New Lawsuit Against California on Behalf of Male DV
KNBC Los Angeles' Today in LA just did a nice piece on the new lawsuit filed against the State of California for refusing to offer services to male victims of domestic violence. I wrote about this case in my recent co-authored column Domestic Violence Lawsuit Will Help Secure Services for All Abuse Victims (Los Angeles Daily Journal, San Francisco Daily Journal, 12/28/05). My co-author, Marc Angelucci, is the attorney in the lawsuit and he appeared on the KNBC broadcast. We wrote:
"At the age of 11, Maegan Woods tried to stop a domestic dispute between her parents. She soon found herself staring down the barrel of her father's shotgun. She watched helplessly as the trigger was pulled. She is only alive today because the gun didn't fire--the safety was on.
"Maegan was abused and witnessed domestic violence in her home for most of her childhood. By age seven there had been knife attacks, punches, kicks, and more. It was hard to leave--the abuser was the one who earned the money, and the victim was unable to work because of a disability. On numerous occasions they looked for help to escape the abuse but were refused. Why?
"Because in Maegan's family, the abused spouse was her father, and the battering and child abuse were perpetrated by her mother.
"The California Battered Women Protection Act of 1994, codified in Health & Safety Codes Section 124250, et. seq., created funding for domestic violence shelter-based services. However, by defining domestic violence as something only experienced by women, the statutes exclude male victims from receiving state-funded domestic violence services, including shelter, hotel arrangements, counseling and legal services.
"Meagan, now 21, and her father, David Woods, are the lead plaintiffs in a new lawsuit against the State of California and numerous state agencies and state-funded domestic violence service providers. Beginning in the mid-1980s, David was violently attacked on numerous occasions by his wife Ruth, who suffers from a bi-polar disorder which, in her case, creates a propensity toward violence.
"On several occasions David decided that he and Maegan should get out of the house to escape Ruth's violence. However, with his disabling condition and inability to work, David had no money to provide for himself and his daughter. Numerous times he contacted a Sacramento domestic violence agency he had heard of in the media, WEAVE, but they always told him "we don't help men," and never offered him a referral to another facility. David tried churches and various programs, but all they could offer for men were homeless shelters with waiting lists. He found nothing for abused men and their children. David gave up and sank into a heavy depression."
In the KNBC piece Maegan said that when she was in Elementary School she would tell her teachers that her mom was hitting her dad and that she was upset about it but they would just laugh it off. Poor little girl.
Feminist attorney Marci Fukuroda of the California Women's Law Center gave KNBC the usual feminist line--that shelters are having to turn away thousands of women and children every year and that they operate on shoestring budgets and have no room for men.
For anyone who wonders if the shelters really do exclude male victims, I offer this: In 2002, while researching my column Baseball Player's Domestic Violence Arrest Demonstrates How Men are Presumed Guilty in Domestic Disputes (Los Angeles Daily Journal, San Francisco Daily Journal, 8/8/02), I posed as a male victim of domestic violence and called every domestic violence shelter in Los Angeles and San Diego Counties in order to determine if men really were denied services. My investigation found only one facility that would accept a male victim--Valley Oasis--and one other, in San Diego, which offered the possibility of placement. Yet while domestic violence leaders like Fukuroda deny there is a need for services for male victims, several of the shelter directors and workers I spoke with while posing as a DV victim said that much more attention and resources needs to be directed towards male victims, and expressed sympathy for their plight.
Patricia Jones, the Assistant Director of the Valley Oasis Shelter in Lancaster, CA., told KNBC that "everybody here believes that a victim is a victim. It's not about gender, it's about somebody experiencing abuse."
In the KNBC piece David Woods said "I put up with the violence because I was trying to keep her from taking the children and leaving." This is a point I've emphasized on numerous occasions. In the column on the Woods case we wrote:
"Domestic violence policies based on the woman good/man bad model kept David trapped in his violent marriage in a number of ways. The biggest reason David didn't leave Ruth was Maegan. She was frequently the target of Ruth's attacks, particularly when David wasn't around to protect her and take Ruth's blows. Domestic violence researcher Richard Gelles, whose groundbreaking work on domestic violence in the late 1970s was instrumental in bringing the issue to public consciousness, explains that current policies often trap abused fathers like David. They can't leave their wives because this would leave their children unprotected in the hands of an abuser. If they simply take their children, they can be arrested for kidnapping. Moreover, they would probably lose custody of their children in the divorce anyway, again leaving their children in harm's way.
"These cases often have tragic results. In the highly-publicized Socorro Caro murder case, Socorro often abused her husband Xavier, a prominent Northridge, California rheumatologist, and once assaulted him so badly he had to have surgery to regain his sight in one eye. Trapped and not knowing what to do or where to go, Xavier endured the abuse, once telling his wife 'one day you are going to do something that cannot be undone.' A short time later Socorro shot and killed three of their four children. Their baby survived only because Socorro ran out of bullets. She was later convicted and sentenced to death for the murders."
To watch the KNBC video, click here.
©2009, Glenn Sacks