NCFM-LA's Lawsuit Against Shelters is Valid Response
to County's Refusal to Help Abused Men
For over a decade the Los Angeles County domestic violence establishment has ignored the entreaties of men's activists to recognize and provide services for abused men. In response, the National Coalition of Free Men Los Angeles recently filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against 10 taxpayer-funded County shelters. It is our hope that this lawsuit will finally end the County's shameful neglect of those whom domestic violence researcher Richard Gelles calls the "missing persons of domestic violence"--male victims.
Research shows that the need for services for male victims is acute. According to the three largest studies of domestic violence ever conducted, men comprise at least 35% and perhaps as many as 50% of domestic violence victims. In "References Examining Assaults by Women on Their Spouses or Male Partners: An Annotated Bibliography," California State Long Beach University professor Martin Fiebert lists 138 scholarly investigations (111 empirical studies and 27 reviews and/or analyses) which "demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners." The aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 100,000.
Research shows that women compensate for their smaller size through their greater use of weapons and the element of surprise, and that only a small percentage of female domestic violence is committed in self-defense.
While official statistics indicate that men are responsible for over 70% of partner homicides, they do not properly account for two of the most common female methods of killing--hired killings (which the FBI classifies as "multiple offender killings") and poisonings (often misdiagnosed as "heart attacks"). When considered along with the much greater number of unsolved murders of men, these push the number of males murdered by their female partners close to the number of women murdered by their male partners.
According to Gelles, co-author of Behind Closed Doors: Violence in American Families, abused fathers are in a particularly agonizing position. They can't leave their wives because this would leave their children unprotected in the hands of an abuser. If they take their children they can be arrested for kidnapping and would probably lose custody of their children in the divorce, again leaving their children in harm's way.
In the highly publicized Socorro Caro murder case, for example, Socorro abused her husband Xavier so badly that he almost lost sight in one eye. Trapped and not knowing what to do or where to go, Xavier endured the abuse, one time warning his wife "one day you are going to do something that cannot be undone." A short time later Socorro murdered three of their four children.
Despite the need, the reaction from the Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to advocates for male victims of domestic violence has been indifferent at best. In early 2002, NCFM-LA and the domestic violence advocacy group Stop Abuse For Everyone submitted a proposal to the Council which called for a task force to address the issue of abused men. The Council never even responded to this proposal.
Domestic violence shelters can and have provided services for both male and female victims of domestic violence. The Valley Oasis shelter in Lancaster, the only shelter in all of Los Angeles County which admits male victims, has for years set aside space for men and has at times mingled male and female victims without incident.
While County women's advocates have often done laudable work in the service of battered women, they have at the same time practiced divisive gender politics which have prevented the creation of much-needed services for male victims and their children. NCFM-LA hopes that its lawsuit will end the County's neglect of male victims and set the basis for new, depoliticized policies which can help end the plague of domestic violence for both women and men.
©2007, Marc Angelucci and Glenn Sacks