Domestic abuse shelter in Indiana expands services to include male survivors

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

There is an unfortunate gender gap in the service provided by domestic violence shelters and hotlines to men. But Sheltering Wings in Danville, Indiana is joining a growing effort to help shorten that gap.

It may be easy for some to dismiss the idea of domestic abuse against men as something that doesn't happen much, or at all. But, research by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence shows that one out of every seven men experience some physical abuse by an intimate partner, the same statistic for women is one out of four.

Knowing this it's kind of shocking to learn that the first domestic abuse shelters that serve men only opened as recently as 2017. It's hard to believe but unfortunately, it's true, and the reason for it is that it can be very difficult for male victims of abuse to come forward. Only about one in seventy-one men report abuse.

There's a stigma placed on men who report abuse. Those who do report abuse tend to be ridiculed for being weak or accused of being abusers themselves. And while it's true that women suffer domestic abuse more than men do, it's tragic to think that male sufferers are not believed when they seek help.

One researcher found that when men reach out to law enforcement authorities or domestic abuse hotlines they're not taken seriously. One man that was part of the study had said, "They asked how much I weighed and how much she weighed and then hung up on me...I was told by this agency that I was full of BS."

But when places like Sheltering Wings open their arms and join a growing network of shelters that serve men as well the trends we see can be reversed. The shelter has served primarily women.

And the shelter's executive director Cassie Mecklenburg knows this, saying in one interview, "It takes a lot for a person to reach out to an organization that they don't know. There's something that oftentimes feels very private, very intimate when someone's talking about domestic abuse, and so what we want to do is we want to give them a voice. And if we're the person that they're reaching out to, we're humbled and privileged to be able to come alongside the families that we serve."


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