It’s not every day that men talk together about the ways they view and treat women or bond as advocates in a goal to stop violence against women, but when that happens it’s a unique and inspiring site to behold.
More than 60 local gentlemen gathered at the fourth annual Domestic Violence Solutions Men’s Cocktail Party held at the Santa Barbara Auto Group Porsche Showroom at 402 S. Hope St. in Santa Barbara to raise awareness that domestic violence is a crime that affects people all over Santa Barbara County.
The reception was held in recognition of Domestic Violence Month, which for more than 60 years has drawn attention to a social epidemic that can occur in any relationship regardless of a victim’s socio-economic status, ethnicity, religion or gender.
“Domestic violence occurs every 15 seconds on a national basis and cost this country last year $3.5 billion,” said Loretta Redd, Domestic Violence Solutions’ interim executive director. “That’s a combination of law enforcement and medical costs and also for loss of productivity at work, and the statistics are staggering because of battering and abuse.”
Some people assume that domestic violence is limited to one partner who maintains control over another person through the use of physical force. However, there are other factors that contribute to domestic violence and high degrees of indifference to male violence against women in part because of the lack of knowledge about the issue.
Men Against Domestic Violence members work with young and adult men to help them recognize the signs and behaviors of domestic violence toward women and to the dismantle belief systems that may be mistaken as “manliness,” including forced or pressured sexual acts, verbal abuse linked to criticism of body parts, name-calling, threats and constant put-downs geared to make the victim feel worthless.
Victims also suffer from emotional abuse under the cover of mind games, jealousy, and isolation from friends and family members when abusers project intimidating tactics in order to enforce and maintain power and control.
Financial control over a victim is also achieved by affecting economic status, including the withholding of money or preventing the victim from working or seeking work, which is another debilitating factor of domestic violence that often hinders a victim from seeking outside help to break away from destructive patterns of domestic violence.
Other forms of abusive behavior include acts of vandalism, destroying property and harming or killing a pet.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
MADV’s mission is to mobilize men as allies in preventing violence against women by working together to change learned behaviors and also act as positive male figures in a young boy’s life.
Additionally, they promote equality, safety and justice for women and children by helping young boys understand the difference between healthy and abusive relationships and act as positive role models by speaking out against domestic violence at various civic organizations, churches, sports teams and neighborhood associations.
Members also act as advocates, encouraging younger peers to be brave, stand up and speak out to take a stand against violence toward women witnessed at school, during social events, or depicted in popular music, video games, television or movies.
A handful of women were on hand for the evening event, and casually mingled among the testosterone-laden group of gentlemen dressed in casual business attire who conversed in pairs and small groups.
A small open bar for drinks was provided as guests helped themselves to an array of appetizers presented on a large table surrounded by dazzling Porsche vehicles on display.
As guests settled in, everyone gathered around theguest speaker, Detective Chad Hunt from the Santa Barbara Police Department, who spoke of the importance of response partnerships between local law enforcement officers and DVERT Emergency personnel who co-respond to domestic violence calls for service, and either ride to the scene with law enforcement officers or arrive separately, in some cases acting as witnesses for the investigation.
Hunt explained that while some intervention calls for police service are “minor,” other calls present officers with highly charged emotional situations that can be highly dangerous to everyone involved, and that officers and DVERT response representative are trained to respond and assist in ways that are supportive to the victim and children or family members present to safely defuse the situation.
“The beauty and revolution of DVERT in this community is that at the time of an explosive event, they have people on hand to talk to the woman and begin giving her education and the tools and information that she needs,” Hunt said. “Many of these survivors are fairly ignorant of the social system, law enforcement or the judicial system, and they truly do feel trapped in these relationships with economic and child custody considerations.”
When assessing domestic violence calls, an officer may encounter a defensive offender and a distressed and traumatized victim who may or may not provide accurate information required to make an arrest. Or the victim might minimize the extent of the violence thereby limiting the officer’s ability to substantiate criminal charges.
The victim may want their abuser to be held criminally responsible but feels remorseful with difficulty letting go despite the abusive circumstances.
“The victim, typically a woman, feels guilt oftentimes for involving law enforcement, for making this a public event and for drawing attention to it,” Hunt said. “She’s having second thoughts and is denial about him. When he is not drinking, he’s a good guy. When he’s not using cocaine, he’s a good guy. And when he’s not beating me, he’s a good guy. At the same time the offender is now full of remorse and says, ‘I’ll never do this again, I love you. Think of all the things we’ve done together. What are we going to do with Billy and Sally?’‘
Another guest speaker, District Attorney Benjamin Ladinig, concurred with Hunt.
“It’s not easy as a prosecutor of domestic violence,” he said. “The level of cooperation falls dramatically after the first 24-hour period. Once an officer gets to the scene he has DVERT representatives there and an emergency protective order that is usually served on the abuser and says the perpetrator shall not contact the victim. But once the abuser is incarcerated, the first thing he does is call the victim.”
The victim may initially assent to pressing criminal charges and cooperate with law enforcement officers during the criminal investigation, but then at a later date bail the defendant out of jail, or appear in court requesting that charges be dropped.
Hunt stressed to the group that these types of rationalizations lead to false reconciliation and denial of the problems because the couple are not addressing whatever the underlying issues are that led to the build-up and emergency to begin with.
Hunt noted that when denial occurs, a DVERT representative is able to intervene immediately and talk to the victim when he or she is willing to accept the information and the memory of the event is new and clear.
“At that point, it’s much easier to get them to take productive steps, and from that point forward DVERT is available to do immediate follow-up to prevent slipping into that false honeymoon phase with therapy, support and intervention for the male half of the problem,” he said.
Hunt also shared with the group one of his first domestic violence calls with a partner in 1995 on the Eastside of Santa Barbara that ended in tragedy.
The victim, a Hispanic woman, had been struck in the face by her husband and was hiding in the couple’s bedroom behind the locked door refusing to come out. Officers kicked down the door, placed him under arrest and he was taken to county jail, but released 11 days later.
“Once he returned home the cycle of violence came around again,” Hunt said. “During an argument, he was upset enough to put a gun to his wife’s head, over her right eye and murdered her. I’m not telling you this to bring up a morbid story. I say it by way of illustrating that that’s not the way things are now. At the time, we had nothing to give the woman. She was a non-English speaker with zero accessibility to resources, no family here in town, no support system, no money and no way to get out.
“There was nothing for her really to do but wait in that apartment with her child for him to come home, and that’s exactly what happened. That doesn’t happen now. Now we have tools and resources enabling Domestic Violence Solutions, and I’m very proud to say that since that time in the last 17 years, we have not had one ‘true’ domestic violence homicide in the city of Santa Barbara.
“You’re going to have a hard time finding another town with 100,000 people anywhere that can say that, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence because that follows directly behind DVS and the DVERT program coming into effect. They’re really saving lives.”
DVS is a full-service nonprofit agency in Santa Barbara County focused solely on ending the cycle of domestic violence by providing trauma counseling services, confidential shelter to women and children, personal counseling and a 24-hour crisis hotline.
The organization has provided confidential emergency shelters and a range of support services to victims of domestic violence since participating in the CETA-funded “Violence in the Family” projects in 1977, and opened up its first emergency shelter in Santa Barbara that year followed by additional shelters in Lompoc and Santa Maria.
Up to 40 volunteers work in shifts to operate a 24-hour support and crisis hotline available to victims or at-risk victims of domestic violence. Additionally, DVS has incorporated the work of Anger Management Counseling Services into its prevention and intervention services and offers weekly free support groups for victims and survivors of domestic violence.
The fourth annual Men’s Cocktail Party was sponsored by the DVS Men’s Committee.