by Siobhan H
Men and those in LGBT relationships suffering abuse in Suffolk County, New York may have a better chance at getting the help they need thanks to the Domestic Violence Bureau headed by Sergeant Kelly Lynch at the SCPD.
I held a short interview over the phone with Sergeant Lynch to see how those at Suffolk County Police Department handled domestic violence cases, both as first-responders and as follow-up support. What I found was a breath of fresh air in the smog filled room of Domestic Violence agencies. The Domestic Violence Bureau of Suffolk County, New York handles each case individually – they do not follow the predominant aggressor policy or the Duluth Model when it comes to Domestic Violence calls.
For those not in the know, the predominant aggressor arrest policy is the policy many police first-responders follow when it comes to Domestic Violence situations – when they arrive on the scene, according to the predominant aggressor policy, they should arrest the bigger, stronger party – usually the man. This means that if you’re a man who is physically stronger and more aggressive than your wife or girlfriend, and you call the police for help when you are being abused – you are more likely to be arrested than helped because of this policy.
Likewise, the Duluth Model follows the male-aggressor, female-victim dichotomy when it comes to abuse situations. This means that police going into the situation have already been taught to have a bias if they’ve been taught the Duluth Model.
Luckily, this is not the case for the SCPD. Each officer is taught to handle each DV case individually and analyze the situation accordingly to assess the situation. Regardless of whether the potential victim is a man or woman, regardless of whether they’re in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship, and regardless of their gender identity – all victims are treated with equal respect and taken seriously.
When I asked if SCPD followed a gender neutral approach to Domestic Violence calls, Sergeant Lynch responded with the following statement:
“It doesn’t matter who’s being abused, it could be a man or a woman or someone in an LGBT relationship. If it’s a victim they need help”.
This lack of bias when handling victims is critically important for male victims of domestic abuse to come forward. As seen in Ireland, a gender-neutral approach results in more men coming forward to report their abuse. When men know they will be taken seriously, they are more likely to report their abuser to the police and get the help they need.
Many victims of domestic abuse may also not realize that the relationship that they are in is abusive. This is especially true for male victims, who may attempt to normalize their partner’s behavior, or minimize the harm it is causing to the relationship and to themselves. SCPD, to combat this, hands out a brochure, to all potential victims dealt with during domestic violence calls, detailing what domestic violence is and telltale signs of abuse in a relationship. This gives the opportunity for those who are experiencing abuse and do not realize it to reflect on their relationship and come terms with the situation they are in and perhaps, as a result, seek help to exit the relationship.
SCPD appears to be going out of its way to handle each situation without bias.
Sergeant Lynch said that SCPD gets about 100 domestic violence calls – a day. The Domestic Violence Bureau team analyzes each one individually and assesses each case for severe risk factors. These include things like choking or strangling, which has a higher risk of severely hurting the victim, as well as increasing the risk of a violent offense occurring again at a later date.
I also asked Sergeant Lynch if children in abusive households were treated as victims or as witnesses. Her response: both. Even if children may not be direct victims of abuse, they’re still affected by the violence going on around them by the hand of one or both parents. Sergeant Lynch informed me that children in domestic abuse situations, and any victim of domestic abuse they encounter, are all encouraged to receive therapy. In addition to this, Child Protective Services are called and informed of the situation in its entirety.
While talking to Sergeant Lynch she mentioned that the situation regarding all abuse victims was “worth talking about” and that “much of the information” surrounding domestic violence research seems “outdated”.
As many in the Domestic Violence Advocacy circle know, much of the research around Domestic Violence features “women as victims; men as abusers” theories, and tends to exclude male and LGBT victims of abuse. These outdated theories regarding how abuse works between couples leads to many victims being excluded from resources, understanding, and police help.
When I asked what advice she would give to anyone facing Domestic Abuse, Sergeant Lynch responded that the most important thing to do is to seek help. Whether that means calling the police, or a hotline just reaching out is important. She also mentioned that for those seeking help from hotlines just the matter of having an outsider talk to you about your situation can be an eye-opener for many victims.
Sergeant Lynch also mentioned, hotlines can often direct you to resources, and courses of action you may not have been aware of. Unfortunately for men, many hotlines still discriminate based on gender, but there are still some – such as the National Hotline – which help all victims of abuse.
Luckily, as more people begin to read about research and advocacy websites that take a gender neutral based approach, such as The PASK Project, Erin Pizzey’s White Ribbon website, and even the CDC’s 2010 IPV findings – riddled with issues as that study is – the more hope for police departments, courts, and shelters to take a non-biased approach to domestic violence. The first step for helping to stop violence against everyone is making people aware that there is more than just one kind of domestic abuse victim.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence call:
Visit Stop Abuse Against Everyone (SAFE) for information on resources near you.
Siobhan considers herself an egalitarian and is an advocate for men’s rights issues: from ending circumcision to providing help for everyone who experiences domestic violence. Finding the Honey Badgers in early 2014 exposed her to men’s issues from all over the world and ignited the yearning to do something to help. This resulted in creating the resource blog Men’s Rights Resources at wordpress.com, along with supporting charities like Mankind Initiative and local charities that assist men in need. She is also a long time listener to the badgers and fan of Erin Pizzey and all those who work towards a better world from a fact-based perspective.