By Dr Tara J Palmatier
Shrink4Men,AVoiceForMen and DAHMW (the Domestic Abuse Hotline for Men and Women) would like to shine a spotlight on a group of individuals who comprise approximately half the victims of domestic violence. A group who is afforded very few resources and are typically ignored and/or ridiculed when they speak out about their victimization — often by the very individuals seeking to raise public awareness about the insidious social malady of domestic violence.
Who is this invisible and marginalized group of domestic violence victims pushed to the periphery of public awareness?
[*If you are already aware about the difficulties male victims of domestic violence face, please scroll to the end of this article to find out how you can help.]
Men are turned away from most domestic violence shelters. Men do not meet eligibility to receive aid from most domestic violence support organizations by virtue of being men, which is nothing short of overt discrimination, sexism and bigotry.
To the best of our knowledge, there are no court advocacy programs for male victims of domestic violence. Men (and their children) are not eligible for state and federal stipends for safe housing from their female abusers. There are no free or subsidized counseling programs nor are there free legal services/legal aid for male victims of domestic violence.
In the United States, there is only one shelter for male victims of domestic violence (the Valley Oasis Shelter in Antelope, CA) out of the approximately 1,800 shelters available to women and their children nationwide. Canada also used to have a domestic violence shelter for men that was run by the late Earl Silverman.
Mr. Silverman committed suicide this past spring after succumbing to a state of learned helplessness and hopelessness after years of begging for funding and assistance for his much needed shelter. Essentially, Canadian women’s domestic violence organizations locked arms and blocked Mr. Silverman from the funding trough. The same thing happens to organizations like DAHMW in the United States.
The repeated message to organizations that want to help male domestic violence victims seems to be, “Be grateful for the few scraps of government funding that drop from the table and if you complain about the disparity, you won’t even get that.” The reality is that most governments are willfully blind to and/or profit from the suffering and victimization of their male citizens. Since men are currently the most underserved group of domestic violence victims, one would think funding the few organizations that help this population would receive priority from state and federal programs. Instead, male abuse victims are begrudgingly acknowledged, that is if they are acknowledged at all.
According to RADAR (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting), less than 10% of the United States OVW’s (Office of Violence Against Women) funding is used to help male victims. A big part of the problem lies in the very names of the OVW and the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act). “Violence against women” is exclusionary and ignores half of all domestic violence victims. Even worse, it demonizes men as perpetrators and women as victims in the majority of domestic violence cases, which simply is not true.
It also doesn’t help that the U.S. Department of Justice refuses to fund research about male victims of domestic violence. On page 6 of the DOJ’s solicitation for proposals on intimate partner violence and stalking, they have a section that explicitly states what kind of projects they will not fund, including:
Proposals for research on intimate partner violence against, or stalking of, males of any age.
It is hard to imagine in this day and age that any victim of domestic violence is ignored, scoffed at or denied support, but this is precisely what we do to male victims. It will come as no surprise to many of you reading this that men are approximately 40% to 50% of domestic violence victims. Sadly, most people are still woefully ignorant about domestic violence in large part due to persistently dishonest and misleading public awareness campaigns, data gathered via unscientific methodology and woozles like the 1 in 4 woozle about rape on college campuses.
Despite the abundance of peer-reviewed research on male domestic violence victims and female perpetrators, most domestic violence awareness campaigns focus exclusively on female victims as if our society isn’t already well aware that women can be victims of domestic violence. Many domestic violence organizations persist in publishing long ago debunked statistics that portray women as the victim and men as the primary aggressors in the majority of domestic violence cases.
There are lots of things you can do by virtue of your job as a circuit court judge.You can (in no particular order of importance- and BTW the following is not directed at any particular judge…if the robe fits…)
Deny motions without reading them; have your JA refuse to put motions on calendar without lawyers first faxing them to you (although you don’t read them); start court whenever you want; show up late; finish court whenever you want; make juries stay until midnight in a misguided effort to show everyone how hard you work; lecture lawyers from the bench about how you tried every case you had within sixty days of inception (in other words, lie); brag about how you are on the short list for an appointment to a higher court (ditto); and otherwise feel that you and only you stand between the rule of law and anarchy.
Here’s what you must do: follow the law.
Which means here’s what you can’t do:
Have your bailiff close your courtroom to anyone at anytime without proper notice to the media and a hearing on an issue; tell people how to dress when they come to court (wearing a shirt that says “fuck you” has been held to be an expression of free speech under the First Amendment – which is part of the Constitution, which is a legal document that defines the ….oh never mind it’s a bit complicated.)
You also CANNOT take personal property of people, without following Florida’s Forfeiture Statute (and it’s not entirely clear a member of the judiciary can be a “seizing agency” under the statute. ). Which means that in order to seize the personal property of an individual, there must be an allegation that the property was used to violate Florida’s contraband laws; see, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 932.703 (West)
(1)(a) Any contraband article, vessel, motor vehicle, aircraft, other personal property, or real property used in violation of any provision of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, or in, upon, or by means of which any violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act has taken or is taking place, may be seized and shall be forfeited subject to the provisions of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
Contraband is defined as, inter alia:
5. Any personal property, including, but not limited to, any vessel, aircraft, item, object, tool, substance, device, weapon, machine, vehicle of any kind, money, securities, books, records, research, negotiable instruments, or currency, which was used or was attempted to be used as an instrumentality in the commission of, or in aiding or abetting in the commission of, any felony, whether or not comprising an element of the felony, or which is acquired by proceeds obtained as a result of a violation of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
So, oh wise robed one, pray tell what felony is the person who brings a cell phone into your courtroom, and listens to something on the cellphone with earphones, or takes a picture or video recording of court proceedings, committing?
We will save you research (which is where you open a book and read a case and ….never mind, it’s complicated)- THERE IS NO FELONY THAT ANYONE IS COMMITTING WHEN THEY LISTEN TO HEADPHONES IN YOUR COURTROOM OR VIDEO OR PHOTOGRAPH THE PROCEEDINGS.
We often see a representative of the media taking footage of a proceeding. David Ovalle (Miami Herald/San Diego Chargers) has been known to whip out a camera and take a few shots. We don’t see your bailiff wresting David to the ground or taking away his camera. There are no exceptions for the media (nor being a fan of a losing football team) that confers upon Mr. Ovalle an exception not available to us, our client, our client’s girlfriend or aunt or friend.
Sorry. We know this offends your sense of dignity. We know you believe yourself to be mostly all powerful. But you are not. We are a nation of rules and laws. We are a State of rules and laws. And to quote the last part of the standard jury instruction in criminal cases, “no one of us has the right to violate those laws.”
Now, no one is telling you that you don’t have the right to remove individuals (not a class of people) from your courtroom for being disruptive or disturbing. Of course you can. People must be quiet so you can make the important decisions you make. And you have contempt powers for people who do not follow the lawful rules of the court. But if we choose to sit quietly in the back of your courtroom and video your wise decisions during arraignments, (“deny bond, set the case for trial”- truly awe inspiring stuff) while quietly listening to NWA on a pair of headsets, there really isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.
See you in court, where quite frankly our tastes run move to Gilbert and Sullivan (The Mikado and HMS Pinafore, not really Pirates) than NWA. And sorry, we’re a bit cranky, but not having any coffee in the morning in court will do that to a blogger.