Letters from the Editor: When good men can do nothing

What does “National Domestic Violence Awareness Month” mean to you?

To me, it means my dad, and before anyone can succumb to preconceived notions, I’d like to share a personal story.

My dad once spent a whole day knocking on doors in Fairbanks, asking shelters and missions if they would take a man and his daughter. Some places would let us stay the night and some would let us shower. Some places sheltered women only and some were strictly meant for resources, not housing. Nowhere told him we could pack up, move on, and have somewhere stable to live.

When I brought up this decade-old memory during a conversation this week, my dad explained that, actually, there was one place in town that would let us stay longer than one night, but that he’d have to be “re-evaluated periodically after three days.” When he asked if this meant we could be kicked out, they said yes. My father couldn’t risk our lives on that chance. There was nothing he could do.

So we stayed at home, despite the violence it sheltered.

Today, the same institutions my dad went to are the only ones that exist in Fairbanks, though a few youth shelters, such as The Door, have popped up over the last decade to give teenagers somewhere to go. If someone was having trouble on campus, they could at least find resources at the Health and Counseling Office located near the police station, but there’s still nowhere for a man like my dad to even spend a few days considering his options.

The world tells men and boys who are abused to “man up” and deal with it. They are given two choices: risk staying and watching their situations escalate or risk being homeless.

In 2016, The Telegraph, a British newspaper, covered the topic of violence against males in an article titled “Why female violence against men is society’s last greatest taboo.” While recognizing that, statistically, women are more likely to fall victim to domestic abuse than men, the article also states that it’s still theorized that men are less likely to report abuse due to societal stigma.

“Male domestic violence charity The ManKind Initiative say that for every three victims of partner abuse, two will be female and one will be male,” wrote Martin Daubney, reporter for The Telegraph. “According to the Office for National Statistics, 2.8 percent of men—500,000 individuals—suffered partner abuse in 2014/15.”

Since October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’ve been wondering what other people think about this issue and who they must be picturing when we talk about violence. There’s only one thing I am certain of: nobody’s mental image is going to be the same, because everybody has had different experiences leading to their own perspective.

Moving forward I’d like to see us view survivors, all of them, in the same light and with the same empathy. No two survivors of domestic abuse are the same, and each has had an entirely different experience. Violence has no selection criteria, nor should we when giving survivors of violence our attention, resources, and support.

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