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.