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Domestic violence crosses gender lines
Guest column

Domestic violence crosses gender lines

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According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one of the most under-reported crimes in America is spousal abuse, particularly female on male domestic violence. The stigma associated with that scenario can be daunting, frightening and often embarrassing.

Although all domestic violence is troubling and often horrific, what’s also disturbing is the widespread dismissal and belief that it doesn’t matter in certain legal or judicial processes — just because it comes from a woman against a man.

The reason it’s an important issue to bring to light as it pertains to family situations is because of the potential effect on children. It’s not about the safety of the victim in many cases, because a divorce, separation or court involvement often alleviates most of the threats of physical abuse. If a spouse exhibits physically abusive behavior to the other spouse, it is possible, and some say likely, that behavior will be engaged against the children at some point in their childhood. In fact, it says that exactly in the Missoula County 4th Judicial Court Parenting Guidelines.

I think we can all certainly sympathize with the horrible struggles some women have had to endure in the workplace and in their homes — but as famed legal scholar Alan Dershowitz recently said, men and women both tell the truth and both lie, there is no gender-linked gene for truth-telling. If a woman does something bad or illegal, she should be held accountable.

What about the old adage that if you didn’t report domestic violence to the police, it didn’t happen? Is that really acceptable to us as a civilized and caring society? A victim’s decision to avoid police involvement while children are in the home is often a powerful motivator, and usually in the best interest of the kids.

So could the issue simply be gender bias? This may fall under the so-called Fathers' Rights Movement in which the historical precedent of absent fathers or deadbeat dads, combined with mothers historically being the sole child caregiver, has hurt active and involved fathers in child custody cases in recent decades.

This is a tough and baffling situation and it stands to wonder why this issue occurs in Montana. This great state has often been at the forefront of gender equality, civil rights and the recognition of domestic violence-related issues. But the Montana court system seems to be failing to recognize that domestic violence is gender-neutral.

Tom Kerr is a Missoula County resident. If you’re a victim of domestic violence, man or woman, contact the Missoula County Crime Victim Advocates program at (406) 258-3830.

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