February 13, 2001
By Lisa Scott
For years, we have been told that domestic
violence is a serious problem: it must not be
tolerated in any form and every victim must be
believed. Yet, countless victims of domestic
violence are ignored by the system, dismissed as
liars, and even charged as abusers. These
victims have been hit, kicked, punched, bitten,
choked, knifed, shot, run over with cars, and
even set on fire. They are men.
Male victim. It's sounds like an oxymoron.
How can you be a male and a victim. Is it
because they don't hurt when they are hit? Is it
because they don't bleed when they are cut? No.
It's because they don't count, literally.
The recent Eastside Journal article about
firefighter Mark Sundt typifies the plight of
the invisible male victim. Sundt was charged
with domestic violence against his girlfriend,
yet the charges were eventually dropped. He
tried to get the prosecutor to file charges
against her, without success. Now he has filed a
citizen's complaint in Northeast District Court.
Over the years, intense lobbying by women's
advocacy groups resulted in enactment of the
Federal Violence Against Women Act. The act
provides billions of dollars for domestic
violence programs, battered women's shelters,
law enforcement and criminal prosecution. To aid
in passage of the bill and ensure a continued
stream of federal funding, these groups have
deftly perpetuated myths that nearly all victims
of domestic violence are female. They claim
``the No. 1 reason women age 16 to 40 end up in
the emergency room is violence,'' and ``95
percent of domestic violence is committed by
However, both government and academic studies
repeatedly contradict these ubiquitous factoids.
A Centers for Disease Control report (National
Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 1992
Emergency Department Summary) debunks the ER
claim. The 1998 Justice Department report
``Intimate Partner Violence'' refutes the 95
percent claim: of 1,830 domestic violence
murders, 510, or almost one third, were men.
Another 1998 Justice Department report,
``Violence Against Women Survey,'' found that
while 1,309,061 women experienced domestic
violence, 834,732 men were also abused -- 39
percent of all victims.
Extensive research documents that men and
women are almost equally likely to initiate
domestic violence. And, despite clear evidence
that both men and women suffer domestic
violence, the federal act remains blatantly
gender-biased. The principle reason male victims
are ignored is that no violence against women
money can be used for male victims. Police and
prosecutors who spend time on male victims of
female violence suffer a double whammy: they
directly expend scarce resources on the cases,
and they lose additional funding because for
every such male victim there is one less female
victim for which federal money is exclusively
If male victims even report a crime, they are
usually victimized a second time by the system:
at best treated with indifference or ridicule,
at worst prosecuted as the ``real'' abuser.
Gender profiling has become a prevalent practice
in domestic violence cases. Like racial
profiling, gender profiling presumes guilt based
on bias and prejudice.
Recent cases I have seen include Eastside men
who have been punched, hit, choked, scratched,
and threatened with weapons by female
perpetrators, none of whom have been charged
Change is needed. If you are a victim, stand
up and be counted. Demand action, respect and
equal rights. If you believe every victim
counts, regardless of gender, speak up. Call
your elected officials, police and prosecutors.
Demand they stop sending male victims to the
back of the bus, stop gender profiling, and stop
giving female abusers a pass.
No victim can get real justice when only some
victims are deemed legitimate. Every victim
counts, and every abuser must be held
accountable. Blaming only one gender for
domestic violence in our society needlessly
polarizes men and women, when we should be
working together for better solutions.
Lisa Scott is a Bellevue family law/divorce