Shedding Light on Male Domestic Violence

Beatriz E. Valenzuela
Nov. 11, 2012
Standing nearly 6 feet tall and weighing about 230 pounds, 23-year-old Willie Wiltz may have been an imposing figure, but his mother said he was a “big boy with a big heart.”

But that large frame hid something that ultimately killed him.

Wiltz was a victim of domestic violence, and a few days before Valentine’s Day 2011, Wiltz, an athletic young man who enjoyed playing basketball, was gunned down as he attempted to leave his home in San Bernardino during an argument with his girlfriend, Ebony Davis.

“I didn’t think it would ever come to this,” said Wiltz’s mother, Darlene Young of Los Angeles.

She said her son had told her about some of the incidents of abuse, but he always told his mother not to worry and that he could take care of it.

According to the Domestic Violence Research Center, exact numbers of male victims of domestic violence are difficult to obtain because of a lack or reporting, but the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1.5 million women and 835,000 men are victims of domestic violence each year.

“Men are supposed to be strong and take it,” said Sheri Dorn, an English teacher at Upland High School who incorporates teaching about dating and domestic violence and gender roles in her curriculum.

“Because both men and women are forced into these stereotypical roles, men may be too ashamed to come forward and report the abuse.”

Out of 100 domestic-violence


cases filed in San Bernardino County, only about four involved male victims, said Traci Rediford, a victims’ advocate for the District Attorney’s Office.

A San Bernardino man is in critical condition after being stabbed Friday. His girlfriend, Brianna Lanee Jones, 26, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. As of Sunday, she had not been charged with domestic violence.

In 2011, prosecutors filed 127 murder cases in San Bernardino County. Nine were related to domestic violence. Although the overwhelming majority of domestic-violence victims are female, experts are seeing that both men and women engage in comparable levels of abuse and control, including jealousy, isolation and attacking a partner’s self-esteem.

Much like domestic violence against women, the abuse that Wiltz underwent did not start with hits and punches, Young said, but with name-calling and emotional abuse.

As Wiltz kept minimizing and failing to report the abuse, Davis became increasingly violent and eventually became physically abusive, Young said.

“She used to hit him and even pull on his privates,” Young said she later learned.

For some men, it’s not just shame but fear that if they call law enforcement, they will not be believed and will be taken to jail themselves, Rediford said.

“There needs to be a retraining at all levels – in private homes and in law enforcement – so that men and women can get the help they need for abuse,” Dorn said.

Men are in a difficult position, Young said, because while they are taught to never hit a woman, they are not taught to report the violence.

“We tell them to walk away,” Young said. “We tell them not to fight back. We tell them they’re stronger than a woman, but we never teach them to call the police.”

After her son was killed, Young realized how few resources there were for men.

“Most shelters will only take women,” Young said. “They can’t put a man in a women’s shelter, but where are they supposed to go if we tell them to walk away?”

An online search of domestic- violence shelters in San Bernardino County showed the overwhelming majority were specifically made to only take women with children.

Those that did admit men were mostly for recovering addicts or only provide shelter from the cold during winter.

To help male victims of domestic violence, Young has started a nonprofit called Heal Our Homes.

Young hopes the group, still in its infancy, will be able to open a shelter for men, first in Los Angeles and eventually one in San Bernardino.

“We need to teach our children, male or female, that violence is not right, and if they are victims they have to speak up,” Young said. “Violence is violence. It doesn’t matter how big you are or how small you are.”