A Safe Place commemorates 35 years of services for women, children and now men
OAKLAND – Laughter is the typical response to any mention of male victims of domestic violence. “Any man who lets a woman beat him up is a whimp, a punk,” one Oakland man said when asked if a man should call 911 when a woman starts to assault him. Yet 54-year-old Edmond Martin* did call the police when his girlfriend attempted to run him down with a car in a parking lot near their home.
“I didn't see any other way out,” Martin recalled. “I felt I was kind of trapped in this silence.”
Negative stigma is the main reason men currently fail to report intimate partner violence, which has led to a dearth of services for males, few research and little money for studies on the issue. This despite a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that reveals about 1 in 7 men has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime compared to 1 in 4 women. Still, breaking the silence is the only way men who suffer domestic violence can start receiving the help they need.
Hoping to help bring greater awareness of this topic, A Safe Place – Oakland’s only shelter for battered women and children – selected Mr. USA 2012 to serve as master of ceremonies for its 35th anniversary fundraiser held Saturday at Sequoyah Country Club. About 100 guests enjoyed a dinner, silent auction, music by the Skyline High School Band, dance tunes by the Ricardo Scales Band and a short show topped off with an appearance by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.
Since 1978 A Safe Place has provided shelter, comprehensive domestic violence programs, services, support, education and outreach to battered women and children. Today it also serves men – both abusers and victims. A San Francisco model, actor, entertainer and business owner, Mr. USA 2012 was honored to assist in calling attention to the issue of male victims of domestic violence. “Being able to help promote the idea that men do get hurt is important,” Chavis Aaron said in an interview that evening. “It’s especially so for those men who are less likely to come out about it.”
With twenty beds including individual living space, A Safe Place’s Emergency Shelter Program offers battered women with children up to eight weeks of shelter in a therapeutic environment. Its interim motel program provides emergency accommodations, and it operates a 24-hour crisis and shelter information line.
While no actual shelter facility exists for men, A Safe Place puts them up in hotels, motels or other accommodations, said Andrea Turner, one of its founding member and current president of its board of directors. Turner noted agency services also extend to teens and the LGBT community.
Advocates for male victims of domestic violence say a lack of funding has led to few shelters that cater to men, noting nearly all take only women and children and some have age limits on boys allowed. Current resources for these men include the MenWeb (www.batteredmen.com), which has a place where men and female abusers tell their stories; the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women (1-888-7HELPLINE) operated by a nonprofit in Harmony, Maine; and now A Safe Place in Oakland: the only shelter in Oakland for battered women now quite possibly is the only place in Oakland offering a safe haven for men caught in violent, abusive relationships with girlfriends, wives, boyfriends.
*Name changed to protect identity.
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