Help is there for male victims of abuse
When Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 2000, it also directed the U.S. Department of Justice to do another thing.
That was to "administer these programs so as to ensure that men who have been victimized by domestic violence and sexual assault will receive benefits and services under the Act."
Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting, or RADAR, issued a recent report claiming that men who seek help for these sorts of crimes receive the cold shoulder.
But local advocates disagree.
"We provide the same service regardless of gender of victim," said Peggy Grant, program director with the Lake County Prosecutor's Victim Assistance Program.
"(Male victims) have trauma just as a female does."
The report in question is titled "VAWA Programs Discriminate Against Male Victims." It states that 275,000 men are assaulted by their wives or girlfriends each year.
The study also claims the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women instructed its domestic violence coordinating councils, "States must fund only programs that focus on violence against women."
In Texas, an application specifically stated that "programs that focus on children and/or men" were ineligible for funding, according to RADAR's findings.
In New Hampshire, the VAWA-funded Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence refused admission to an organization that served a predominantly male clientele, the report stated.
But like Lake County Victim Assistance's Grant, Andrea R. Gutka, public relations coordinator for WomenSafe Inc. in Geauga County, said services for abused men are rendered just as they would be for women.
"Our name doesn't necessarily speak to the fact that we serve men, but we do," Gutka said.
WomenSafe defines domestic violence as: "a pattern of physical, emotional, and coercive behaviors that one family member uses to exercise power and control over another."
Under that definition, the group's disclaimer states:
"WomenSafe offers all services to victims of domestic violence regardless of gender, sexual orientation and to federal victims of crime."
Both WomenSafe and the Lake County Prosecutor's Victim Assistance Program provide several services to male victims, including helping with court filings, counseling and limited sheltering.
There are, however, differing views on whether there is an increasing need for these services.
Both Grant and Gutka said there is a growing trend with men needing help with domestic violence.
Agreeing is an advocate at Painesville Municipal Court, which serves eastern Lake County.
The advocate told Grant the municipal court has seen 15 domestic violence cases involving men as victims reported this year through March.
That is an increase from the seven reported cases at that time in 2005.
Gutka said in the last few years the percentage of domestic violence cases in which women are victims has decreased nationally to 92 percent from 95 percent.
Gutka could not say with certainty, though, whether those numbers show an increase in abuse dealing with men or whether more men are reporting incidents.
"It's a very real thing. It's starting to become more accepted for men to seek domestic violence services."
Lake County Prosecutor Charles E. Coulson took a different stance.
Coulson says there is a rise in domestic violence charges in Ohio.
That's partly because the law was changed in the late 1990s that made it possible to arrest suspects with a complaint filed against them, the prosecutor said.
"That has inflated the number of cases where a male is a victim," he said.
Coulson, however, still says that the number of domestic violence complaints from men are a small minority of the total cases.
That's at least those that he deals with, which are strictly felonies, he said.
One common denominator agreed upon is that it is hard to determine how many actual cases of domestic violence occur, for male or female victims.
That's because not all are reported.
One reason why more men don't come forward, according to Gutka, is because there is often a social stigma for men who seek domestic violence help.
Grant went one step further. She said it can be difficult for anyone of either gender to come forward.
Domestic violence brings with it challenges for both genders, mainly because it is almost always a "he said, she said" incident, Grant said.
But locally, Grant said victims, male or female, receive top-notch care.
"I have faith, especially in Lake County, that victims of crime are treated well as a whole," Grant said.
"Each victim has different needs. Each person is unique. A male may have different needs than a 5-year-old or an elderly person.
"But we have no barriers with some sort of classification or gender."