In Defense of Abused Men
Women must speak up in support of men
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I never thought Id be the one to stick up for mens rights. I've been a feminist since I was 14 and discovered that my 1967 Webster's Dictionary defined boy as "a male child," while girl was given as "not a boy." It started when my ex-boyfriend told me that men are afraid of women.
Men afraid of women? No, its just the opposite, I say, and run to the Web to collect gender statistics on crime and domestic abuse. In a matter of minutes, I will prove him wrong. But the facts that surface are hard to swallow.
Half of spousal murders are committed by wives? No way.
But there it is, a 1985 National Family Violence Survey of 6,000 cases, funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, conducted by Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles at the University of New Hampshire.
&n>Between 1975 and 1985, male-against-female domestic violence decreased, while women's violence against men increased. In Straus and Gelles' second study, in 1986, 1.8 million women suffered assaults from a husband or boyfriend, but two million men were assaulted by a wife or girlfriend.
Wait a minute. Women have good reason to fear men. We are afraid to leave our houses without the safety of deadbolts, a look in the back seat, automatic door locks and a purse-sized canister of mace like the one on my key chain. Some of us live with men who beat us black and blue. Many of the women in these studies must be fighting in self-defense."
No, says the National Family Violence Council: "The fact thatwomen had higher mean and median rates for severe violence suggests that female aggression is not merely a response to male aggression.
For several days, I read online citations from Journal of the American Medical Association, studies from the Department of Justice, and mens issues web pages, which are filled with testimonials from men who are or were abused by their spouses.
A 1984 issue of the Justice Quarterly says that in domestic violence, women compensate for their size by using weapons. In 6,200 domestic abuse cases, 86 percent of women who assaulted men used weapons: guns, knives, boiling water, bricks, fireplace pokers and baseball bats. Only a quarter of men who assaulted women used weapons.
Mothers kill their children. After surveying murder cases in large urban counties in 1988, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that women made up more than half the defendants (55 percent) in cases involving parents killing their offspring. (1994-95 U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics Publications Catalog, publication #. NCJ 43498, Murder in Families
In May, 2000, the Justice Department loudly announced the good news about domestic violence: in the years 1993 and 1998, the rate at which American women were attacked or threatened by loved ones (husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends) declined 21 percent. The Associated Press stories buried the statistics for men: the number of men who were attacked by wives or girlfriends remained stable, with 160,000 attacks both years.
The good news in the new Justice Department stats is this: Women may be attacking their men as much as ever, but they are apparently less successful at actually killing them: the number of men killed by wives or girlfriends declined 60 percent from 1976 through 1998, representing a steady 4% decline each year.
But the abuses committed -- and untold -- by women are widescale. Women are responsible for one-third of the sexual abuse of boys, according to the Dec. 2, 1998 Journal of the American Medical Association. Women pressure boys emotionally by saying something like, If you don't do it, you're not a man, and I'll tell everyone."
Matt Vegh, a Canadian charter rights advocate, has spent two years assisting male victims of domestic violence in the provincial courtrooms of Ontario, Canada.
"Make absolutely no mistake," Vegh said. "Women can smoke dope, booze it up, throw a fist, wield a knife, use a gun, beat their spouse, and beat their kids. It is a type of violence that is ignored, condoned, and treated as frivolous by a justice system that survives by feeding on the one individual who is easily stereo-typed, lacks public sympathy, does not raise fear of reprisal in politicians, and often does not fight back."
Vegh recently took a month-long sabbatical to the Arizona mountains, where he mused that the most important service he offers his clients is not legal advice, but simply to believe in them. To listen. These men are victimized by their spouses and then ridiculed by a justice system that denies what has happened to them, he said. They are stereotyped, labeled, and unheard by any authority. The human toll is staggering.
As the weeks go by, I talk it over with three men friends, and am shocked to find that all of them were abused by either their mother or their wife.
My life would have to be in danger before I would hit a woman, says my friend Al. "I took a lot of scratches and bruises from my wife over the years because she knew I wouldnt hit her back. But it will affect me for the rest of my life. It demoralizes you. It makes you almost dysfunctional with the opposite sex. People dont understand; its not a matter of being more powerful. Al never sought counseling to heal from spousal abuse because, Its shameful to talk about being beat up by a woman.
I understand why women might be angry. We are beaten, too. Our mothers and our grandmothers and our great-grandmothers have lost hundreds of years skulking in the shadows, laboring quietly and longing desperately for the glance that says, You are my equal; looking and working our best and waiting patiently for the promotion, the hand up, the acknowledgement of a job well done, the camaraderie for chrissake.
But my feminist ideals are crumbling against the gender truths of the new millinneum. Boys are shorted in school, too. In Atlantic Magazine (May, 2000), Christina Hoff Sommers refutes the landmark studies of the past three decades and demands that boys, not girls, are the emotional and academic underdogs. Hoff says that data from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Center for Education Statistics, and university studies show that girls get better grades, have higher educational aspirations, outnumber boys in student government, honor societies, on school newspapers, and in debating boys.
Girls read more books, outperform boys on tests for artistic and musical ability. On the other hand, more boys than girls are suspended from school. More are held back and more drop out. Boys are three times as likely to receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. More boys than girls are involved in crime, alcohol, and drugs. Girls attempt suicide more often than boys, but it is boys who more often succeed. In 1997, a typical year, 4,483 young people aged five to twenty-four committed suicide: 701 females and 3,782 males.
A boy today, through no fault of his own, finds himself implicated in the social crime of shortchanging girls. Yet the allegedly silenced and neglected girl sitting next to him is likely to be the superior student. She is probably more articulate, more mature, more engaged, and more well-balanced. At the same time, he is uncomfortably aware that he is considered to be a member of the favored and dominant gender.
Mary Matalin was right when she wrote in a 1993 Newsweek column: We are not victims; our daughters are not infants; our sons are not brutes; our men are not monstrous pigs. If women hate the idea that only men can be strong, wed better reject the myth that only women can be gentle. If we aspire to leadership, its time we take responsibility for our own capacity to abuse and victimize others.
As for me, I am weary of the gender war. Besides, men dont look so scary as as they did when I was in my 20s and 30s. Today, they just look like people walking down the street.
Because a man in my life dared to speak up to me, I researched the problem of women who abuse men. It was a very painful discovery. Now, I do not miss an opportunity to speak up when I hear another woman blurt the things that we all hear each other say every day: men are aggressive, men are stupid, men are nonverbal: all stereotypes. Women must treat men the same way that they believe men should treat women: with respect. The golden rule was not made for men: it was made for every breathing soul.
Women have been on a self-righteous soap box for a long time. Men have cowered in the face of feminism and other movements that have been used by those who want to avoid looking at the consequences of their behavior.
Women hit. Women kill. Men are taught not to hit back.
Occasionally, a concerned mother of a boy writes to ask what I can do for her son or what she can do. I believe the best force of change is not to raise hell but to write thoughtful letters, quote research, and add your own personal story if possible. Send the letter to the school board, to the school superintendent, to the mayor, to the governor, to the local news station and the local newspaper and the local radio station. Speak up in defense of men.
See Scholarly Research for this essay.
Battered Men's Helpline: 1-877-643-1120 access code: 0757
Men and Domestic Abuse
Family Violence Prevention Services http://www.serve.com/fvps/
S.A.F.E (Stop Abuse For Everyone) http://www.safe4all.org/.
National Men's Center http://themenscenter.com/national.html.
Domestic Abuse Defined: http://www.dvmen.org/dv-9.htm#pgfId-1000404
Men's Issues Page
For a powerful, well-researched list of assaults by women on their male partners, see http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm (an annotated biliography by Martin S. Fiebert, Dept. of Psychology, California State University, Long Beach, CA.)
Go to next essay: It's time we began Freeing the Soul From Fear___________________________________________________________
Books about battered men:
The Abuse of Men : Trauma Begets Trauma by Barbara Jo Brothers (Editor) (published Aug. 2001)
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