A Domestic Violence Shelter for Pets, But None for Men and their Children: Safe Beds for Pets

A  Shrink4Men community member sent me a link to a National Times of Australia article by Nina Funnell titled, For many women, ’tis the season of fear, not joy. The article begins with a horror story about how the then 14-year old author and her family helped a battered female neighbor by giving her and her children a place to stay on Christmas Eve.

Ms Funnel states that the New South Wales police department reports an increase in domestic violence during the Christmas-New Year’s holiday season. She then cites the mutual drug- and alcohol-fueled brouhaha between troubled actor, Charlie Sheen, and his equally troubled soon-to-be-ex-wife, Brooke Mueller, last year on Christmas day as supporting evidence.

The main purpose of Funnell’s article is to promote a new government funded Australian domestic violence website. The site’s banner reads, “Domestic violence: It can happen to anyone.” Directly below the banner is a flash photo montage of individual anyones—all women—to drive home the point.

So, in Australia, domestic violence can happen to anyone—as long as “anyone” is female. Interesting, since there are multiple studies by multiple organizations that have found men are the targets of violence in at least 40% of reported cases. I suppose this figure doesn’t merit an “every-man” photo on the website along with the “every-woman” images. It can’t possibly be due to a lack of stock images of soulful looking men on iStockPhoto, Jupiter, Corbis and Getty Images, etc. I know they exist.

Granted, the Aussie DV site does include the following non-gender-biased blurb:

It can affect anyone in the community, regardless of gender, sexual identity, race, age, culture, ethnicity, religion, disability, economic status or location.

However, after surfing the site, I can’t find any specific services or shelters for men and their children who are the targets of abuse and violence by women. They have a list of services and shelters, which don’t specifically say, “for women and children only,” but I’d be willing to wager, if I had the extra money to make international calls to Australia and inquire, that I’d be told, “Women only. Men go to the homeless shelters.”

Let’s return to the National Times piece. Ms Funnell’s article is the usual promo piece for a DV website. She summarizes the kinds of information and services it provides, the “domestic violence is wrong” message, and how to protect yourself, etc. Ms Funnell tries to use a gender neutral voice, which is a refreshing change, even though she doesn’t quite succeed. Granted, I highly doubt that any of the DV services offered by the site she’s promoting are for male targets, but that’s not her fault.

I couldn’t figure out why the Shrink4Men community member sent me this link as I didn’t find anything extraordinary in the article. He pointed me to the commentary, but even the commentary is basically the usual stuff. “Men can be victims, too. But men are more violent, so women need more protection.” God forbid some women acknowledge that men can also be victims. I’ve always wondered why some women fight so hard to retain exclusive rights to “victim-hood.”

The last thing I’d ever want to perceive myself as or be perceived by others as is a victim. Sure, I’ve had people try to victimize me, but I push back and don’t define myself as such. True victims don’t relish the role; professional victims use their victim-hood to gain power and abuse others—at least that’s my theory.

I was about to click away from Ms Funnell’s article when I stumbled across this passage:

The website also contains a page on what victims can do if they are worried about their pet’s safety. Research shows that 70 per cent of female domestic violence victims say that their abuser has threatened to, or has actually harmed a pet. Fifty-four per cent reported that their abuser had killed a pet, and a quarter of victims say they have delayed leaving their abuser because of concern for their pet’s safety.

As part of the NSW Domestic and Family Violence Action Plan, the RSPCA has set up a Safe Beds for Pets program to provide free temporary accommodation for the pets of victims who are trying to leave their abusers.

This passage got my attention. I re-read the article’s comment thread again to see if anyone else caught it. A domestic violence shelter for pets? What the —-? No one else seems to have noticed this item or, if they did, they didn’t comment upon it. Typically, I don’t leave comments on online newspapers, but I did today. Here’s the comment I left, which is still awaiting moderation (bear in mind, it’s the middle of the night in Australia as I write this, so it may appear tomorrow):

To me, the most interesting/disturbing aspect of the article is that, apparently, domestic pets—cats, dogs, hamsters, bunnies and goldfish—now have a domestic violence shelter to which they can flee (Safe Beds for Pets), but no information is given re: shelters and support centers for men and their children who are targets of DV by women.

Presumably, 50% of those reading this article are human males and 0% of the audience belongs to another species. Yet, there’s information for how Rover and Fluffy can protect themselves from DV, but not men. Are there any shelters for men in New South Wales—not homeless shelters, but DV centers? If not, how is it that non-human quadrupeds and fish and birdies have received funding for a DV shelter and men have not? Look, I love animals, but doesn’t this seem crazy?

If you’re not aware of the study on DV by Parity in the UK, check it out (Google Parity UK domestic violence study and the PDF should appear at the top of the results). 40% of REPORTED DV victims in which violence occurs are male. This percentage is probably higher since most men don’t report out of shame, fear of not being believed or being wrongly arrested. Additionally, women engage in relational violence (emotional, psychological and verbal) more than men (Google the study by Muñoz-Rivas, Graña Gómez, O’Leary, and González Lozano).

While I don’t have stats to prove this, I’m sure that men are the targets of DV much more frequently than dogs, guinea pigs and parakeets—and they’ve already got PETA and countless other organizations that promote “humane” treatment for animals. Just sayin’.

I really do love animals and it’s true that abusive people—men and women—often threaten to harm or actually harm their partner’s beloved pets. However, before governments and charitable organizations fund shelters for animals who suffer collateral damage from abusive individuals, I think we should fund programs and shelters for men and their children who are trying to escape an abusive wife/mother.

Out of the thousands of DV shelters available to women in the US, only a handful (less than 10 the last time I checked) offer services to men. I imagine there are even fewer in Australia. There’s only one national hotline that offers assistance to men, the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women (+1 888 743 5754), which is run by Jan Brown, yet western civilization is opening doggie DV shelters to protect man’s best friend from man instead of opening facilities to help humans who are male and the targets of female perpetrated abuse. So it’s women, attorneys and children first, then dogs and cats and then men? Wow.

I guess this is yet another example of man’s inhumanity to man or, rather, woman’s inhumanity to man.

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  1. Irishgirl says

    I can offer some positive information, WEAVE states on their website:

    “WEAVE provides crisis intervention services to women, men and children in Sacramento County who have experienced domestic violence or have been sexually assaulted. It is WEAVE’s mission to bring an end to domestic violence and sexual assault in partnership with our community>”

    It’s good to know that WEAVE can see and understand that men are in need of the same services as women and children when it comes to domestic violence and abuse.

  2. ron7127 says

    Try telling people that women are as violent as men and they think you are off your rocker.

    Just today, I was reading a post by a woman who had been victimized by her husband’s cheating. She belted him three times. Very little criticism of her response, if any.

    Tiger Woods, an abusive NPD is ever there was one, was bashed with a golf club. Not much of a stir about that.

  3. gooberzzz says

    I am not surprised by the information in this article. Gender inequalities aside, there is a mass consciousness in western culture that infantilizes pets. Don’t get me wrong, I believe strongly that pets can make great companions and can be very valuable in a person’s healing, however it stops there. They’re pets and NOT human beings. I suspect this was probably a marketing initiative to align their organization to the pet industry. A company such as Purina, Iams, PetSmart, etc. could see this as a philanthropic opportunity and throw some money at their organization. Which leads me to my next point. No institution, private or public sector, will offer up resources for battered men.

    A few months ago, while researching this subject, I discovered a video series on YouTube that raises questions and answers about this same issue. The first of the 4-part series can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5AOj6EhRuY

    Someone might find it helpful in gaining a more balanced perspective.

  4. ssscrambled says

    Hi Dr. T.

    Yes I commented on that article as well, not on the animal-related stuff but because one thing that continually gets my, erm, goat is the apparently wilful misinterpreting that goes on between misogynists and (more commonly) “man-hating feminists”… and because I live in New South Wales and the SMH is my local paper.

    I’ve been following your website for a while and gave an internal cheer when I saw your name pop up. Thankfully my experience of a relationship with a BPD sufferer is now well and truly in the past and I am the wiser for it – but one strong impression that the whole experience left me with is that there seems to me to be scope for investigating the relationship between personality disorders and radical feminism.

    My ex proclaimed herself a feminist. She had spent her working life with women’s organisations and when I knew her was writing a PhD on applying a feminist approach to preventing violence against women. When I first met her I was impressed by her commitment in the face of (as she described it) massive adversity, and sorry to say, far too empathetic and protective of her following her disclosure of having been a victim of incest and family violence, that I imagined I could turn her life around if I could only stay with her for long enough.

    However what I came to realise in the three short months that we spent as a couple was that her engagement with feminism was almost unthinking. She would take a book off the Feminism shelf, plug it in, and that would become her persona for the period of time she was reading it. I was not aware of BPD at the time, but this aspect of her certainly seems to correspond with the diagnostic criterion of identity disturbance – as at the time I remember thinking that, without the opinions that originated from what she had read she was essentially an empty shell.

    Long story short, it seems to me that the characteristics of many BPD/HCP/abusive women closely mirror radical feminism – the victim mentality, the attitude that relationships are constitutively abusive and transactional, the inability to take responsibility for oneself. And dare I say it, the narcissism and rage. Radical feminism almost seems to be the key that fits the hole.

    I think feminism is very important. I only need look at the way my mother was brought up, denied the opportunity to study, pressured by her own mother into becoming a typist and to leave work as soon as she got married, then subsequently living through the late 60s, finding a man who treated her as an equal (my dad), studying after hours, and going on to have a successful, highly satisfying career and simultaneously be a very good mother, to see how positive it has been in transforming women’s lives the world over. When feminism is taken up by respectful, balanced people it can be a very powerful force for good. However my (admittedly probably biased!!) view is that the reason feminism has so alienated most of its potential constituents in recent times is that it has been hijacked by women with personality disorders – try Andrea Dworkin as an example – who have subsequently become its most vocal proponents, and turned it into a farce. Just an idea;-). Any thoughts?

    And as a disclaimer, I still don’t think there is enough scientific evidence to be 100% certain that “personality disorder” is an accurate representation of what goes on… but I think we will some day!

    Love your work!

  5. Lebrocq says

    I live in wonderful backwoods Chatham-Kent Ontario. The woman’s shelter literature here is all about gender specific language – he does this he does that…. I’m not at all surprised to see this focus on providing refuge for animals over men. Typical garbage coming from an industry more interested in getting a fat pay cheque rather than take meaningful steps that actually improves the domestic violence problem.

    If any woman’s shelter was serious about ending domestic violence they would start with recognizing what is scientific knowledge – women are as likely to act abusively and violent as men are.

    If anyone wants some empirical data they can come take a look at the nickel sized scar I have on my leg from one of dozens of kicks aimed at my testicles, a kick that was so hard and tore out so much of the skin from my leg it took 8 months to heal. Well except for the scar that is.

    They have rallies here for the 200 women who have died in Canada at the hands of their partners in recent years. Stupid men actually dress up and walk in high healed shoes – to walk a mile in “the shoes of one of these victims” Nothing is ever said about the 65 men who were killed by their partners during the same period.

    It won’t change because there is too much money being made by too many people in the domestic violence industry.

    Now we’re going to have pet domestic violence specialists making six figure salaries!! What a Joke.

  6. Marshall Stack says

    The employee assistance program at my day job gave me the contact information for an agency that supposedly provides assistance regardless of age, gender, blablabla. I went there thinking I’d finally get some support, and left disappointed. The woman I spoke to about counseling gave me information I was already aware of. After talking to the paralegal, I realized I make too much money to qualify for legal aid even though I can’t afford an attorney. If I need emergency shelter for me and my kids, I was told that I could go to the city mission, as none of the DV shelters are able to accommodate men. Thanks a million.

  7. luvcats says

    Another issue is there may be no place for the adolescent boys even if it’s a shelter supposedly for women AND her children. They may not allow teenage boys over 14 or 16 to stay there. :( It’s not just adult men that aren’t offered that form of safety – it’s male children too. :(

  8. robesse says

    This article is very timely. The W and I have this recurring argument about my lack of sexual interest. Who would want to be intimate with someone who regularly insults them and goes from a petulant “you dont want to be with me” one night to giving me the cheek when I go to kiss her the next? That aside, I have e-mailed my doctor about the issue, telling him we are having marital problems. I also just recently requested free counselling through my employer-sponsored assistance program (EAP). I told the EAP not to call my mobile phone after business hours because the wife does not want calls after hours.

    In neither case was I asked if I was being abused or under any kind of threat of harm. Would this have happened if I was a woman patient or caller? Probably not. Even though both symptoms are signs of abuse (loss of interest in intimacy and hiding calls for assistance from the abuser) absolutely no mention was made to me. The EAP counsellor actually said “no need to explain.” Really? Really? Wow.

  9. Verbal says

    There is one additional consideration pertaining to the lack of mens shelters. I would guess there is a societal presumption that male victims of domestic violence are gay — that their abusers are also male. Thus, domestic abuse against males is a “gay problem.” Low priority on the spectrum of social ills.

  10. Driver says

    Here is hoping that 3 years later we are finding more support (shelters) for men. I’m playing “catch up” on reading all of these older posts and comments but I have to say this one should be a large dot on everyone’s radar screen (i.e. media, public, etc..). But, sadly, it’s not. The public’s perception of abuse is still “bad man…save the woman” on abuse. I hope, over time, and with the help of Dr. T. we can change it.

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