Surveying the Landscape of Policy in Action and Moving Forward An Office of Women's Health was created 30 years ago by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1991 during another pandemic, HIV. At the time the Office of Women's Health was created, HIV infection became the number one cause of death among men aged 25-44 years-of-age. From 1982 to 1992, the death rate increased from 0.6 per 100,000 to 52.8 per 100,000 for men 25-44 years-of-age and from 0.1 per 100,000 to 7.8 per 100,000 for women 25-44 years-of-age. The male to female HIV death ratio, for those 25-44, was 7:1 respectively. In 2021, the Biden administration established the White House Gender Policy council, a gender policy council that specifically excludes boys and men. It did so during a COVID pandemic, opioid epidemic, and a surging homicide rate; all of which disproportionately impacts boys and men.
The Violence against Women Act (H.R. 1620) was passed by the House on March 17, 2021, as mounting evidence shows male victims of domestic violence are on the rise. According to the CDC, "1 in 5 women (22.3%) and nearly 1 in 7 men (14.0%) have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime," an estimated 16 million male victims of domestic violence. Although we must prevent any act of violence against women, the nation should never deny male victims of intimate partner violence their constitutional protections. I encourage anyone reading this article to watch this 2 minute video of a male domestic violence survivor (Blair) who received a Domestic Violence Awareness Proclamation from the city of Kirkland in Washington.
Historically, men have had to sue for equal protections. In 2008, attorney Marc Angelucci won a groundbreaking case in the California Supreme Court regarding male victims of domestic violence. The judge ruled,
The judgment is reversed. We direct judgment be entered for the issuance of a peremptory writ of mandate commanding (1) the Department of Public Health to provide any grants under Health and Safety Code section 124250 to those organizations that provide services to victims of domestic violence, regardless of gender; and (2) the OES to provide grants under Penal Code section 13823.15 to those organizations that provide services to victims of domestic violence, regardless of gender. Plaintiffs shall recover costs on appeal. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.278(a)(3).)
In the Woods v. Horton ruling, male victims of domestic abuse could not be denied social services as victims of abuse. It took a legal proceeding in 2008 to determine that a group of people, abused males, not be discriminated against on the basis of sex. Imagine being the mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, or future girlfriend of a man like Blair, whose protection against physical abuse at the hands of a women left him constitutionally unprotected and underserved.
Americans can offset these violations of equal protections by creating a Gender Policy Council that addresses issues boys and men face and meet with a women's council to look for common understandings. A Violence Against People Act with two distinctive departments could address and explain the reasons women, men, boys, and girls become victims and perpetrators of violence with the goal of serving any victim. The list of agencies, policies, and laws that continue to leave men behind should no longer continue, and it is going to take strong women who love their sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, nephews, and friends to step forward and demand change.
Efforts for equal protections should neither be based on zero-sum game analysis nor rely on suing our government for basic civil liberties. Our nation is only strong when the men and women who inhabit it prosper in such a manner that equality is acted upon openly, equally, and compassionately through policies that embrace all Americans. The Reverend King reminds us that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And we all know what he meant: No policy, law, and action should discriminate against any person based on sex or race.
Finding joy in ordinary times is a difficult task for most people. Policy makers cannot compound the burden. Understanding disparities should never mean underserving impacted peoples, whether those peoples make up 70% of the suffering or 30% of the suffering. As a nation, we must demand more.