Voice: ‘For Better or Worse' winks at male domestic abuse

April 14, 2002

On April 2, the comic strip "For Better or Worse," by Canadian Lynn Johnson, which runs in 2,000 newspapers in Canada, the United States and 23 other countries, dealt with a situation where two girls dating the same boy turned on him. Both girls assaulted the boy, apparently also using weapons seen in a later frame.

Had the situation been reversed, with two boys assaulting a girl well, Ms. Johnson wouldn't even think of drawing a strip like that! But somehow the idea that it's OK for women to use violence to deal with their anger seems to be just fine with her.

I've been an advocate for male victims of domestic violence since 1999. In the early days, the response when people found out what I was doing ranged from laughter to outright hostility. It hasn't been an easy time. Yet the facts are there: 835,000 men each year are victims of domestic violence.


In many locales, a man dialing 911 for help in a DV situation is automatically arrested as a matter of policy, or even law, no matter who the offender is. Too often this leaves any children in the home at the mercy of an abusive woman, but this is only one of many reasons why men seldom seek help.

Another reason is that the help just isn't there. Until recently there were only two shelters in all of the United States with any programs for male victims. In the past few weeks I've heard about one in Nashville Tenn., and another right here in Arizona in Autumn House in Mesa. Word is getting out that states funding shelters and other domestic violence programs under the Violence Against Women Act can no longer discriminate against men.

And finally, on April 1, actress Tawny Kitaen was arrested on domestic violence charges after assaulting her husband.

The tide is changing. Attitudes such as Lynn Johnson's, that women can and should be violent and use assault as a means of expression are not so fashionable anymore.

Perhaps we will even begin to see fewer TV commercials where men are punched and kicked, and fewer PSAs for programs that resort to anti-male hate messages to raise money for all-female services.

Well, I can hope.



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