By Lisa Scott
For years, we have been told that domestic violence is a serious problem: it must not be tolerated in any form and every victim must be believed. Yet, countless victims of domestic violence are ignored by the system, dismissed as liars, and even charged as abusers. These victims have been hit, kicked, punched, bitten, choked, knifed, shot, run over with cars, and even set on fire. They are men.
Male victim. It's sounds like an oxymoron. How can you be a male and a victim. Is it because they don't hurt when they are hit? Is it because they don't bleed when they are cut? No. It's because they don't count, literally. The recent Eastside Journal article about firefighter Mark Sundt typifies the plight of the invisible male victim. Sundt was charged with domestic violence against his girlfriend, yet the charges were eventually dropped. He tried to get the prosecutor to file charges against her, without success.
Now he has filed a citizen's complaint in Northeast District Court. Over the years, intense lobbying by women's advocacy groups resulted in enactment of the Federal Violence Against Women Act. The act provides billions of dollars for domestic violence programs, battered women's shelters, law enforcement and criminal prosecution. To aid in passage of the bill and ensure a continued stream of federal funding, these groups have deftly perpetuated myths that nearly all victims of domestic violence are female. They claim ``the No. 1 reason women age 16 to 40 end up in the emergency room is violence,'' and ``95 percent of domestic violence is committed by men.'' However, both government and academic studies repeatedly contradict these ubiquitous factoids. A Centers for Disease Control report (National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 1992 Emergency Department Summary) debunks the ER claim. The 1998 Justice Department report ``Intimate Partner Violence'' refutes the 95 percent claim: of 1,830 domestic violence murders, 510, or almost one third, were men.
Another 1998 Justice Department report, ``Violence Against Women Survey,'' found that while 1,309,061 women experienced domestic violence, 834,732 men were also abused -- 39 percent of all victims. Extensive research documents that men and women are almost equally likely to initiate domestic violence. And, despite clear evidence that both men and women suffer domestic violence, the federal act remains blatantly gender-biased. The principle reason male victims are ignored is that no violence against women money can be used for male victims. Police and prosecutors who spend time on male victims of female violence suffer a double whammy: they directly expend scarce resources on the cases, and they lose additional funding because for every such male victim there is one less female victim for which federal money is exclusively earmarked.
If male victims even report a crime, they are usually victimized a second time by the system: at best treated with indifference or ridicule, at worst prosecuted as the ``real'' abuser. Gender profiling has become a prevalent practice in domestic violence cases. Like racial profiling, gender profiling presumes guilt based on bias and prejudice. Recent cases I have seen include Eastside men who have been punched, hit, choked, scratched, and threatened with weapons by female perpetrators, none of whom have been charged with crimes. Change is needed. If you are a victim, stand up and be counted. Demand action, respect and equal rights.
If you believe every victim counts, regardless of gender, speak up. Call your elected officials, police and prosecutors. Demand they stop sending male victims to the back of the bus, stop gender profiling, and stop giving female abusers a pass. No victim can get real justice when only some victims are deemed legitimate. Every victim counts, and every abuser must be held accountable. Blaming only one gender for domestic violence in our society needlessly polarizes men and women, when we should be working together for better solutions.
Lisa Scott is a Bellevue family law/divorce attorney.
1705 132nd Avenue N.E.
Bellevue, WA 98005-2251
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Male primary teachers head for extinction
By JULIE SZEGO
Saturday 18 August 2001
When Jack Morrell began his teaching career in the late 1960s he was part of a respectable minority. But as he nears the end of his 13years at Ivanhoe Primary School, and decades of duty to the profession, Mr Morrell would like to pass the torch to younger male teachers- if only he could find some.
"When I started in teachers college it was about one in four men. But now we are a rarity," he said. "There's hardly any men in any (primary) classrooms around our region and, being 54, I'll be retiring soon, as will several of my colleagues, and there's not many men around to replace us."
With three full-time male staff (one a physical education teacher) out of about 26, Ivanhoe Primary is one of the luckier schools.
There is a chronic shortage of male teachers, particularly at primary level - although in a sad irony, perhaps, most primary school principals are male. Does this matter? It depends on who you speak to. Much of the anxiety comes from educators and social commentators who say young boys desperately need male role models, especially given the explosion in single-parent families.
"A boy knows he is turning into a man," writes therapist Stephen Biddulph in his book Raising Boys. "He has to download the software from an available man to complete his development."
Others link the shortage of male teachers and boys' falling academic achievements - a trend that is now the subject of a Senate inquiry.
Against this are equally loud voices saying no reliable evidence proves the shortage is harming boys.
No one, however, disputes the shortage is real. In Victoria, only 21 per cent of teachers in government primary schools are male, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, and the numbers are even lower in the private sector. The shortage is less pronounced in government secondary schools; in 1999, men comprised 34 per cent of teaching staff.
Ormond Primary is one of about 90 state primary schools without any male teachers. Principal Maria Hudson said the school was "doing fine" with a talented and dedicated body of teachers.
"We've instituted positive self-esteem programs to cope with any behavioral problems, though we've got no more than any other school. Hopefully gender isn't an issue," she said.
Ms Hudson conceded that in an ideal world there would be a gender balance, but said good men were hard to find. A job advertisement the school placed last year failed to attract any male applicants.
The shortage is not confined to Victoria. In NSW, where 83 per cent of primary school teachers are female, the issue made headlines again last week. The NSW Government has launched an inquiry into the shortage of male teachers. The report is due in November. Primary teachers have always been predominantly women, but the number of men has diminished in the past few decades. In 1984 men comprised 33 per cent of the state's primary teachers. Each year since has wiped off 1 to 2 per cent.
Most commentators agree low salaries, a self-perpetuating view about the "feminisation" of the profession and over-zealousness about child protection are to blame.
Australian Education Union Victorian president Mary Bluett said the drop reflected a steady decline in the status of teaching. The shift to short-term contracts during the Kennett years also took its toll, she said. "They (male teachers) were less likely to stick it out."
Morale and conditions are better now, but much harder to undo is the stigma of paedophilia that has affected male teachers in the past decade or so. Many people make assumptions about men who want to teach children, Ms Bluett said. She summed up the view as, "If you want to work with young kids, well, you're a bit suss."
Lex Arthurson, Victorian Primary Principals' Association president, agreed.
"I think they (men) feel like they would have to be very careful, that they would be watched over all the time and that they would be subject to innuendos and unfair presumptions," he said.
Mr Arthurson believes it may be time for "proactive" moves such as setting aside one quarter of government teaching scholarships for men - a suggestion the NSW government says is on the table.
The idea is not likely to be taken up in Victoria. A spokesman for Education Minister Mary Delahunty said last year's agreement delivering a better career structure for teachers would lure more young people to the profession. The soon-to-be-opened Victorian Institute of Teaching would also improve the profession's status by setting new standards. But quotas were a different story.
"People have various academic opinions about whether these things (the gender imbalance) matter, about the social and academic consequences for the students. Our concern is really for the overall health of the profession rather than mandating targets," the spokesman said.
Underlying the contention that boys with absent fathers need male teachers all the more is the assumption that male teachers are - or should be - de facto fathers. It's an assumption many academics, including Janet Smith, education lecturer at Canberra University, hotly contests.
Ms Smith, who is doing a PhD on males in primary teacher education, says male teachers themselves are quite vexed about what it means to be a role model - but they know what it means to be a good teacher.
Shouldn't they be the kind of teachers we want, regardless of gender? Teachers that aspire to the highest standards of the profession? Is this angst really necessary?
Mr Morrell certainly thinks so. Male teachers, he believes, are also more likely to value the masculine attributes of boys - more likely to love their boisterous manner and to make them feel good about themselves.
"When boys see a male teacher, they can see that it's good and normal to be a male," he said.