Screening for Domestic-Violence Victimization Without Gender Stereotypes

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Government-sponsored outreach programs have encouraged employers, health-care providers, and other service provides such as lawyers and hair stylists to screen their employees, patients, clients, and customers for domestic-violence victimization. Due to gender stereotyping in public discussion of domestic violence, such screening is often neglected for men.

A manager of an employee assistance program has described his experience with screening troubled employees for domestic-violence victimization. He explained that, in the past, he had typically asked troubled female employees about domestic violence. But he hadn’t asked similarly situated male employees about domestic-violence victimization. After inadvertently hearing one man’s horrendous story of domestic-violence victimization, he changed his practice:

I decided to start asking my male employees the same questions about domestic violence that I routinely asked my female employees when they said they were having marital problems. Over the next two years, I became further educated as a number of male employees and other men began to share their “behind closed doors” victimization. One man told how his wife actually picked up the night stand and crashed it over his head while he was sleeping. She also bit him, leaving deep impressions with scars to this day. One Highway Patrol officer shared how his wife beat him with his police baton, used his stun gun on him, and even attacked him while he was laying on the sofa by smashing a large framed picture on his head, leaving broken glass all over his face. One man had his hand broken; another had to go to the hospital for testicle injuries. Another man was kicked in the groin, propelling him through a glass door leaving cuts on his back. He had to go to the hospital to stop the bleeding, yet told the emergency nurses that he accidentally fell through the door. A computer software employee shared, “I should have known to get out. I was chased with a baseball bat. I was attacked with a knife. One time I barely got out of the house with just my underwear on. When I had a mirror thrown at me and had to go to the hospital to get stitches, I told them it was an accident.” The list goes on and on. These men said they never assaulted their wives. Some of the women were arrested and ordered into anger management classes. But, many were not arrested or, more typically, the men decided not to call the police or seek other intervention.^

In a U.S. survey in 2008, about two-thirds of men seeking help for their suffering intimate partner violence reported that their contacts with domestic-violence shelters and domestic-violence hotlines were unhelpful. The associated study recommended a gender-inclusive approach to intimate-partner violence and more attention to the diversity of its victims.^ Not discriminating by gender in screening for domestic violence would contribute to equal protection for male victims of domestic violence.

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