October was national Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Every year, recognition of domestic violence month touches off a month-long storm of controversy. Women’s groups and groups representing the interests of abuse victims of both genders and all ages seize the opportunity to raise awareness of domestic violence, including child abuse.
Some men’s groups resent it and respond that men can be and are victims of domestic abuse too. Some other men’s groups resent it and react by accusing women of asserting false allegations and complaining that the legal deck of the Violence against Women Act and state domestic violence statutes is stacked against them. They insist it is too easy for alleged victims to receive protection at the expense of an alleged abuser. They want to put an end to Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
But during domestic violence awareness month, according to an article in the Washington Post, a Maryland domestic violence judge lifted an existing protective order, despite the wife’s pleading, because the husband wrote in a letter to the judge that he wanted to go to marriage counseling. The judge admonished the woman looking to him for protection, “Get a lawyer and get a divorce. That’s all you have to do.” According to the article, the husband, instead of pursuing marriage counseling, subsequently showed up at his wife’s workplace, where he set her body on fire.
Also during domestic violence awareness month, an adult male prosecutor’s abused childhood was recounted. He was victimized by having to witness his mother being subjected to physical abuse repeatedly. The abuse scarred him for life.
Some women are themselves domestic abusers. Some, men are victims of domestic abuse, and sometimes they are too “gentlemenly” even to defend themselves against abuse from women. Even when they are gender-neutral, the laws are not always applied to give men equal protection of the law. Some women do make false allegations of domestic violence against men. All granted.
But does that mean there is no need for a Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Given the articles above and all the sad cases of domestic violence that we family lawyers see regularly, clearly not. Perhaps Domestic Violence Awareness Month should raise awareness of all forms of domestic abuse, which includes various forms of abuse of the domestic violence protection system – in some cases?