How Domestic Violence Shelters Perpetuate The Gender Bias

Submitted by Anonymous

The author of this article worked as a counselor in a domestic violence shelter in the Midwest for more than five years.

There is an overload of subconscious perceptions in domestic violence shelters.

Posters or pictures on the walls, quotes on the bulletin board, excessive use of purple – the color of domestic violence prevention – and the fact that women are the majority in this arena.

These are but a few examples of subconscious ways residents in domestic violence shelters are told that women are superior and men are inferior, that women are favored and men are the outsiders.


Domestic Violence Workshops and Support Groups

The classes, workshops, and support groups offered to residents in shelter, sometimes required of residents in shelter, are heavily biased.

One popular support group program, called “Tending Your Garden,” was written by a female domestic violence survivor. Of course this program presents the perpetrator as masculine, since her abuser was her husband.

Other resources may attempt to be gender neutral, but somehow the text usually still comes across that the victim/survivor is female and the perpetrator male.

Topics covered in support groups and workshops include power and control tactics, which is neither male nor female, but the discussion will inevitably create the gender issue. When the women residents begin discussing how their perpetrators (generally male) used control tactics on them, then the idea of abuser/male/bad is born and reinforced.

Some of the power/control resources contain blatant male negative aspects, such as the idea that traditional gender superiority belief leads to power/control issues.

While this is true, it nonetheless leads to the thought that men use tradition and culture to justify male superiority, which oftentimes branches out into the thoughts that all men use these excuses to maintain their superior status in the household, or all men believe males are inherently superior, as is illustrated by culture, tradition, media, etc.


Reverse Gender Inequality Ideas

Carrying through the ideas and beliefs espoused in shelter workshops and support groups is the continued propaganda that women are superior and men inferior. Often, there is a reverse discrimination that occurs when shelters go overboard in their attempt to increase residents’ self-esteem and self-confidence.

Female power, women’s rights, pro-women quotes, posters, and dialogue can all serve to boost survival instincts and help rid women of their victim personas. An unwanted effect of this bombardment of media can very well be that women are good, nurturing, strong survivors while men are evil, manipulative, cruel perpetrators.


Informal Conversations

Conversations between residents, or between residents and staff, tend to be continuations of topics covered in classes or groups, or may be about the reason that the resident is in shelter, or be about the resident’s past, which is usually steeped in violence.

These conversations serve to purge the women of their negative feelings about the trauma and help them in coming to terms with the trauma and help them begin healing.

However, the women and staff then encourage one another in sharing these events and feelings, which obviously will be unfavorable towards their male perpetrators. All too often, these discussions then devolve into bashing sessions, demonizing all men.

The saddest part of all of this is that many of the resident victims are males, usually sons of the victims of abuse.

These young, impressionable boys cannot help but hear the negative things being said about males, and they cannot help but feel the animosity many of these women hold toward men.

What damage is this wreaking on these young psyches? They possibly already saw the violence this male had perpetrated toward their mother or perhaps was on the receiving end of it themselves. They may already be worrying they may turn into their father.

It cannot be anything remotely good for these young males to be bombarded day after day with negative male stereotypes.

If you are a victim of domestic violence or need to file a restraining order against an abusive family member, contact the men’s rights attorneys of Cordell & Cordell.

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