This post contains graphic content. Reader discretion is advised.
This is a developing story and may continue to be updated. You can view the updates at the bottom of the page.
It was 2013 in Canada. Earl Silverman had made the difficult decision to close the doors to his shelter due to a lack of funding. Unfortunately, the Men's Alternative Safe House (MASH) would no longer be available to those seeking its services. The purpose of the organization was to provide support and encouragement to men and their children who were victims of domestic violence. By all accounts (though information is hard to come by), it seemed as though Earl had helped men who couldn't find support elsewhere. In fact, Earl himself claimed to be a victim of abuse, fleeing his wife of twenty years. He wanted to give help to men who oftentimes don't have anywhere to go, as many domestic violence shelters are only for women and children. Still, he was unable to secure enough funding from the Canadian government and had to give up his dream. Earl sold his home and all of his belongings due to a lack of financial support.
On April 26th, 2013, Earl was found dead in his old garage, hanging from the rafters. In his suicide note, he chastised society at large for failing to meet the needs of male victims.
I won't sit here and claim that I know the type of man that Earl was. As mentioned, information is difficult to come by. However, Earl did have a point that many others are now speaking out in favor of. It may seem strange, but men can be victims of domestic violence too. This tends to run counter to what society talks about regarding victims of domestic violence, stating that women are more likely to need help and resources. And while it is true that women can be victims (I know, as I worked in a domestic violence emergency shelter for a year), I started to wonder what the rates of domestic violence is for men. Considering men tend to underreport concerns for fear of being seen as weak, I decided to search for a more comprehensive study on this topic.
Enter the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010 Summary Report contains many details regarding rates of sexual assault, rape, stalking, and of course, domestic violence (in case you are not aware, the term "domestic violence" can be used fairly interchangeably with "intimate partner violence." Since I learned and use the former in my work, I will be sticking with it). Pages 44 and 45 detail the rates of physical violence between the sexes. All reported statistics are from the "Lifetime" category, though the report does have a set of data from the "Past Twelve Months." Of the respondents, women were "slapped, punched, or shoved" 30.3% of the time and were victims of "any severe physical violence" 10.4% of the time. For men, the former category has a 25.7% statistic while the latter is 13.8%. That seemed odd to me, as they are relatively close in percentages, with men experiencing slightly more rates of "any severe physical violence."
Abuse is not just contained to the physical, though. Emotional / psychological abuse still counts. Thankfully, the same report discusses this on page 46. For women, they experienced "any psychological aggression" 48.4% of the time; for men, it was 48.8% of the time. The numbers are once again virtually the same. In fact, on page 48, there is a large box that reads "Nearly half of women and men in the U.S. have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime."
Now, I didn't do a deep dive into the methodology of this study, so it is possible that there are some flaws contained within it. A brief glance shows that this was conducted for the entire year of 2010 and had a total of 18,049 participants who answered questions via the phone (page 9 of the report). However, I'm more inclined to believe this CDC study due to the size and scope of the survey.
With ALL that said, the survey suggests that men and women experience psychological abuse from an intimate partner at an equal level, while women experience only slightly more rates of physical violence than men.
"But Greg," I hear you say. "Why are you bringing this up now? What caused this?" I'm so glad you asked.
There was a video posted by a prominent YouTube personality named Shoe0nHead. Many of her videos discuss gender politics and feminism, as she is a harsh critic of both. However, in a digression from her norm, she posted a very sobering video that showcases snippets of an interview with a man named Charles Guthier, who tells a heartbreaking story. He is a married man who has been out of work for a while due to serious heart problems. In mid-July, Charles underwent major open-heart surgery. He then details how his wife of a few years (Edit: She was allegedly abusive towards him throughout their relationship) was verbally abusive to him in the car on the way home from the hospital, claiming that he physically assaulted her. Therefore, she wanted to take their baby away from him. Charles said that he had never abused her and would come after her with legal action if she did so. Unfortunately for Charles, it didn't end there.
His wife allegedly snuck into his bedroom late one night, planted drugs on his person, and called the cops. Charles was arrested, and his wife filed for an emergency order of protection against him. Once granted, she left for Oregon with the baby.
Charles is barely making ends meet, let alone having enough money to pay for the rest of his medical bills or pursue legal action. To add insult to injury, Charles later found out that his dog had been given away. All of this is to say nothing of his ex-partner who will not let Charles see his other 8 year old son due of the drug charges (despite the fact that they have joint custody).
My disclaimer here is that nothing has been proven. All of this is alleged information. I'm not a court of law and will leave it to lawyers to dig up the truth. Now that I've met my legal obligations...
Stories like these break my heart. Believing victims of domestic violence can sometimes be a problem, and this is no exception. Abuse is NEVER okay regardless of your gender. I get very upset when I hear about female victims of abuse. It was difficult to work with them for the year that I did. But what of the men? In my experience as a man, I can say that there is an immense amount of societal pressure to hide weakness. After all, who would want to date a sissy? Take that notion, and imagine that you have been married for years, during which time you have been physically or psychologically abused. Who would you tell? Many people would probably make fun of you, tell you to "man up," or dismiss your concerns as someone who doesn't have your life together. One only needs to look at the many social experiments detailing what happens when actors pretend to be in an abusive relationship. If the man is the aggressor, people tend to flock towards the woman to protect her. If the woman is the aggressor, people tend to ignore it or may even laugh at the situation.
Men and women like Charles need to have their voices heard, and that's why I'm sharing this with you all. If you are interested in donating to Charles' Go Fund Me campaign, please click here. If you can't, then please share his story and the stories of many others who need help and support.
And to those of you who are going through a similar situation, please reach out to any number of organizations, including the ones listed on my Counseling page.
Thank you to all of you who made it this far and who continue to make the world a better place. It's people like you that inspire me to keep moving forward.
Gregory T. Obert
Update: The original story stated that Charles' wife was out drinking while he was recovering at home. This was in error. A Tweet from Charles states that "she was instead hanging out with her mom, shopping, dining, and swimming." My apologies for the misinformation.
Update #2: The details surrounding Charles' situation have been edited to more accurately reflect what was in the Shoe0nHead video. Again, my apologies for not getting the exact details correct. I wanted to get this story out as soon as possible, but it seems as though small pieces of the story weren't reported correctly. That being said, Charles is still someone who has been through a lot (to say the least) and can use your support. Please consider helping him out by clicking here.