Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 10, 2006

Number of men who are domestic abuse victims far higher than the number actually reported, police say


BY RICK PFEIFFER and Carlene Peterson

pfeifferr@gnnewspaper.com

Veteran domestic violence investigator Ed Janese was putting the finishing touches on the paperwork for an arrest warrant on Thursday afternoon.

The Falls Police detective was preparing to charge a suspect with second-degree assault, second-degree menacing and third-degree criminal mischief.

“Two felonies and a misdemeanor,” Janese said shaking his head.

But unlike the vast majority of the cases he investigates, this time, the suspect in Janese’s cross-hairs was a woman.

“She pulled a knife on him (the male victim), hit him with a stick and used a baseball bat to smash the windshield of his car,” the detective said. “All this as he was trying to get away from her.”

Statistically, it is a small percentage of the cases that detectives, specializing in domestic violence cases, handle. Only about 3 percent of domestic abuse cases, nationwide, involve male victims.

Still, Janese says whether the victims are men or women, what is done to them has to be addressed.

“Domestic abuse is a learned pattern of controlling behavior and women can control men just like men control women,” Janese said. “(The abuse) is not always physical (violence), it’s the control. We hear about the physical part, but it’s the controlling part that (begins the abuse). Violence is usually the last part of it.”

Janese estimates that in the Falls, males make up perhaps 10 percent of domestic violence victims. However, he also said that number may be “inflated” by the method Cataract City cops use to compile their statistics.

“If the victim is a 10-year-old boy, for example, he’s listed as a male victim,” Janese said, “and that’s really not what we’re taking about here.”

For adult male domestic abuse victims, Janese estimates the number of cases in the Falls each year is closer to the national percentage Though, as is the case with women victims, the veteran detective believes the cases of male abuse victims are far higher than the number actually reported.

“Only 20 percent of suspected domestic abuse cases involving women are reported, so I would think the percentages are about the same for male victims,” Janese said.

Another reason why there may be far more male victims of domestic abuse than are reported could be the social stigma attached to those claims.

“A lot of male abuse goes unreported because people laugh at a male who says he’s being abused,” Janese said. “In our society, we don’t believe a woman can abuse a man.”

Janese said many male victims also fear the reaction of police when they make a complaint against a female partner.

“Our officers on the street treat it the same and they do an outstanding job,” Janese said. “We treat all victims the same. All the things we do for female victims, we do for male victims.”

Even domestic violence education programs address the potential for male victims. Though Janese admits, when he speaks to students in high schools about the topic he sometimes gets an skeptical reaction.

“I tell them 97 percent of domestic violence is against females, but there are males who get assaulted too,” Janese said. “I get a big chuckle from (the teenage boys). If only they knew.”

However, men who have been abused, by reporting that violence may take a step toward preventing retaliatory violence against women.

“I had a guy who came in and made a report, the female had been beating him for quite awhile,” Janese said. “And he told me he was at the point where he almost hit her back and he didn’t want to do that.”

That victim, Janese said, made the right choice.

The crime doesn’t know city lines either.

Down the road, in the City of Tonawanda, a 911 call, at around 10 p.m., sent officers into action there.

It was a domestic in progress on Broad Street in the City of Tonawanda. When officers arrived, they could hear children screaming from the inside of the home.

The victim, who had managed to escape, was waiting for officers outside. The victim reported being punched, cut and spit at. But the aggressor in the situation, who had broken a window to enter the home, wasn’t a muscle-bound guy.

It was a 130-pound woman, arrested in May on charges that ranged from second-degree harassment with physical contact to acting in ways that could injure a child.

Of the hundreds of domestic incidents that devour the time of local police officers, most are instigated and perpetuated by men. But the small percentage of women-led assaults and harassments that domestic cases breed are growing locally.

Officers say it could be women are acting more aggressively, or it could be that changing stereotypes are influencing more men to come forward and report the abuse.

Lt. John Ivancic, with the City of Tonawanda Police, said the abuse women tend to inflict on their male partners isn’t that different than the aggression men show toward women.

“There are women who use weapons, but they’re just as likely to use their fists and feet,” Ivancic said. “And a lot of guys won’t raise their hand to a woman, even though she raised her hand to him first.”

Such is the case with Kelly Caldwell, a repeat domestic offender who lives in the City of Tonawanda. Police have responded to incidents of Caldwell acting aggressively toward boyfriends for multiple years.

Some of the cases are sealed, but others paint an abusive picture.

One January night in 2004, officers responded to a 911 call involving Caldwell. She had punched her boyfriend at the time repeatedly in the face, which resulted in a cut on his forehead, according to police reports.

She was charged with second-degree harassment and first-degree criminal contempt.

In some cases, it takes multiple instances of abuse before a victim will come forward. Ivancic remembers one case where a male victim came to the police station only after the abuse spread throughout the household.

“The wife had started to abuse one of their children,” he said. “That’s what made him come in. When the wife started having aggression to one of their children, he drew the line. But he was still embarrassed to talk about it.”

Lt. Lori Rank, with the City of Tonawanda Police Department, said another case involved a 4-foot, 10-inch woman that beat her husband so severely with a wooden spoon, he was cut and bleeding from his head.

“It seems to be ‘heat of the moment’ type things,” Rank said. “It’s not like they waited for them to get home from the bar and planned it.”

Contact staff writer Rick Pfeiffer at (716) 282-2311, Ext. 2252.