Page One

Battering’s Hidden Victims: Males

Friday October 17, 2003

October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month and Berkeley Police are trying to help a rarely talked about, but significant percentage of its victims—men. 

Men comprise about 14 percent of Berkeley’s domestic violence victims, about even with the Alameda County average, said Detective Jennifer Louis of the BPD’s Domestic Violence Prevention Unit. 

Reported violence against men is up approximately four percent, she added, since the mid-1990s. 

Last year Berkeley reported 339 cases of domestic violence, 44 of which were attacks on males. Four of those attacks were male-on-male violence while women perpetrated the other forty. 

The rise in reports ofdomestic violence against men follows changes in California law several years ago that mandated arrests in certain cases, and corresponding police training that instructed officers to determine which partner was the aggressor. 

Det. Louis said men are still hesitant to make calls requesting police help and that usually the partner or a neighbor will call to report the violence. “There is still a stigmatism,” she said. “If we do get calls, it’s men saying they want [their partner] removed from the house.” 

While men account for a clear minority of domestic violence victims, they make up nearly half of all domestic violence deaths, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. Some of the deaths were retribution murders for past abuse, she said, “but not as many as you’d think.” 

Last year, six of the 19 Alameda county residents killed in domestic violence disputes were men. 

Now one advocate is urging county officials to provide more services for male victims. 

“You’ve got a shelter for the women, you’ve got counseling for the women, but there’s nothing out there for the men,” said Darnell Levingston, an Oakland resident who has pushed for such services for years and found out recently how vital they could be. 

Stuck in a relationship with a woman he said verbally abused him, Levingston decided to leave her home, but had nowhere to go. “There were no resources out there, no shelter or safe place,” he said. Levingston spent several nights in his car looking for a place to spend the night. “I tried the police, Catholic Charities, non-profit shelters. They all said they didn’t have any beds.”  

Det. Louis said the county has few services to assist battered men or their female abusers. While anyone convicted of domestic violence is required to enroll in a year-long batterer’s program, Louis said Alameda County doesn’t have a public women’s program, so locals are often made to seek treatment in San Francisco or Marin. 

Levingston said he is working with O’Malley to set up a hotline for men to call for help, and would like to start a shelter if he can raise the funds. “We need to get a place for these guys to live while they’re going through this,” he said. 

To assist any victim of domestic violence get the help they need, the BPD has created two new pamphlets, one designed for batterers and the other for male victims. Police urge any resident who is the victim of domestic violence to call the DVPU at 981-5736.