Sunday, October 31, 2010

Don't We All Want the Same Thing - Violence Free Homes

In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month the Co-Directors of DAHMW put together a press release/letter to the editor which read:

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and throughout the month domestic violence advocates and the media’s attention will be focused on bringing more public understanding to and promoting the eradication of men’s violence against women. However, not all intimate partner violence (IPV) fits into this neat little package.

IPV against men, especially against men by their female intimate partners, has always been a hot button issue. While domestic violence advocates may know men are victims they insist that their victims service agencies should focus exclusively on ending violence against women by men because women are the most injured and prevalent victims. As a result, serious outreach and services for male victims of IPV are sorely lacking.

Studies indicate that men are victims of assault by their partners in 36% of the reported cases in the U.S. each year. This disparity between the needs of those victims and the services available are large. The gap must be closed.

While resources for men are still scarce, awareness is increasing and hopefully more services will follow. IPV is not a gender issue, it is simply a human issue. The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women envisions a world where services are available to victims and survivors without prejudice.

In the past when we have sent out press releases and letters to the editors there wasn’t much, if any, response from the media. However, such was not the case this time. We asked our advocates who live in States all around the country (because as most know we are a virtually non profit agency) to send the letter to some of their local newspapers. Know that newspapers usually won’t publish letters that don’t have a local contact on them we asked them to send it out with their contact information on it. In hindsight we suppose it would be have been wiser to also include the names of the original writers too. However, just as those who work in battered women’s programs are in unison on their message, mission and philosophy, so to are the advocates of DAHMW. In addition, as we said, past responses being what they were we didn’t think we would get much response.

Were we ever surprised when newspapers in over six State published our letter! Finally, people want to hear our message.

One of the newspaper that published our letter was in the immediate area of a blogger named Suzie Siegel. Suzie is friends with the executive director of the local battered women’s shelter program, Linda Odmundson. I guess our letter touched a nerve because it prompted a call from Suzie to DAHMW.

Ms. Odsmundson, it seems from what Suzie said, was more than a little miffed by our letter. She claims she does help men at the program she operates. We understand that Ms. Odsmundson wrote a letter to the editor in reply to ours to the newspaper but we have not seen it.

A snippet of Suzie’s blog entry and the link to the rest is below.

To give you a little background information on why Suzie and Ms. Odmundson were so upset by our letter;

Over the years since the battered women’s/women’s rights movement began two camps have formed; the women’s rights camp and the men’s rights camp. For the few of us who are in the “middle of the road” camp there are no camp fires, marshmallows on sticks, sleeping bags or tents to sleep in. According to those in the women’s rights camp you are either with them or against them, there is no “middle camp.” You either believe what we believe, that domestic violence solely exists due to men’s patriarchal need to dominate, oppress and control women or you are in the men’s rights camp.

But what if you are a nonprofit agency that specializes in supportive services for male victims and also helps all other victims equally without prejudice? You don’t really fit in either the women’s or men’s rights camp. Still by some you are relegated to be part of that (what they consider) evil mens rights camp where all men who hate women congregate.

There has never been an agency quite like ours so no matter what we do, to some, we can never be seen as that middle of the road camp. We are an anomaly in the domestic violence service area, an organization to be criticized and then summarily dismissed as (in the words of some women’s rights advocates) just another men’s right group that is trying to send women back to the days when women were men’s chattels.

So the fact that we have emergency sheltered a homeless female victim, taken care of her needs for food and clothing, taken her to doctor and other appointments and helped her to get into her own apartment doesn't matter. The fact that we have called around to other shelters on behalf of female victims (who didn't know where to call and who were not in an area where we could make direct services available to them) who were told that the local battered women's shelter couldn't accommodate them because they had too many children or the shelter was full doesn't matter. The fact that we have worked in conjunction with anti violence programs that specialize in supportive services for LGBTQ victims and survivors doesn't matter. And by the way, our lack of funding is the only thing that holds us back from offering more services. Yes, we have made more services available to male victims and their children. DAHMW was created due to the void left in this service area so it is only natural that we would do this. As comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to say, "I get no respect, I tell ya." All we want is to be respected and accepted for what we are, the middle of the road camp that helps victims of intimate partner violence without prejudice. Why can't we all just get along and work together? After all, we are all after the same thing aren't we, to put an end to domestic violence.

Arguing over men’s rights during Domestic Violence Awareness Month (by Suzie)

Do domestic violence programs ignore men who are victims of women? Your answer may depend on whether you think feminism should focus on a gendered analysis of women in society or feminism must fight all injustices equally. We’ve often discussed these definitions on this blog. Or, perhaps you're a feminist who thinks feminism has gone too far, with society now discriminating against men, at least in some areas. Jan Brown, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women, seems to fall into this category. She says she’s a feminist but doesn’t want women to dominate services anymore than she wants men to dominate. Brown says she founded the helpline 10 years ago after a friend, a man abused by a woman, could find little help. Her web site says: “We specialize in offering supportive services to men abused by their female intimate partners.” The site lists resources where male victims can find help, including a lawyer who helps men fight false allegations of abuse and a law firm that has a father’s rights blog and “works hard to offset gender bias that minimizes or trivializes the importance of good men.” read more

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