It is said that college is supposed to be the best time in life. For me, it was far from that. Shortly before my high school graduation, my mother began to take out her problems on her family in increasingly severe ways. She would frequently become angry at my father and me. While the severity of the problem waxed and waned over the years, during the worst periods I was yelled at every single day, in some cases as much as 5-10 times per day. She also became very controlling of our behavior. An action as simple and innocuous as walking from one room of the house to another would require obtaining her permission. It was not until I had endured this treatment for three years that I heard a report on the radio about verbal and emotional abuse, a subcategory of domestic abuse, and realized that I was a victim of it.
When I finally came to the realization that I needed professional help, I had to wait due to difficulty finding the money to pay to see a psychologist. I finally got the help I needed after being subjected to the abuse for five years. Yet, the effects caught up with me several months ago and I developed an anxiety problem severe enough to cause physiological symptoms that required a trip to the emergency room.
Now, help is finally on the way for victims of domestic abuse. Under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the administration recently instituted regulations requiring services for domestic abuse to be covered as preventive care. Screening questionnaires will be used to identify patients who may be victims of abusive relationships. Insurance plans are now required to cover this screening, as well as psychological counseling for victims, without copays or deductibles. There’s just one catch: The regulations only require that these services be covered for women, and I am a man. Even worse, this discrimination extends not just to those like me who have been emotionally abused but also to those who have been physically or sexually abused.
Even if it were the case that the overwhelming majority of the victims of domestic abuse were women, that would still not justify discriminating against men who have endured the same treatment. Allowing us to have access to these services does not in any way detract from the services available to women.
However, research has shown that the popular belief that domestic abuse is exclusively something that men do to women is a myth. Studies have found that the percentages of men who abuse their wives and women who abuse their husbands are approximately equal. Furthermore, people in LGBT relationships may be abused by partners of either gender, and children of either gender may suffer from an abusive parent. Members of Congress have recognized this reality and passed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that prohibits gender discrimination.
In addition to being unethical, these regulations are illegal and unconstitutional. The equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment has long been understood to prohibit arbitrary distinctions on the basis of gender as well as race. Furthermore, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibits gender discrimination in healthcare, making these regulations illegal by virtue of the very law under which they were set forth!
Male victims of domestic abuse are not a statistical fluke. We are real people with real lives who suffer just as much as our female counterparts. We are Americans of all races and creeds, gay and straight, Democrats and Republicans, abused by both men and women. And we are more numerous than many believe. It is time for the administration to recognize our existence and our right to fair and equal treatment under the law. Please join me in calling on the administration to revise these regulations to cover all victims of domestic abuse.