Jack Barnes’ wife attacked him by surprise and gouged deep,
painful scratches into his eyes with her nails, he knew he
needed to get out and he knew he needed help. But he found that little help was available.
Because he’s male.
got out of the hospital and I had nowhere to go.
I called the County Domestic Violence hotline and they
told me the only shelter that accepts abused men in all of Los
Angeles County is in Lancaster. I work in downtown Los Angeles--80 miles away.
With rush hour traffic, it would take me 2½ or 3 hours
each way to commute to work. And how would my kids stay in
L.A. County funds two dozen shelters for victims of domestic
violence, the only
shelter which accepts male victims is the Valley Oasis shelter
in Lancaster. Former
Oasis director Patricia Overberg, who courageously changed
shelter policy in order to accept male domestic violence victims
in the late 1980s, says that what L.A. County is doing is
discriminatory and illegal, and that it is leaving itself
vulnerable to a class-action lawsuit.
seen men travel 100 miles each way to receive services that were
available to women in their own neighborhoods but not to
them,” she says. “This is an important human rights
Oasis’ current director, Carol Ensign, argues powerfully for
increased funds for shelters, services, and outreach for men.
research and evidence show that domestic abuse of men is a
problem similar in magnitude to that of abuse of women,” she
says. “Forty years ago, the abuse of women was veiled in shame
and secrecy. We’ve
moved light years ahead since in gaining recognition,
acceptance, and help for battered women. Yet we bury male
need to reach out to male victims. We need to teach them to ask
for help. And society needs to see that yes, very often it is
the 6'2" male who is the one getting attacked by his
has a large body of research on her side.
Veteran domestic violence researchers Richard Gelles,
Murray Straus, and Susan Steinmetz, who were once hailed by the
women’s movement for their pioneering work on violence against
women, have repeatedly found that women are just as likely as
men to physically attack their spouses or partners. Cal State
Long Beach professor Martin Fiebert has compiled and summarized
117 different studies with over 72,000 respondents that found
that women are as responsible for initiating and engaging in
domestic violence as men are.
Studies by researchers
R.I. McNeeley and Coramae Richey Mann show
that women frequently compensate for their smaller size
by employing the element of surprise and using weapons, often
including guns, knives, boiling water, bricks, fireplace pokers
and baseball bats.
statistics indicate large imbalances in the number of domestic
against men and women largely because, as studies have shown,
an abused woman is many times more likely to report abuse
than an abused man. Many men hesitate to call the police because
they assume, often correctly, that the police will automatically
treat them as if they are the perpetrator.
from Stop Abuse for Everyone (SAFE), a non-profit group
dedicated to expanding services for all victims of domestic
violence (male or female), have taken the issue to the Los
Angeles County Board of Supervisors. According to attorney Marc
Angelucci, the California chairman of SAFE, while some officials
seem cautiously sympathetic, none so far have been willing to
come out firmly in support of getting help for abused men.
Deputies for Mike Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky have said that
they are studying the issue.
domestic violence victims like Mark Grayson, a San Fernando
Valley educator who was attacked by his ex-wife on several
occasions, bristle at the idea that the county has to
investigate to see whether or not abused men’s needs are being
met when there is only one, distant shelter willing to accept
I tried to get help it felt as if I first had to prove that we
[male victims] exist,” he says. “When my ex-wife stabbed me
in the back with a piece of silverware, instead of going to the
hospital I should have gone to the county supervisors with the
silverware still stuck in my back.
Maybe then they would have seen that male victims
need help too.”
This column first appeared in the
Los Angeles Daily News (8/21/01).