Woods Case Amicus Brief

Last month Glenn Sacks posted a stunning achievement made in California:

California attorney Marc Angelucci scored a tremendous victory today as the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento ruled that California’s exclusion of men from domestic violence services violates men’s constitutional equal protection rights.

The taxpayer lawsuit — Woods. v. Shewry — was initially filed in 2005 by four male victims of domestic violence.

In 2007, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly dismissed the case, ruling that men are not entitled to equal protection regarding domestic violence because they statistically are not similarly situated with women.

The case centered on David Woods and his daughter who were both victims of violence at the hands of Woods’ wife. When Woods sought help, the local domestic violence center WEAVE denied him any assistance because he is male. Later his daughter called WEAVE begging for help only to be told the organization did not help men because they were not victims.

Angelucci’s victory demonstrates the kind of organization and drive the men’s right movement needs and more importantly what men and their supporters can achieve if they are civilly persistent. Together with many prominent people within the domestic violence community, Angelucci authored an amicus brief describing their cause. It is worth a full read, however, a few paragraphs stood out.

The brief does an excellent job of dispelling some of the myths surrounding male victims of domestic violence, starting with the claim that domestic violence centers already provide adequate services to male victims:

Still–out of nearly 2,000 domestic violence shelters in the United. States, only a few accept male residents (Brown, 2006). Some shelters will assist the male victims who contact them, but any provided assistance is typically by accident rather than design.

Many states, including California, provide funding under their health and welfare statutes for programs to help female IPV victims, but specifically exclude men (California, 2006). (p. 17-18)

The second position thoroughly debunked is the claim that women only assault men in self-defense, a claim that is very common among women’s advocates and feminists:

Many researchers persist in minimizing abuse against men […] An example is Das Dasgupta (2001), who […] confidently declares: “These studies find that self-defense is the most common reason for women’s use of violence towards their intimate male partners.” However, at least two of the studies he cites – one by Vivian and Langhinrichsen-Rohling (1994) of couples seeking counseling in a New York clinic, and the other by Straus (1999) – drew no such conclusions: The first study suggested that most partner violence is mutual, but that women experience more physical, and somewhat more psychological, injury than men. With respect to the second study, Das Dasgupta appears to have crossed that fine line of research ethics, between taking data out of context and manipulating it. Citing a number of self defense studies […] Straus stated the very opposite of what Das Dasgupta reported […] (p. 20-21)

The third was an interesting counter argument to the notion that male perpetrated violence was somehow worse and more damaging:

Both the partner-abusive men and partner-abusive women interviewed in Kaura and Allen’s (2004)2 study of dating students that had grown up in a violent home. The women were more likely to have lived with a violent father, and the men with a violent mother. Sommer’s (1994)3 Winnepeg survey also found correlations between witnessing interparental abuse and adult intimate partner violence, as did Jankowski, Leitenberg, Henning and Coffey’s (1999)4 study with 1,576 dating college students. The military study by Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al. 1995)1, as well as research by Straus (1992)2, actually found higher IPV rates among adults who had witnessed mother-perpetrated violence, compared to violence perpetrated by fathers. (p. 29-30)

The brief is fairly thorough in addressing all the common reasons why women’s advocates and the domestic violence deny men and their children services and support. Again, this shows what men’s rights advocates can achieve when they work hard for their cause. Of course, not everyone views this as a good display of men’s activism. Some consider the ruling blatant misogyny and others attack the men’s right advocates who fought for male victims, calling them “leeches.”

Setting that aside, the importance of this ruling should not be overlooked. There is now a legal basis on which men who are pushed aside by the largely sexist domestic violence community to protest. While the ruling will not force any centers to provide for male victims preemptively, it does mean that incidents like WEAVE turning away Woods and his daughter can be dealt with. Those attitudes can be addressed, the bigotry and the sexism revealed. The more centers that assist male victims, the more male victims will come forward and the more light will be shed on the violence women commit against their partners and their children.

Male victims deserve to be helped and to receive help without conditions, the diminishing their sufferring or ridiculing the efforts by their advocates to get equal access.

2 thoughts on “Woods Case Amicus Brief

  1. Pingback: Standards and Such « Toy Soldiers

  2. Pingback: Being a Man: Fatherhood and Abuse | Toy Soldiers

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