Domestic violence knows no gender, age, race, color or income level. Until recently, though, male victims of abuse had few places to turn for help.
Jeff was fortunate. Three weeks ago, he left home with his two daughters after years of emotional and physical abuse from his wife. After being turned away from women’s shelters, which he contacted partly because he had two daughters, he found temporary sanctuary at the Family Place’s recently opened 22-bed safe house exclusively for battered men and their children.
The shelter is the first of its kind in North Texas and the second in the nation.
It might seem odd that a women’s shelter would devote resources to help men in trouble. Chief executive officer Paige Flink says that assumption misses a larger point. Domestic abuse is a societal scourge, and men like Jeff often stay in violent relationships for the same reasons women do: fear, embarrassment or the delusion that things eventually will get better.
They, too, deserve an opportunity to rebuild from a temporary safe haven, and that’s what the Family Place provides.
While men make up a smaller percentage of reported domestic abuse victims, their plight is real.
In the past, the Family Place, which houses about 360 women a year in North Texas, quietly provided protection for two or three abused men a year in rented apartments or hotels. Last year, the number jumped to 32 men, a threefold increase since 2014. This necessitated the need for a dedicated facility for men.
The new facility — which, like the women’s safe house, is at an undisclosed location for the victims’ safety — currently shelters eight men, some of whom, like Jeff, have fled with their children from dangerous relationships.
In hindsight, Jeff said he ignored myriad signs of domestic violence, such as sudden bursts of rage directed at him and the children, physical attacks, and unfounded accusations. That is typical of abused women, too. Regardless of gender, domestic abusers assault a victim’s identity, self-worth and spirit to resist and thrive on physically, emotionally and even financially controlling an intimate partner.
Like many women caught in the domestic violence trap, Jeff didn’t take the steps to end the dangerous relationship until he realized the impact that remaining in the relationship was having on his daughters. The abuse “just crept into the relationship before we were married and after a while, you realize just how much of a sickness it is,” he said.
No one deserves to suffer abuse in silence. We commend The Family Place for its gender-neutral recognition of this, and for taking action to help victims of a form domestic violence that has long been overlooked.
The Family Place offers a 24-hour crisis hotline at 214-941-1991, free and confidential services, and tips on its website on how to spot the warning signs of an abusive partner.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is also available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233. Its website has suggestions for a protecting yourself and how to help friends or family members caught in abusive relationships.