Thursday, October 24, 2013

On the Lack of Domestic Violence Programs for Men

Gosh, I get tired of hearing MRAs whine about the lack of shelters for male victims of domestic violence.

Some years ago, a younger and more eager I spent a long dark winter in rural Colorado volunteering for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.  Mainly this consisted of being called in the middle of the night to drive twenty or thirty miles to meet a strange woman at a desolate McDonalds or in the back room of a police station.  It also involved accompanying women if their cases went to court.  As an advocate, I held hands, explained legal procedures, made referrals to social services, and fetched coffee (in other words, provided moral support).  The area in which I was living had an appalling rate of DV.  Unemployment was high (end of a local shale oil boom), couples were stranded in their houses for weeks on end due to the frigid temperatures, and alcoholism and drug abuse were rampant. 

It didn't take long before I burned out.  I probably imagined I was going to help pluck women like Tracey Thurman from the jaws of death, but my experience was that most of the victims were simply not very sympathetic characters, nor were they entirely "innocent" in terms of their roles in instigating violent squabbles.  Many of them had mental illness or chemical dependency issues that no amount of well-intentioned feminist theory or police intervention could address.  And most of them didn't want the kind of very limited help I could provide.  

Once they had been stitched up and sobered up, most of them made beelines back to their SOs.  There were so many things wrong with their lives (boiling down to poverty + an utter lack of imagination) that their relationships with their husbands or boyfriends were the only sources of stability and "love" that they knew, and even when that relationship was as dysfunctional as hell, it was what they could count on. 

The area I was in didn't have a shelter at the time.  Instead, we relied on a string of "safe houses" which were the modest abodes of volunteers like myself.  The unsung heroines who opened their homes as havens were periodically exposed (often by the very women they harbored), so we were always scrambling for more. It was exhausting, unrewarding effort for little payoff, and although I admired the director and her valiant team -- all unpaid volunteers BTW -- I soon conceded that I was not the right person for this particular job.

I know from personal experience that men, too, are assaulted by women.  A few years ago I dated a man who had a history of being struck by his female partners.   He recounted one prolonged argument with a girlfriend which had culminated in her "cold cocking" him in the head with a telephone, knocking him senseless.  He didn't press charges, and I was appalled to learn that this episode had hardly diminished his attraction to her -- although it was, in retrospect, a kind of red flag in terms of our own prospects.  (In fact, although I was never remotely tempted to assault him myself, he was so maddeningly passive-aggressive that I broke up with him within a few tempestuous months.)

As these anecdotes suggest, I am no saint.  I am impatient and easily frustrated by people who can't, or won't, take a strong stance for themselves.  And I recognize the line between victim and perpetrator can get mighty blurry when it comes to domestic violence: in most cases I was involved with, the woman was just as likely to have "provoked" the violent altercations that resulted in her fleeing her partner.   The problem was the size/strength differential that resulted in "him" with a scratch down the side of his face, and "her" with a broken jaw. Most of the male "perps" were not so much "evil" as really, really dumb -- too dumb to recognize how trapped they were in their own cycles of inchoate rage, dependency, helplessness, and lashing out -- despite repeated, predictable negative consequences...  200 pound toddlers, for the most part.

Of course, regardless of gender, or relative culpability, all people need refuges when they are at risk of injury in their homes.  I just don't want to be the person to create and staff these shelters. 

So why are the MRAs who demand male DV shelters pissed off that feminists like me haven't made that happen yet?  

Well, why haven't you done anything more than complain?  Paul Elam and John Hembling are paying themselves salaries with the money some of you are donating!  It's been years without any "activism" beyond harassing feminists and one very lackluster demonstration.  Why aren't any of you challenging AVfM's handling of your contributions?  Could it be that you don't really care as much about showing "compassion for men and boys" as you do "fucking up [women's] shit"?
Listen, guys, I'll be the first to donate $20, canned food, and a big box of toiletries.  You only need to get out from behind your computers, and start raising some funds.  In my neck of the woods, there are a number of thrift stores that support shelters for women, so there's a suggestion for you.  Put down your gym weights, pick up your tool boxes, and start renovating that safe house for teh menz that your community so desperately needs.  You can do it!  (And if you need advice or support, I'm sure you can find some nice feminists to help you -- you have only to ask.)

Just for God's sake quit your bloody whining before I [sarcasm alert] really give you something to whine about!


  1. 'Grasshopper'

    There are legit organizations, some are mentioned in the daily beast article. Funnily enough they don't want to be associated with the mrm, for understandable reasons.

    Also, 200 pound toddlers too dumb to realize the cycle they're trapped in? Sounds like much of the manosphere to me actually.

  2. Interesting post. It's very tricky, this, unpacking the relationship between abuser and abused. One male friend was horribly, viciously verbally abused by his wife. Everyone who knew him was sympathetic and unanimously loathed the shrew. But... but... but... when I spent time together with them, I could see that he was passive and in many ways she was voicing things about their life that he couldn't or wouldn't. I know that's dangerous cod psychology, but it's also true that their relationship didn't start out so toxic and she'd never been like that with anybody else. They brought something horrible out in one another.


Thanks for commenting!