Court requires equality in domestic violence shelters
Posted Dec 09, 2009
"Oh, a storm is threatening
my very life today.
If I don't get some shelter
oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away"
- The Rolling Stones
Are you in serious danger from your partner or spouse? Has your partner or spouse been hurting you? Threatening you? Stalking you? Controlling you? Luckily, we have a system of over 2000 domestic violence shelters across the country specifically created to provide you a safe haven from abuse and a place to get your life together.
That is, of course, unless you are a man. According to a National Institute of Justice report and the most recent statistics we have, 835,000 men reported that they were victims of domestic violence in 2000. Only about 15-20 shelters nation-wide serve abused men, and only a handful of those strive to be welcoming to men in trouble by adopting gender neutral language and/or services specific to men.
On October 8th of this year, a County Circuit judge in West Virginia took a stand similar to that in California. Judge James C. Stucky ruled that the State's health and penal regulations denying abused men access to publicly-funded shelters, and denying female abusers access to treatment, is discriminatory.
These landmark decisions will change the way we, as a nation, view intimate partner abuse for years to come. To require equal access to services means admitting what many people serving victims of domestic violence have known for a long time: women can be abusive and men can be in real danger from their female partners.
Consider some famous examples: David Gest, Liza Minelli's ex-husband, claimed he was regularly beaten by Minelli during the course of their marriage. Tiger Woods may be the most recent victim, who according to speculation, was fleeing his wife's abuse when he crashed his SUV in his neighbor's yard (although Woods vigorously denies this version of events). Public reaction to the abuse these men allegedly suffered has ranged from outright disbelief to malicious mocking - responses that would be shocking if the victims had been women.
Perhaps we should take a page from other nations that are beginning to recognize the importance of this hidden social problem. This past February, the Netherlands opened up domestic violence shelters specifically designed for male victims. Immigrant, gay and straight men, individuals who are transgender and male victims of trafficking are all potential targets for violence who need our help.
It is high time that we recognize this problem and do something about it. That doesn't mean that we need to roll back any of the advances we've made for female victims - what it means is that we need to recognize that all human beings deserve to be protected from violence.