We the undersigned feel strongly that domestic violence is a horrible tragedy for men, women, and children. We have serious concerns that the services in Maryland for this terrible problem are decidedly discriminatory.
The available services in our state focus on women who are victims but ignore our men in need. The organizations that run these services seem to function with assumptions that men are consistently the perpetrators and women perpetual victims. Neither of these is the case nor helpful. The following letter written by one of the undersigned offers details about the reasons for our concern.
I have been a licensed and practicing psychotherapist in the state of Maryland for the past 20 years. Recently it appeared that I would be receiving a client who was a victim of domestic violence and in crisis. I called our local crisis center here in Montgomery County and asked about services available to people who are victims of domestic violence. There was a wonderful response about the thorough and wide ranging services available. Then I told them that my client was male. There was silence. They changed their stance and said that they couldn't take men in the emergency domestic violence shelter, that he would have to go to a motel instead. It was only for women.
Since this incident I have been learning more and more about domestic violence and have started to carefully examine the available research. I was surprised by what I found. The research gives a strikingly different picture of domestic violence than what I had come to believe through the newspapers and television. One study which is representative of over 100 studies drawing similar conclusions (bibliography attached) is by Archer, J. (2000). >"Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review". Psychological Bulletin, 126(5), 651-680. The Archer study is a meta-analysis and therefore cites much of the previous research on this topic. The Archer research clearly points out that women initiate more than 50% of the violence in relationships. It also informs us that the injuries resulting from domestic violence incidents are 62% to women and 38% to men. This left me confounded. How could it be that men comprised 38% of the victims of domestic violence but my potential client didn't qualify for services?
What I have since found out is that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), is written in a manner that recognizes only female victims of domestic violence. The title of the law makes it clear that it is interested in only women. Unfortunately, men are often victims. According to a 1998 Department of Justice report on the National Violence Against Women Survey over 800,000 men are victims of domestic violence in the U.S. each year. A rough estimate would be that there are 15,000 male victims of domestic violence in Maryland. These men have no place to go since the services in Maryland are exclusively for women. This leaves us with the unfortunate situation of having no services for men but having thousands of men in need.
The situation is further complicated by the shelters and associated services using what is known as the "Duluth Model" in their work with domestic violence. This model assumes that domestic violence is the fault of the man and sees the woman as the perennial victim. It assumes that men, by nature, oppress women. It also claims that the origins of domestic violence are the fault of men. Not some men, not men with impulse control disorders, but ALL MEN. It literally sees violence as masculine. In fact the men in treatment are required to admit that they oppress women prior to treatment. This isn't psychotherapy this is indoctrination.
This model also ignores alcohol as a causative factor in domestic violence. Research again shows conclusively that well over half of all domestic violence is related to alcohol and its disastrous consequences to the impulse control of both men and women. The Duluth model maintains that alcohol is not involved, that domestic violence is a totally sociopolitical problem. They even go so far as to claim that psychological diagnoses such as borderline personality disorder don't have a thing to do with domestic violence. As Cathy Young, author of Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality states, "Dutton and other researchers have found that wife-beating is far more strongly associated with 'borderline personality disorder' (characterized by proclivity for intense relationships, insecurity, and rage) than with patriarchal attitudes; drugs and alcohol are major factors as well." In essence we are funding not a treatment program but a program that disregards clinical findings and research and instead has its own theoretical flag to fly demanding that men swallow their sexist rhetoric. Interestingly, the rare women who the Duluth model proponents find are violent are not subjected to the same shaming treatment. The violent woman is instead asked how she was abused in the past by men and this model assumes the past abuse caused her to be violent. This of course is done because the assumption they run under is that violence is masculine.
Some men are beginning to come forward. What they are saying is very similar to what we heard from female victims when we first began learning about domestic violence in the 1970's. These men are embarrassed and fear that no one would understand, so they remain reticent. Men are embarrassed to admit that their wives have been beating them. The fact is that often these are the men who refuse to hit back when they are hit. It is not uncommon for these men to be quite sensitive and avoid violence at all costs, including the violence of protecting themselves from the battering spouse. The system is also set up so that they have no place to go, not just in Maryland, but across the United States. I have heard from men who seek services at domestic violence clinics and are told that they don't serve men.
The fact is that the tragedy of domestic violence is a human problem that involves men, women, and children in a complex and deadly interplay. At the present our federally funded programs are treating domestic violence not as a human problem but instead as a gender problem claiming that men are the problem and women are the victims. We see this not only in the VAWA legislation that focuses on women only, but in the non-existence of
treatment facilities throughout the state of Maryland and then in the reliance on an anti-male theoretical model at those treatment facilities. This is counterproductive and is hurtful to men, women and children. The present system ignores the pain of men and the violence of women. The tragic impact of this sort of intervention is that the violence is perpetuated rather than healed.
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