Men Join Fight Against Domestic Violence
The woman who recently called Marcy Metzger at the Rape-Spouse Abuse Crisis Center in Lincoln, Neb., was afraid her husband was going to kill her. He routinely threatens to repeat the beating thatsent her to the hospital one month after they married, adding "This time you won't just go to the hospital, I'll kill you." That threat keeps the woman a prisoner in her home. And if she everdoes leave, it would have to be quickly. Her only hope to get out with some of her possessions might be to call John Andrews, owner of Apartment Movers -- a company with an unusual specialty. Over the past five years Andrews' firm has helped a couple ofhundred women escape domestic violence and leave home with more than just the clothes on their backs. "We call John when we get a call from someone who needs to get outimmediately," explains a woman on Metzger's staff who goes by the name "Stork." "Any time of day or night, he's right there, even if the person has no way to pay. And it can get scary because the perpetrator can come home at any time." Andrews remembers one move that got especially tense. "We knew the husband carried guns," Andrews recalls, "and might be back soon. We were trying to hurry, but the rain delayed us. Finally, we wound up telling her son, 'Look, if you see your dad returning, you need togo next door and call the sheriff.'" Luckily his father didn't return, and the woman got out safely. Last year, Andrews' work to help domestic violence victims earnedhim an award for voluntary service from President Clinton and the Points of Light Foundation. But Andrews is not alone. Metzger says an increasing number of menare joining the battle that for so long many viewed as women's work. Through the center's resource bank, male locksmiths, carpenters,lawyers and mechanics offer women free help. Male volunteers on its board help to manage the agency. Others are trained to help women -- and sometimes their children -- deal with abuse directly. They volunteer on the rape crisis hotline, do face-to-face counseling with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, or work with children scarred by violence. Who are these men? Some have a professional interest in crisisintervention and counseling. But most are there because someone they care about -- a friend, a sister, maybe a daughter -- has gotten caught up in a violent relationship. Then there are those, like John Andrews, who are simply workingthrough memories. He grew up with abuse as the son of a now-recovering alcoholic. "My father used to beat on me when I was a child," he recalls, "andI know what it's like to love somebody, be hurt by them, and yet youcontinue to love them." For years, most domestic violence organizations assumed that womentraumatized by violent men would be unable to accept help from men. Until recently, many had clear policies against involving men in counseling. That's what Mitzi Vorachek was accustomed to when she joined the Houston Area Women's Center. "When I first came down from Philadelphia, I was pretty shocked,"she recalls. "My first reaction was 'What are all those men doing answering calls on the hotline?' I just wasn't used to the idea that men could or should do this kind of work." But the center's clients didn't react that way."A woman has never not wanted to talk to Rick," says Vorachek,referring to one experienced hotline volunteer who at times was doing three shifts a week. Apart from its many volunteers, the center has also long included men among its paid staff. Agencies large enough to provide the necessary training are increasingly moving in the same direction, she notes. "We've finally realized 'Hey, this is crazy! We can't do it alone,'" she explains. "Men have got to be part of the solution."SIDEBAR 1Enlisting Men to Stop Domestic Violence Spreads Across the CountryAcross the country, more and more men are joining the battle to end the abuse of women. The Houston's Women's Center enlists young men from Rice University for its dating violence project. The men are trained to go into area high schools and help teen-age boys think about the peer pressure that sometimes leads to forced sex and gang rape. "What they teach is that this kind of behavior is criminal -- andreal men don't put a seal of approval on it," says Mitzi Vorachek, director of community education for the center. In Minnesota, Frank Jewell is coordinator of Violence-Free Duluth,part of a larger, nationally recognized domestic violence program. A few years ago he, too, decided that men had to "get off the sidelines" in the fight against domestic violence. Today, Men as Peacemakers, the men's organization he created, runsretreats and recruits men for volunteer work, among other activities. Amid a northern Minnesota culture often described, Jewell noted, as "gun heaven," Peacemakers go into the schools to show boys who may be fatherless, or accustomed to violence, that there is another way to be a man. In Chicago's predominantly female Quetzal Center, it is the malestaff member who goes into the schools and Chicago's public housingdevelopments "trying to change attitudes," says spokeswoman Jean Brumfield. In the center's year-old Boys to Men project, he teaches teen-age boys who feel girls owe them sex after dates that "there are other options besides getting physical." "You need a man to verbalize it to other men," Brumfield explains."A lot of times, men just can't hear the message from women. It's taken as an attack, and they get defensive. But when a man says it, the message can be heard. There can be some growth -- and maybe, a change in theirbehavior."SIDEBAR 2One Man's AwakeningMick Addison-Lamb says he knows some women are initiallytaken aback at the approach of a strange man who "might just be some dude trying to hit on them." But once he explains who he is, he finds most women are relieved. Addison-Lamb of Springfield, Ill., helps women in their legalbattles against those who have hurt them. A self-described "'60s veteran," he was just coming out of adivorce 15 years ago and "the question of 'why' was going through my head," he recalls. At the same time, he was discovering feminist theory and itscritique of male domination. Ultimately, Addison-Lamb would join the effort to undo the destructive power relationships that underlie domestic violence. He started out running groups for men who batter. Today, he's withSojourn Shelter and Service, Inc., and spends his days at the districtcourthouse helping women file charges against the men who batter them. He offers free assistance with court papers. While his court advocacy helps women navigate a sometimes-hostilejudicial system, Addison-Lamb believes it is also important for men to participate in counseling and similar roles to show domestic-violence victims "that men can be different from how they've come to expect most men to be."