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In the News

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

California AB 2051 Perpetuates Domestic Violence Gender Bias


April 18, 2006


Sacramento CA - Today the California Assembly Judiciary Committee passed out assembly bill AB 2051 authored by Assembly Member Rebecca Cohn, of the 24th assembly district. The bill is a domestic violence bill that would help to provide educational material relating to domestic violence within the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities. The bill also requires the appointment of a representative to the Domestic Violence Advisory Counsel, which advises on policy and training to the legislature and other state government agencies.

Last October 2005, a class action lawsuit was filed against the state, state agencies and several shelters regarding discrimination in the state’s policy under Health and Safety Code 124250, which defined domestic violence victims as only women. The Cohn bill, AB 2051 was not introduced until February 16. 2006.

Southern California attorney Marc Anglucci filed the lawsuit, Maegan Black v. California, on behalf of Megan Black, the now adult child of an abused father and several other male victims of domestic violence who were denied services as victims. Megan also suffered.

Angelucci had made numerous contacts to Cohn’s office after it was learned that she would be introducing a bill to amend H&S code 124250 and other code sections. According to Angelucci, Cohn’s office advised him that she was considering his request to include all victims, including straight males.

Recent Center for Disease Control data shows that males represent at least 36 percent of all domestic violence victims. Many others studies and data sources show that domestic violence by men and women is about equal.

The arguments against current state policies and AB 2051 is not just about the males that are being discriminated against their children are also being discriminated against because they do not get the same services, e.g. counseling, shelter and so on, that the children of abused women get. The data is now undisputable and the experts in the field are feed up with the politics that surround this issue. Information in this regard had been provided to the committee members.

In spite of all the position letters urging Cohn to amend the bill to assure that all victims are recognized, she failed to respond and address the inequities. All committee members had been provided with undisputable evidence of the need to included straight males. During the hearing not a single member challenged the data or information offered to support the need to included straight males let alone ask any questions. The other problem with the bill is that it could cause the state the risk of losing 10’s of millions in federal STOP grant money.

Many international respected domestic violence experts wrote positions letters opposing the bill unless it was amended to include all victims, including straight men. The federal law, the Violence Against Womens Act (VAWA), was amended last year and made substantial changes in Section 3, Universal Definitions and Grant Requirements, including a requirement that the programs be gender neutral. Other changes also included section 4002 (8) Nothing in this title shall be construed to prohibit male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking from receiving benefits and services under this title. The General Accounting Office (GAO) section 512 also made changes to make sure that the data was being tracked more accurately and better grant funding accountability. More information can be found at www.vawa4all.org, Safe Homes for Children and Families, which is allied with California Alliance for Families and Children (CAFC)

One of the experts in the field to testify at the hearing today was John Hamel, who is also the author of Gender Inclusive Treatment of Intimate Partner Violence (Springer, 2005). Hamel has gained international respect for his work, www.favtea.com. Hamel has also been very supportive of the needs of the LGBT community regarding domestic violence. Hamel is quoted after the hearing:

“As currently written, AB 2051, the bill authored by Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn and approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, specifies that funds should be made available to help heterosexual female, gay, lesbian and transgender victims of domestic violence. The bill deliberately ignores heterosexual males, even though they account for half of all domestic violence victims and incur approximately one third of domestic violence related injuries. If gay, lesbian and transgender individuals, who represent a relatively small proportion of all domestic violence victims, are now to be provided the same range of services currently available to heterosexual women, why deny these services to heterosexual males?”

“There is an overwhelming, irrefutable body of research indicating that children are adversely affected by witnessing inter-parental violence regardless of the perpetrator’s gender. Boys and girls who have seen their mother physically assault their father are just as likely as those who witnessed their father assault their mother to perpetrate dating violence as adolescents and assault their intimate partners in adulthood. The research evidence also finds that parents who assault one another are also likely to also assault their children, and this correlation holds equally for mothers and fathers. By ignoring the problem of female-on-male violence, Cohn’s bill is not only blatantly gender biased and discriminatory; but more importantly, it actually inhibits our common efforts to effectively combat domestic violence in our communities. Unless amended to specifically include all victims of domestic violence – male, female, gay or straight – this fraudulent piece of legislation should not be allowed to become law.”

Michael Robinson (916) 223-6143