The National Domestic Violence Hotline is part of the mainstream domestic violence establishment. They and other mainstream domestic violence organizations have certainly done much to help battered women.
However, they have also harmed children, men, and also women by unwittingly covering for abusive women and creating a system within law enforcement and the courts which has allowed many innocent men to be wrongly arrested, jailed, and stripped of their children.
One of the mainstream domestic violence establishment’s key mistakes is its denial of three decades of research which shows that women are at least as likely to attack their male partners as vice versa, and that a third of domestic violence injuries are sustained by heterosexual men. Research shows that women often employ weapons and the element of surprise to partially compensate for their strength disadvantage.
Another the mainstream domestic violence establishment’s key mistakes is their denial of the way unscrupulous women use false allegations of domestic violence as custody maneuvers in divorce or separation.
Regardless, two spokeswomen for the National Domestic Violence Hotline are to be commended for recent, groundbreaking statements they’ve made on men, women, and domestic violence.
One of the ways the DV establishment often denies women’s violence against men is to cite crime statistics or calls to domestic violence service providers. Men don’t call the police for a variety of reasons, including that they fear they will be arrested for their female partners’ violence. They don’t call DV service providers in part because they feel they won’t be helped.
Both of these issuers are borne out by research. In my recent co-authored column The violence we ignore (Baltimore Sun, 7/16/09), Dr. Holstein and I wrote:
Denise Hines of Clark University found that when an abused man calls the police, the police were more likely to arrest him than to arrest his abusive female partner. This is partly the result of primary aggressor laws. Primary aggressor laws encourage police to discount who initiated and committed the violence but instead look at other factors (such as size and strength) that make them more likely to arrest men.
When the men in Ms. Hines’ study tried calling domestic violence hot lines, 64 percent were told that they only helped women, and more than half were referred to programs for male DV perpetrators.
Instead of the “abused men don’t exist–look at crime stats or DV hotline call stats” line, Emily Toothman, a spokesperson for the NDVH, commendably recently told a reporter:
“Many male victims/survivors do not report or discuss the abuse against them. In light of this, these numbers should not be used as an extensive study of male domestic violence victims in our country. However, I hope these numbers offer some insight into this relatively unidentified population.”
Another spokeswoman, Patty Perez, adds:
“The good news is that organizations like the NDVH help both men and women. We can even direct men to support groups and help lines in their own communities.”
Toothman and Perez are quoted in Pam Baker’s fine article Men are often silent victims of domestic violence (Divorce360.com, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 7/30/09). Baker, presumably informed by Toothman and/or Perez, writes:
Of the men living with abusive women, most do not report incidents of abuse to police unless the injury is significant enough to result in emergency medical care…scientific studies by a number of renowned universities and social agencies, and governmental departments such as the Department of Justice, uncover a better picture of this victim group than police and court records…While abused men remain in the relationship for many reasons, the top three reasons…are:
1. Protecting their children.
Fearing the courts will automatically give custody to the mother, the father worries that his children will be abused if they leave the family home.
2. Assuming blame.
In this situation, men buy into the woman’s reasons for delivering abuse rather than recognizing the abuse is unreasonable. This trait is common among both women and men.
The man is dependent on the woman for financial, social, or emotional support and fears the loss of such if he leaves the relationship. This trait, too, is shared between women and men suffering abuse.
Fathers & Families asks you to write a complimentary letter to Emily Toothman and Patty Perez by clicking here.