Friday, January 20, 2006

 

Official Bias in Kentucky

While I know longer live in Kentucky I became somewhat familiar with Kentucky's bias towards domestic violence due to a chance incident. While I was reporting what I believed to be a case of child abuse, I noticed a brochure on the worker's desk concerning domestic violence. One of the messages of the brochure was that all domestic violence was committed by men.

I asked the worker, who had a Master's in Social Work degree, about it and she stated that just the previous week she had been to a workshop on domestic violence and had been told 90% of all domestic violence was committed by men. (So not quite all.) I decided to do a little research on the Internet.

What I found was that Kentucky indeed, at that time, about year 2000, considered all domestic violence a man battering woman problem. They even had an online domestic violence training module that stated such. The training module has since disappeared. Maybe that had something to with my having sent an email to the American Coalition of Fathers and Children about the module. I wish I had downloaded a copy for future reference.

Things have changed only slightly since then. Today I performed some searches on the ky.gov website and still found a heavy bias although not quite as obvious. My intention here is not to argue the statistics of domestic violence, abuse and related crime. Such statistics are influenced by many factors - unreported incidents, undetected incidents, differing opinions of what's abuse, etc. My intention is to show the imbalance of official policy and lack of equal protection under the law that the U.S. Constitution supposedly guarantees.

First I found this link to the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association Certified Domestic Violence Advocate Certification Program via the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Reviewing the mandatory and suggested reading list I found eight reference to men. Seven of the references were to men as abusers/batterers. The other was a reference to gay men. I found 122 references to women. All references were to women as victims except for a few that addressed women and substance abuse. Hardly seems to be a balanced approach. Although KDVA is a private agency, the Kentucky state government website will send you there.

At the Kentucky Attorney General's site, the list of programs contains this tidbit: "On-staff violence against women prosecution specialist," nothing relating to men.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services also has a "Concurrent Child Maltreatment and Domestic Violence Tip Sheet". for its workers. The language is generally gender neutral except at one point: "Has he been specifically abusive to the children?" Am I being too picky or is this a Freudian slip in print? Are women never abusive to children? We all know the answer to that question.

Just for laughs I found this abstract on Violence and Stress Experienced by Female Long-Haul Truckers. I don't know what percentage of long-haul truckers are female, but I bet it's pretty small. Of course, male truckers never experience violence or stress.

Other facts lost in all this because of the focus on domestic violence are: Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

I'm not arguing that any violent crime be ignored. Women and children victims of violent crime need protection. But so do men who are victims of violent crime. Yet, they are not only being ignored and denied equal protection but being viewed only as the problem.

Comments:
I wonder how much that has to do with the rate at which violent crimes against men are reported by the men. I'm sure we'll never actually know the numbers, but how many fellas do you know that would go to the police and say "I got beat up by a girl" or "I got hit by a girl"?

I don't know very many.

Femininity tells women that when there is a problem, they should go and get help. This is what women tell to other women. Sometimes issues, especially those concerning violence, are dealt with 'in house' if the woman has brothers or big ex-boyfriends she trusts. Other times (mainly because dealing with issues 'in house' can cause more problems than it solves), women seek the help of professionals. That sends them to 1) psychologists, 2) social workers & 3) the police.

Even with all that we are talking about, most women choose instead to just live with the issue and do not report it.

On the other hand;

Masculinity tells men that, if there is a problem, he needs to "be a man" and handle it himself. If a man has already found himself in a relationship where he is the subject of violence, I would hazard a guess that his attempts to handle the situaion 'in house' have failed. His only options are to 1) seek professional help, 2) ignore the issue and continue the pattern of abuse, 3) return violence with violence and 4) leave the situation entirely.

If he seeks professional help from 1) psychologists, 2) social workers and 3) the police, not only does he have to deal with his own sense of having 'failed' as a man (as masculinity tells him) but also must deal with individuals in three professions who he thinks (not entirely incorrectly) will be laughing at him for bringing the matter up in the first place.

But I can't really place so much blame on the professionals in this case. While the actual numbers of domestic violence are skewed by factors that we are speaking about right now, the professionals deal with reported cases. Those are generally women getting abused by men, and badly. Having known many individuals who work in all three fields (psychology, social work, law enforcement) that in and of itself can take a heavy psychological toll.

90% of what these individuals see (and 100% in some cases) is male on female violence and abuse. In a perfect world, professional standards would overcome any prejudice that arises from that. But back in the real world, deal with 9 cases where a woman has been abused by a man, and you will start to see all men as the bad guys.

So seeking professional help is a kind of Catch 22 for the fellas: if you seek professional help, you run into bias because the system doesn't believe you. The system doesn't believe you because guys don't usually seek professional help.

The other options for the battered male: 2) ignore the issue and allow the pattern of abuse to continue. Most guys would fall into this category.

3) Return violence with violence? This puts you into the system on the wrong end, and only perpetuates the cycle.

4) Leaving the situation entirely. This is simply the best option, but it can be complicated at best and devastating at worst. (I understand that you know about that far better than I) The best implementation of the "leaving the situation entirely" plan, (and it is a good one for men and women to adhere) is to leave the relationship when you know it is not going to work out.

I know that's easier said than done, and the longer a relationship lasts - the more economically involved you are and if any children are involved. That makes it harder to leave, especially when kids are involved.

The only way to cut down on abuse of any kind is to be more aware at the onset, to recognize problems and compatablity early and not get to the point where violence is an answer. Once you're there, however, for men or women, the best option is still to leave the situation - and handle the break with as much maturity as possible.

I also understand that this is far easier said than done.
 
Good points about the feminine vs masculine way to seek help/handle the problem. I've known a few guys that got punched by women for whatever reason.

One is particular was a guy who went out on a date with a girl who was into power lifting. He made a joke about her muscles and she gave him a black eye. As college dudes, we all thought it was kinda funny. It was never reported to the police or anything and, as you point out, he was laughed at. But what would have happened if the roles were switched?

My jock little sister beat up a boy in the eighth grade. She did get in trouble though. But to suggest, as we see to often, that women are always the victims is blatantly false.
 
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