When Men are Victims

by Carol Thompson - Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Unreported cases of female-on male assaults showcase the hidden face of domestic violence

Scott was wheeled into the emergency room, bleeding profusely with a stab wound to his chest. Rushed to surgery, his chances of survival were slim. The knife had barely missed his heart. As he fought for his life, his girlfriend sat in a jail cell, charged with assault.

For Scott’s family, it was their worst fear.

They knew it was only a matter of time before something terrible happened. The police had responded to Scott’s home nearly a dozen times on calls of domestic violence. His girlfriend had sat on him and burned him with a cigarette, punched him, kicked him and pulled his hair out of his head.

None of these incidents resulted in the arrest of his girlfriend.

Scott is one of many male victims of domestic violence, and one of many who are among the hidden faces of abuse. Studies suggest that as many as one in three victims of domestic violence are male.

The rates of domestic violence for males and females are not kept, and the state Unified Court System does not keep statistics about the gender of recipients of stay-away orders, otherwise known as orders of protection.

The orders are only as good as the paper they are written on, said Jody Tryon, client services coordinator for the Cortland County YWCA Aid to Victims of Violence Program.

“They’re just a piece of paper,” she says.

“It’s a false sense of security.”

For men holding an order, it can be difficult to get an arrest. “Sometimes the police show, and it’s the man who ends up getting arrested,” Tryon says.

That’s just one reason men are often reluctant to report abuse by women. Also, they can feel embarrassed or fear they won’t be believed.

“They look at it as who’s going to believe them and the embarrassment factor,” said Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd.

Jody Tryon, client services coordinator for the Cortland County YWCA Aid to Victims of Violence Program, agreed. “It’s their pride. They don’t want to ask for help,” she said of male victims.

For Scott’s family, it was their worst fear

There is also a lack of awareness that services are available for the male population.

Many counties don’t operate safe shelters for men but provide other services and housing alternatives.

Cortland County does not have a safe house, Tryon said, but it can put male victims in a local hotel and offer non-residential services. The shelters are for women and children only.

Cristy King, intervention services coordinator for Oswego County Opportunities, said its safe house is not licensed to provide services to men. Deb Galotti, the crisis services director for the YWCA of the Mohawk Valley, said there are no shelters for men, but the domestic violence program offers transitional services for both men and women; the transitional program provides assistance for victims to get back on their feet.

In Onondaga County, Vera House offers a shelter for men. “We do serve men through all of our programs,” said Loren Cunningham, education director for Vera House. “We shelter both male and females.”

For Scott, even after spending eight weeks in the hospital and having a stayaway order, his ex-girlfriend repeatedly tried to contact him through family members. There was nothing that could be done, the judge told Scott, because his siblings and parents weren’t listed on the order.

“I’m not going to issue an order to everyone in town,” Scott said the judge told him.

Todd said Oswego County deputies respond to domestic violence calls from men but not with the frequency as they do from women. “We get the occasional call,” he says.

Although Onondaga County does not keep a gender breakdown of calls, last year’s statistics show that law enforcement throughout the county responded to about 16,000 calls for domestic violence. Cunningham said she expects that number will be higher this year.

“That, to me, is a staggering number,” she says.

Domestic violence is not only physical abuse. It includes sexual and emotional abuse, as well.

While there is a lack of male shelters, each representative interviewed said there are services available to male victims, and each operates a hotline that anyone can call.


A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS by Renée K. Gadoua

On Monday, Oct. 28, two days before Vera House was to deliver its annual report on domestic violence, a Syracuse man was charged with stabbing to death his estranged wife and another woman after an apparent history of domestic violence.

Justin Dallas, 26, had been arrested in July on a domestic violence-related charge. A judge had issued his wife, Brandy Dallas, 24, an order of protection after the incident, police said.

The latest local domestic violence-related death comes as Vera House was set to deliver relatively good news: Last year, there were no intimate partner homicides in the region.

In 2011, four people died in such incidents, and the region averages three to five such deaths a year, according to the 24th annual Report to the Community, which is being released Wednesday, Oct. 30.

The agency has more work to ahead to accomplish its mission of ending all domestic and sexual violence. Consider these statistics from Vera House’s annual report:

• The Syracuse Police Department answered 10,703 domestic calls in 2012. That’s up from 10,470 calls in 2011.

• In 2012, 1,502 domestic calls resulted in Syracuse Police Department arrests; that’s up from 1,494 arrests from calls the year before.

• The Onondaga County District Attorney’s Special Victims Bureau prosecuted 703 felony arrests and 368 misdemeanor arrests between partners or ex-partners in 2012. In 2011, the DA’s office prosecuted 749 felony arrests and 390 misdemeanor arrests between partners or ex-partners.

• Onondaga County Family Court issued 854 temporary orders of protection and 212 permanent orders of protection in 2012. That compares to 892 temporary orders of protection and 206 permanent orders of protection in 2011.

The report lists two state legislative changes to protect domestic violence victims. One law, effective July 31, requires telephone companies to provide victims of domestic violence with a modified directory listing, unpublished number or new number at no charge. The other, effective Sept. 27, restricts the parental rights of certain convicted sexual offenders when a child is conceived as a result of criminal sexual offenses.

The report also notes—without mentioning the partisan efforts to kill it—the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. In late February, after some recalcitrant Republicans had been voted out of office, Congress passed the reauthorization, renewing the law (and federal funding) for five years.

The act maintains protections for immigrant survivors of abuse; gives Native American courts the authority to hold non-Native offenders in their communities accountable; prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survivors; expands protections to people in subsidized housing programs; and requires schools to implement a recording process for incidences of dating violence and report the findings. o

Report to the Community

What: Syracuse AreaDomestic & Sexual Violence Coalition’s 24th annual Report to the Community on Domestic and Sexual Violence

When: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.

Where: Onondaga County Public Library’s Curtin Auditorium, 447 S. Salina St.

Information: www.verahouse.org 24-hour crisis and support line: 468-3260.


THE CYCLE OF ABUSE

The cycle of domestic violence falls into three categories: tension building, making up and calm.
Domestic violence.org describes these categories as:

TENSION BUILDING
Abuser starts to get angry.
Abuse may begin.
There is a breakdown of communication.
Victim feels the need to keep the abuser calm.
Tension becomes too much.
Victims feel like they are “walking on eggshells.”

MAKING-UP

Abuser may apologize for abuse.
Abuser may promise it will never happen again.
Abuser may blame the victim for causing the abuse.
Abuser may deny abuse took place or say it was not as bad as the victim claims.

CALM
Abuser acts like the abuse never happened.
Physical abuse may not be taking place.
Promises made during “making-up” may be met.
Victim may hope that the abuse is over.
Abuser may give gifts to victim.

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