Pioneering Domestic Violence Advocate Who Refused to Discriminate Leaves Lasting Legacy

August 16, 2011
By

Patricia Overberg taking a lunch break from an LA Domestic Violence Council Meeting where she was trying to drum some sense into DV gendersaurs

TORRANCE, Calif., August 15, 2011 – She changed the lives of thousands, perhaps millions, but few know her name. Patricia Shanley Overberg, MSW, died of heart failure in Torrance, California, on August 11, 2011, with her children at her side. Overberg, a native of Providence, Rhode Island, was 77.

With the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) due for reauthorization this year, Overberg’s views on discrimination are particularly timely. Trained in an era before most social work programs adopted the philosophy that all domestic violence is rooted in patriarchy, she believed that family violence needs to be viewed holistically. Her commitment to the principle of equal treatment for all informed everything she did.

Although most VAWA-funded battered women’s shelters force mothers of boys over age 12 to place their sons in foster care or be denied entrance, Overberg refused to require mothers to choose between their own safety and their children’s well-being.

When male victims, whether on their own or with their children, sought help, she didn’t turn them away. Overberg was director of the Valley Oasis Shelter in Lancaster, Calif. from 1989 through 1998. During that time, Valley Oasis was the only shelter in the U.S. that men needing help could turn to. Even today Valley Oasis remains one of the very few shelters in the U.S. that offers the same level of services to male as to female victims.

Overberg treated gay men and lesbians with the same respect and level of service accorded to everyone she helped. She pioneered in bringing a transgendered volunteer on board at Valley Oasis.

Erin Pizzey, founder of the first modern battered women’s shelter, says: “Pat was a brave, honest and courageous

May you smile forever Pat, you earned some happiness the hard way.

woman. She faced persecution from her colleagues in the domestic violence field and fought back. All of us who work at the coal face of human relationships owe Pat a great deal.”

Because of Overberg’s principled refusal to discriminate based on sex or sexual orientation, many of her peers treated her as a pariah. In a 2002 sworn deposition, Overberg testified that she “was subjected to continuous abuse by other shelter directors for sheltering battered men.” (http://www.ncfmla.org/pdf/overberg.pdf)

Undaunted, Overberg encouraged the National Coalition for Men (NCFM) to bring suit to end the discrimination against male victims of abuse and their children. Helped by Overberg’s testimony, NCFM won a landmark ruling that held it is unconstitutional for California to exclude male victims from state-funded domestic violence services. (David Woods v. Horton (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 658, http://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2008/c056072) The effects of this ruling are far-reaching. All states are now on notice that equal protection clauses in constitutions mean what they say. State funds cannot be used to support agencies that discriminate on the basis of gender.

Overberg’s legacy lives on for all victims of domestic violence and in efforts to provide equal access to services for people everywhere.

Contact:

Stanley Green
202-341-0704
StanleyG@menshealthnetwork.net

Source: RADAR (http://www.mediaradar.org) & NCFM (http://www.ncfmla.org)

Note: Contributions in Pat’s memory may be sent to:

Valley Oasis Shelter
P.O. Box 2980
Lancaster, CA 93539

A online memorial was started for Pat. For more information see http://patriciaoverberg.remembered-forever.org/

Here’s another tribute by Jan Brown of the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women

NOTE: This press release was crafted by several devoted fans and friends of Patricia. All of our lives, and yours, are better off because of Pat’s commitment to making the world a better place for all of us. She will be missed…

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One Response to Pioneering Domestic Violence Advocate Who Refused to Discriminate Leaves Lasting Legacy

  1. Matt on August 17, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    RIP Pat, and its too bad that other people in the DV industry dont think the way you did.

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See NCFM Wayback

waybackmachineOver the years millions of people worldwide have visited a National Coalition For Men website. Also over the years the site has changed dramatically, been taken down, moved, and otherwise uprooted. In those processes much information was lost, not recovered, and does not appear on this site. However you can see earlier versions and many of the extraordinary accomplishments of NCFM back to 1996 by using the WayBackMachine. In the search box type www.ncfm.org

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Great Resources for Abused Men

 
  • Dometic Abuse Hotline for Men and Women, based in Maine, offers 24-hour hotline: 1-888-7HELPLINE (1-888-743-5754) and may be offering shelter services.
  • Valley Oasis in Lancater, CA has offers shelter and other services for men and their children. 24-hour Hotline: (661) 945-6736.
  • Family of Men Support Society, Calgary, Canada, shelter and support services.
  • Male Survivor, Overcoming Sexual Victimization of Boys and Men
  • probono.net, provides resources for pro bono and legal services attorneys and others working to assist low income or disadvantaged clients.
  • LawHelp.org, helps low and moderate income people find free legal aid programs in their communities, answers to questions about their legal rights, and find forms to help with their legal problems.
  • Shared Parenting Works has parenting plans and other resources.
  • Walk a Mile in HIS Shoes resources for abused men in Canada.
  • One in Three Campaign resoures for abused men in Australia.
  • Stop Abuse for Everyone, one of the most comprehensive and oldest sites dedicated to victims of domestic violence. The site was recently upgraded with the assistance of NCFM. The site includes an interactive map of north America for helping to find shelter services that might or do help abused men.

More great resources for men and those who care about men. Ask your elected officials if they do.

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