Skip to comments.Protest raises questions about gender bias - staff walks out on video showing abuse of men
Posted on 05/16/2003 10:01:45 AM PDT by dirtboy
Protest raises questions about gender bias - Domestic violence staff walks out on video showing abuse of men
State and county officials suspect gender bias after the coordinator of the Domestic Violence Rape Crisis Center (DVRCC) and four staff members walked out of a meeting Monday before a video presentation about women who abuse men.
Karen Dunne, who oversees this county's women's shelter, read a prepared statement objecting to the showing of the videotape moments before approximately 20 members of the Family Violence Coordinating Council of Cecil County viewed it.
(Comprised of representatives from law enforcement, the judicial system, county government and other agencies, the council meets once every two months to discuss domestic violence issues to better serve the community.)
"(The DVRCC) does not use or support the use of melodramatic materials ... no matter what victim group is emphasized. The use of skewered, sensationalist materials, often based on misleading statistics, myths, and non-scientific research, is non-productive to our mission and provides a disservice to all victims of violence," according to one passage in the statement.
After reading the letter, Dunne and her colleagues left the meeting before the council and guests viewed the videotaped segment of "20/20," a news magazine program aired on ABC television.
The segment included interviews with male victims of domestic violence and with women who assaulted their husbands or boyfriends. Some parts graphically described the attacks.
In the wake of the DVRCC protest, several officials who attended the meeting are wondering what, if any, ramifications will come from it.
"My major concern is that judges in both the circuit court and district court are legally and ethically obligated to deal with all persons on a gender neutral basis,'' said Cecil County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Dexter M. Thompson Jr.
He continued, "This puts us into a bind because we have a county agency that -- at least on the surface -- is indicating that we shouldn't even be discussing this type of issue at the Family Violence Council meetings."
According to Thompson, state law precludes judges from even associating with people or agencies suspected of gender bias.
State Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R) of the 34th District, drew the same conclusion after witnessing the walkout. (Jacobs attended the meeting as a guest because as a legislator she has introduced several bills to combat domestic violence.)
"I think it shows a gender bias. It almost showed a closed mind,'' Jacobs remarked. "At the least, them walking out showed insensitivity. It wasn't professional."
Chief Darrell Hamilton of the North East Police Department commented, "We were all at that meeting for the benefit of all abuse victims, not just a select group. One group can't be prosecuted more aggressively than another -- that's not justice."
And Richard Achuff, chief investigator with the Cecil County State's Attorney's Office, commented, "Quite frankly, it sent the message that they have horse blinders on and can't see anything peripherally."
But Dunne and her associates maintained Wednesday that the DVRCC isn't gender biased.
They reported that the DVRCC has participated fully with the council on the numerous occasions it has addressed the issue of domestic violence against males.
The Whig met with Nicholas J. Ricciuti, director of the Cecil County Department of Social Services, and Margaret Diem, coordinator of Human Services, in addition to Dunne.
Dunne and her associates acknowledged that women do assault men in relationships, but the problem isn't big enough to justify the amount of time and money spent on it.
"Given the small number of cases, an inordinate amount of time has been spent on this issue. We've all seen that video before. We believe the issue has been adequately addressed,'' Diem said.
According to Ricciuti, about 300 women are housed at this county's women's shelter annually, and all of them are victims of domestic violence.
Meanwhile, 14 men in this county sought services last year from the domestic violence program, he said. Counseling and shelter are among the services a man may receive, he added.
"The number of men receiving services from the DSS (Department of Social Services) because of domestic violence is less than 20," said Ricciuti, noting that his department has never received a gender bias complaint concerning its handling of male domestic abuse victims.
He continued, "On a scale of one to 10, this is not a high priority. The numbers dictate everything. It all comes down to time management and budget."
There isn't a shelter exclusively for male victims of domestic violence in Cecil County, for example, because it wouldn't be financially responsible to create one, Dunne reported.
"Proponents for (male victims) want to see equal services, but that just can't happen when 85 to 90 percent (of the victims), and maybe even higher, are women," Dunne said. "We provide comparable services."
Not only are there fewer male victims of domestic violence than female victims, but men often require fewer services anyway, according to Dunne.
Women usually are the primary caregivers to their children and, therefore, the urgency to find shelter is greater for them, Dunne explained.
"Women need more services than men. It's not that we discriminate against men," Dunne said.
According to Ricciuti, other types of domestic violence victims now demand more attention.
And that directive comes from the Maryland Department of Human Resources, which selected Cecil County Social Services to develop a three-county pilot program to address the latest trend.
"The real issue now is how to we reach out to the elderly victims of domestic violence, and victims who are disabled and victims who have a limited proficiency in English," Ricciuti said. "They are the under-served population. I would say domestic violence against the elderly is the biggest problem."
Considered a model agency by state officials, this county's social services department is designing a program to find those types of victims in Cecil County, Prince George's County and St. Mary's County and then help them, Ricciuti said.
Federal and state officials believe the number of domestic violence victims in those groups is high. Cases go unreported for a variety of reasons, including language barriers and cultural differences.
So, in addition to demonstrating their disdain for the videotape presented as a learning tool, Dunne and her colleagues departed early Monday to make another point.
"We've been addressing this issue (male domestic violence victims) over and over,'' Dunne noted. "We want to move the county in a direction that aligns us with state and national projects designed to reach out to these under-serviced groups."
She continued, "Our time is valuable and our work is undermined when the priorities of the (the council) are not properly aligned with our center, the state coalitions and networks, and when we do not focus on all under-served victim groups equally."
Addressing the sudden departure by the DVRCC group, Thompson commented:
"The whole point of these meetings is to discuss domestic violence issues openly so we can deal with them more effectively. If they didn't like the video, they could have stayed and vocalized their displeasure. I was shocked because it was highly inappropriate."
By challenging statistics presented in the video, Dunne and her colleagues exhibited an attitude reminiscent of one prevalent decades ago, when social workers started addressing the domestic abuse of women in the United States, according to Jacobs.
Male domestic abuse victims today face a similar plight female domestic abuse victims encountered several years ago, Jacobs reported.
"People were out there saying there was a problem, but, back then, we didn't have the statistics like we do today,'' Jacobs said. "So to me, it was hypocritical for (the DVRCC) to dispute the statistics (in the video) and then walk out."
She added, "It wasn't a wise move. This just cements the stereotype that women in these groups are man-haters."
Dunne and her colleagues, however, viewed their early exit as a last resort after voicing their concerns at past meetings -- to no avail.
"The (council) membership has tolerated the domination of the topic of male victimization for over a year, despite the fact that DVRCC and other partners have clearly demonstrated that male victims do indeed receive comparable services in this county as mandated by COMAR law,'' Dunne wrote.
To that end, Dunne recently presented a one-hour report to the human services committee of the council on mandated and non-mandated services that the DVRCC provides "for all victims of violence, including males," she said.
"Minutes from that meeting found that the report on these services was more than satisfactory. In addition, the DVRCC has met and, or, exceeded all state and federal program audit requirements for providing mandated services to victims of violence in Cecil County," she added.
Viewed as the start of the last-straw incident, Dunne openly objected to the videotaped segment of "20/20" after first seeing it during a sub-committee meeting, she said.
Then the executive committee was supposed to review the tape, accompanied by her comments, before presenting it to the council, she added.
But the tape bypassed the executive committee, and it was presented to the council Monday, according to Dunne, who wrote her statement after learning that the video would be played, despite her official objections and the lack of further review.
"I'm not into dramatics but I felt I had to do something," Dunne said, adding that she told council leaders beforehand that she and her colleagues would object and leave.
Her written statement concluded, "Please excuse us from the rest of this meeting, as we cannot support the use of histrionic materials. Thank You."
Ricciuti -- their boss -- supports Dunne and her colleagues.
"Walking out of the room is not only the right thing to do sometimes, sometimes it's the only right thing to do," Ricciuti said.
Skewered, LOL! (I think they meant "skewed".) But this accurately summarizes their position on guns: a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to kill friend or family, quintuples the risk of suicide and triples the risk of homocide, etc.
My wife tried that once years ago when I came home late from work. I had been at the tavern with some co-workers. She was lying in bed with an 8" chef knife waiting to bobbitize my frontal area. I climbed into bed and she displayed the knife, I reached over and grabbed the thing and took it from her, slicing her ring finger to the bone. That never happened again. It's become a funny story we tell now some 26 years later.
I'm thankful she didn't do to me what her sister did to her carousing husband. He came home from work one day to find his dinner ready and little did he know his girlfriend had called the wife and told her about his affair. The wife had taken the husbands fork and heated it to redhot on the stove and stuck it into the plate of spaghetti. When he stuck the fork into his mouth the fork branded his tounge and roof of his mouth. They were quite a couple.
What am I missing?
It's not a stereotype.
Fork design. The fork had a wooden handle. She told my wife she had to practice. Too hot and it sounded like a steak at Ruth's Criss, not hot enough the job doesn't get done. Truly maniacal, but I bet he learned.
Sometimes there isn't a lot of money and the man decides to get the hell away. The point is, these staffers conducted themselves in a discriminatory manner, which means that state agencies may end up being unable to do business with them. And it reflects a higher problem, namely that a lot of the activists in this area are hard-core man haters who don't want facts intruding into their cult of victimhood - if men are victims as well, they might have to treat them in a more sympathetic manner.