I will state upfront that while the vast majority of DV victims are women, I do recognize and acknowledge that male victims exist. The majority of those male victims are in same sex relationships, but there is a small minority who are in heterosexual relationships as well. I do believe that these men deserve help and support. But I also recognize the very real difficulties in providing this help through the already existing support system.
As many of you know, I currently work at a DV shelter in my area. At this one shelter, we get approximately 5,000 calls a year from women seeking shelter because they are escaping DV. We have to turn away 85% of these women due to a lack of space. There are 6 other shelters in my city, and they all have about the same rates.
In my time at the shelter, I have never received a call from a man seeking help. My coworkers have received calls from men seeking help -- but sadly, all but a very few turned out to be "sex calls" (quite frankly, probably one of the most disturbing "fetishes" or "perversions" I have ever witnessed). But I cannot say that our shelter, or the other shelters in the area do not receive legitimate calls for help from men. We cannot provide help for them, but we try to put them in contact with a number of agencies in the area that work with men.
A shelter designed to house women simply cannot also house men. These shelters are supposed to be safe places -- and sheltering a man in there would be problematic for 2 reasons:
- the mere presence of a man living in such close quarters to women in crisis makes it feel much less safe. That may be hurtful for men in crisis to hear, but it's a fact.
- These shelters are confidential. Abusers often try everything they can to find out the location of the shelter. In the few cases where a shelter has taken in men, there have been instances where it turned out that the man was actually an abuser, simply trying to track down his victim. It's simply not a safe thing to do.
Along with the argument that we are "sexist" for not taking men into our shelters, it has also often been argued that NOW and/or other feminist organizations have tried to block funding for research or for shelters for men. This is an out and out lie. Many have blocked (or attempted to block) forcing women's shelters that are already in existence to start accepting men, or to turn one or more of them into a shelter exclusively for men. And hell yeah, they're going to this. When 85% of women seeking shelter are being turned away, the last thing in the world we need to be doing is diminishing the limited resources we already have.
Neither NOW nor any other feminist group has tried blocking men from starting their own shelters. They have fought losing their funding for this cause, but have not -- EVER -- fought men from getting their own funding.
And here's the important part -- one of the reasons that men's shelters have not been successful (in addition to the fact that so many men's rights activists would rather bitch and moan than actually do anything, and would rather take away from women than actually do anything for themselves) is that men simply don't seek out the help. Part of this is because fewer men actually need this sort of help. Even if one was to accept the 30% rate of abused men (that I have seen argued by men's rights activists; although, I've yet to see the proof for this number), not all of those men need shelter; therefore it is not correct that 30% of the shelters should be for men. The vast majority of abused men are abused by men (that is, they are gay men who are being abused by their male partners). The majority of these men do not have children. That, in itself, lessens the barriers to leaving (although does not eliminate them), and therefore lessens the need for shelter. Also, these men tend to have more financial security, and are therefore in less need of shelter.
The other part is that abused men are simply not as likely to seek shelter -- perhaps out of shame. I'm not saying, in any way, that this is OK. Certainly, something should be done about it. But the fact remains, it's harder to get funding for something that is simply not used as often.
Men's rights groups -- if they were really interested in helping abused men -- would do better to actually get off their complaining asses and start doing something. Do some outreach to abused men. Start more programs addressing abuse of men (without taking the hard-earned resources from women). Start their own shelters (want some hints on doing so? -- look at the damned hard work of the feminists who started women's shelters in the 70s and 80s, feminists who didn't have public support or public funding, but did it anyway). And most important of all -- work with men who are doing the abusing. Because regardless of the gender of the abused, the vast, vast majority of abusers are men.