Men’s Abuse Advocate Takes Lack of Alberta Resources for Victims to Human Rights Commission
December 19, 2011
The province has ignored male victims of domestic violence and does not provide adequate resources for men looking to escape violent domestic situations, says a men’s rights advocate who’s heading to court to fight the issue.
Earl Silverman, who first launched a complaint against the province with the Human Rights Commission back in 2006, will appear before a judge at a judicial review Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench to hear if his complaint will come before the commission.
“All I know is there are male victims of domestic violence,” said Silverman. “There are not the same support services available to men as there are for women.
“We have explored the needs of women for such a long time, at the expense of ignoring men. At what point do we say we can put that on hold and start looking at men now?”
Silverman himself is a male victim of female perpetrated domestic violence, finally forced to leave his wife 20 years ago to get away from the abuse. Since that time, Silverman has started a helpline for men because there were no similar resources at the time and a few years ago, he opened the Men’s Alternative Safe House or MASH, to give men a shelter to escape violent domestic situations. Neither operation has been recognized by the provincial government to date.
The issue of male victims of domestic violence is still one of those dirty, little secrets amongst polite society, Silverman says.
“Men are not really provided with an option of asking for help,” he said. “Number one, men are not victims. Victim is sort of reserved for women. I want men to be recognized …[The groups involved] don’t want to admit there’s a problem. ”
Andrea Silverstone, co-chair of the Calgary Domestic Violence Committee and director of Peer Support Services for Abused Women, says while recent Statistics Canada numbers show only a .4 per cent difference in the perpetration of domestic violence between men and women, the actual day-to-day dealing of male victims remains quite low.
“Probably about 92 to 93 per cent of my practice are women who have experienced domestic violence and about 7 to 8 per cent are men who have experienced domestic violence. It definitely is a stark contrast,” Silverstone said.
“I’m not saying it’s not an issue. It’s for sure an issue, it’s just not an issue to the same degree that women claim family violence is an issue, or there’s not the same amount of men who need those supports and resources. But I’m saying for the number of men who need those supports and resources, I think that there is adequate resources in Calgary.”
Aaron Korneychuk, the interim male domestic abuse coordinator with the Calgary Counselling Centre says from what he’s seen, 20 per cent of all domestic abuse cases the centre handles involve male victims.
“But that’s not including unreported cases that I think increases the numbers on both sides for male and female victims,” he said. “It’s a big enough issue that needs more attention brought to it.”
Korneychuk added part of the problem with male victims of domestic violence is the social stigma men feel for admitting they have been assaulted.
“A lot of people don’t come out and say I’m a male victim…. I do think that there are men out there who are in abusive situations and they’re not getting the services they need,” he said. “Whether that could be from shame, from guilt, from just not thinking that there’s any services out there. The more men that come forward, the more that we’re gonna be able to expand these services.”
A spokeswoman with Alberta Human Services would not comment on the upcoming court case, but says there are now services for men to access if they find themselves in violent domestic situations.
“We certainly believe they need to access services just the same as any other victim,” said Christina Bruce. “We need to be providing that support, absolutely. And we do have a number of [services].”
Those services include a provincially-mandated helpline for all victims of domestic violence, online and print resources and a family violence facility in Strathmore that does permit men to take a bed in the co-ed shelter.
Bruce says the province’s statistics show a “fairly close” rate of female to male perpetrators of domestic violence.
“It is an emerging issue for sure and something that’s coming to light,” she said.
“There’s a bed for men but that’s only if a woman isn’t using it,” Silverman said. “There aren’t the support services there that are available to women. They are putting the processes together according to their previous agenda which is only to support women.”
Silverman added he has not seen much movement by the province or local service groups to fully address the ‘emerging issue’ of male victims of domestic violence.
“If that was so, I would imagine that Alberta Children’s Services would, rather than go to the judicial review and argue against me, they would say OK we agree. I have not seen any movement on the issue.”
Silverman’s first complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission was rejected and his subsequent appeal to the commissioner was denied in a written response, stating there was no demonstrative need for more services for abused men.
The judicial review on Wednesday will examine the facts of the case and determine how the commission came to their conclusion to deny hearing Silverman’s complaint.
“There are services, but it’s nowhere near as comprehensive as what the women’s shelters provide women,” Silverman said. “They may have one or two services, but that is not demonstrative of what men’s needs are. They don’t know what men’s needs are.
“They say they have support services, which is different than treatment. Treatment typically is anger management. They need support, whatever that may look like. And that’s not available for them right now. Men do it in a different way than women do it but it’s been put together all by women.”