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CA laws discriminate against battered men

October 16, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
An appeals court has ruled that two California laws concerning domestic-violence programs discriminate against men. The court ordered lawmakers to rewrite them to be more gender-neutral."I'm glad that's over. I'm glad that's over," said Dave Woods, a domestic-violence survivor.

Woods is the face behind the lawsuit that is literally opening doors for battered men at domestic-violence shelters in California.

The Third District Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, saying a state-funded facility violated his rights when it turned him and his daughter away three times.

"I'm glad that - at least the way that it seems at this moment - there are men that are in similar situations to mine that don't have to go through what I did," said Woods.

The court said access to programs must be equal, but the actual services are not. That is the problem that will likely keep the legal battle going for years.

An agency, for example, could maintain a battered-women's shelter, but give hotel vouchers to men. The National Coalition for Free Men, which is leading the charge in this lawsuit, doesn't approve of such decisions. However, they say it is better than nothing.

The group also doesn't like that domestic-violence brochures are geared toward women.

"These programs will often still reach out to victims in a gender-specific manner, only referring to them as women, and that doesn't help the male victims come forward," said Marc Angelucci, Esq., National Coalition for Free Men. "This is really going to take a long time and more lawsuits to change."

Most California shelters have started helping men, but admit services are still far from equal. Only 10 percent of those seeking help are men.

"When 90 percent of the people coming in for help are women, that's where we really have to put our resources, while continuing to make sure that men are getting the services they need," said shelter director Beth Hassett.

Meanwhile, Woods has other battles to fight. The former Marine, who has an injury unrelated to domestic violence, is trying to educate people about battered men.

"It does happen. If it can happen to me ... if it can happen to big, strong Dave ... it can happen to anyone," said Woods.

 

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