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.