Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We May Be Forced to Close Down Our Nat'l Helpline- Please Don't Let This Happen!

Dear Friends:

For 11 years, the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women (DAHMW) has remained committed to helping victims of domestic violence, especially those under served. DAHMW has relied on funding from the founder's personal resources, and private donations from generous individuals, who share our commitment to support victims of domestic violence. Through our National Crisis Helpline, we have been able to help tens of thousands of individuals and families, across the country that suffered from domestic violence.

However, there is another crisis developing that has put our organization at risk.  The increasing needs of domestic violence victims have outpaced our ability to fund the organization, and without financial support from generous and passionate individuals, we will be unable to reach our fundraising goals and may be forced to close down our national toll free crisis helpline. This would leave thousands of victims with no place to go for help - please do not let this happen.

How can you help?
·    Help us reach our fundraising goal of $25,000 by November 30, 2011
·    Donate NOW via our website at http://www.dahmw.org
·    Please tell your friends about DAHMW and encourage them to donate

Our continued mission to help victims of domestic violence is only possible with the assistance of generous donations from members of the community. Without donations from supporters such as yourself, the people who benefited from DAHMW's services last year would have been left to face the devastating effects of domestic violence all alone.

Won't you help us help individuals in need? Your financial support can help us make a positive difference in the lives of people who have been victimized by domestic violence. Every dollar you send provides critical services to those in need.

On behalf of the millions of people suffering from the effects of domestic violence and the entire staff at DAHMW dedicated to helping these individuals, thank you for your support. It is going to make a meaningful impact for so many people.

With Appreciation,
Garo P. Green
President, Board of Directors

Monday, October 31, 2011


Eleven Years by Jan Brown

From Our October 2011 Newsletter:

On October 27th we will celebrate our eleven year anniversary of serving victims of intimate partner violence.  Quite an accomplishment when you consider that we have maintained a nationally available toll free helpline manned by an all volunteer staff with a budget that averages $15,000 or less  in contributions and small grants each year.

As further testament to our fortitude, despite the lack of funding for  supportive services, we have also managed to safe house, emergency shelter , and provide other necessities to victims and their children who were determined to move away from the violence in their lives.

That’s not to say that we couldn’t benefit greatly from having the financial resources to enhance our ability to make a much larger impact on fixing this social problem.  It’s more to clarify that we continue to hang in there, holding out the hope that one day  we will achieve our goals.

Back in October of 2000 we entered into the fray knowing that social change doesn’t happen overnight.  However, given that family violence was already considered a social problem of grand proportions and that all we were asking was that male victims be given the same respect and services that female victims are afforded, we didn’t think it unreasonable to expect that change would occur in the not too distant  future.

Early on in this journey I came across a quote by Arthur Schopenhauer that pretty much sums up what it takes to make social change, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self evident.”  This quote has been the guiding maxim for the work I do at DAHMW.  

I distinctly remember one of the first reactions I received when I mentioned male victims in a public place.  I was at the local post office speaking with our Post Mistress about setting up a post office box for our new agency.  An elderly woman came in and heard me mention that our agency specialized in bringing more awareness and services to male victims of domestic violence.  The elderly woman scoffed at the idea that a men needed such services and told me in not so many words that men were abusers not victims. 

Back then I didn’t have any logical pithy responses for the nay-sayers so I stood silent as she walked away. Over the years that I have been doing this work I have heard many comments such as this and more. 
I have been told men can take care of themselves...men don’t need services, they can just leave, they have jobs etc....men need to wait their turn, they can have services once violence against women has been taken care of...if men want services they should create them just like the women did for battered women.  

I have come to accept that in certain circles I will need to defend my beliefs with some common  sense arguments  that are difficult to refute for those that open their minds just a crack.  For instance, when someone tells me that men can’t be victims of women’s violence because men are bigger and stronger I ask them politely,  “What about the non  aggressive, non violent man whose parents ingrained in him as a young boy that he should never  hit a girl? “  After all, not every man is brought up to be brute and barbarian.   

I have spoken to my share of young men in their 20’s and 30’s on our crisis line who were brought up in single and two parent homes that were led by feminist mothers and fathers. Many  have stated that they were brought up to view women as equals and not subservient creatures to dominate and control.  These young men who have suffered verbal, emotional and physical attacks at the hands of their intimate partners aren’t likely to have the characteristics commonly found in abusive men. 

When someone makes the argument that men can just leave and/or that they have jobs so they don’t need help I suggest they tell that to the man who is disabled and whose wife puts his monthly check in a bank account that he has no access to or the man whose significant other has told him she will kill herself if he leaves or the guy that is told if he leaves he will never see his children again. Men stay for many of the same reasons women do.

Even though,  for all intents and purposes, we still seem to be in Schopenhauer’s “violently opposed” stage of the truth I have noticed that there has been a growing concern and acceptance of men as victims of intimate partner violence by the general public over the last two to three years.  The media in some states seem a little more aware.  They are including words like, “domestic violence, domestic assault, and domestic violence related,” more frequently when reporting on news stories where the woman is the aggressor in a domestic dispute. 

Our helpline volume has increased a great deal as more men recognize the signs of domestic violence and call for support and more family members call about their concerns over their son’s, brother’s, father’s, and grandfather’s, who they define as men in relationships with abusive partners. 

What seems to be one of the biggest obstacles for abused men is what I call the “fear factor.”  When a domestic dispute ensues and the police are called in to investigate, in most states, the police are required to make an arrest if they have reasonable cause or suspicion to believe that one person is the predominant aggressor (the man) and the other person is in fear of bodily harm (the woman). 

The “fear” abused men feel is, in general,  less about the physical assaults they may sustain from their intimate partners and more about what their abusers will do to them, i.e. take away their children, their personal belongings and their good reputations by falsely accusing them of heinous crimes. Even if a man is in “fear” of bodily harm he will be hard pressed to admit it to the police. 

The only “fear” that matters to the police in a domestic dispute is the one society reserves for women.  Until that fact changes abusive women will continue to use “fear” to abuse men. 

All in all the last eleven years have been eventful and educational.  I have learned a great deal about intimate partner violence, human nature, and what it takes to make social change. I continue to hold out the hope that Schopenhauer’s third stage of truth, “accepted as self evident,” will happen in my lifetime so that we may spare future generations of male victims and their children from suffering needlessly.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Patricia Overberg, Pioneer in the Movement to End Intimate Partner Violence Has Died

Patricia Shanley-Overberg passed away at age 77 on the morning of August 11, 2011. I received notice via email from David, Virginia and Theresa the “Proud Children of Patricia Shanley Overberg,” last Friday. David wrote that his Mom made her transition due to heart complications and that they were all very sad that a great person had left them.

Patricia’s family suggests that gifts in her memory be made to her favorite organization, Valley Oasis Shelter. Donations can be made in Patricia’s honor by calling Carol Crabson (Executive Director) at Valley Oasis at 661-547-5879 or by mail to: Valley Oasis Shelter, 1150 W Avenue I, Lancaster, CA 93534-2246

Over the last five years Patricia and I had exchanged emails. I finally met her in person at a conference I spoke at in California in 2009. We sat and talked about grant writing, ways to obtain funding for services for victims and the difficulty of trying to change a system that is Hell bent on ignoring men as victims of intimate partner violence.

Patricia was a domestic violence victim’s advocate who worked diligently to bring gender inclusiveness to victim’s services. She had a long successful career in the nonprofit sector as the director to a number of domestic violence shelter programs. However, the position that most endeared her to male victim’s advocates was the one she held as the director of Antelope Valley Domestic Violence Council/Valley Oasis (AVDVC) in Lancaster, CA from 1989 to 1998. This is where she first truly made her mark in her fight for gender inclusive services for victims of family violence.

Patricia was trained in the field of social work and she took a holistic view of family violence. She believed that a victim was a victim regardless of gender or sexual orientation. She and her staff at AVDVC (and I am sure at other shelters she worked at) treated all victims equally. Under her leadership male victims, with or without children, were offered the same support and services as female victims.

While most battered women’s shelter programs in the country refused (and still do) to allow adolescent boys to stay in shelter with their battered mothers, Patricia never required mothers to choose between their own safety and the well-being of their male adolescent children. AVDVC was and remains one of the few shelters in the U.S. to offer the same level of service to both male and female victims today.

The work that Patricia did with male victims did not endear her to her peers however. In a sworn declaration written in 2002 Patricia states that she was, “subjected to continuous abuse by other shelter directors for sheltering battered men."

Erin Pizzey, founder of the first modern battered women’s shelter, when told of the news of Patricia’s passing said, “Pat was a brave, honest and courageous woman. She faced persecution from her colleagues in the domestic violence field and fought back. All of us who work at the core face of human relationships owe Pat a great deal.” (excerpted from a press release by RADAR, NCFM and MHN)

I am grateful to have known this genuine egalitarian feminist of the domestic violence movement. She was indeed a courageous and inspiring woman who made a huge impact on the lives of the people who knew her and the victims she helped. She will be greatly missed by many.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Changes Need to Be Made

Yesterday afternoon I attended a domestic violence forum held in Dexter, Maine. The forum, organized by State Representative Ken Fredette, was in response to the recent tragedies that took the lives of Amy Lake and her two children Cody and Monica. The organizer wanted the public’s input on what could be done to better serve victims of domestic violence.

A number of attendees spoke about their own experiences with domestic violence as well as shared their concerns and ideas on how law enforcement, the judicial system and legislators might improve the system to further protect victims.

A fellow kindergarten teacher and Amy’s good friend, Kelly Gay, spoke about how , for two years prior to her murder, Amy had been trying to figure out the best way to leave her abusive husband, Steve. Amy had been working with Womancare, the local domestic violence shelter program, trying to get the courage up to leave for at least a year before Steve held her and the children hostage at gunpoint in June 2010. Steve was arrested for that incident in June 2010 and Amy put the wheels in motion to leave shortly thereafter.

Kelly said that Amy and the children went into a safe shelter and could not tell anyone where they were for three months last summer. They had to move three times in one year to stay hidden from Steve. Kelly mentioned that Amy could have moved far away to keep safe but she didn’t want to take the children away from their family and friends.

I wrote about this tragic murder-suicide on my blog back in June. As I listened to those who spoke at the forum it became obvious that I was not the only person in the room that felt that the system let this family down. Many voiced concern about the fact that Steve Lake was still out on the streets and not behind bars with his bail revoked after having violated his bail conditions and the protection from abuse order against him a number of times. Someone suggested and others agreed that if his bail was revoked and he was behind bars until his trial perhaps Amy, Monica and Cody’s lives could have been saved.

It’s apparent that changes need to be made in Maine to the rules and laws governing bail. When someone has gone so far as to use a lethal weapon to hold their victims hostage and made suicide and/or death threats the system should take extra precautions to protect the victims.

I have read that bail commissioners in Maine are independent contractors who receive one day of training on how to do their jobs. In reviewing the Maine Bail Manual regarding grounds for revocation of pre-conviction bail it is stated that an order of a bail commissioner may be revoked by any judge or justice and any judge or justice may revoke another judges or justices bail order upon a determination made after notice and opportunity for hearing that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed a new crime following the setting of pre-conviction bail or when clear and convincing evidence exists that the defendant has failed to appear as required or has violated any other condition of the pre-conviction bail.

It does seem plausible that Steve Lake’s bail could have been revoked. I wonder what it would have taken to have this happen.

Attendees to this forum brought forth a number of good ideas. Someone suggested that emergency alert type necklaces should be made available to victims. These would work similar to the ones that you see offered to elderly persons who live alone. Instead of it being a medical alert system the device could alert the local police department that the victim is in danger.

Another person suggested that we could use ankle monitors like the ones used on people who are under house arrest, to track the whereabouts of a domestic violence perpetrator so that law enforcement and the victim would know where they are at all times. I am not real keen on that idea because of the high costs and manpower associated with implementation and because I think it may give victims a false sense of security.

One of the decease’s relatives suggested that psychological evaluations should be done on perpetrators. She also mentioned that people in the family felt that Amy and the children were in danger from Steve. I wonder if they told that to the authorities handling this case.

There seem to be a consensus that lack of funding has much to do with the problems in the system. The bottom line is that we may never be able to prevent all domestic violence related murders, however, in Maine we have had eight people murdered and two commit suicide in domestic violence related incidents in the span of seven weeks. Something needs to change.