The
Fatherhood Coalition

Opinions/Editorials

Battered Men Cry for Help

By Raymond Saulnier, Bangor Daily News, Thursday, January 18, 2001


While following what the media have called the "Jonesboro homicide" in both the print and television news media over the many days since this crime occurred, I have been struck by the nature of the coverage. For the first week, there was no real mention of the fact that this was an act of domestic violence.

Had this been a woman who was shot and killed by her spouse or boyfriend, we would have seen the media headlining this tragedy as a "domestic violence" story and those very words would have been used prominently and repeatedly. This has not been the case in this situation.

The problem of domestic violence is a gender-neutral problem. Every academic study indicates this to be so. Yet the media still are prone to fall victim or remain culturally and politically correct in the portrayal of domestic discord and violence. This is not surprising with the much needed raising of our collective consciousness to the plight of the battered women a few decades ago. Since that time, the battered women’s advocates have gained much recognition, resources and positions where they have a great amount of influence. With this we have generated a belief that domestic abuse is basically a man on woman problem. This is a myth.

We have a situation existing where we are trying to treat a problem by looking at it in a skewed and biased way. Advocates for male victims are few and far between. This mirrors the plight of the battered women a generation ago. The courage for a man to come forth and seek help is greater due to cultural pressure. Men are supposed to be tough. Men are supposed to be able to take insults, slaps and just about anything short of murder. This is wrong.

When we have a case of a murder before our very eyes, we don’t even see the media calling it "domestic violence" if it is a man. This fuels the myths and keeps the blinders on. You would be amazed at how many people would stop in their tracks if you were to classify it as domestic violence, having never really thought of it that way. This is an unfortunate reality.

A week after this murder, battered women’s advocates were coming out screaming for more resources. These resources do not serve men who are victims of domestic violence. They are for women. While the names of agencies are giving the appearance of gender neutrality, the fact is, they offer little or nothing to battered men. And, what battered man is going to what is generally known as a battered women’s agency for help in his time of need?

Resources need to be allocated to benefit the other half of the battered and abused population. We need to get real experts, not battered women’s advocates, training our police, judges, probation officers, social workers and the so-called dynamics of domestic abuse. The current, so-called "training" cannot help but be gender biased in its portrayal. This is only making the problem worse and burying half of the problem.

We have the same obligation to offer battered and abused men the same services we have extended to the truly battered women who deserve every assistance we can supply them. If a battered man approaches a battered women’s agency for emergency housing, he will be referred to a homeless shelter. Why don’t we simply send battered women to them? Because this, literally, adds insult to injury and affords them no support system when they are in such circumstances.

Finally, we need to have the media more informed by doing their own investigative research on this sensitive issue and stop falling prey to the biased and self-serving information put out by battered women’s advocates who have all of the resources and power. The deep, dark, closeted secret in our society today is that of the battered and abused man. In order for us to begin to have this righteous and balanced portrayal of the dynamics of domestic violence, we need a more informed and responsible media.

In the meantime, there is a privately funded help line for battered and abused men. It is run and supported by volunteers and the volunteers pay for the toll- free number. A shelter for men is also going to be made available in the near future. However, for now, it is in need of power, heat and furnishings. The toll-free number for the Battered Men’s Help Line is 877-643-1120 access code 0757. There are support groups for battered men being formed through this organization.

 

Raymond Saulnier works with the Battered Men’s Help Line in Biddeford.

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