Platform : Are 'Battered Men' More Common Than We Think?

LORI KARNEY

Director, Women Helping Women Services, Los Angeles-based service of National Council of Jewish Women

Battering is an abuse of power. The battering relationship is generally a man against a woman, or a man against a child.

While we do receive calls from men, they are not battering calls. They're relationship problems, depression, or the desire to help a woman. We have never gotten a call from a battered man.

Culturally and socioeconomically, domestic violence finds women as the victim--or survivor, hopefully. That's far more common in all cultures, socioeconomic brackets, educational areas. Percentage-wise, it's hard to believe, but the highest number of batterers are among the educated, people often in positions of responsibility. I'm certain that men do have problems in relationships, just like women.

STEPHEN JOHNSON

Executive director, The Men's Center, a San Fernando Valley-based support organization for men and their families

Men probably have been, to a large degree, silent victims. Men tend to be seen more as perpetrators. Men have not been recognized as much as victims until perhaps books like those written by Warren Farrell, including his book "The Myth of Male Power," or Aaron Kipnis, who wrote "Knights Without Armor."

I do know there are men that have been battered and are in relationships where they have allowed themselves to be battered, time and time again. It's not always the case where the man is more physically dominant than the woman. There are times when men don't have the inner strength or the physical strength to say no or move out of a destructive relationship.

Men still are supposed to be able to handle these things, to take it as a man. I know that men still have a lot of concern about being seen as weak or whiny, and don't avail themselves of the kind of counseling available.

ALANA BOWMAN

Supervising deputy for domestic violence prosecution, Los Angeles city attorney's office, and chair of the Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Council

When I testify, there's always the question: "What about battered men?"

Roughly 5% of my cases involve men who claim they have been abused by their spouses. Generally men, if they need to leave a violent situation, can spend a night on a park bench. Women spending a night on a park bench can become victims of rape. Women generally have the custody of children. And women in many cases are not working outside the home. They're not able to support themselves.

LIZA CULICK

Director, Anti-Violence Project, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Service Center

It's not that unusual for a gay man to call the police for being battered and end up being arrested as the perpetrator. Or both men get arrested. It's easier to arrest both because it's difficult to pick out the dynamic.

The dynamic in same-sex domestic violence is basically the same dynamic you find in heterosexual violence. There is a pattern of power and control which one partner exerts over another. What trips people up is it's difficult to look at a same-sex couple and be able to pick out who is the batterer and who is the victim. We are so used to being able to assume in a couple that a man is battering the woman.

There are a whole host of obstacles which don't exist for people trying to deal with violence in a heterosexual relationship. We're talking about a relationship which is often not validated by society because of homophobia. That tends to create a situation where isolation is intensified, especially for the victim. That's true for a woman in a heterosexual battering situation. It's that much more so for a gay man.

JIM SCHNIEKOWSKI

Founder and director, the Menswork Center, a West Los Angeles organization offering counseling to men and their families

I had a friend whose first wife used to beat him. He would call the police and they would come and not take the case seriously because, in fact, he was bigger than she. So how could it be that she was beating him?

There are many men who are beaten by their wives, struck by their wives, have things thrown at them by their wives, and by their mothers when they were children. They say nothing because society characterizes masculinity as being such that a man is able to take that kind of pain. If he strikes back, he's likely to end up in jail.

The danger here, and something I would work hard to prevent, is that the men who are on the receiving end of the battering do not then go on to constitute themselves as victims.

We've got enough victimhood going on in this country. I would rather they assume personal responsibility and get into therapy for some kind of psychological change, in order to get the hell out from that kind of burden.

MICHAEL CRICHTON

Author whose latest book, "Disclosure," deals with sexual harassment by a female boss against a male employee

In the same way that women in fairly recent memory were counseled by representatives of society--policemen, family members, religious figures--to go home and put up with abuse, there is a strong bias within society that men ought not to speak out. If you say your wife abuses you, physically or emotionally, this society has a lot of words for what you are. And none of them are good.

My instincts tell me that violence by women against men in this society is treated as humorous. Why is it humorous? As the move toward real equality--shared power between the genders--then these issues of abuse are going to be less funny, if only because women are going to be powerful, and be acknowledged as powerful. And powerful in exactly the same way as men.

This is a complex and shifting time of gender roles. In these times of transition humor becomes suspect. There will come a point where the major features of this transformation will have been accomplished and we can start to make jokes again. I hope so. Right now, all this stuff isn't funny. And due to get less funny.

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