man finally called 911 to report the attack, then left the house with his kids after striking back once at the woman. He says he was never interviewed by either police or prosecutors, but was later charged and convicted of assault and required to pay a $500 fine, perform 100 hours of community service and have absolutely no contact with the woman. His conviction is now under appeal, which is why he asked that his name not be published.

"I was dumbfounded from the very start of the incident," the man says. "I was getting struck by this woman while I was holding my daughter and I was the one who called the police."

An observer of all these research studies is Roland Maiuro, a national expert on domestic violence who works at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Maiuro, a 43-year-old clinical psychologist, heads Harborview's anger management and domestic violence program and also edits The Journal of Violence and Victims, a respected technical publication with national distribution.

Maiuro emphasizes domestic violence is a "much more complicated" problem than its usual depiction of males as villains, females as victims.

"There has not been much published about female-to-male violence, but the phenomenon does exist. The national surveys that do look at the overall rate of violence of men toward women and women toward men have found that the rate is about equal."
"In the cause of advocacy on domestic violence, statistics seem to be quoted selectively. One of the issues we need to raise now is: At what point in our advocacy does it become oriented toward stopping the violence, instead of selecting one sex to sympathize with more than the other?"

The gender-neutral network of 44 state-funded battered women's shelters receives federal funding under the Violence Against Women Act. The gender-neutral state domestic violence hotline knew of only one program (in Seattle) to refer men to, and their Web site preaches that "using male privilege" is a major contributor to domestic violence. Battered men may seek help from the gender-neutral Domestic Abuse Women's Network, the Center for Battered Women, Advocates for Abused or Battered Lesbian, Refugee Women's Alliance, or any of nine YWCA programs.

The state Domestic Violence Hotline is about as gender-neutral as a maternity ward. When I phoned to inquire about services for men, the woman who answered mentioned only one state program, Men Working Against Abuse in Seattle, and suggested I have men call the national domestic violence hotline. Their Web site uses gender-neutral language to describe a women's experience as battered, and male batterers. Lest there be any doubt about the orientation of the site, their first page, "What is Domestic Violence" presents the "power and control wheel" of the "Duluth Model," which names "using male privilege" as one of the major contributors to domestic violence.

There is no mention, anywhere on the state Domestic Violence Hotline Web site, of male victims or woman batterers. It has three articles. The first, "The Hidden Crime," begins: One out of every four women in this country will suffer some kind of violence at the hands of her husband or boyfriend. Very few will tell anyone not a friend, a relative, a neighbor, or the police. The other two are "Information for an Abused Woman" and "Emotional Reactions of Abused Women."

The Web site has a list of batterer's characteristics, which lists as one: "containment of mate and employment of espionage tactics against her (e.g., checks mileage/times errands);" [emphasis added] Male and female batterers alike use the kids as pawns. She tells him he'll never see his kids again, and may file false domestic violence or sexual abuse charges. (see "Battered Men's Stories"). He may file for custody, or even just snatch the kids and run. The "gender-neutral" Web site sums this problem up: "...frequently using children as 'pawns' and exerting power and control through custody issues.. .may kidnap children or hold them hostage."

That's just one example. In short, it uses gender-neutral language to describe a woman's experience as a battered woman. Battered men frequently stay away from the house, or even go sleep in the car. A battered man is frequently too embarrassed or fearful of shame and ridicule to report the crime, as the many men's personal stories on MenWeb reflect. The gender-neutral Web site gives no acknowledgement of a battered man's problems. Battered men simply don't exist.

If you were a battered man, would you feel comfortable visiting this Web site or going to the state Domestic Violence Hotline for service?

Two of the major "buzz-words" in social services delivery are "outreach" and "accessibility." Are domestic violence victim services "accessible" to battered men in any meaningful sense? Or are there just too many "barriers to entry" into the service delivery system for them? As stated so eloquently by many men in the MenWeb "Battered Men's Stories" section, many men are reluctant to seek help in the first place.

If you need services locally, you can always go to the gender-neutral Center for Battered Women in Snohomish County, or the Domestic Abuse Women's Network in south King County. If you're in Walla Walla, you can call the YWCA of Walla Walla. It's listed in the state's most recent directory of services for women. "General characteristics of clients served: Women." It's one of nine (eight state-funded) YWCA programs around the state. Services are also available from the Women's Resource Center, Advocates for Abused and Battered Lesbians, Asian/Pacific Islander Women and Family Safety Center, Refugee Women's Alliance and state-funded Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services.

If you were a battered man, would you feel comfortable calling or visiting these programs?

I have just begun the necessary field work, with phone calls to a handful of centers and interviews with the director or knowledgeable staff of two. Yes, some of the centers do serve men. But I have seen no public acknowledgement that there is such a thing as a "battered men," no public education efforts on their behalf, and precious little outreach. What I have found so far parallels the Michigan experience, described in the Detroit News article cited at the head of this article and detailed below.

Battered Man? What Can You DO?
Are you battered? It's not just about physical violence. Does she get angry and throw things? Destroy things of sentimental or personal value to you? It doesn't go away--it gets worse. Where can you get help? Suggestions, ideas, comprehensive listing of links to find our more about battered men and woman batterers. Special MenWeb section on battered men.

The Web pages you are now reading are the only form of public education or victim education effort in this state aimed at helping battered men.

Whenever I speak of male abuse, I am met by disbelief and, even worse, laughter. We are looked upon as being friends of the perpetrators rather than friends of the victims, because all males are supposed to be evil and bad. I notice in talking with other shelter staff throughout the state that this attitude prevails in the other shelters, too-men are the perpetrators, women are the victims.
   -- Jan Dimmitt, Executive Director of the Kelso, WA Emergency Support Shelter

On the positive side, the Kelso program is one of the few programs (along with the Valley Oasis Family Violence Shelter in Lancaster, Calif.) nationally acknowledged for serving men. (see MenWeb's "Battered Man? What Can You Do?" page.) Both the Snohomish County Center for Abused Women and the Bellevue-based Eastside Domestic Violence Program stated they served men as well as women. Both have outreach programs coordinated with local police, prosecutors or courts, that meet with the victim shortly after a domestic violence arrest. (Realize, of course, that as the MenWeb stories chronicle, too-often the battered man who phones the police is the one arrested.) The Snohomish program has a male volunteer coordinator and some male legal advocates, I was told.

The Walla Walla YWCA program has certified Stanley Green, a "battered male" himself, as a legal advocate. Mr. Green volunteers inside and outside the state to advocate for male victims of DV. (Mr. Green is also on the legislative committee of WCSAP, the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.)

The Domestic Abuse Women's Network (south King County) knew of no services for men. The New Beginnings program (Seattle) refers men to the Men Working Against Abuse program. Men calling the program outside of office hours are told that the staff is either out of the office or on the phone. According to this phone message, their first service is voluntary "support groups for abusive men on how to become abuse-free and overcome the consequences of their past abuse for themselves and their loved ones." Second, they offer "educational programs for individuals and couples on topics such as non-violent child discipline techniques and how to heal families and relationships that have suffered from abusive relationships. Third, they offer "services for men who are victims of abuse, to help them understand the situation and get free of this abuse." They also offer public educational services. Female victims are urged to call the domestic abuse hotline. Men may leave a message. It is not clear what services are offered to battered men, or what they are to do in case of an emergency, such as a wife who is beating up on him and the kids.

Following publication of a Detroit News series on battered men Michigan officials examined the availability of services for them. Here's an excerpt from the follow-up story:

    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.
    "We decided that there had been an oversight and to fix it," said Kate Young of the Michigan Family Independence Agency. "In their agreements with the agency, the language is gender-neutral -- that service be provided to all victims of domestic violence. What we don't know yet is how that's being done."
    The 1996 requirement recently was reiterated during a meeting of shelter directors that followed stories in The Detroit News about battered men, said Margarete Gravina of the agency.
    All 45 of the Michigan shelters receiving state money have responded to the requirement, Young said, and a picture is emerging: "It looks like they have pretty much the same programs for men (as for women), except when it comes to emergency shelter."
    About one-quarter of the shelters reported that they have provided shelter or counseling to at least one abused man this year, said Young, director of her agency's Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board. ... But most [of these] shelters arrange for abused men to be housed elsewhere.

Some are skeptical:

    Jeff Gibbs, a Flint-area counselor who is writing a book about battered men, said he was shocked that the state would "imply that equal services are available to men."
    When he called shelters asking about services as part of his research, "they acted like I had the plague," he said. "Saying that you serve men is different than actually serving them."
    Gibbs pointed to the belief among shelters that domestic violence against men is rare and that men generally can't be abused by women.
    "How can you serve men if you don't philosophically believe that they can be victims?" he asked.

The reporters found inconsistencies in shelters' claims that they serve men:

    One Metro Detroit shelter, First Step in Canton Township, has the words "assisting all family members affected by domestic violence" on the front of its grant application.
    The western Wayne County facility receives $452,800 in state and federal aid through Sept. 30 to help meet that goal. But the rest of its application indicates the shelter may not be as inclusive as it is billed:
   * No men are listed among the 1,742 victims sheltered from 1993-95.
   * No men are among the advocates, intervention specialists, program coordinators and residential managers on its 36-member shelter staff.
   * Literature used by the shelter describes abuse victims only as women and children.
    First Step's director didn't return calls from The News.
    A similar picture emerges from the grant applications of other shelters in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (front page) Oct. 10, 1997
Pitt Psychologist Says Women First to Hit!
by Lynne Margolis

Conventional wisdom says that in cases of domestic violence, men attack and women are victims. But a University of Pittsburgh psychologist believes it may be the other way around- that women hit first, and men hit back because they're provoked.

Irene Frieze, a Pitt professor who teaches human sexuality and the psychology of gender, says her studies of domestic violence show that much of it begins during dating, and that the women is often the aggressor. ... Her findings were based on a survey of 300 college students conducted three to five years ago.

Frieze found that when violence was defined as any use of physical force in the context of disagreement, two-thirds of the students reported some violence in their dating relationship. Both males and females reported women were more violent than men in those relationships, Frieze said.

"Some of these women are acting in this way with extreme confidence that they can get away with it," Frieze said. But if a women smacks her boyfriend around enough, Frieze said, he may eventually get tired of it and get mean.

    Mel Feit, head of the National Center for Men on Long Island, N.Y., said university studies have suggested that domestic violence is a 50-50 proposition. Feit speculated that an untold number of men don't acknowledge their plight because they receive no sympathy.
    "The reaction is so negative, so disbelieving ... it has a chilling effect," Feit said. "The perception is that these are places for women."
    That may be the perception, Nuriel conceded, but her Oakland shelter in a converted convent does take some battered men. HAVEN recently housed a man and his children in a downstairs lounge, she said.
    "We provide all the same services for men that we do for women," Nuriel said. "The vast majority of our clients -- men and women -- don't need shelter, but need counseling. We have worked with female batterers."
    Ann Arbor's Domestic Violence Project moved into a new shelter with accommodations for men and women about 18 months ago It has housed two or three men since then, Director Sue McGee said, but it counseled a significantly larger number of gay, heterosexual and disabled men who were victims.

It's frequently asserted that the men who call centers are batterers, attempting to gain information rather than get help. This claim has always puzzled me: how could a batterer misuse information about how to get to a shelter or get a protection order? A professional at one Washington program told me that they get a lot of calls from male batterers, but with clinical training it's easy to sort those cases out. In her paradigm, domestic violence is about power and control, and it's easy to tell which men feel powerless and helpless, and are victims. Men who don't sound afraid or helpless, presumably, are male batterers.

The Detroit News article discusses this issue:

    "The biggest concern in the domestic violence community is that one of the tricks of male abusers is to pretend to be the victim," said Gravina of the state agency. "They have other alternatives (to shelters) available to them when they're victims."
    But Patricia Overberg, executive director of Valley Oasis Family Violence Shelter in Lancaster, Calif., said that attitude feeds inequality.
    "It's a family issue, not just a women's rights issue," she said.
    Valley Oasis has 11 cottages, with men and women usually separated. But when a men's cottage is full, Valley Oasis occasionally houses the sexes together -- with the permission of both. Overberg said there has never been a problem.
    "The only difference between men and women is that when he speaks up, he's subject to ridicule," she added.
    Local shelter directors see another big difference: Men are rarely harmed. They cite federal reports that battered men make up only 5 percent to 10 percent of domestic violence victims.
    A 1994 report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said an average of about 572,000 U.S. women are victimized each year by "intimate partners," compared with about 49,000 men.
    But an analysis of crime data from the Michigan State Police showed men made up nearly 20 percent of domestic abuse victims in 1995.
The DSHS data specify the total number of adults served (16,742) and the total number of children served (7,196) but only a composite number of "total adults and children sheltered" (10,521). The 10,521 adults and children sheltered are significantly less than half of the 23,938 adults and children served. Their demographic data provides information on ethnicity but no data available on the number of men served.

The Domestic Violence Hotline, which has inadequate or incorrect information on services available for battered men, handled 38,021 phone calls. They provide no information on the number of men calling.

One of the barriers to domestic violence services for battered men is legislative. According to DSHS data for FY 1997-8, less than half of the people served received shelter services. And experts agree that battered men do not need shelter services as often as women. In Snohomish County, battered men are provided shelter services through private individual arrangements. Yet the state statute specifically requires all programs directly to provide shelter services that meet the state's shelter residential facility requirements. Thus, a program that provided counseling and legal advocacy services for battered men and provided shelter services through private individual arrangements for the men who needed it (as in Snohomish County) could not be funded because of the statutory restriction. When I raised this point with the DSHS official in charge of overseeing domestic violence services, however, she said that the more significant bar to a program serving men was the requirement that services be gender neutral.

The statutory and admninistrative requirement that domestic violence services must also directly provide shelter services appears to be selectively applied, with respect to programs serving women. The national Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) inventory of domestic violence programs reports that of the 56 programs offering domestic violence services in Washington, only 34 (60.7 percent) actually provide shelter services. (This is below the national average, of shelter services offered by 67 percent of local programs.) The most frequent service is legal advocacy, provided by 51 programs. 50 provide support groups for women, 48 community education/speakers bureau, 47 training for professionals (e.g., police, court personnel, social workers), 43 educational programs in elementry or high schools, 42 independintly-run domestic violence hotlines, 37 medical advocacy programs, and 35 services for non-sheltered children. The only services offered less frequently than sheltered services are college educational programs (29) "other services" (18), batterer treatment (10) or stasitional/second-stage housing (9). However, under Washington law and policy, a program to provide men with legal advocacy, support groups, public education, professional training and school education could not be funded because it would not provide shelter services.

The joke, as I stated at the start of this article, was that the state program manager of Washington's gender-polarized domestic violence programs informed me that state law requires gender neutrality and would bar funding a program focusing on men's needs. I wonder if the 25,000 men estimated to be battered in Washington each year think the joke is funny.

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.

Related: For an overview of services and funding for Washington domestic violence programs, see the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) Inventory of Services and Funding Sources for Programs Designed to Prevent Violence Against Women: Washington. The introduction to the inventory states: "The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has identified intimate partner violence and sexual assaults against women as a significant and costly health issue. ... And intimate partner abuse is not limited to a woman but may involve her children as well." "The CDC is committed to help achieve the Healthy People 2000 objectives of reducing incidents of violence against women." The CDC inventory makes no mention of domestic violence against men, even though the CDC-sponsored National Violence Against Women survey found that each year 1.5 million women and 835,000 men are victims of domestic 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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