Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Princeton Times

October 31, 2008

MAWAD fighting stereotypes that only women are abused

PRINCETON — Women with battered eyes and bruised souls have become the symbols of domestic violence in America, but one organization is working to change the perception that all domestic abuse manifests itself physically on the outside and that women are the only victims.

Men and Women Against Discrimination (MAWAD) formed in West Virginia to expose the untruths behind the theory that men are always the aggressors, pursue a family court system that recognizes and honors each parent’s role in a child’s upbringing and to seek “truth, justice and equality in family law.”

Along the way, organizers say they discovered there are many men out there who are just as abused as any of their female counterparts, that the court system all too often ignores their wounds and that the very systems put in place to stop domestic violence can be manipulated and twisted into another form of abuse during divorce and custody negotiations.

That’s why MAWAD members have long argued that all custody proceedings should begin with a 50-50 shared parenting plan, which may then be crafted around the family’s individual needs and situations; that the domestic violence protective order process needs to be overhauled; and that people of any gender who file false domestic violence allegations should be penalized.

MAWAD’s Region IV Director Ron Foster emphasized this week that the organization never condones physical violence or emotional abuse, but only wants every person, every parent, to face equal rights and responsibilities inside a fair family court.

“Our goal is to get the garbage out of the court so you can deal with true domestic violence cases,” Foster said Wednesday.

•••

In Mercer County, there are several organizations, including the Pam Hawkins Foundation and SAFE, that serve battered women and children by providing emergency housing, clothing, advocates and more. But, the services are far fewer for men in similar situations.

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