Amid the media frenzy over Tiger Woods and Bengals receiver Chris Henry, a key aspect of both stories slipped through the cracks: Like millions of other men, Woods and Henrywere — allegedly at least — the victims of domestic violence perpetrated by their wives or girlfriends. Beyond its brutal physical and psychological costs, domestic violence against men exacts a cruel economic toll at the personal, societal and national levels.For the most part, the media, authorities and average citizens see domestic violence as a crime that is committed by men and victimizes women. Consequently, funding to combat the problem has overwhelmingly been spent on programs that support women.
Widely Ignored Problem
And yet, more than 200 survey-based studies show that domestic violence is just as likely to strike men as women. In fact, the overwhelming mass of evidence indicates that half of all domestic violence cases involve an exchange of blows and the remaining 50% is evenly split between men and women who are brutalized by their partners.
Part of the reason that this problem is widely ignored lies in the notion that battered males are weak or unmanly. A good example of this is the Barry Williams case: Recently, the former Brady Bunch star sought a restraining order against his live-in girlfriend, who had hit him, stolen $29,000 from his bank account, attempted to kick and stab him and had repeatedly threatened his life.
It is hard to imagine a media outlet mocking a battered woman, but E! online took the opportunity to poke fun at Williams, comparing the event to various Brady Bunch episodes. Similarly, when Saturday Night Live ran a segment in which a frightened Tiger Woods was repeatedly brutalized by his wife, the show was roundly attacked — for being insensitive to musical guest Rihanna, herself a victim of domestic violence.
Lack of Research
Sometimes it is impossible to ignore the problem, but when domestic violence against men turns deadly — as in the case of actor Phil Hartman — the focus tends to shift to mental illness. The same can be said of the Andrea Yates case, which many pundits presented as the story of how an insensitive husband can drive a wife to murder.
Much of the information on domestic violence against men is anecdotal, largely because of the lack of funding to study the problem. Although several organizations explore domestic violence, the biggest single resource is the Department of Justice, which administers grants through its Office on Violence Against Women.
For years, the DOJ has explicitly refused to fund studies that investigate domestic violence against men. According to specialists in this field, the DOJ recently agreed to cover this problem — as long as researchers give equal time to addressing violence against women.