Men's Centre Experiences with Domestic Violence
"Domestic violence against men is just not a social problem". Ellen Pence, founder of the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project. New York Times 20th April 1992.
Male victim faced a wall of disbelief
In 1995, Men's Centre North Shore's first co-ordinator Martin Lewis wrote: [Female violence] is foremost in my mind at the moment as I have been seeking justice for a North Shore solo father who was such a victim recently.
The incident involved this man's estranged wife (about 18 months) arriving at his home and physically attacking him and another man (in front of their children), after she learned that he had a new woman in his life. The Police attended and, after talking to her, sent her home. The man's enquiries later found that Police policy had not been adhered to in that the perpetrator of domestic violence was not arrested therefore there was no record of the incident for statistical purposes or for future reference if further incidents occurred. Nor was the man offered any of the victim support normally offered in these circumstances.
When assistance was sought for him we were faced with a wall of disbelief and indifference. Several publicly funded and promoted organisations which purport to be working either against domestic violence or in support of its victims were unable to help because he was a man. Responses varied from an indifferent shrug of the shoulders to an offer of an anger management course to outright hostility. How dare anyone suggest that women be anything but the victim and the man the perpetrator. The general impression was that he as a victim must have deserved it. A suggestion, that if made of a woman would be considered outrageous.
Martin cops female fury
Realising that some consciousness raising was required, Martin sent out a media release publicising research showing that aggressive acts by men and women in relationships are about equal. To his great surprise, an article appeared on the front page of the local Shore News headlined: 'Violence debate sparks local battle between the sexes'.
A later article in the Sunday Star-Times titled 'Martin cops female fury' began: "An attempt to improve the image of the average Kiwi bloke has backfired, bringing instead a barrage of female fury." Ms Chris Coppersmith of the North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project said Lewis' statements were "not supported by the facts". Her main support for this claim was that only 14.7% of all USA homicides are by women, however she neglected to mention that US domestic homicides are in in fact approximately equal. She went on to suggest that the reason there is no crime of 'female assaults male' in NZ is because "the number of such assaults does not justify counting." She concluded: "Men's Centre should sort out it's own clients rather than resort to blaming the opposite sex for political gain."
Martin Lewis responded: "It is precisely the politicising of the issue that I am speaking out against. I find it very disturbing that the essence of my statements was omitted and at the same time the opposite implied."
On Dec 7th, Martin reported to the committee on a meeting of the North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project (of which Men's Centre was then a member). The meeting was "heated", and it was claimed that Men's Centre public relations material was "anti-women". Martin was instructed to return and "educate" Men's Centre members.
Martin then organised a Public Forum at the Senior Citizen's Hall in Northcote on Jan 15th 1996. Speakers were Dr Felicity Goodyear-Smith (false allegations of sexual abuse) and Reese Helmondollar (domestic violence). Helmondollar's obviously pro-feminist (and anti-male) views came under considerable attack from the audience.
On Feb 1st, Men's Centre was fired from North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project because our "objectives are in conflict with theirs". Martin attempted to arrange a meeting with them to discuss this, but was unsuccessful.
Men Don't Tell
Later in 1966, a movie screened on NZ television called "Men Don't Tell". At the end, a voice-over suggested abused men should ask for help and gave the Men's Centre telephone number. Over the next few days, Martin received approximately 150 calls.
Next: The Hitting Home Report