By Carey Roberts
October 12, 2009
Every time we turn around, it seems, we hear of an abuse shelter being accused of discrimination, fraud, or other head-shaking irregularities. And now a judge has ruled the entire abuse shelter industry in the state of West Virginia is wracked by conflict of interest, gender bias, and financial kickbacks.
The ménage a trois involves a government agency, a well-heeled trade organization, and 14 domestic violence shelters located around the state. Here's how the scratch-your-back scheme works...Any time a couple gets married or divorced in West Virginia, they are required to cough up a $15 fee to the Family Protection Services Board. That tallies up to $380,000 each year, a tidy sum for sure. The Board then doles out the money to one of the 14 licensed domestic violence shelters around the state.
So far, so good.
And how does a domestic violence shelter become licensed? Actually, the Board doesn't set its own standards — that responsibility was outsourced to the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Now the plot thickens, because the Coalition was long ago hijacked by a radical feminist ideology. I recently visited its website at www.wvcadv.org and was jolted by this neo-Marxist cant: "violence against women is a political problem, a question of power and domination."That's right, shove aside the research showing women are just as likely as men to be the instigators of partner abuse. Forget former NFL quarterback Steve McNair, shot in the chest four times in his chest by his ex-girlfriend as he slept. Sweep under the rug the fact that alcohol abuse is linked to most cases of abuse.
In other words, the Coalition openly proclaims its belief that domestic violence is all about unfettered patriarchy. And this group is no seat-of-the-pants operation — the trade organization's annual budget of $1.2 million comfortably supports a staff of nine.
So if you're looking for objective criteria for shelter licensure, you won't find it at the Coalition. That's because the group decrees that in order to become a certified domestic violence advocate, you have to swear fealty to the feminist catechism that "domestic violence is deeply rooted in historical attitudes towards women."Whether you believe that statement is laughable, bizarre, or merely one-sided, you can't become certified in West Virginia unless you take the loyalty oath.
So the ideologically-driven Coalition establishes the certification standards. And the Board says before you can receive a penny of its money, at least one-third of shelter employees must be certified by the Coalition.
So where's the kickback arrangement?
Because all 14 abuse shelters around the state are members of and pay dues to — you guessed it! — the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
This good-ol'-girls club does not take kindly to other groups that want to partake of the state's abuse-prevention funding. So finally a group called Men and Women Against Discrimination had to file a lawsuit. The suit charged the policies of the Family Protection Services Board discriminated against male victims of domestic violence and deprived violence-prone women of access to perpetrator intervention programs.
When Judge James Stucky began to examine the case, he discovered bias pervaded the system from top to bottom. Take Judy Smith, one of the five directors of the FPSB and head of the Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center in Morgantown. Smith admitted — actually boasted — during her lawsuit deposition, "we do not shelter men in the shelter, even if it's empty."Judge Stucky found the discrimination to be so widespread and egregious that last week he issued a summary judgment, taking all parties in the case by surprise: www.acfc.org/site/DocServer/WV_Findings_of_Fact.pdf?docID=2621
Noting the state legislature did not intend to restrict domestic violence services to the members of any one sex, he found the Board exceeded its statutory authority by delegating the standard-setting to a trade organization. "In practice this rule excludes any persons who does not adhere to the gender biased fundamental beliefs of the Coalition," ruled the judge.
Appalled by the illegal actions of an organization driven by a cult-like ideology, Judge Stucky concluded the Board's policies "are null and void."Civil rights advocates across the nation were elated. "Today, men and the women who love them have reason to celebrate," notes columnist Teri Stoddard. But she cautions the fight may not be over: "lawsuits like this will unfortunately need to continue across the country."