Safe Passage now offering space for male abuse victims

DeKALB – Mary Ellen Schaid, executive director of Safe Passage, said that although the domestic violence shelter helps mostly female abuse victims, at least half a dozen male victims come through her doors each year.

To accommodate these victims, Safe Passage now has a space set aside for men, which was made available July 1.

Schaid said there is a lot more abuse males suffer than people are made aware of. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, one out of seven men experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, compared to one in four women.

One out of 18 men has been stalked by a partner to the point where they felt fearful or thought they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed, compared to one of out seven women, according to the network.

“Abuse to men is severely underreported because there is a tremendous amount of stigma for men even more than women,” Schaid said. “Therefore, our hope is that if we can put more of a light on this, then more men would be comfortable in coming forward.”

Safe Passage always has provided services for men – such as counseling, orders of protection and legal advocacy – but physical space has been so tight, Schaid said. Also, men aren’t allowed to be given a room that was already occupied by women.

“We’ve been doing the best we can over the years to serve men, and this has been the first opportunity to have space come available for them to have shelter,” Schaid said. “We’ve had a few times where we couldn’t establish a space for people to feel safe and we had to do something about that.”

Schaid said that about six months ago, a man in dire straits came to the shelter in the middle of the night, and a cot had to be put in one of the offices. Other times, Schaid said men have to be put up in a hotel or referred to other agencies.

“Most of the shelters are obligated to serve men, but everybody just has different setups,” she said. “We have 24-hour staffing, so the men will have access to the same staff support that women might need. They’ll just have a place to sleep now.”

Although Safe Passage sees at least six male domestic violence victims a year, this demographic is rare for other area nonprofit services.

Lesly Wicks, executive director of the Hope Haven homeless shelter in DeKalb, said that although she sees a lot of homeless men with domestic violence histories and helps provide them with anger management and other services, she has only seen male abuse victims a handful of times over the years.

“Domestic violence for females is one of the reasons females are homeless, because if they leave their perpetrator, they are homeless, and if the males leave the household, then they are homeless,” Wicks said. “[Domestic violence] is an issue within the homeless population.”

Safe Passage’s website stresses that domestic violence crosses all demographics and can cause devastating emotional effects, such as depression, anxiety, low self-worth, guilt and traumatic memories.

“We want men to know there’s help and it is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about,” Schaid said. “No one deserves to be abused.”