“[I]t is instructive to note how nervous those in the established domestic violence movement are to even the mention of the existence of abused men.
“I gave a break-out session talk at this same convention, but the organizer of the conference felt compelled to take me aside and warn me against being too controversial–simply because of the mere mention of abused men as a topic open for discussion.
“The organizers also (at the last minute and in violation of their earlier agreement) decided to add–thereby cutting my time in half–the presentation of a young woman who simply told her personal story of being the victim of abuse, even though the title of the seminar was ‘Abused Men.'”
The new, 10th anniversary edition of Phil Cook’s Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence has been released. Cook, an award-winning investigative journalist, has added up-to-date surveys on the prevalence of intimate partner violence against men with personal interviews as well as cases drawn from headlines of recent media covering politicians, and other public figures. He also includes updates on law, legislation, court activity, social responses, police activity, support groups, batterer programs, and crisis intervention programs.
Below is the second of several excerpts from the book we are publishing:
Excerpt: Abused Men-The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence
From Chapter 4: Services
Has there been an increase in services for male victims in the past 10 years? What are the prospects for a steady growth in services in the future?
The increase in actual shelter services is demonstrable, as verified by the Washington, DC, television station; there was only one shelter in the United States that also served men (the Valley Oasis shelter in the desert of Lancaster, California) 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it is impossible to say with certitude just how many there actually are today. There is now one national toll-free hotline (DAHMW) that does not discriminate against men and endeavors to find real resources for them–carefully checking out each referral to a local service organization–but it is not the vastly more recognized and well-funded National Domestic Violence Hotline from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. A non–toll-free hotline also exists (SAFE, Stop Abuse For Everyone). We just don”t know how many hotlines there are. It would be safe to say, however, that there are at least half a dozen and perhaps as many as a dozen in the United States.
There were just a few crisis lines that didn”t discriminate 10 years ago, now there are many more. How many, we can”t say for sure, and organizations go through change. However, a note of caution is needed. Some crisis lines make a public statement that they serve men, but when tested by actual male callers, they sometimes do not.
A southern Florida shelter and crisis line I know of, for example, declares that it serves men, but a former worker at the shelter told me that in reality, it does not. The National Coalition of Free Men carried out an extensive test in Los Angeles. They had a male call 10 shelters in the area. All 10 denied services; none would even give him a hotel arrangement or other shelter services.
It is interesting to note, however, that I was at one of the nation”s largest domestic violence conferences in San Diego and the moderator of a well-attended (300 or so) break-out session asked the audience how many of them now served abused men as well as women. The moderator guessed that about one-third of the audience raised their hands. I don”t think that 10 years ago that many would have raised their hands at a domestic violence conference, and indeed, the question would never have been asked.
On the other hand, while that was a positive gain for recognition and perhaps an indicator of increased services, it is instructive to note how nervous those in the established domestic violence movement are to even the mention of the existence of abused men. I gave a break-out session talk at this same convention, but the organizer of the conference felt compelled to take me aside and warn me against being too controversial–simply because of the mere mention of abused men as a topic open for discussion. The organizers also (at the last minute and in violation of their earlier agreement) decided to add–thereby cutting my time in half–the presentation of a young woman who simply told her personal story of being the victim of abuse, even though the title of the seminar was “Abused Men.’
In a much smaller venue (a local domestic violence coordinating committee composed of judges, probation officers, law enforcement agents, shelter and crisis line representatives, and other providers of services), the issue of greater recognition and services for male victims came up. The steady gaze of one female police officer who told an objector to this policy that it was the law that they not practice sexual discrimination struck me in a forceful way. It must have struck the objector as well–the vote for inclusion of an organization that supported such a policy was successful.
At another conference on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered victims of domestic violence, there were statements made about violent women by female speakers that would most likely not have been allowed to be said 10 years ago.
On the other hand, when it comes to the true nature of domestic violence in all its aspects, by many domestic violence service providers, there is much to be discouraged about. At another conference, the speaker was talking about the recidivism rate of male perpetrators. A valid topic to be sure, but I mentioned to my tablemate that maybe the recidivism rate of victims needs to be addressed as well. That is, people who return again and again to the same or same type of violent relationship. He told me, “You”d better not mention that word and victims in the same breath around here.’ The drumbeat at the majority of domestic violence conferences remains solely focused on female victims and while it may be the reality faced by these providers, examining patterns of behavior by women in these situations is forbidden and any talk of the predominate paradigm of mutual combat or how best to deal with it is not on the table.
Cook was one of the presenters at the 2008 domestic violence conference “From Ideology to Inclusion: Evidence-Based Policy and Intervention in Domestic Violence.” To learn more about his work, click here.