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Husband Abuse
by Wendy McElroy

No man is safe when personal responsibility is undermined.

On December 4, 1990, Stanley Green locked himself in his car to get away from
his abusive wife. Breaking in, she shoved him down face-first into the passenger seat, plant-
ing her knees in his back. She used a hefty cellular phone to club him repeatedly across the side of the head.
In a telephone interview, Green
described what happened when he
tried to report the attack to the police. Justice released a study on violence missing his eye. Gilliland claims that
"Blood streamed down my face. against women that claimed women women's organizations in the twin cit-
Internal injuries dislocated my ribs. committed "spousal" homicide at ies have tried to block his efforts to aid
Lacerations and multiple abrasions approximately the same rate as men abused men. Why? Perhaps they fear
marked my back and groin. My did. Indeed, this statistic has been scarce government resources would
attacker had no injuries. I told the offi- stable for the last two decades. be diverted away from women.
cer that I wanted the crime report to Every year, thousands of women In their book Intimate Violence,
note my injuries and the names of wit- seek safety at shelters for battered Straus and coauthor R.J. Gelles com-
nesses. He responded: 'We ain't takin' women. In 1974, the first battered ment, "Unfortunately, the scarcity of
a report from you, buddy.//' The Long women's shelter in the U.S. opened resources has not led to agencies. and
Beach police refused to take Green its doors in St. Paul, Minnesota. By institutions banding together to lobby
seriously because he was a man. And, 1990, over 1,500 shelters offered pro- and demand more resources for the
as we all know, women do not beat tection to women. But not to Stanley prevention and treatment of family
up men. Green. violence. Instead, as is often the case
Yet Murray A. Straus, co-director In California, the shelter for bat- when the need is great and the
of the Family Research Laboratory, tered men closest to Green was run by resources are small, there. has been
can point to at least 30 studies of the Community United Against fierce competition for the limited
domestic violence that show both Violence (CUAV) in San Francisco. resources that are available."
sexes to be equally responsible for The CUAV is geared toward gay men. After his attack, Stanley Green
starting and continuing spousal In San Luis Obispo, California, men's approached several battered women's
abuse. Some of the studies, he cau- rights activist David Gross is cur- shelters. They would not even answer
tions, leave"out data on women abus- rently organizing the Allen Wells his questions over the phone~ "How
ing men . . . because it's politically Memorial Fund for Battered should I handle the police?" he asked
incorrect."l The National Family Husbands. Wells recently committed one woman. "We don't know what to
Violence Surveys of 1975 and 1985 suicide after losing custody of his chil- say to a man," she replied. "What
concluded that men are as likely to dren to an abusive wife. would you say to a woman?" he
become victims of domestic violence Today, in St. Paul, George pressed on. He got no answers.
as women. A 1988 survey of couples Gilliland, Sr. - the director of the Yet most shelters receive govern-
in Calgary found the rate of severe Domestic Rights Coalition - has set ment funding, which requires non-
husband-to-wife violence to be 4.80/0, up a shelter for men, after years of discrimination on the basis of race or
while the severe wife-to-husband vio- effort. Gilliland is an abused man sex. In 1994, Congress allocated $1.5
lence was 10%. 2 More recently, on whose wife hit him on the head with a billion to combat violence against
July 11, 1994, the U.S. Department of board, a protruding nail narrowly women. Most of the money will go to
48 Liberty
Volume 9, Number 1 Se tember 1995

advocacy groups such as the Battered this misinformation. Newspapers such Included on the list of abused men
Women's Justice Project. And men will as the Houston Chronicle3 throw around is no less a figure than Abraham
pay taxes to support a program that such figures as "only 2% of domestic Lincoln. Mary Lincoln was known to
explicitly excludes them. violence is directed at men." And for hit him with firewood, to throw coffee
What has happened to women's once, the police agree with the media. in his face, to beat him with a broom,
sense of fair play? In a word: ideology. In cases of domestic violence, the to pelt him with potatoes and books.
Domestic violence is no longer a crimi- Houston police department uses the L~ncoln sought refuge with neighbors
nal act but an ideological one, a hate word batterer interchangeably with the and friends - and, some say, in the
crime that men commit against word male. Oval Office.
women. The official feminist line on Abused men are in a position simi- Yet many feminists would maintain
domestic violence has two compo- lar to that of women who were raped that Mary must have been acting in self-
nents: (1) wife-beating is epidemic and three or four decades ago. They are
on the upswing, and (2) such violence reluctant to go to the police or even
against men is virtually nonexistent. admit the abuse occurred. Why? Our society has a deep com-
Is domestic violence on the rise? Because they think, liN 0 one will
Not necessarily. The Thirteenth World believe me"; "I will be blamed for the mitment to the myth of women
Congress of Sociology on July 19, 1994 crime"; "I will be ridiculed"; "1 will be as helpless and innocent. At the
reported that male-on-female violence further traumatized by an unsympa- same time, we bring up girls to
had been gradually decreasing over thetic system."
the last decade. Female-on-male vio- Keith O'Donnel works with abused believe it is acceptable to strike
lence was increasing. men. After hearing tales of police a man: "If he gets fresh, just
In fact, violence in general seems to refusing to take reports, O'Donnel slap him across the face. "
be on the decline. According to the decided to check out the situation him-
Department of Justice's National self. "I posed as an abused man and I
Crime Victimization Survey, nearly asked two lawyers for help. They sug- defense when she fired those potatoes
22.1 million U.S. households in 1992- gested that I get help (mental help for at the president's head. They claim that
just under 230/0 of all households me, not her). I called the abuse hot women's violence is always in self-
nationwide - were directly affected lines and they too suggested that I get defense. Again, what do the data say
help (for me - not her) and politely about this claim?
told me that I absolutely could not stay
In her unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Dr.
with them." O'Donnel recommends
After his attack, Stanley that skeptics repeat his experiment.
Reena Sommer accumulated data on
Green approached several bat- domestic violence from approximately 450
O'Donnel explains the trauma of
men and 450 women. 4 She followed up on
tered women's shelters. They abused men, Abused women are
this research two years later. Her study
accepted today and helped. Men are
would not even answer his not so. They are silent. It isn't pride. ...
concluded that women were more likely
questions over the phone. Abused men don't feel pride - it has
than men to initiate both severe and minor
been destroyed. They feel shame - violence. The Straus and Geller studies
soul-shattering shame." back up this conclusion.
by crime. This is both the lowest num- Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Nevertheless, it is sometimes
ber and the smallest percentage of Europe had a custom called charivari, argued that violence against women is
households victimized since the incep- in which an abused husband was more important than violence against
tion of the "households-touched-by- dressed as a woman and forced to ride men, because women are more likely
crime" indicator in 1975. through the village, sitting backwards to be seriously injured. Perhaps, but
Yet on August 30, 1994, CBS corre- on a donkey. If the man escaped this women are also more likely to use a
spondent Bob Arnot reported that punishment, his nearest neighbor was weapon. A 1984 study of 6,200 cases
domestic battery is the leading cause of forced to take his place. After all, the found that 86% of female-on-male vio-
injury to American woman between neighbor had permitted such an unnat- lence involved weapons. By contrast,
the ages of 15 and 44. This figure was ural act to go on under his nose. only 25% in cases of male-on-female
derived from the study of a single, Armin A. Brott comments on the violence involved weapons. 5
very poor inner-city neighborhood. twentieth-century equivalent of chari- According to Jim Sniechowski and
The principal investigator for the vari. "Take Skip W., who participated Judith Sherven, a husband-and-wife
study, Dr. Jeane Anne Grisso, has cau- in a program on domestic violence on team who speak out on gender issues,
tioned against using any of its conclu- the short-lived Jesse Jackson Show in liTo offset men's larger physiques,
sions to apply more generally to other 1991. Skip related how his wife repeat- women more often use weapons than
populations. edly hit him and attacked him with do men (82% of women, 25% of men).
Now consider the second claim of knives and scissors. The audience's A woman with a knife, scissors, gun,
the feminist orthodoxy: that domestic reaction was exactly what male victims lamp, frying pan, and the like can be
violence against men is virtually non- who go public fear most: laughter and very dangerous and damaging."
existent. The media hurries to trumpet constant derisive snickering." Besides which, not all men are larger
Liberty 49
Volume 9, Number 1 Se tember 1995

than all women. Stanley Green's wife cannot cloak the fact that violence is ipate, for which both people bear some
weighed 200 pounds. wrong, regardless of who commits it. responsibility. Domestic violence is a
Despite these statistics, the courts Keith O'Donnel has issued an crime that needs prevention as much
are beginning to legally recognize appeal to feminists over the Internet. as it needs punishment. But first we
women as helpless victims. Consider "Consider this ... an unhealed abused must take a deep breath, cast aside our
the trial of Laurie Kyles for manslaugh- man may have a high probability of preconceptions, and examine the issue
ter. Kyles shot her husband in January becoming an abuser or of raising abus- realistically.
1994 after a quarrel in which he pinned ers. . . . A healed abused man will Stanley Green has learned this les-
her on the bed. No other violence was respect your rights. An abused man son the hard way. I asked him for the
charged. There had been no history of will look at you as a person who can most important thing he could tell peo-
prior physical abuse. and will destroy him if given the ple about domestic violence. "Educate
In her closing argument, the prose- opportunity." yourself," he replied. "The best preven-
cutor Maria Leslie reminded the jury Our society has a deep commit- tion is education. If I had recognized
that the law does not allow people to ment to the myth of women as helpless the signs of abuse I might have taken
kill each other over a quarrel. "You and innocent. At the same time, we steps earlier to protect my children and
can't blow people away simply bring up girls to believe it is acceptable myself." Cl
because they're yelling and screaming to strike a man: "If he gets fresh, just
at you, no matter how much you're slap him across the face." And when a
sick of it."6 Laurie Kyles was acquitted. woman hits a man, the attitude of Notes:
Why? Because she was a psychologi- observers is often, "Good for her." 1. Washington Times, January 31, 1994.
2. Brinkerhoff and Lupri, Canadian Journal
cally battered woman. Because women Meanwhile, men are told to never hit a
of Sociology 13:4 (1988).
are victims. woman, even in self-defense. And
3. June 12, 1994.
Crime and punishment now when they do accept abuse without hit- 4. Department of Sociology, University of
revolve around genitalia, and - ting back, society laughs at them. Manitoba, June 1994.
legally speaking - men have the Domestic violence is clouded by 5. McLeod, Justice Quarterly 2 (1984), pp.
wrong equipment. Indeed, the only gender myths and politics. The fog 171-193.
right men seem to have retained in full must be cleared away. Spousal abuse is 6. Quoted in the Omaha World Herald, July
is the right to remain silent. But silence a dynamic in which both people partic- 1,1994.

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