October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. It’s a difficult topic to discuss as it is so emotionally charged for both the targets and the perpetrators (or people who do harm, as the new languaging is phrasing it). The definition of domestic abuse has changed since the death of Nicole Brown Simpson in 1994 when she was killed by an unknown assailant (although many people are convinced it was her estranged husband O.J. Simpson who killed her). In 1994 the courts, the police and most people, considered domestic abuse to be a “family matter” and it was ignored, swept under the proverbial rug and frankly it took severe physical abuse for anyone to stand up and do something about it.
For most of modern history, domestic violence has been defined as man beats woman, and it was tolerated. But in the early 1970s the issue started to crawl out of the shadows with the emergence of women’s shelters or refuges. Over the past 50 years we have come to recognize that both men and women are violent and abusive in roughly equal numbers, with the recognition that men are more physically damaging to their partners. The emotional damage that a woman can inflict on a man, and its long-term impact is only now beginning to be explored and recognized, although the courts are still loath to act in female on male aggression/abuse. The service providers such as shelters are more willing to recognize that men can be victims too, although it took a lawsuit by the late Marc Angelluci to press the issue. He was a friend of mine who was murdered last year by a fellow attorney who was jealous of Marc’s successes.
The domestic violence service providers community in Los Angeles County have a resource in the Domestic Violence Council, and I had a chance to speak with its current director Eve Sheedy. “The domestic violence Council is really two things with the same name actually so the one thing is the Los Angeles County’s Domestic Violence Coalition, which is a group of people who provide services to survivors of domestic violence, people who provide services for both survivors and for people who cause harm…. the other thing is, is a small, very small office in the Department of Public Health in the Health Promotion Bureau, and we are charged with really trying to address domestic violence, internally within the county, as well as externally.” The council facilitates monthly public meetings and several committees to increase awareness, share knowledge and address common concerns.
Over the years I’ve attended many meetings, both general meetings and committee meetings. In that time I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some truly dedicated people and this year the DVC is honoring two of those amazing people. For years a transwoman named Kendall Evans (she passed away last year) served the community and was a bit of a gadfly on uncomfortable topics. She was the one who “was willing to sit in every room that she was in and say to people in the domestic violence field, ‘What are you doing about people who cause harm? How can you look at this issue without looking at, and addressing people who cause harm?’ And when she first started saying that, it was not a thing many people said, and it was not easy to be in a room, to say that, and she was fearless in that way.” So this year the DVC has created an award in her honor.
The inaugural winner of the Kendall Evans Award is my friend Carol Crabson. Carol is the Executive Director of Valley Oasis, the first shelter in Los Angeles County to accept men. Sheedy told me that, “she also opened the doors to male survivors of domestic violence at a time in the movement when not everybody was doing that, and she was always really supportive.” I had the opportunity to interview Carol for my documentary What About The Men? And found her to be an exceptionally thoughtful and caring person who is an excellent choice for this year’s Kendall Evans award. When I reached out to her for comment she said, “Kendall was an inspiration to me. She was a strong advocate for those in need at a time when others turned their backs. Her drive always directed my steps as I advocated for the rights to services for male survivors and boys over the age of 13.”
Over the years that I’ve known all three of these women, Eve Sheedy, Kendall Evans, and Carol Crabson I’ve always been impressed with their devotion to fairness, equality, and most of all, empathy to all. When it was announced that Sheedy would be taking over the Los Angeles Domestic Violence Council I was thrilled that someone with such a dedicated and compassionate heart would be in leadership. This year, when it was announced that Crabson would be awarded the honor of being the inaugural winner of the Kendall Evans award, I could think of no better tribute to both Carol and Kendall.
The fight to solve domestic violence is an ongoing effort. I don’t know if it will ever be completely solved, but I do know that the people I have met like Eve, Carol and Kendall make the journey far more rewarding. They are all spectacular examples of what public service means.
And I’m proud to call each one of them a friend.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s 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. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra