Northwest Arkansas Times

AT LIBERTY : Politics of abuse

Tresa McBee
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Northwest Arkansas Times

October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but it isn’t likely to mark much awareness of abused men. Well, of course not, you think. Men abused? Those of the macho, brawny, shoot- ’em-up gender falling victim to violent women? Doesn’t happen. Never heard of it.

Exactly. That’s the way proponents — dare I say, mostly women — of gender-dependent violence want it.

Consider a recent annual gathering in Boston to remember abused women killed by spouses or former significant others. For the first time, this year’s event included the name of three men allegedly killed by female partners in unprovoked attacks last year.

Battered women advocates are not happy. Theirs is a female-only agenda where men have no place.

Consider what Nancy Scannell, legislative director of Jane Doe Inc., a Massachusetts-based domestic violence coalition, told The Boston Globe: "Men are sometimes victims of domestic violence. But the attempt to be inclusive (of male victims) should never be interpreted to mean that the issue is gender-neutral. It does not change our mind about why (domestic violence) happens. It happens because of sexism and power and control of men over women in our society."

Not even subtle. Not even a pretense of concern, as in, sure, we’d love to assist that teeny segment of slightly injured men but we’re far too overwhelmed helping the vast number of female victims of the patriarchal machine of oppression and subjugation.

They don’t have to. Battered-women advocates have so cornered the market with women-only information that the other side is ignored, squelched or fought — often aided by legislators eager to satisfy compassion and politically correct requirements and by courts that favor female plaintiffs who are quite aware of the childcustody cards they hold.

While we are likely to hear that about 98 percent of batterers are men, we’re less likely to hear that women perpetrate the majority of child abuse (and thus can be violent) or that studies have shown that women do indeed initiate violence. One such study was led in 1985 by Murray Straus, co-director of University of New Hampshire’s Family Research Laboratory, and found an almost equal percentage of men and women hit, slapped or kicked partners. It also found that women didn’t hit back only in self-defense but were just as likely as men to initiate violence. And even if you consider Department of Justice data indicating, depending on the year, that upwards of 85 percent of battered victims are women, that still leaves a percentage of abused men that is not insignificant.

But research relies on arrests and reporting, both of which can’t account for men who never call the cops or don’t honestly answer researchers’ questions and thus don’t become an official number. Seeking help is hard enough for battered women who deal with decreasing social stigma and increasing awareness, much less for a man who must cope with the embarrassment of admitting that a woman is the source of his injuries.

How interesting that following each incident of teenage boys shooting at school, we’re treated to a parade of experts telling us that our boys are murdering in reaction to a society that denies their feelings, and if they could just openly admit those feelings without fear of ridicule we’d go a long way to filling that emotional void and stopping violence. Why is it we don’t encourage silent, abused men to likewise open up?

Because battered women are often a political means to an agenda-driven end that continually casts us as pathetic victims of a male-dominated culture intent on squashing women at every turn, violently if necessary.

Nevermind that violence has zilch to do with gender. Yes, women are more vulnerable for serious injuries and death from abuse. And no, battered men can’t be literally defined as an epidemic.

None of which alters how violence should be viewed — as something no person ever deserves, and that we, regardless of gender, won’t tolerate.

It’ll be tough. Addressing violence as a problem affecting society inclusive of all of us, even men, goes against women-only advocates who prefer to create and maintain chasms into which their agendas become entrenched.

Tresa McBee is a staff writer at the Northwest Arkansas Times. Her column appears on Tuesdays.