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Gender profiling prevalent in domestic violence

Eastside Journal
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 men.''

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 earmarked.

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 with crimes.

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 attorney.

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