This article came about for two reasons. First, a much shorter version is an early contribution to a soon to be launched blog. Second, the expanded version, this one, was triggered by SAVE Services teleconference training about how to effectively work with domestic violence councils, the outline of which I’ve included at the end of whatever this is…
Though similar, you may find the teleconference planned approach more palatable. My approach is one of motivated happenstance and generally dissed. Both should be useful when working with your local DV council.
So, what’s a DV council? DV councils are typically congregations of like-minded community based stakeholder organizations that influence and control a community’s domestic violence industries. Generally, these congregations have steadfastly refused comprehensive or even rudimentary services for male victims of abuse; historically tough crowds for Men’s Rights activists. Consequently, DV council outcomes are often harmful, unintended or not. Their work extends into virtually every crack and cranny of a community including the military, public safety, health; human and social services, children services, welfare, employment, faith based organizations, the judicial system, government, and even animal control.
Let’s begin. Here’s a snapshot of how it happenstanced for me…
From my experience, you have to start by making a statement. Like by wearing a t-shirt with point-on catchy slogans like, “FEMINIST LIES MAKE BAD LAWS” (thank you Ray). Then, you have to keep showing up, act like you know something useful, stand tall (I’m six-one), and lend a helping hand, even if uninvited. It also helps to have lots of friends who like to rally wearing t-shirts while waving placards with point-on catchy sayings. One of my favorites shows a handcuffed woman being led away by two police officers with the slogan “PROSECUTE FALSE-ACCUSERS!”
Several times 15 or so of us like minded activists picketed SDDVC annual fund raising events and conferences decked out in our t-shirts placards in hand. That also shows you care about making the world a better place for everyone.
Call the police. Let them know you and a few close friends will be staging a rally at whatever event it is that you want to picket. Ask that they drive by a few times to make sure members of the domestic violence organization don’t get violent. They tend to get testy when people threaten their fundraising events. Get the name and contact number of the duty sergeant. Usually you have to stay on public property, sidewalks. Don’t impede foot or vehicular traffic either. You might need a permit. Be civil, no name calling or flashers. Applies to police and angry anti-violence DV Industry operatives. Not bad as a general outline for getting along with others.
With some of that in mind, ten or so years ago I began attending San Diego Domestic Violence Council meetings. It was not unusual for me to get a room full of cold shoulders for wearing my t-shirts with images and sayings counter to domestic violence industry politically correct thought, like those above. Needless to say I was often shunned like a plague carrier or someone with really bad hygiene. I’ve changed cologne several times naively thinking people fleeing meetings upon my arrival has something to do with body odor. I’m still experimenting with various brands, but I’m beginning to think it has something to do with opening my mouth. I know what I say often taints my breath. Mouthwash maybe… Regardless, you have to show up.
Over the years I came and went to SDDVC meetings. If the leadership of the Council was resistant to recognizing that abused men existed, I was more inclined to show up. I began working with people of abuse in 1973, before the phrase “domestic violence” gained global recognition. I knew firsthand that domestic violence is not gender specific, that everyone bleeds. You actually have to demonstrate that you know something, preferably something useful.
Those who don’t understand that domestic violence is not gender specific, those who resist comprehensive support services for abused men, including emergency shelter for them and their children, are, in fact, abusive. Yet, such people are typically those who receive huge government subsidies and grants from corporations, foundations, and wealthy individuals to guide related policies, best practices, and oversee our domestic violence industries. They are often community leaders and members of domestic violence councils. Most of who are decent, but misguided. Unfortunately, some are creepy. A few are evil. Don’t worry about what they think. Stand tall for your beliefs, even if shorter than six-one.
What follows is a brief look inside my years of working with the SDDVC, along with some snapshots of the well-meaning people that have allowed me to help, even if begrudgingly. I’ll tell you about the evil ones later. I hope you find this useful.
During one of my high SDDVC participation periods, a friend, Kevin Young, kept bugging me to attend a meeting of the Faith Based Committee charged with developing a non denominational domestic violence information, education, and referral program. My friend was insistent that I get involved to make sure that abused men were included in discussions. Under such duress and wearing one of my t-shirts, I went to a meeting which included representatives from several religious denominations in the community. At the third meeting I attended, Kent Peters, Director of Catholic Social Ministries, and Chairman of the committee, looked at me askance and deadpanned, “Harry, don’t… you… have… something… better… to… do?” (I’ve probably taken liberty with the quote but you get the drift). “No, not really” I said. Regardless, over the next few months we produced “Safe Place Faith Communities”, a domestic violence information, education, outreach, and referral program which embraced concepts of relationship violence to include abused men. You have to hang in there.
It was a great group of people that did that. All we had to do was care, lend our skills, and show up…and be offered a bit of money to get the job done. Plus, the project produced an incredible multi-page, glossy, pricey brochure that Kent eventually passed around from San Diego to somewhere in Oklahoma. Our message traveled. Perhaps I don’t get out much, but to my knowledge this was the first time in the United States such a thing had been accomplished, to include abused men.
Since then I’ve been an off and on member of the SDDVC and the MLF. I’ve participated in a few other projects, including one now; that being, the development of a blog sponsored by the SDDVC Men’s Leadership Forum. The blog will showcase stories, links, educational materials, and other resources for abused men, which was the reason this writing started. But, to be clear, if it doesn’t work or something goes wrong, if the blog flops, Jeffrey Buckhotz is solely responsible. I didn’t do it! As some say, I’m in a perpetual state of denial.
Like Kent, Jeffery wasn’t all that excited about me either; and, visa versa. We met at an MLF monthly meeting shortly after he graduated with a Masters Degree in Women Studies. I still have a hard time with that. He now has his own domestic violence training business of some sort and teaches a class or two at a junior college. Jeffery, like other members of the MLF is sincerely motivated to reduce interpersonal violence. He now has a much better understanding of abused men and violent women too. He’s the current President of the SDDVC. Strange things happen, fortunately sometimes in good ways. Open minds frequently lend themselves to heartfelt helping hands, regardless of strongly competing beliefs and values.
Another key player in the Leadership Forum is Chesley Blevins from the San Diego County Office of Crime Prevention. I’ve often wished I’d carried a dictionary when meeting with Chesley. He effortlessly stretches multi-syllable words together light years beyond iambic pentameter’s five metrical feet; yet, always, with compassion and courage.
In 2009 Chesley headed up a local conference as a grantee of DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Safe Start Initiative. Again, to my knowledge, this became the first government sponsored domestic violence industry conference in the nation to incorporate a keynote speaker and panel discussion targeted at effectively working with abused men. We invited John Hamel to be a keynote speaker. John is a social worker, one of the world’s premier domestic violence researchers, and author of Gender Inclusive Treatment of Intimate Partner Abuse.
Chesley waded into this politically incorrect quagmire seemingly unconcerned about potential adverse consequences to his career. Thankfully, he’s still with the County Office of Crime Prevention and the MLF rather than in an orange jumpsuit picking up trash along a roadway. Some great outreach and education flyers came from Chesley’s office too; flyers about abused men. I’ve heard a close relative leans toward radical feminism. Hang in there Ches we need you.
Dawn Griffin, Ph.D, was SDDVC President prior to Jeffrey. My recollection is that she was awarded her graduate degrees from Alliant International University San Diego, in forensic psychology perhaps. Dawn and I got off to a bad start several years ago, when she was the coordinator of the annual International Violence, Trauma, and Abuse Conference. Overtime that changed. We were an exhibitor. There was a disagreement over some of our brochures, which, of course, are always factually defensible. But, after becoming SDDVC President Dawn led the local DV community to the higher understanding that men can be victims and women can be perpetrators.
One day she visited me in our NCFM offices and invited me to be a member of the SDDVC Advisory Council. I asked if she were kidding. She wasn’t. I told her had it been anyone but her I would have respectfully declined. I accepted, but nothing ever came of it. Jeffery somehow learned of Dawn’s invitation. Over a year later, at a recent MLF meeting, he asked me why I hadn’t accepted. I told him I never heard back from Dawn. He invited me again. “Ok”, I said. At the next meeting I asked him about the status of his invitation. He said, “Your use of Fe-ME-ism doesn’t help…” Maybe not, but it’s accurate. It’s on one of my favorite t-shirts… So goes the party.
There are many other well meaning SDDVC members I’ve had the pleasure of working with over these years, and I hope the brief snapshots above of a few of those good people help you understand that everyone in the DV Industry isn’t evil. I also hope those snapshots help you understand that you can’t effect change if you don’t show up, make a statement, know something useful, give a helping hand, stand tall for your beliefs, be civil, don’t call people names other than their own, involve others (the police when appropriate), and hang in there. Don’t forget the t-shirt, best used in the beginning, not necessary once things start improving.
After being gone a year or so, I’ll filter back in, though it seems there’s always a cold shoulder or two, even without me wearing my sporty looking t-shirts. I’m an outspoken “Men’s Rights Activist”. I make no apologies for it. Men should not be the scapegoats for everything evil in the universe; or, with respect to intimate partner violence.
Now I’m hopeful that SDDVC and MLF leadership can develop a working relationship with the newly formed Los Angeles Domestic Violence Council’s Task Force on Abused Men. We’ve scheduled an introductory meeting in San Diego this summer. Who knows, in a few years California may have a statewide taskforce on abused men. To my knowledge there have been none of those in the nation either. Good people, hard work, open minds, stranger things have happened… You have to show up. Plant the seed. Nurture it…
I consider Kent to be a good friend. He’s also Co-Chair of the MLF but for years was the Chairman. A several years ago, after developing Safe Faith Place Communities, he was again asked to be Chairman of the MLF. He agreed, but only if the leadership of the SDDVC agreed that efforts to educate the community more about abused men was incorporated into our mission. I’ve included our mission statement at the end of this writing. They agreed. The MLF then had a budget of approximately $20,000. The Council reallocated the funds. The budget has never been re funded. I love this guy. He stands tall under six feet.
Jeffery, Chesley, and another fair minded man, Ken Woods, make up the current Executive Committee of the SDDVC. Again, to my knowledge, this is also a first. The first time a major domestic violence council has had all male leadership. Leadership that understands abuse is not gender specific. Leadership that fancy themselves, to one degree or another, advocates for men as well as women. Or, they support “human rights”; a concept usurped roughly 30 years ago by misandric feminism and converted to “women and children” only. As I say, we all bleed.
Remember, stand tall, abuse comes in many forms… If your beliefs are well grounded in compassion, fairness, and justice let no one sway you otherwise, make no apologies. If you are a person of abuse, know there are good people of differing beliefs working on your behalf. If you are reading this, know too that you can join us to help make our community better. Also know that relationship violence is not gender specific. It never has been…
You can buy one of our t-shirts by finding the graphic in the right hand column of this page. I wore the one pictured to the office yesterday. The one that says, “WoMEN StuDIEs.” If you read this far you know the above all started with wearing a few t-shirts with thoughtful slogans; or, perhaps that should be, slogans that help others think more thoughtfully. Think about it.
In case you are wondering, no harm has come my way. Though, if you need popularity or a pampered ego, I recommend politics, bartending or pole dancing. Being a Men’s Rights activist is like walking around with a big “M” and six signs of Satan carved into your forehead. Most Men’s Rights activists don’t even claim to be Men’s Rights activists. If outed, they worry about losing their jobs, being ostracized from church, or losing their children by upsetting a judge during a high conflict divorce. Many family law attorneys paint Men’s Rights activists as bad, unstable parents, unpredictable, in denial, with anger issues… Of course, they’ll drop you like a hot rock too when you run out of money. It’s all political.
Join NCFM. Make a difference. Being a member is a good thing. Click the join button to the right near the top of this page. If you read this far there’s no reason not too…
Get off the couch, stop bitching, show up. Do something constructive. Don’t give up. Think Forest Gump. Happenstance.
. . . . .
Here’s the MLF “Statement of Purpose” (mission statement). You might find it useful in proposing a similar subcommittee of your local council:
San Diego Domestic Violence Council
Men’s Leadership Forum
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE 2008
The Men’s Leadership Forum (MLF) is a committee of the San Diego Domestic Violence Council that involves men in the community process of seeking solutions for ending relationship violence.
The MLF is committed to freeing communities of relationship violence through (1) outreach (2) education, and (3) the engagement of community leaders.
Relationship violence takes many forms: physical, sexual, emotional, and financial. The MLF acknowledges that most people are not violent or abusive; however, it also recognizes that relationship violence remains a serious societal problem. We believe relationship violence is best understood within the wider context of respect for human rights.
The MLF moves beyond seeing men as simply part of the problem by (1) empowering men to be a part of the solution for ending relationship violence (2) recognizing men too can be victims and (3) strategically involving men within community based prevention and intervention strategies. Through such strategies, men and women are better able to educate themselves, think critically, and understand their individual roles and responsibilities in ending relationship violence.
In as much, the MLF meets regularly to (1) determine the segment(s) of the male community to which we should reach out, (2) consider, deliberate, and refine related outreach strategies, and (3) design various public forums through which education, dialog, and information will be offered.
Here’s the other approach to effectively work with your DV coalition (or, council). It takes much less time to read than mine. And, I forgot to include “1.” in my approach above; it’s pretty important as you will see… The presenter will remain unnamed until he reads this and gives me permission to include it. But, he is an extremely good, dedicated, advocate who has been doing this work for decades:
Boot Camp: How to Work with Local DV Coalitions
- Find out where they meet.
- Check your local open meeting laws.
- Don’t speak the first few times you attend.
- Raise your hand to speak.
- Don’t be angry.
- Find the things you agree on.
- There may be things you disagree on.
- Join a committee where you can use your expertise.
- Take detailed notes.
- Learn your rights.
- Attend their trainings.
- Choose your battles.
Oh… don’t take yourself too seriously either. The world, in all probability, will be spinning after you stop.