Category Archives: Maryland Reports

Gynocentrism 2.0, Compassion, and Choice: The Underlying and Hidden Root of Men’s Issues

 

I have long held that compassion and choice are two issues that play a part in nearly every men’s issue. But why? What do compassion and choice have to do with male suicide or male victims of domestic violence or just about any other men’s issue? Quite a bit actually. Let’s take a look at why compassion and choice are limited for men and then see how compassion and choice are essential ingredients to the issues.

fireman-100722_640The origins of the lack of compassion and
choice for men is gynocentrism. When you start to understand gynocentrism you will start to better understand the plight of men and boys. Gynocentrism at its most basic, is the mandate that women and children be kept safe and provided for at the expense of men. In other words, men are designated to insure the safety and provisions for women and children on an individual level, the family level, community level and on a macro level. This is not a totally bad thing. It has been what has created and maintained many cultures for millennia. As Stefan Molyneux says, “Eggs are scarce and sperm is plentiful.” This means we have needed to sacrifice our sperm in order to insure the safety of our eggs. Without women the culture dies a quick death. Women must be protected. Gynocentrism protects those who carry the eggs and does this at the expense of its men. This has been a very important element to our cultural success but it does come at a price.

One consequence of protecting the women is that the men will need to at times face danger. The women need to be kept safe and the men will protect the boundary and sometimes die in that process. Our human history of gynocentrism is longer and deeper than most assume. We think of the hunter gatherers as serene and bucolic but that was sometimes far from the truth and gynocentrism predominated.  Research shows that some South American hunter gatherer groups faced huge numbers of deaths of their men protecting the women and children1. One group averaged the death of nearly 60% of its males in protecting the women from inter tribal attacks that were among other things, designed to steal the other group’s women! (the average for the groups studied was near 30% male deaths as a result of raids, ambush or larger scale conflicts) He who had the most women wins and these groups made a huge sacrifice of their males to insure they kept their women and children safe.

In its most obvious we can see how gynocentrism plays out when we note that men automatically and without question are the ones facing danger in our culture. Our war dead are nearly 100% male. Our deaths in dangerous occupations are 93% men. Our trashmen and sewage workers are nearly all male. The dirtiest and most dangerous jobs are jobs for men. No one questions this. It just seems right. This is the hidden power of gynocentrism. No one questions and no one notices. Hell, if women actually got equality to the above it would be a huge step down for them.

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But gynocentrism runs much deeper than simply being about protecting the borders and doing the dangerous work. It has its tendrils into just about everything, silently and without fanfare. What happens when a woman has a flat tire? How many people have seen the help she will usually garner from men? Now think about what happens if a man has a flat tire. Does he get a similar treatment? Probably not. This is gynocentrism. When there are problems we jump to help women but expect the men to handle it themselves even in today’s atmosphere of “equality”.

What happens when a woman is upset and falls into a sea of tears? Pretty much the same thing as the flat tire. People hover to offer support and see what might be wrong and what they can do. But what happens when men fall into a similar sea? People ignore him and avoid him. It is almost as if a woman’s pain is a call to action while a man’s pain is taboo. Compassion offered to men is a fraction of the compassion offered to women.

There are a number of youtube videos that employ actors to portray men beating women in public. The women are shown to get immediate support and help from male onlookers who see the violence. They quickly jump to her aid not knowing it is an arranged scene. These same videos then reverse the roles and show the women beating men in a similar manner and no one lifts a finger, in fact, they laugh. This is gynocentrism. We expect to help the women and expect the men to help themselves. Note also that we allow women to be dependent but do not allow the same for men.

On an even simpler level think of a man and a woman at work who need to move some boxes from one location to another. Some are heavy, some are light. Who will be moving the heavy ones? It is a foregone conclusion that the man will most often move the largest boxes and will protect her from having to do hard labor. This is gynocentrism.

And then there is the question of attractiveness. When a woman is attractive she gets special perks simply due to her appearance. No man can come close to having a similar response. This is gynocentrism. The eggs are protected and the attractive eggs get very special treatment.

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Think of that attractive woman being tied to the railroad tracks. What does that do to the hearts and minds of most people? Most of us have an inborn reaction that says DO SOMETHING to help her. But what about a man tied to the tracks? Is your reaction the same or different? Yes, you likely want to see him helped but is it the same gut wrenching sensation? The plots of many movies and novels are fueled by this gynocentric scenario. We all want the woman tied to the tracks safely released even if it means the death of numerous men in the process. A woman’s needs are a call to action while a man’s needs are often just ignored. He needs to save her!

Just think for a minute what would happen to a man in the military who started complaining that we needed to have more female war deaths in order to make things equal for everyone. How would he be received?   All hell would break loose at this questioning of the gynocentric norm and disregard for the safety of women. We see something similar when the opposite happens and men voice their desires for equal opportunities for services for men in things like domestic violence. Those who stand up for the needs of men in our gynocentric culture are seen as misogynistic, that is, they are routinely accused of hating women simply for pointing out the needs of men. Can you see how the fuel for this is gynocentrism?

 

military-662872_1280Another example of extreme gynocentrism is boot camp in the army. What is done? The recruit is taught that he is nothing. He is now not an individual, he is a part of a fighting group. His personal identity is deleted and he is taught to fight for the group, for a cause. He no longer exists. There is no compassion for his personal feelings and needs. Those are a distant second. He also has zero choice. He does what he is told. That is the extreme gynocentric model that plays out to one degree or another in our everyday life.

Do we care about the feelings of the woman tied to the tracks? Oh yes. Do we care about the feelings of the hero who rescues her? No. We care about his actions. His emotions are not important unless his feelings are about HER. Do we care about the emotions of the boot camp recruit? Nope. We care about his actions and what he does. His feelings need to be kept to himself.   In the same way, under the gynocentric default we tend to care about the emotions of women but will be averse to the emotions of men. Our interest moves more towards his actions. Think about the last time you saw a woman cry in public. What was your reaction? Most of us want to help, want to offer support. We are drawn to her neediness. Now think about a man crying under the same circumstances you saw the woman. Are you as open to his tears as the woman? Most of us say no, we are not. We are repulsed by his neediness. The man is not expected to be needy, he is expected to have agency. If he is seen as needy he is judged harshly.  This is gynocentrism.

family-anno-1317978_1280These sorts of advantages for women have been going on for many years. In the 19th century men would strive to do the best job of keeping women safe and provided for. Just read their diaries and the diaries of their wives. These men put women on a pedestal. They thought of them as angelic and would try their best to not have them sully themselves with the grime of daily life outside the home. They worked hard to have them stay away from “dirty”things like the workplace or money. They did this because they saw women as worthy of protection (gynocentrism) and were happy to take on the extra burden in order to keep her safe. Then along comes feminism which makes the incredibly noxious and inaccurate claim that women were not held in high esteem at all, they were being oppressed. They took the protections that women had benefited from for centuries and spun them into being oppression. In my opinion this is the biggest lie of the 20th century and it has left a wake of chaos and vitriol. Women now actually believe themselves to be victims and that they have been shortchanged and oppressed.   These are the same women who didn’t have to go to war, didn’t have to do the dirty work of building or maintaining the culture, were  held in high esteem and basically worshiped (as American as Mom and Apple Pie) now see this as oppression. Houdini could not have done a more impressive magic trick.

So what do you think happened? It could be easily predicted that gynocentrsim would insure that when women appear to be in danger or need that men will jump and meet those needs as best they can. That’s the way both men and women are  programmed. And that is just what happened. The feminists claimed to be tied to the tracks and rode, and continue to ride the gynocentric wave of men keeping women safe. Their unfounded claims that women were oppressed and held back have been taken seriously by well meaning highly gynocentric males, including male legislators. These claims of women being tied to the tracks and needing government intervention were welcomed by our gynocentric legislators who wanted to bend over backwards to help women. Over the years women have been given more and more while simultaneously continuing to enjoy the same gynocentric advantages they have been getting for hundreds of years. Our legislators have backed themselves into a corner and are now afraid to say no. They know that they have been hijacked but don’t have the courage to say no to saving a damsel in distress. Saying no would insure a loss in the next election.

This was the beginning of what I like to call Gynocentrism 2.0.  The cultural imperative of caring for women continues and is now amplified by false claims of women having been oppressed.  Simultaneously Gynocentrism 2.0 showed not only increased focus on the needs and desires of women, it also made a dramatic switch.  Men in gynocentrism 1.0 were held in high esteem when they followed through with their role.  They were both respected and admired and this was fuel for the masculine. Both sexes were held in high esteem.  Now that fuel for men has run out as the admiration and respect has been gaudily replaced with disdain and blame. Incredibly, now men are seen as the problem and held accountable for social problems as if they were the cause.  It is all the men’s fault.  Much is said about men not doing very well these days but very few people note this important shift.  When you don’t put fuel in the engine it ain’t goin too far.

In Gynocentrism 2.0 entire bureaucracies are built to serve women and cater to their difficulties but there are rarely any such bureaucracies built for men. The women are left with a choice of whether to seek help at a government funded facility (payed for with mostly male tax dollars) built for them while the men are left with no choices.

 

stopviolenceagainstwomen2One of the best examples of this is the issue of domestic violence where we have known for decades that men are a sizable portion (likely nearing 50%) of the victims of domestic violence but all of the laws and services are built for women. We spend nearly a billion dollars a year for the Violence Against WOMEN Act (VAWA) that marginalizes the 50% of male victims. Recent research exposed the sad fact that when men who are the victims of domestic violence go to these government funded services for help they are treated very poorly. Often when the men are victims of domestic violence and they turn to the government funded services they are told that they are not victims of domestic violence, they are accused of being the perpetrators! They then send him to treatment for perpetrators! Researchers are calling this “third party abuse”, when the government bureaucracy as a third party, participates in the continued abuse of a victim. This is gynocentrism 2.0 which leaves no compassion for men and far fewer choices in seeking help.

I was involved in lobbying for male victims of domestic violence during the reauthorization of the VAWA in both 2005 and 2012. Our group was well received by then Senator Biden. He and his staff listened to our data and stories about male victims in several meetings at his Senate office. He assured us we would be a part of the hearings. When the hearing came not one of our group was allowed to speak. I couldn’t believe it. Biden was totally aware of the problem of male victims and intentionally sabotaged our efforts to find support for men. It was then that I realized how deeply our system is biased and non-functional. Gynocentrism 2.0.

It’s important to point out that our government has been pushing a gynocentric agenda for some time.  In the 1960’s President Johnson set in motion the “War on Poverty” which proceeded to demand the removal of black fathers from their families in order for mom to get welfare.  Now our family courts are doing something similar as they remove fathers from the home through no fault on the fathers part.  The woman’s needs come first, father’s a distant second.

My state of Maryland created a Commission for Men’s Health a number of years ago. I was fortunate to serve as the vice chair of that commission and wrote three of the four reports that were to be sent to the governor. The reports I wrote were what I call “male friendly.” That is, they voiced and considered the needs of men without bowing to the prevailing political correctness. The chairman of the commission wrote the other report which was a bit more what the Health Department, our host agency, was anticipating. All four reports were unanimously approved by the full commission. When the commission’s work was done and it came time to file the reports to the governor and a host of other Maryland politicians and get them into the Maryland State Library the Health Department only filed the report that was written by the Chairman. They were confronted with this and said, “ooops, we will file it now.” But they didn’t. It took a year to track down the files and finally get them into the Maryland system. The full story of this event will be told in a chapter in Janice Fiamengo’s upcoming book. It couldn’t be more clear that when the needs of men were given voice, the status quo balked.  It seems that our mid level bureaucrcrats are filled with gynocentrism 2.0.

I think you can see now how women’s complaints and our legislators zealous rush to help them have turned things topsy turvy. Rape shield laws have been written to protect the rape victims and this is a good thing. But those same laws failed to protect the accused man. His name can be released to the media prior to any conviction. Her name is permanently protected while his name is plastered all over the media and he has his life ruined simply due to an accusation which may or may not be proven false .   Gynocentrism 2.0.

 

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Another example is the issue of suicide where males are 80% of all completed suicides. (Chart above: rates are per 100,000 population from CDC WISQARS system.) Incredibly this 80% fact is rarely mentioned in the media leaving most people unaware that the biggest risk factor in suicide is being male.  It is not surprising that females get the majority of attention around suicide both clinically and in research. This even though men are the vast majority of those needing help. In 2009 the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) did some research on suicide. I was shocked to see it was a study on girls! I wrote to then NASW Director Elizabeth Clark and asked why the research focused on girls when it was men and boys who were the vast majority of suicides. She wrote me back and said that the funder for the research had specified to only study girls.   Just imagine for a moment someone who funded research for Sickle Cell Disease but stipulated the research had to be on whites. Can you imagine the outrage? Blacks are 60-80% of those with Sickle Cell disease and to study only whites would be seen as totally racist but somehow studying only girls and suicide is okay. That is gynocentrism.

Our gynocentric legislators have outlawed any form of genital mutilation of females but have failed to do the same for our baby boys. Boys routinely undergo a surgical removal of part of their penis without anesthesia. Of course the baby boys scream during and after this mutilation. Some nurses say they have seen baby boys scream for days after. Many are thinking today that this trauma creates PTSD for those males who have been circumcised and presently about four out of every 5 males in the United States has suffered this mutilation. Research is showing that psychological impact of circumcision on boys is similar to the psychological impact for girls who have undergone genital mutilation. This procedure is damaging our boys while most people think it is a simple little snip. Wrong. We care about our little girls but fail in mustering enough compassion for boys to shelter them from such barbaric treatment and we give them no choice. Gynocentrism.

In healthcare we have seen our legislators create seven national commissions for women’s health but none for men. We have official government web sites for womenshealth.gov and girlshealth.gov but just look at what happens when you go to menshealth.gov or boyshealth.gov. Nothing.   You find a 404 page not found error. It does not exist. Get the picture? focusWhen anyone starts looking critically at our world it becomes clear that gynocentrism is at its core. We constantly hear criticism of men not going to the doctor, etc, but look at the lack of concern for men’s health.  Yes, we have seven commissions for women’s health, but none for men.  The one bill to create a national men’s health commission has been languishing in congress for over 20 years, with too few sponsors and a general lack of interest.  You see this same lack of interest in not even creating a web site for men or boys.  Women in need get the help, and men just need to take care of themselves while simultaneously being blamed for their plight.   And no one is even aware this is going on.  Gynocentrism.

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Warren Farrell put together a group of clinicians, academics, researchers, authors and other experts on men and boys who wrote a proposal for a White House Council on Boys and Men. I was happy to be included as  one of those who put the proposal together. President Obama had created a council for women and girls as soon as he got into office. Now he was being asked to do the same for boys and men. One of our group members, a man named Willie Isles was an executive with the Boy Scouts and had a meeting scheduled with the President. The plan was for Willie to have two Boy Scouts introduce the idea of the White House Council on Boys and Men to the President. Just before that meeting was to take place the discussion of a council for boys and men was struck from the agenda. It was forbidden to even be discussed. Gynocentrism anyone?

There is an anti-male bias in mental health research. One study on teen relationship violence found that boys and girls are suffering from this problem at similar rate. But once the research is translated into news articles it only focuses on the hardships the girls face. Worse yet, once the study is translated by legislators into an action plan to help the teen violence problem the only ones offered assistance are the girls while the boys are blamed. Yes, boys are abused but they simply don’t get compassion. Gynocentrism

 

research-tableIn one study about childhood rape the researchers found that boys were more often the victims of actual childhood rapes than the girls. Then in writing up their research failed to specifically include this information about boys as victims of rape. Furthermore, when they went to the media they also failed to mention the fact that they have found that boys were raped more often than girls. Gynocentrism.

Title IX — Has been a great help to girls and athletics but has dismantled over 1000 men’s college teams. We focus on helping women but ignore the pain of men.

We have all heard of the racial sentencing bias where blacks tend to get stiffer sentences than whites for the same crime. But the research is telling us that there is a bias that is six times as large as the racial bias that sentences men to longer sentences than women. Yet, we hear nothing of this in the media and no one seems to care. Clearly the judges have less compassion for men and offer them far less choice.

I have seen a number of men in therapy who came to me when their wives wanted an abortion and they (the men) wanted to keep the child. The men were powerless to do anything. Can you see how these men had no choice in the matter? His wife said, “My body, my choice” and he said “My child, your choice, I have none.” He had no choice and if he had said something I feel sure he would have heard some variation of big boys don’t cry. Know what I mean? Can you see how no one really cares or offers them compassion for their plight? Compassion and Choice.

 

women-onlyLook at men’s clubs and men’s spaces that have been traditional places for men to gather. Gone. They have been opened to women and not replaced with anything that would give men a safe place to simply gather with other men. Men gathering became the enemy with the accusation of secret deals that would keep women out of business dealings. At the same time all women’s clubs have soared. Women only gyms, women only parking places, women only subway cars, women only everything….but no comparable opportunities for men. There are even groups that keep track of all of the groups for women. One is The National Association of Commissions for Women  which keeps track of the literally hundreds of commissions for women. That is gynocentrism 2.0 on steroids.

Instead of thinking of choice for men, the majority of our gynocentric culture are thinking instead the word “should.” Men should do this, men should do that and if they don’t, they are not really men. Most men are caught in this drama that researchers are calling “precarious manhood” where men are forced to prove their worth repeatedly in order to be called men. Women do not face a similar situation.

Professions are not immune to Gynocentrism. The profession of social work is a prime example. This group is focused on women and ignores the needs and the hardships of men. Their educational system offers classes on just about every possible client to work with including women, gays, handicapped, children but fails to teach their charges even the first thing about men and boys. This even though men and boys make up a good portion of the clientele they will be working with.

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Our focus thus far has been on gynocentrism on the macro level.  It is very easy to see the gynocentric imbalance in so many spheres. The point here is not that the services that have been created were not a good thing, or were undeserved. Many of the services offered have been very helpful to women and girls. The point here is that it has been a very one sided ride with nearly all the services going to women and girls, and the men and boys basically ignored. Men and boys have simply not gotten compassion and choice. Gynocentrism 2.0.

But let’s take a quick look at the impact of gynocentrism on a micro level. We have seen so far that the public has very little interest in men’s emotions. While that is surely true on a macro level it is also the case on the micro. What is the tired and hackneyed message that the some women offer her man? Oh, they say “You are not dealing with your feelings.”   I hope you can see now that this sort of shaming is really an excuse to NOT deal with his emotions.   Much has been written by gynocentric types about men’s not emoting in public, or men not emoting like women, while maintaining the underlying assumption that there must be something wrong with them. But almost nothing has been written about the brick wall men face when they do emote. When men have emotions people disappear. No one wants to hear it.

What I have seen repeatedly is that men have very different ways to process emotions. Ways that are invisible to most. They have likely developed these different ways due to the prevalence of gynocentrism and are happy with their paths to work with their own emotions and gladly take care of things on their own without fanfare and “help.” The saddest part of this is that most women simply do not see his different ways and assume he is “doing it wrong” since it isn’t like what she does.

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Conclusion

Gynocentrism creates a cultural default both on a micro and macro level where women’s distress is a call to action and a man’s distress is seen at best as a distraction and at worst a taboo. This leaves men being offered considerably less compassion and fewer choices.  In the past 50 years the original gynocentric defaults have morphed into gynocentrism 2.0 which has seen a huge increase in both the lop-sided services favoring women and the disdain and blame focused on men.

Very few people are conscious of this habitual default, they simply assume it is just the way the world works.

Becoming more and more aware of gynocentrism makes it easier to see why men are 80% of the completed suicides but are basically ignored.  It makes sense now that men are nearly 50% of the victims of domestic violence but are routinely disregarded. It makes sense now why boys genital mutilation is the fourth most popular surgical procedure in the U.S. even though it is unnecessary and highly damaging.  The world is geared to have compassion for women’s needs but not as much for the needs of men. We could go on and on about each of the many men’s issues and see  how the lack of compassion and choice plays a part in their dilemma.

The unconscious nature of gynocentrism may be its most ruinous aspect.  People are simply unaware of the great differences in the way men and women are treated.  It is in some ways reminiscent of the racism I remember in the mid 20th century.  People were simply unaware of their treatment of blacks.  There were surely outright bigots at the time but the majority of people were basically asleep to the impact of their attitudes and behaviors and went along with the status quo that treated blacks and whites in significantly different ways.  The general public was duped by a media that portrayed blacks as inferior and an educational system and even academic research that did the same. With gynocentrism 2.0 we are seeing something very similar but instead of the blacks it is now our men.  Today’s gynocentrism is made up primarily of people who are basically unaware of the impact of their behaviors and are simply going along with the gynocentric status quo.

It’s time to wake up.

Knowing these things and taking the red pill* makes it important for us to start offering men and boys greater compassion and choice.

 

And let’s not forget.  Men Are Good!

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*Having taken the “Red Pill” is the popular phrase used to denote someone who can see the gynocentrism clearly.

Maryland Report — Boys, Men, and Suicide

Men and boys comprise nearly 80% of all completed suicides in the United States.1  With this sort of number one would assume that there would be services that focus specifically on suicidal males.  Surprisingly, there are almost no programs that focus on helping men and boys who might be suicidal.  Sadly, Maryland is no exception to this rule. Maryland traditionally has very active programs to address the issues of suicide but does not seem to have any programs specifically addressing men or boys.

Even more surprising is how difficult it is to secure funding to study this disparity.   Lanny Berman, the Executive Director of the American Association for Suicidology, made the following statement in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006:  “As much as I would love to lead the charge [in finding out why boys kill themselves], try to go out and get funding for it.”2  Berman’s statement expresses his frustration that funders aren’t interested in studying boys and men.  Berman is not alone; organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) have voiced similar sentiments. NASW ran a study on suicidal girls in 2008.  When asked about their reasons for studying girls rather than boys, Elizabeth Clarke, the NASW Executive Director, stated that the funder specified the money was dedicated to studying girls.3  In the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 200+ page document titled “National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action,”  they only mention men and boys once: in a sidebar that indicates: “Over half of all suicides occur in adult men ages 25-65.”4   Even this important document seems to negate the stark reality of the 80% of suicides completed by males; there simply seems to be very little interest in learning about men and boys and why they are more prone to kill themselves or how we can help them.

There is a common misconception that men die from suicide much more frequently than women do due to their choice of more lethal means.  At first this seems to be a reasonable assumption.  In 2004, 20,500 men committed suicide using the lethal means of fireams and hanging, but that same year, only 3,583 women used the same lethal means in completing suicide.5  At first glance, this data seems to indicate that  men must choose more lethal means and therefore are more likely to commit suicide.  Looking a little bit closer, one finds that men choose lethal means to end their own lives in 79% of male suicides.  However, what most people seem to miss is that women choose the same lethal means to end their own lives in 51% of female suicides. While the difference between 79% and 51% is significant, it in no way is a strong enough difference to account for the four to one ratio for overall suicide rates.  There is obviously something else at work and we are simply not aware of this difference, nor is anyone making any efforts to examine what it might be.

Maryland has been hosting an annual conference on issues of suicide for many years.  From my observations, the conference hasn’t had workshops that focused on men and boys and their unique issues related to suicide with the exception of one recent workshop that focused on veterans.  This seems very perplexing since men and boys are the overwhelming majority of competed suicides. In fact, Maryland boys comprise 86% of the suicides between the ages 15-24 and yet there are no programs or resources that directly address their needs.

Why do men die more often from suicide?

Why could it be that boys and men comprise such a large percentage of completed  suicides?  Some, as we have heard,  assume that the reasons are related to men being more violent. Others speak of men’s reluctance to seek help. These are likely partial answers, but if we want to better understand this question, we will need to start thinking outside the box. One of the boxes we are in is our assumption that men and women heal in the same way.  There is a good deal of information becoming available that suggests the possibility that men and women have markedly different ways of healing and this difference may play a major role in the reasons that men predominate in completed suicides. Below are some very brief ideas about these differences.

Emotional Processing  —  Scientists are uncovering some fascinating differences between the strategies men and women typically use when under stress.  According to the research of Shelly Taylor, Ph.D., of UCLA6, when women are stressed, they are more likely to move towards interaction and being with other people.  This movement obviously puts women into a position of sharing their problems with others, which then increases the likelihood that one of these people will help a woman connect with therapeutic emergency services.  Men, on the other hand, have been shown to move less towards interaction and more toward action or to inaction. Both of these tendencies, action and inaction, move men away from others who might connect them with services and move them toward a more solitary solution.  This is a much more dangerous position if you are feeling hopeless and helpless and likely plays into men’s tendency to avoid treatment and to see suicide as an alternative.

Societal Roles —  No one is mandated to care for men. Men have been responsible for the safety and care of women and children for thousands of years.  However, there is no third sex that is held responsible to care for the safety of men!  Men are keenly aware of this and have developed a strong sense of independence and self-reliance.  Both independence and self reliance will hamper the likelihood of a man seeking “help” for suicidal urges.

Harsh consequences for dependent males  —  A dependent male is a male that is judged harshly.  Men are in a double bind.  If they say they are not in need of services then they are held in high esteem but forfeit the help they need. If men admit they are in need of services, they are seen as worth less.  Peter Marin, in an article titled “Abandoning Men: Jill Gets Welfare–Jack Becomes Homeless,” states:

To put it simply: men are neither supposed nor allowed to be dependent. They are expected to take care of others and themselves. And when they cannot or will not do it, then the assumption at the heart of the culture is that they are somehow less than men and therefore unworthy of help. An irony asserts itself: by being in need of help, men forfeit the right to it.7

A depressed and suicidal man is a dependent man. When we are hopeless and helpless we are far from being independent.  Hopelessness and helplessness are the cornerstones of what underlies suicidal ideology. A man who feels hopeless and helpless will likely avoid letting others know his dependency and will avoid exposing his need by asking for help.

Mental Health System —  Our mental health system is based on a face to face mode which favors the interactive nature of most women.  Men more frequently move to a “shoulder to shoulder” mode when feeling vulnerable which is profoundly different from the norms of most mental health services which rely on interaction and a face to face environment.8

Dominance Hierarchy  —  Fascinating research is showing it is likely that human males live within a dominance hierarchy.  Most of us are aware of the male big horn sheep that charge each other and ram heads until one of the males backs down. By butting heads they are forming the dominance hierarchy for their flock.  The male who comes out on top of this hierarchy will have access to the top ranked females in their group. Evidence is now pointing towards human males having a dominance hierarchy based on status with males competing for status and access to the highest ranked females.9 This helps explain men’s tendency to compete for higher status and their reluctance to disclose information that might negatively impact their status rank.  If this is correct, it helps explain a man’s reluctance to discuss his suicidality and his attempts to disguise his vulnerability, which would obviously lower his status.

Culture  —  Our culture is harsh on men who emote publicly.  Men know there is huge judgment placed on them for displaying emotion, and will avoid public emoting at all costs.  The fact is that men are placed into a double bind:  If they do emote publicly, they are labelled as wimps; if they don’t emote publicly they are labelled as cold and unfeeling.  It’s a lose/lose for men.  This impacts a man’s reluctance to discuss his suicidality and his tender and vulnerable feelings.8

Hormones —  We are beginning to understand that testosterone is a powerful force when it comes to processing emotions.  Women who take very large doses of testosterone are reporting that their access to emotional tears becomes markedly diminished and their ability to articulate their emotional state dwindles.10,11 It’s a small jump to assume that testosterone in males will have a similar impact.  Men have at least ten times more testosterone than women and would therefore be less likely to access emotional tears and less apt to articulate their emotions as they are feeling them. Both of these qualities have been the standard fare for therapy and may be one more reason that men avoid seeking treatment.  This would help explain why women are more likely to seek out therapy than men.

Valuing female lives over male lives —  As hard as it is to believe, we tend to value female lives more than male lives.  Why else would we allow men to commit suicide 4 times as often as women and take no action?  Why would we allow men to be 93% of the workplace deaths?  Why would we allow men to be over 97% of the deaths in wartime and not show any concern?  Just imagine that the US Government decided that only females would be allowed on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan and all of the sudden over 32 times as many women start dying than men?  People would be outraged that so many women were dying. Why are they not outraged now that so many men are dying?  Because we value female life more than that of the male.

 

 

Recommendations

1. Dedicate next year’s Maryland Suicide Conference to the topic of men, boys and suicide.  Call in experts from around the country on the topic, and work towards bringing together numerous clinicians and researchers who will be able to share information and ideas on the reasons for men dominating the suicide numbers and ways to start to solve the problem.

2. Designate one interested staff member to investigate the latest treatment ideas and programs for males and suicide around the world.  Finland is the first country to have focused on men and suicide and is ahead of most others in this respect.  They have been one of the most successful countries in bringing their numbers of suicides down and would likely be a wealth of information.  Australia would also be worth checking since they have recently instituted numerous programs specifically for boys, men and suicide.  Some are for Indigenous men, others for boys, others for men in general.  Lastly, Colorado’s Men and Suicide Campaign would be another place to check.  This innovative program is the only program to my knowledge in the U.S. that focuses on males and suicide.  Unfortunately, the program lost its funding only days before it was to open.  There remains a core group of passionate clinicians and administrators who are working to carry the program forward without funding, and I know they would be happy to talk to someone from Maryland about their work and ideas.

3. Provide for the staff member conducting the research outlined above to present this material at the Maryland Suicide Conference.  A podcast of the presentation could be available for download.

4. Create interest in the health department around the issue of males and suicide.  Send informal notices for voluntary gatherings to discuss this issue in hopes of attracting interested professionals.  Gauge the response and determine whether the next step may be to form a group of interested professionals who might facilitate the gathering of information and dissemination of information to interested parties.

5. Create PSA’s on this issue that confer a male friendly message that states clearly that men are good and that each man is valuable.  Develop podcasts that can be downloaded that offer information and ways to connect to supports.

6. Develop new avenues that men might be more likely to use in reporting possible suicide ideation and severe depression such as email, twitter and texting. Consider alternate arenas to connect with men including barber shops, sports teams, workout facilities and sports events.

7. Work in conjunction with the Maryland Suicide Prevention Commission.

 

 

references

 

1. (2006) National Vital Statistics Reports, Deaths: Final Data 2006, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Volume 57, Number 14, April 17, 2009 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_14.pdf

2. Ryan, Joan. “Sorting Out Puzzle of Male Suicide.” San Francisco Chronicle 26 Jan. 2006: b-1. Print. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/01/26/BAGHRGT0DV1.DTL&hw=suicide&sn=003&sc=490#ixzz0Y6EBcvdg

3. Personal correspondence 2009 with Elizabeth Clarke, Executive Director NASW.

4. (2001 )National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action. Rockville, MD : U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services,  Public Health Service, 2001. Includes index.
<http://download.ncadi.samhsa.gov/ken/pdf/SMA01-3517/SMA01-3517.pdf

5. “Suicide Statistics at Suicide.org” Suicide.org: Suicide Prevention, Suicide Awareness, Suicide Support – Suicide.org! Suicide.org! Suicide.org!. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2009. <http://www.suicide.org/suicide-statistics.html>

6.Taylor, Shelley E.. The Tending Instinct: Women, Men, and the Biology of Relationships. new york: Owl Books, 2003. Print.

7. “Abandoning Men: Jill Gets WelfareJack Becomes Homeless.” Alicia Patterson Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2009. <http://www.aliciapatterson.org/APF1403/Marin/Marin.html>.

8. Golden, Thomas R.. Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing. 2nd ed. Gaithersburg: Golden Healing Publishing Llc, 1996. Print.

9.  Moxon, Steve. The Woman Racket: The New Science Explaining How the Sexes Relate at Work, at Play and in Society. Charlottesvile: Imprint Academic, 2008. Print.

10.  Valerio, Max Wolf. The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male. Emeryville: Seal Press, 2006. Print.

11. “Testosterone.” This American Life. National Public Radio, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2008. < http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=22

Maryland Report — Domestic Violence and Male Victims

Perhaps the most confusing, perplexing, and controversial area in which men’s health needs are overlooked is the issue of male victims of domestic violence. One immediately noticeable trend is the strong tendency to focus solely on female victims and ignore male victims. This tendency is seen repeatedly.  Most media, whether print or electronic, focuses on female victims of domestic violence and all too often fails to mention male victims. Almost every article in the newspaper and every program on TV about domestic violence focuses on female victims.  We see the same focus in academia: courses in sociology and women’s studies repeat the message that women are the primary victims of domestic violence and rarely mention male victims. If you look on the internet at web sites of domestic violence agencies you will likely see a similar bias.1 One oft-quoted statistic is that according to a Department of Justice report, there are 1.5 million women each year in the United States who are victims of domestic violence.  What you don’t see is that the same report also found that there are 834,000 male victims of domestic violence each year in the United States.2  Rather than adding the two and saying 2.3 million Americans suffer from domestic violence each year, all too often the only statistic highlighted is the one about women. One side of the story is told and the other side is ignored, as 834,000 men are omitted. Nationally, we have the “Violence Against Women Act” which boldly excludes men from its name. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (a national group that teaches judges on the issue of domestic violence) offers a typical description which includes women but seems to minimize men: “Domestic violence puts millions of women and their families at risk each year and is one of the single greatest social ills impacting the nation.”3 There is no mention of men who might be at risk.  Most organizations promote the idea that females are the overwhelming majority of victims of domestic violence.  The general public has heard that message for decades and believes it to be the sole truth.  But is it?

The National Council Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) offers a similar message that women are the vast majority of the victims of domestic violence. According to their definition of domestic violence: “There is not a typical woman who will be battered – the risk factor is being born female.”4 If “the” risk factor is being born female, that seems to exclude men from sharing the risk. But a look at their own statistics compiled from state governments tells a very different story. In the state of Maryland, according to NCADV statistics, men comprise 23% of the victims of domestic violence, and women are 23% of the perpetrators.5 Maryland State Police statistics reveal similar estimates, listing men as 25% of all victims of domestic violence.6 These numbers are confirmed and even exceeded when compared with peer-reviewed research. What you find is that men are a sizable portion of the victims of domestic violence, a much larger portion than is usually mentioned through a variety of sources. In fact, peer-reviewed research reveals that most domestic violence is characterized not by one person abusing the other, but by what is termed as “reciprocal” violence: a brawl between two partners.7 The bulk of the research also suggests that women are more often the initiators of the violence.8  This sharp contrast between the commonly-held public view of women as the vast majority of domestic violence victims with men as the sole perpetrators, versus the research and statistics compiled by authoritative sources, paint pictures that are hard to reconcile.

The domestic violence agencies in Maryland are obviously comprised of a compassionate group of people dedicated to fighting a horrible problem.  The Maryland Commission for Men’s Health wholeheartedly agrees with them that domestic violence needs our attention and our resources. The issue that the commission finds worrisome is that it appears that only a part of the problem of domestic violence is being addressed in earnest: the female victims. The other parts are taking a back seat: male victims and female perpetrators. Due to this imbalance, some Marylanders go unserved and left in great pain.

There is a saying among NASA engineers that “an ounce of thrust at takeoff can mean thousands of miles down course.”  The ounce of thrust that has thrown the domestic violence industry off course is the idea of holding men and masculinity solely responsible for the incidence of domestic violence. In its early years as a cause, many of those working in domestic violence assumed that men were the sole cause of domestic violence and, of course, women were seen as the only victims.  It was this contention that has limited their vision to see the complexity of domestic violence and its many victims both male and female, heterosexual and homosexual. Over the years, various organizations and individuals have tried to offer feedback that males are in need of treatment as victims and females are in need of attention as perpetrators, but all too often their voices go noticably unheard.

How did things get to this point?

When domestic violence activism first started in the 1970’s, the leaders were mostly feminists who were rightly concerned about the lives and safety of women. What they saw was shocking: situations where muscular men were beating innocent women. Very quickly these stories started making their way to the media. People were shocked and outraged. The activists kept the stories flowing to the media and the media continued to alert the public to the truly awful horror stories. The feminist activists applied their ideological template to the issues of domestic violence. In the 1970’s, the feminist template presumed men were a major cause of women’s problems and were a large inhibiting factor holding women back from a variety of opportunities.  Phrases like “all men are rapists” and “men are pigs” were commonplace.  Men were routinely disdained and blamed.  The horror of males committing domestic violence gave some reason to believe that these early misandrist stereotypes of men might hold some truth.  Uncaring men, using their power to control and beat women, were observed repeatedly in these domestic violence situations, and this led to the assumption that it was men who were the underlying cause of a grievous social problem.  Sadly, we now know that this idea of men being the underlying cause of the problem represents a truth but simply not the whole truth.  What we now know is that although the stories of women being beaten by bullying men were certainly true, they told only part of the story.  Researchers today characterize domestic violence as being 25% men beating women, 25% women beating men and 50% being more of a brawl between the two people.9  The brawling and the violent women had been overshadowed by the more shocking and outrageous examples of helpless women being beaten by bullying men.

This statistical breakdown of 25%-25%-50% is a shock to many and very difficult to believe.   However, we have already seen how the premier national domestic violence organization, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), verifies that in Maryland, for example, men comprise 23% of the victims and females 23% of the perpetrators of domestic violence.  Why would people not believe this to be the case?  Could it be that an ideology that holds men as the primary culprits in incidences of domestic violence continues to inhibit them from seeing situations in which men are victimized by abusive women?

The feminist idea that men are wholly responsible for domestic violence found immediate traction.  The horrible situations that were being reported were all of abusive men terrorizing defenseless women.  This sort of scenario struck a chord in both men and women who heard these reports.  The women were moved due to their own compassion for other women and children who might be vulnerable and in need.  The men were moved since an important part of the man’s biological and social sex role is to provide and protect for women and children.  Seeing women abused by out-of-control men was a very strong call to action for most men.  It is little wonder then that most states quickly developed laws and the beginnings of support for these female victims.  By the 1980s, only a few short years from the early activism of the 1970s, many states had already put domestic violence laws on their books. That’s moving pretty fast, for legislative bodies, who are known for their tendency to be circumspect when introducing whole new classes of penal laws.

What prevented evidence of other forms of domestic violence from coming to the surface? One answer to this question comes from one of the original domestic violence activists, Ellen Pence. Pence was the author of an important book about domestic violence and the influential Duluth Model (discussed below). She was also the founder of the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.  Pence admits that there was an effort to avoid issues related to women’s violence and highlights the neglect of female abusers:

In many ways, we turned a blind eye to many women’s use of violence, their drug use and alcoholism, and their often harsh and violent treatment of their own children.10

Why would the original activists “turn a blind eye?”  Did they not see that turning a blind eye put many innocent people in jeopardy?  One of the reasons was surely that the theoretical framework of men being the “only abusers” left no room to see women as anything but victims.  The norm for viewing female abusers came to be that a female abuser was considered to have been “abused in the past” and was acting this way out of hurt and self-defense, not evil or anything else. Their view of domestic violence simply did not allow room for the possibility of the woman as the abuser, plain and simple.  As in all things, if your theoretical framework doesn’t account for a phenomenon to exist, it is much less likely to be recognized.  It is also probably true that the media showed more interest in the stories where women were abused by men.  These stories touched a cultural nerve and therefore sold more papers and air time.  People wanted to read about female victims, but were not so interested in hearing about males who were abused by women. The early activists must have found that they could get the word out much more quickly and more powerfully by focusing on stories about men beating women.

The focus on male batterers and female victims has left us knowing a good deal less about female batterers. How could the less-physically powerful women ever batter or intimidate men?   What we have since found out through research is that violent women make up for their lack of physical strength by using weapons and the tactic of surprise.11  In domestic violence situations, women will often use weapons when men are vulnerable.  Think of Lorena Bobbitt who severed her husband’s penis while he slept or Mary Winkler who shot her husband in the back with a shotgun while he was sleeping, or Clara Harris who ran over her husband with her car as her daughter sat next to her.  All are examples of women committing domestic violence by using the element of surprise paired with lethal weapons. Interestingly, none of these murders or incidents was ever portrayed by the media as domestic violence.  The words “domestic violence” seem to be reserved exclusively for male-on-female violence only.  When women do choose to be violent as in the above examples, muscles simply don’t matter.  A shotgun will beat muscles every time.  The national figures for the United States show that 30% of spousal murders, the most lethal form of domestic violence, are committed by women against their husbands or partners.12

It wasn’t just the domestic violence activists who intentionally ignored women’s violence.  Our culture also tends to look the other way.  For whatever reasons, a woman’s violence is simply not as upsetting to see.  Just watch television shows or movies to see the frequency of women hitting or kicking men. In today’s world it is a given for women to hit men on TV but not the other way around.  Everyone sees this but few seem to get upset or to protest.  We are living with a huge double-standard where a woman’s violence against a man is something we see in cartoons, movies, commercials, or TV as innocuous or even comical. We see plenty of violence from men towards other men but when we see violence from men towards women it is seen as anything but comical or innocuous; it is seen as deadly.  This double-standard likely increases the chances for women’s violence in relationships to be overlooked by the media, the general public and by domestic violence workers.

It is also likely true that once these activists were looking for funding for their endeavors from the government or private institutions, the stories about “vulnerable women in great need of safety” brought much more attention and promises of funding than did a similar story of a man being abused by his wife.  Every politician wanted to be seen as the one helping solve this problem by “making women safe in their own homes”.  Those stories about men as victims simply didn’t have the same traction.  No politician wanted to touch those.  For them, rather than help male victims in their lobbying for funds, the stories of abused men would likely muddy the waters and detract from the powerful images of women-in-need.  The stories about men-in-need were also completely counter to the growing ideology that men were the source of all domestic violence.  An abused man simply didn’t fit into that framework and would likely have decreased the success of any unisex funding efforts.

It is easy to see how the ideology of men as the source of the domestic violence problem likely developed over the initial years of domestic violence activism.  It fit with the image that the media was helping to portray. It fit with the feminist idea that men were “the problem” and it surely helped in advocating for domestic violence funding.  There were good reasons simply to not bring up men-as-victims.

The Duluth Model

In the early 1980s an important event transpired in the history of domestic violence prevention.  A group of domestic violence activists met in Duluth, Minnesota after a particularly gruesome murder of a wife by a husband.  The group started to put together what would eventually become the “Duluth Model”, which has since become a staple ideological protocol for most domestic violence agencies in the US.  In some states, its use is mandated.  In many ways it has become the handbook for those working with domestic violence victims and situations.  It is important to understand the initial questions asked by the Duluth gathering at the inception of the Duluth Model theory.  Here are questions asked by those at the initial gathering: “Why is she the target of his violence”  “Why does he think he is entitled to have power?”  “How does the community support his violence?”13  As you can see from the questions, the Duluth Model at its very beginnings was only about male violence towards women.  It was never about mutual violence or a woman’s violence towards a man. It was only about men beating women.  It had no remarks or suggestions for abused men or about female perpetrators.  The flagship theory of the industry only focused on women as victims and men as perpetrators.  Australian author Tom Graves has evaluated the Duluth Model and lists its major problems.  Here are the first three:

1.  It believes that violence is masculine and that men are responsible for violence
2.  It refuses to remark or address the fact that men can be the recipients of violence
3.  It holds only men responsible as change agents.14

These three errors play a huge part in the failure of the Duluth Model to address the needs of male victims and the needs of female perpetrators.  Let’s hypothesize a possible example of the damage that can occur from stereotyping victims of domestic violence:  Imagine both wife and husband have been drinking.  The wife, in a burst of anger, throws a wine bottle at her husband who was hit on the arm as he blocked the bottle.  The wife next comes after him with a wine glass and tries to throw wine in his face.  He blocked that also and in the process, the wine glass breaks and cuts his wife.  The police arrive.  They find a bleeding and crying wife and a husband who claimed that he had been attacked.  Their Duluth Model training has taught them that the vast majority of victims of domestic violence are female and so, what do they do? Arrest the man and put him in jail!  No matter how much the man might try to explain his actions, the police would likely refuse to listen.  In fact, once the wife realizes her husband was going to jail, she would probably start to tell the truth, that she was the attacker.  The police would of course hear none of it and off to jail the man would go.

This man would be placed into a mandatory Duluth Model domestic violence “educational” group.  He would not be allowed to speak the truth of what had happened. When he would try to explain that it was his wife who had attacked him, he would be told to be quiet and focus on his violence. The truth of his being abused would be seen by the group leaders as an “excuse” that keeps him from taking responsibility for his violence.  He would be forced never to mention his wife’s violence.  He would have two choices.  One would be to tell the truth and not “graduate” from the educational sessions, which would leave him legally vulnerable.  The other would be to lie and say he was the abuser.  We could guess that this man would choose to lie simply in order to ”graduate” from the “training”.

This sort of example shows how the system can take on the role of what is being called a “third party” abuser.  The spouse no longer has a need to batter.  The police and community agencies are now taking over that role by treating the falsely-accused man in a manner that lacks respect for him as a human being who has been abused or as a citizen with the right to be presumed innocent or to have his side of a given unwitnessed incident fairly considererd.  This is what can happen when pre-judgments arising from stereotypes are used instead of impartial mindsets coupled with factual analysis.

Since its inception, the Duluth Model has been reworked and made more “gender neutral”, but it continues to fail miserably in its capacity to address the needs of men who are victimized and of women who are violent.

If you visit the Duluth Model web site, you can see that their primary focus on female victims continues to this day.  The Duluth site claims that women account for as many as 97% of the victims of domestic violence.15  We know from both police reports and from peer-reviewed research that this is far from the truth.  It does however show that the Duluth Model continues to be focused on female victims and has failed in taking current thinking and research into account, thus placing male victims at risk and allowing female perpetrators to go unchecked or psychiatrically untreated for their abusiveness.

The Duluth Model spreads to the community

As the domestic violence industry grew, the Duluth Model took a greater and greater hold on the theoretical practices of domestic violence agencies.  As it took this greater hold, the ideas of domestic violence being only about men beating women spread farther.  As funding grew for domestic violence agencies, the funding for trainings grew correspondingly.  The 1994 federal Violence Against Women Act started pouring about one billion dollars per year into domestic violence endeavors.  A part of that money was spent on trainings given to the court systems, judges, police, lawyers and domestic violence workers.  The message the workshops broadcast was founded on the Duluth Model ideology that women were the vast majority of domestic violence victims and men were only a tiny minority.  More and more, the ideas of the Duluth Model became the standard.  It was presented as fact that domestic violence is pretty much only about women being abused by men.  That ideology is now set firmly in place.  The early work of the activists has focused exclusively on abused women and now the theoretical framework that guided their work is firmly planted in an ideology that focuses on female victims but ignores the needs of male victims and the actions of female perpetrators.  Now these ideas have been spread successfully into our community agencies and public institutions.

Opposing Voices to the Duluth Model — Researchers

Murray Straus, Richard Gelles, and Susan Steinmetz are early researchers on issues of domestic violence.  This group published a book in 1982 that ran counter to the feminist ideology.  The book, Behind Closed Doors,16 said clearly that domestic violence was a two-way street with both men and women responsible as perpetrators and victims.  The response was swift and powerful.  Upon publication, Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz were immediately seen as enemies. Prior to their findings that there is gender symmetry in domestic violence, they had been praised and held in high esteem as instrumental in the early research on domestic violence.  But once they found data that contradicted the feminist belief that men were the only perpetrators and women the only victims, things changed drastically.  At that point, they lost their glow and became villains to those who supported the ideas of women as the only victims of domestic violence.  Death threats and other avenues of intimidation were used to try to silence them.  Murray Straus, Ph.D., describes his struggle with intimidation and explains his own reluctance to publish his results that went counter to the feminist domestic violence ideology:

Researchers who have an ideological commitment to the idea that men are almost always the sole perpetrator often conceal evidence that contradicts this belief. Among researchers not committed to that ideology, many (including me and some of my colleagues) have withheld results showing gender symmetry to avoid becoming victims of the vitriolic denunciations and ostracism. Thus, many researchers have published only the data on male perpetrators or female victims, deliberately omitting the data on female perpetrators and male victims.17

In essence, these researchers were being bullied. In fact, Straus published a paper in 2006 that describes not only the intimidation they suffered but also chronicles the specific ways that the feminist researchers made certain that their own data only produced the desired results that reflected the ideology that women were the primary victims of domestic violence.18

The research by Straus, Gelles, Steinmetz, and many others which clearly shows that men are victims has been available through journal articles for years.19   Some activists have drawn from the statistics and findings and tried to use this information to change the system to encourage existing services to include focus on male victims of domestic violence.  When activists make such attempts, they are usually met with the same results most every time:  the domestic violence industry claims that the peer-reviewed research is inaccurate and cites numbers from their own clinical settings, hospital settings, and emergency rooms.  The numbers they cite are very different from the research numbers and clearly show that domestic violence is indeed primarily a “men beat women” problem.  So who is correct?  The quick answer is BOTH.  The research numbers from scientists such as Strauss, Gelles, and Steinmetz are correct from their perspective and from the populations they studied.  These numbers were usually drawn from the general population and reflect the “average” person or family.

But how about the domestic violence agencies numbers?  Well, they are correct also, but one must note that the sample they draw from is very biased.  They draw from a population that has been utilizing services specifically built for women who were abused.  It is little wonder that they would therefore be more likely to show greater numbers of female victims.  Imagine a hospital that was built specifically for the treatment of caucasian diabetics.  When they look at their own numbers and stats they would assuredly say that the majority of victims of diabetes are white!  Since their services are built to serve whites, that is exactly what their stats will show.  One would also assume that they would be teaching in the community about whites and diabetes and also do Public Service Announcements for whites who might have diabetes.  The same thing happens within the domestic violence industry.  The entire system was originally built for women.  The name of the law the Violence Against Women Act makes that very clear.  It is little wonder that the statistics they compile and the research done within the domestic violence industry on their own populations would reflect that women were the primary victims.  You see this idea filter down to the clinical level where almost every group for domestic violence victims in Maryland is for women only.  The treatment groups are almost always built for male perpetrators and female victims. The overwhelming majority of public service announcements on domestic violence are focused on female victims.  When you solicit for a certain type of victim, it is no surprise that your statistics, trainings and treatment will center around that particular type of client.

Opposing Voices to the Duluth Model — Clinicians

While the peer-reviewed research has been noting male victims for years, the clinical side of the equation has now started getting noticed.   In 2007, the American Psychiatric Association published an article in the August issue of Psychiatric News titled: “Men Shouldn’t be Overlooked as Victims of Partner Violence.”20  The article cited some of the research findings about women being more likely then men in relationship to initiate domestic violence and focused on issues of reciprocal interpersonal violence versus nonreciprocal violence. Here is a quote from the article:

Regarding perpetration of violence, more women than men (25 percent versus 11 percent) were responsible. In fact, 71 percent of the instigators in nonreciprocal partner violence were women.

And another:

As for physical injury due to intimate partner violence, it was more likely to occur when the violence was reciprocal than nonreciprocal. And while injury was more likely when violence was perpetrated by men, in relationships with reciprocal violence it was the men who were injured more often (25 percent of the time) than were women (20 percent of the time). “This is important as violence perpetrated by women is often seen as not serious,” Whitaker and his group stressed.

The word is getting out that both men and women are perpetrators and victims of domestic violence.

Opposing Voices to the Duluth Model — The Courts

The courts are also starting to take notice of the discrimination that men face in the domestic violence industry.  In the Woods et. al. vs California case in 2008, a Superior Court in Sacramento, ruled that male domestic violence victims had been unconstitutionally denied services.  The court held that state laws violated men’s equal protection rights by excluding male victims from state-funded domestic violence services.  The court found: “domestic violence is a serious problem for both women and men” and that “men experience significant levels of domestic violence as victims.”21  The court also found a percentage of state-funded programs deny men services they are entitled to receive.

Then, in October 2009, a West Virginia judge struck down state rules for regulating domestic violence shelters because they operate “on the premise that only men can be batterers and only women can be victims” and “exclude adult and adolescent males from their statutory right to safety and security free from domestic violence based only on their gender.”22

Are there men who fall through the cracks?

We have seen how the domestic violence industry has had a history of blaming men and masculinity for domestic violence. This sort of theoretical assumption has a negative impact on the willingness of men to seek help. The men, not unlike the early female victims of domestic violence in the 1970’s who were very reluctant to seek treatment, are certain that no one cares about their situation and are highly unlikely to seek out services when not invited. What compounds this problem for men is that their gender is blamed for the original problem.

We have learned from Maryland State Police statistics that men comprise about 25% of the victims of domestic violence in Maryland.23 What we don’t know is the percentage of males seeking treatment as victims of domestic violence.  In checking with a number of Maryland Domestic Violence agencies, they often say that the number of male victims is very small.  Some of the treatment centers claim that men are only 4% of their clients.  If the State Police count men as 25% of the 20,000 victims of domestic violence recorded annually in Maryland and the agencies that offer treatment for domestic violence say that men are only 4% of the victims that request treatment, that seems to leave a huge number of men who are untreated victims.  It seems likely that a large percentage of the 5000+ men who are reported by State Police as victims of domestic violence in Maryland are falling through the cracks and not getting the help they need and are entitled to as citizens and residents.

Summary

What once started as a righteous cause to help battered women has evolved over the years to be something that seems to help battered women but also seems to neglect the needs of violent women and battered men and ignores the imperatives that the fundamental demands our tradition of justice holds dear.  Both the media and academia seem to focus solely on female victims of domestic violence, with a much smaller focus or none at all on male victims.  Researchers doing peer-reviewed research have consistently found evidence that men and women are both victims of domestic violence, but this finding has not been translated to changing the treatment that men receive in domestic violence agencies. Clinical groups such as the American Psychiatric Association are beginning to alert the public and clinicians that men are indeed a sizable percentage of domestic violence victims.  The courts have also started pointing out the discrimination that is present in many domestic violence agencies that treat men and women differently.
This report is not claiming that men are never served through domestic violence agencies in the state of Maryland.  It is however claiming that Maryland’s domestic violence services have traditionally been created for women only and this has a chilling effect on men’s usage of these facilities.

 

A Proposal For Practical Change

There is a domestic violence group named “Safe For All” that offers trainings nationwide and is particularly aware of the many issues around domestic violence, including those of male victims and of people in homosexual relationships, also an under-recognized and under-served group.   Their web address is http://safe4all.org/24 The National Family Law Legislative Resource Center, www.nfvlrc.org25 represents the nation’s leading authorties, clinicians, and researchers on domestic violence and could also offer trainings and consultations.26

Although calls to Maryland shelters and crisis lines to test for discriminatory handling of reports have at the present time not been conducted, there is no question such testing can be conducted and most likely will be conducted in order to support lawsuits similar to the successful ones used in the legal cases in California and West Virginia cited above. The results of such testing in Maryland would likely mirror these results: In a national poll by Clark University, female researchers studied 302 abused men who sought help. Their key findings were that 63.9% of men who called hotlines were told they only helped women, and 68.7% said the hotlines were not at all helpful. Of those that contacted a local domestic violence (shelter) program, 95.3% said the program gave the impression that they were biased against men, 78.3% said they don’t help male victims, and 63.9% suggested the male caller was the batterer. (See; http://clarku.edu/faculty/dhines/results.htm.27 )

Therefore, in order to avoid costly and time-consuming lawsuits, it behooves the State of Maryland to require all domestic violence service organizations that receive pass-through federal funding or state funding of any type to receive training in non-discriminatory but practical approaches and techniques for handling domestic violence cases and suspected or reported cases. Such training is available via the two organizations referenced above, and also from others.

Whether or not gay and heterosexual men represent a small minority, a large minority, or an equal number of such victims as compared to women in the population is immaterial. The State of Maryland  by its policies and procedures is obligated to encourage and support only those organizations that practice inclusion, diversity and non-discrimination. However, not even very large urban areas can financially support “separate but equal” domestic violence facilities and services for men and women. Not only is it not practical, but such a policy does little to combat discrimination and only encourages conflict over funding resources.  1. The purpose of this training is to provide guidance and directives in how to implement a non-discrimination policy in all service areas.  2. As part of this training program, a compliance coordination methodology shall be developed to assure that the non-discrimination policy is being carried out by agencies who participated in the training. 3. The training will provide cost-effective, implementable, and practical steps that each agency or organization can take to eliminate discrimination and incorporate gender and sexual orientation inclusive policies.

We respectfully request the Office of The Governor to immediately begin the implementation of such a training program.

REFERENCES


1 One example is the Allstate page <http://www.clicktoempower.org/> linked from the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV) web page that rightly claims that 3 women each day (actually it is closer to 4) die of domestic violence in the United States. They fail to mention that nearly 2 men die each day due to being murdered by their female partner. This is a glaring omission. In 2007 1640 women were murdered by their male intimates and 700 men were murdered by their female partners. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=971 Why are the male victims omitted?

2 “Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey | National Institute of Justice.” Office of Justice Programs. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/172837.htm>.

3 “Family Violence.” National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges . N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2009. <www.ncjfcj.org/content/view/20/94/>.

4 “National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.” National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.ncadv.org/learn/TheProblem.php>.

5 “Domestic Violence Facts: Maryland.” National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2009. <www.ncadv.org/files/Maryland.pdf>.

6 “Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV).” Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV). N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://mnadv.org/DV_Stats/ucr_stats.html>.

7  Whitaker, Daniel. “Differences in Frequency of Violence and Reported Injury Between Relationships With Reciprocal and Nonreciprocal Intimate Partner Violence.” Journal of Public Health 97.May (2007): 941-947. Print.

8  Ibid.

9  Ibid.

10 Pence E. Some thoughts on philosophy. In Shepard M and Pence E (eds.): Coordinating Community Responses to Domestic Violence: Lessons from Duluth and Beyond. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishers, 1999, p. 30.

11  McNeely, R. L., Cook,  P. W. & Torres, J. B.  (2001).  Is domestic violence a gender issue or a human issue?  Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 4 (4), 227-251.

12  “Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) – Intimate partner violence.” Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) . N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2010. <http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=971>.

13 Paymar, Michael, and Ellen Pence. Education Groups for Men Who Batter: The Duluth Model. 1 ed. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1993. Print.

14 Graves, Tom. Power and Response-ability: the human side of systems. London: Tetradian, 2008. Print.

15 Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, Home of the Duluth Model.” Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, Home of the Duluth Model. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.theduluthmodel.org/wheelgallery.php>.

16 Gelles, Richard J., and Murray Straus. Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family. New Ed ed. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2006. Print.

17 “Processes Explaining the Concealment and Distortion of Evidence on Gender Symetry in Partner Violence.” University of New Hampshire. N.p., n.d. Web.18 Dec. 2009. <pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/V74-gender-symmetry-with-gramham-Kevan-Method%208-.pdf>.

18 Ibid.

19 “REFERENCES EXAMINING ASSAULTS BY WOMEN ON THEIR SPOUSES OR MALE PARTNERS: AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY.” California State University, Long Beach. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm>.

20 Arehart-Treichel, Joan. “Men Shouldn’t Be Overlooked as Victims of Partner Violence.” APA Psychiatric News 42.15 (2007): 31-33. Print.

21  “Appeals court decision supports battered men.” San Francisco Bay Area — News, Sports, Business, Entertainment, Classifieds: SFGate. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/15/BA3S13HOLS.DTL>.

22 Press, The Associated. “W.Va. domestic-violence program regulations voided  – News – The Charleston Gazette – West Virginia News and Sports.” – – The Charleston Gazette – West Virginia News and Sports. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2009. <http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200910080509>.

23 “Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV).” Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV). N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2009. <http://www.mnadv.org/DV_Stats/ucr_stats.html>.

24 “Welcome!.” Stop Abuse for Everyone. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2009. <safe4all.org>.

25 Robinson, Michael. “National Family Violence Legislative Resource Center.” National Family Violence Legislative Resource Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2010. <http://www.nfvlrc.org/>.

26 Please consult with the Chairman or Vice-Chairman of the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health for more information on these organizations.

27 “Results from Study on Men’s Experiences of Partner Aggression.” Clark University | One of 40 “Colleges that Change Lives”. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2010. <http://clarku.edu/faculty/dhines/results.htm>.

Maryland Report – Men’s Health

“‘Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death,’ says Randolph Nesse of the University of  Michigan in Ann Arbor.’ If you could make male mortality rates the same as female rates, you would do more good than curing cancer,’ he says. Nesse’s colleague Daniel Kruger estimates that over 375,000 lives would be saved in a single year in the US if men’s risk of dying was as low as women’s.”  New Scientist Magazine, July 2002

If we apply Kruger’s national numbers to the state of Maryland (multiply by
.018, the percent of the US population residing in Maryland) we can estimate that 6750 Maryland men die each year due to their higher mortality rates than females.  This means that one Maryland man dies every 80 minutes as a result of his being male. The sad fact is that according to age adjusted data from the Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007, our Maryland men and boys die earlier and more often from leading causes of death including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, accidents, suicide, and homicide.¹ The only leading cause of death out of the top 15 for which women outnumber men is Alzheimer’s Disease.  The men simply don’t live long enough to outnumber women diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Being male has a huge impact on both our longevity and our state of health. Simply put, Maryland men live both shorter and sicker lives than Maryland females. We know that black males in Maryland live on average to be only 70.9 years old and white males live on average to about 76.9 years of age.  Both black and white women outlive both black and white males with black females living on average 78.0 years of age while white females live to be 81.6.²   It appears that one’s sex is a significant factor in longevity as it is in health.

Judging from these numbers, one would assume that there would be special programs focusing on the health of Maryland males. This is simply not the case. Our Maryland men are largely forgotten when it comes to services provided for gender-specific problems. An informal assessment performed by the Maryland Men’s Health Commission’s support staff of male-specific and female-specific health programs in Maryland showed that women have numerous programs for their unique health problems. Examples include a Breast and Cervical Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Program, a program for screening breast and cervical cancer, a Maternal and Perinatal Health Program and numerous others.  There are special programs for women for family planning and for female victims of domestic violence. The state of Maryland had a program titled “Women Enjoying Life Longer” which focused on women’s wellness issues.  Maryland also has a “Women’s Health Program” which is meant to assess and address health issues that commonly, uniquely, or disproportionately affect women throughout their lifespan. Many millions of dollars of Maryland’s budget directly support the programs identified above.

When we look to the men’s side of the equation, we see far fewer programs.  The Commission’s informal assessment showed that there was one pilot program in Charles County for prostate screening and another that was funded by the Cigarette Restitution Fund (CRF).   There are no Maryland programs for testicular cancer, no programs for prostate cancer, no programs for men who are depressed or suicidal (even though men comprise 80% of the suicide totals), no programs for men who are victims of violence even though men are murdered more than five times as often as women.3  What we found from this informal survey was that the health services provided specifically for men are very sparse when compared to those provided specifically for women.

The Maryland numbers are far from an aberration and are very similar to what we see on a national level. The US has multiple national commissions for women’s health and none for men. There has been a bill to create a men’s health act that has been sitting dead in committee for the last ten years. It simply can not get enough votes or interest to pass. You can see a national website womenshealth.gov for women’s health and another site girlshealth.gov specifically for girls.  Both are paid for and sponsored by the US federal government.  However, a search for menshealth.gov  or boyshealth.gov uncovers only a “server not found” error.  These sites simply do not exist.  Looking internationally, you can see that this same bias of focusing on the health and well-being of women and girls and ignoring that of men and boys is common throughout the western world.  The only western country that is aggressively addressing this issue is Australia, where legislators have been busy evaluating their present health system and its bias against boys and men and making significant adjustments.  Hopefully, initiatives in states such as Maryland will cause our country and others to step forward like Australia and find compassion for both men and women, boys and girls.

Many experts agree that the bias we are describing exists but there is very little consensus on the likely cause.  Many are pointing to the traditional roles of men as a possible factor.4  The men’s traditional role of “provide and protect” primarily sends resources to others while discouraging the utilization of those same resources by those who are doing the providing.  This leaves men motivated to help and care for women and children but much less interested in being of help to men.  We can see this play out as our largely male legislators have focused on issues of women’s health while ignoring those of men.  Others point towards the relatively new ideas of evolutionary psychology that examine the men’s “dominance hierarchy”5 which  compels men to strive for status by competing with other men.  Males are therefore more likely to want to strive to serve women and children and thereby move up in status, but less likely to offer services to fellow competitors.

No matter the reasons behind this bias it is glaringly obvious to anyone who takes the time to investigate that men’s health issues are in serious need.  This report will focus on a number of areas where Maryland men have been largely forgotten and the impact that this has had on men and boys.  Recommendations will follow each individual section.

References

1. (2007). Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007.  Table 38, Age-adjusted Death Rates per 100,000 Population for Selected Causes of Death by Race and Sex. Maryland 2007. http://mdpublichealth.org/vsa/doc/07annual.pdf

2. (2007). Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007.  Table 7,  Life Expectancy by Age, Race and Sex, Maryland 2007. http://mdpublichealth.org/vsa/doc/07annual.pdf

3. (2007). Maryland Vital Statistics Annual Report 2007.  Table 42,  Death and Death Rates for 15 Leading Causes, Maryland 2007. http://vsa.maryland.gov/doc/07annual.pdf

4. Farrell, W. (1993). The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are The Disposable Sex. New York: Simon & Schuster.

5. Moxon, Steven (2008). The Woman Racket: The New Science Explaining How The Sexes Relate at Work, at Play, and in Society. UK: Imprint Academic.