As part of healthcare reform, House Democrats have pledged to ban insurance companies from treating domestic violence as a pre-existing condition. This may remove one obstacle to reporting such violence — but not all.
Forty-two states already prohibit companies from considering domestic violence a pre-existing condition, but Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrat aim to ban the practice at a national level. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) tried to introduce just such a ban in 2006, but failed. She says she became aware of the insurance company practice when one abused woman "told me that she did not report her domestic violence because her health insurance company would drop her." And Pelosi says, "Think of this. You've survived domestic violence, and now you are discriminated [against] in the insurance market because you have a pre-existing medical condition. Well, that will all be gone."
Not if Republicans like Sen. Richard Burr have anything to do with it. Burr says it's "deplorable to deny coverage to victims of domestic violence. However, states should be responsible for regulating insurance markets." As usual, it's a little hard to separate his states' rights argument from what seems to be conservatives' top priority in the healthcare debate: preserving the sacred freedom of corporations to do whatever the fuck they want.
No one is sure how many women have been denied insurance coverage due to domestic violence, but fear of losing such coverage appears to be yet another obstacle to reporting the crime. Writing for The American Prospect, Dana Goldstein points out that according to the National Crimes Victimization Survey, only 49% of self-reported female domestic violence victims actually filed a police report. By contrast, 72% of male victims did. Goldstein writes, "This points to a number of problems familiar to advocates: that female domestic violence victims are especially wary of law enforcement, fearful of reprisal from their abusers, and must battle a cycle of shame and self-doubt before they seek help."
Goldstein presents the statistics as a rebuttal to "men's rights" adherents. She says, "I've noticed that every time I write about domestic violence — whether the topic is Rihanna or insurance companies classifying abuse as a pre-existing condition — "men's rights" trolls come out of the woodwork to claim there is no proof women are more likely to be victimized by intimate partners than men." While it's worth presenting accurate data on gender and domestic violence, the debate about whether men or women are more frequently the victims of domestic violence is a little bit like the debate over rape versus false rape accusations.
Our society still expects women to be weak and submissive and nonconfrontational, and men to be strong and antagonistic and up for a fight. Not only do these expectations likely contribute to many cases of domestic violence, they also contribute to underreporting. If a female victim comes forward, people will ask what she did to "provoke" her abuser (she must be confrontational); if a male victim does, they'll ask why he couldn't fight his attacker off (he must be weak). Domestic violence is yet another area where gender stereotypes actually screw both men and women, and feminists and "men's rights" groups should really be allied in trying to stamp these stereotypes out. And everyone should be allied against insurance companies who think it's okay to deny victims medical care when they need it most.
Democrats Vow To Ban Domestic Violence As 'Pre-Existing Condition' [CNN]
Real Numbers On Domestic And Sexual Violence [The American Prospected TAPPED Blog]