We’re at the end of National Domestic Violence Awareness month, but that doesn’t mean the issue goes away. Families continue to suffer as individuals act out, and lives are impacted for decades by the trauma suffered as a child. The effort to stop domestic violence continues whether or not there are purple or white ribbons everywhere.
The advocacy work that is done continues year-round, and in some ways it is disheartening that there is only a month a year given to the awareness of something that impacts our society so profoundly. For example, there is an estimated loss of 8 million days a year of paid work by victims of domestic violence. The cost is estimated to be over $8.3 billion annually.
Locally, the cost of maintaining a shelter such as Sojourn is put at over $2 million annually, as listed in the public documents for OPCC’s $22-million budget. Sojourn is one of many Los Angeles County shelters that are available for women and children to flee violent and abusive homes and relationships.
Abusive relationships affect everyone, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Men experience psychological aggression at slightly greater levels than women, (48.8 percent vs. 48.4 percent) and equal rates of coercive control in at least one form (four out of 10 people).
Getting to numbers that can be agreed upon is a primary difficulty in solving the problem of domestic violence because making the case for more services in any particular area is tricky without hard numbers. For example, when I discuss domestic violence, oftentimes others want to focus on rape, stalking and harassment. And while those are examples of domestic violence with higher perpetration rates among men, emotional and psychological abuse by women are often ignored.
In any situation where you can slice and dice the numbers to make them read and support what you want, the opportunity for political gains (chiefly, funding) will become a driving force. There’s a reason why the Violence Against Women Act is not named the Ending Domestic Violence Act. Historically, this has been good in that Congress has funded the domestic violence shelters like Sojourn, Valley Oasis, Women’s Shelter of Long Beach, Haven Hills and Jewish Family Services.
These providers have been built on a combination of public and private grants, donations and dedicated volunteers who have worked long hours for low pay to help those in need. The industry is evolving, and unfortunately we’re seeing an increase in victims but not an increase in funding.
As the definition of domestic violence has expanded, the need for service providers has grown as well. Government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long recognized that certain populations are underserved. A 2011 report on sexual violence notes that analyses of data “suggest that nearly half of female victims and approximately two-thirds of male victims who indicated a need for services did not receive any of the services needed as a result of intimate partner violence experienced during their lifetimes. Research is needed to examine the degree to which needed services are not being received and to determine whether any existing gap is attributable to services being unavailable, inaccessible, or inadequate, or to victims choosing not to use available services.”
The lack of services, and the underutilization of those that do exist, are two of the main reasons why I’m doing the documentary, “What About The Men? Exploring the Hidden Side of Domestic Violence.” The same issues that the CDC is curious about, I’m curious about. Why do men not report? Why do men not utilize the services available? And most importantly, how do we reach them to get them to stop the cycle of violence and protect their children?
I’m doing a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo if you’d like to help me raise $5,000, increase awareness and put a stop the cycle of violence. Your tax deductible donation goes to StopAbuseForEveryone.org and is earmarked for our production. If you can, please help by donating here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/what-about-the-men-the-hidden-side-of-dv.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in fathers’ and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or (310) 664-9969. Follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.