Full Comment: Barbara Kay, A big piece of stone just fell out of the Domestic Violence version of the Berlin Wall (National Post October 15, 2008)

Full Comment

Barbara Kay, A big piece of stone just fell out of the Domestic Violence version of the Berlin Wall

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I am sure that to 99% of readers the two words "domestic violence" means violence against women. Only. The politically correct view that all domestic violence (DV) can be accounted for either by the inherent aggression and controlling instincts of men or by women's defensive reactions against those instincts is so deeply entrenched in our culture that it has become the Berlin Wall of the gender wars - or rather the war of feminism against men. In fact women initiate violence against their partners in an almost equal ratio to men. And in many cases the violence they inflict is severe (as one woman in a woman's shelter told the director, "knives make great levellers").

For all the men who have suffered at the hands of battering women, a chunk of stone just fell out of that huge gendered wall. In a taxpayer lawsuit by four male victims of DV, the Third District appellate court in California reversed a previous ruling holding that because they are not statistically situated with women, men are not entitled to equal protection. The new ruling declares the exclusion of men from Domestic Violence programs unconstitutional.

The presenting case, that of David Woods and his daughter Maegan, now in her early 20s, was compelling because the evidence was irrefutable, the worst case of gender bias in this area I have ever seen. David Woods is a handicapped man in a wheelchair, incapable of living on his own, and dependent (or was during the relevant period, the 1980s, when Meagan was a young girl) on his wife Ruth, who is bi-polar with violent tendencies. David frequently attempted to get help from a Sacramento DV agency, who always told him "We don't help men," explaining that men were perpetrators of violence, never victims, the usual mantra so clearly inapplicable to his situation. Churches and various other programs were equally unhelpful.

If David had fled with his daughter, he would have been arrested for kidnapping, unlike women with children who are offered shelter and sympathy. He would certainly have lost custody in a divorce, so neither flight nor divorce would have served Meagan's interests. Bias in the law enforcement system exacerbated the problem. In one 1995 incident, Ruth aimed a shotgun at Meagan. David managed to wrest it from her. Ruth called the police, telling them she wanted to kill her husband, but when the police arrived, they immediately handcuffed him.

People who have followed the heartrending story of the Woods family can only rejoice at this moral victory, which of course comes too late to rewrite the tragic trajectory of Meagan's unhappy childhood, but hopefully will provide a strong foundation for the reversal of the tide of gender bias the case represents.

The entrenched prejudices against men in the DV industry know no borders. California today, other states tomorrow. And Canada? The issues are the same, the right of taxpayers to equal access to services is the same, the bias in the legal system is the same, and the cultural blindness to the plight of male suffering is the same. It would be a grace note for judges here to take note of the chunk of wall on the ground, and pick up a proactive hammer. The faster this wall comes down, the better for democracy and for gender relations, soured by years of feminists' indifference to the suffering of male victims and their children.