Some time ago I had the belief that our system of government was fair to all and considered the needs of each person as being important. I no longer feel that is the case. This page will give you a birds eye view of how I came to my present conclusions. If you are happy with your view of the government and don’t want that to change, stop reading now. If not, read on.
As a therapist I often get calls about potential referrals. A number of years ago I had gotten just such a call about a man who was in crisis due to his wife’s violence. He was looking for a safe place for himself and his children. I wasn’t sure what services were available so I decided to call around to find out prior to meeting this gentleman. I called the local abused persons services and told them of the problem and they described at great length the myriad of services that were available. Then I told them the victim in this case was a man. They stopped in their tracks. They backed up and said “Well, what we discussed doesn’t apply to men. The services we described are for women only.” I was shocked. I asked what they could do for him and they told me that in lieu of offering him the shelter and all of the associated services they could put him up in a motel for a night.
I was stunned. I had assumed that the services provided would be for anyone with a need. I was incorrect. I thought that I should contact my Congressman and Senator. I wrote letters to Connie Morella and Barbara Mikulski my Senator and Congressperson at the time but both turned a deaf ear to my concerns. Mikulski literally said it wasn’t her problem, that is was a local concern. Of course she had voted in favor of the Violence Against Women Act several years before which overtly discrminated against men but she didn’t mention that. Again I was shocked and stunned by the disinterest in the pain and suffering of men. I turned to the service providers and contacted them thinking that they were colleagues and would be open to hearing my concerns. Wrong! What I was to find out was that the domestic violence industry is based on what is called the “Duluth Model” which claims that women are the victims and men the perpetrators. Any reverse of that is treated at best as an aberation and at worst simply ignored.
My efforts turned to local legislators and I received the same sort of response. I began looking for others who might see the same discrimination and want to do something about it. I found some small groups who were concerned. Some of these groups were involved in lobbying to change the VAWA to include services for men. In 2005 the law was up for re-authorization. We gathered an impressive group of lawyers, professors, authors, clinicians and male victims of domestic violence to testify on capital hill to encourage our legislators to adjust this bill to include men for services. We lobbied the members of congress on the important committiees and during lunches and meetings with them and their legislative assistants we were assured that our group would be allowed to testify at the public hearings. The hearings were held. Not one of our group was allowed to testify. Not one. The only people invited to testify were the ones that were invested in the status quo. They put on a dog and pony show saying the same things that had been said for the last 10 years. What the congress didn’t hear was the voice of a large group of very intelligent and compassionate professionals who had a very different perspective. Those people were essentially silenced. I thought I was in North Korea.
Prior to my getting the call about a possible referral I had no experience with domestic violence. It was far from an issue for me. I was happily married, with two grown children, having never been divorced or abused in any way. Nothing. The reactions I received from the people to whom I expressed my concern about male victims of domestic violence were consistent. I was treated like a pariah, as if I had some plague and needed to be avoided. At one point I sent out an email to local service providers asking about services for men and was mistakenly cc’d on a response from a local politician to the service providers that said basically, “People like that? Oh just ignore him and hopefully he will go away in time.” It made it clear that this was not simply a dialogue of information. It became clear that the information I was promoting was considered dangerous to them.
Tom Golden is the author or three books, Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing, The Way Men Heal, and Helping Mothers be Closer to Their Sons: UnderStanding the Unique World of Boys. Tom was the creator of the youtube channel Men Are Good and served as the vice chairman of the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health. He has been a therapist in private practice for over 30 years.