Mr. Custody Coach
Blog Talk Radio
Jan Elizabeth Brown
October 14, 2009
MICHAEL: Hello and welcome to Mr. Custody Coach’s Blog Talk Radio program. I’m Michael, here with my partner Lexi.
LEXI: Good afternoon, everyone.
MICHAEL: You might know us from Mr. Custody Coach.com. Please visit our website today and purchase our e-book on creating custody agreements, for an introductory price of $19.95. We believe you will find it a valuable resource for starting your plan for quality parenting arrangements that benefits both the parents and the children, and it is free if you actually join the site.
Today’s topic is Domestic Violence.
LEXI: Yes. So, as we were scheduling this radio show, Michael, I don’t know if you were watching with me or not, but we often have Law & Order on in the office, just as background noise, and it was an episode where a woman was saying that her husband raped her. But the issue before that was they were having an argument and he ran out of the house to get away from her, and she came running after him with a cast-iron pot and threw it at his head, and I’m sitting there going, okay.
So, she calls the cops and files a rape report, you know, tells the cops exactly what happened, and none of them even bat an eyelash that she physically abused him before the rape incident, you know, no charges pressed against her, absolutely nothing, and that is a really scary thing in our society.
So, it was timely for having this radio show on domestic violence, because we really want to point out that it doesn’t only happen to females; it happens to males, too. So, I just want to go over, in the beginning, here, the actual definition of domestic violence, and this is according to the U.S. Office on Violence Against Women. They define domestic violence as:
“A pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”
It can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or even psychological actions and threats of actions that influence the other person. So any behavior that intimates, manipulates, humiliates, isolates, frightens, terrorizes, coerces, threatens, bullying someone or, of course, hurts and injures someone is considered domestic violence, according to them.
So, just a couple of quick statistics for you, according to a study done by the Department of Justice, in 2006, their calculations for 2004 domestic violence cases included 627,000 total cases. 151,000 of those were against men.
LEXI: You know, and most people will not believe that, but that’s true. And the bigger issue is, for us, obviously — because we deal with people who are going through custody situations — on average, children were residents in those households 43 percent of the time when the victim was the mother, and 25 percent of the time when the victim was the father. So there are a lot of children that are living with this and having to see everything.
So, today we have a guest with us. We have Jan Elizabeth Brown who is the founder and Executive Director of the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men & Women — Women, excuse me. Welcome, Jan.
JAN BROWN: Hi.
MICHAEL: How are you doing today, Jan?
JAN BROWN: Good. Thanks for having me on.
MICHAEL: Oh, a pleasure to have you here. Obviously, one of the first things we wanted to do was talk to you — talk to you about your organization.
As you know, the topic of domestic violence is one that is hotly debated and discussed across this country. Can you give us a little bit of background about how your organization is different from what people understand most domestic violence hotlines and domestic violence shelters to be?
JAN BROWN: Well, our agency is different than traditional domestic violence victims’ agencies in a number of ways. First, we specialize in offering supportive services to men in relationships with abusive women.
And secondly, we are a virtual non-profit, so all our communication is through, other than direct services we offer the victims and survivors, is through online. Teleconferencing, email, group lists, chat, web-conferencing.
And lastly, we differ from them in that we get no federal or state funding, so we remain an all-volunteer agency at this time, after nine years.
LEXI: That is amazing.
MICHAEL: Yes, it is quite a departure from what people are used to, you know, are aware of and used to seeing.
So, who do you actually serve?
JAN BROWN: We serve — anybody that calls our line gets the same service. Primarily, men call looking for services. I would say about 80 percent of our callers are men looking — or someone concerned about an abused man, most of the time. We get about 550 calls a month, at this point.
LEXI: That is quite a bit. I think it is interesting that it is all virtual. Do you think that promotes more access for everyone?
JAN BROWN: Oh yes, definitely. It was tricky, at first, to do it this way, but it was the only way to do it with a national agency, with no money, so —
LEXI: Yes, it definitely lowers your —
JAN BROWN: — and given the need —
LEXI: That definitely lowers your costs, I’m sure.
JAN BROWN: Yes. Well, given the need for services, throughout the country, for men, there is no way we could have limited this agency just to, like, Maine, where I’m based, or New England. It just wouldn’t work because most — I would say we get calls, a lot of calls from Pennsylvania, Florida, California. So, you know, where are those men going to go if they don’t have us to reach out to, you know?
LEXI: Right. I think that makes a lot of sense, especially because there aren’t, you know, physical shelters for men. There are so few and, you know, having the luck that you might live near one is probably almost impossible, unfortunately.
JAN BROWN: Right. And a lot of times they will get run-around when they call the traditional hotlines and shelters. You know, they’ll get the run-around.
MICHAEL: Jan, that is a really creative — really creative approach, especially when you have so many websites out there offering free opportunities that can help you expand your network. That is really great.
JAN BROWN: It has been a progress of love. Yes. What — how does that go? But basically, I have been very fortunate to get some volunteers that are as passionate about the issue as I am, and so they put a lot of time in, like I do, to, you know, making this work and training advocates and public awareness. Training more advocates for the helpline and all that, too, so.
And so, I’m in Maine, and my Director of Volunteer Services is in Chicago, and then our Volunteer Coordinator is in Florida. So, sometimes it’s — I’m a visual person, sometimes it’s a little tricky, but it all works, so.
LEXI: Well, having worked online for the past almost ten years, I understand, and I actually like it now because you can reach those people who are just as passionate as you about a problem, or an issue, or, you know, something that they want to do, even though they live thousands and thousands of miles away.
JAN BROWN: Right. Right.
LEXI: So, what events prompted you to start the organization?
JAN BROWN: Well, back in 1995, a male friend came to me with a problem and he confided in me that his wife of 12 years was verbally and physically abusive towards him pretty much their entire marriage. So, he tried to look — you know, he tried everything to get the abuse to stop. Counseling, she wouldn’t go, it was his problem not hers, and all that; and threatened divorce and she threatened, well, then, you’ll never see your children again, and he had two little kids.
So, he had limited funds and she carried the checkbook in her name only, and gave him five bucks a week, so he didn’t have a whole lot of choices. He hadn’t told his family anything about this. So, I felt really bad and I said, well, let me see what I can find out, and I called around and discovered that most of your traditional domestic violence programs were, in fact, pretty anti-male.
JAN BROWN: They did not help men. So, that got me started on a campaign, and from there it grew, and, in 2000, myself and a few other people decided we would start this non-profit agency.
MICHAEL: And your non-profit agency is Domestic Violence Helpline for Men & Women. Do you have a website address you can shout out, give a shout-out to now?
JAN BROWN: Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men & Women. Yes, you can actually go to www.domesticabusehelpline.org. That would be the easiest one, on the radio.
LEXI: Okay. And is there a phone number anyone can call if they need help?
JAN BROWN: The helpline number is 888-743-5754.
JAN BROWN: That is our toll-free line.
LEXI: Yes, one of the, you know, it is interesting when you start learning about everything, because I think, like most situations in life, you don’t really think about it until the problem is dropped at your own door.
JAN BROWN: Right.
LEXI: And you know the first time that I really heard of an issue where I wanted to get involved was that, even in women — women’s shelters and women’s center shelters, they don’t even accept women who have boys that are 12 years old or older.
JAN BROWN: Right. Most of the centers, and there’s over 2,000 of them in the country —
JAN BROWN: — that offer, specialize in helping women, yes, they won’t take an adolescent boy. Most of them won’t take an adolescent boy.
MICHAEL: What is the reason for that, Jan?
JAN BROWN: The reasoning, from what I’ve read and understood, is that, you know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. You know, if the father is a batterer, then the child will probably be one. Women are afraid of men, so, basically, an adolescent boy could look like a man, if he was tall enough.
JAN BROWN: And there was one other one to do with, you know — I can’t remember exactly when I think about it, but they just all — crazy stuff, you know?
JAN BROWN: A mother would have to go there and find another place for their adolescent son.
JAN BROWN: They could bring an adolescent daughter, but they can’t bring an adolescent son.
LEXI: Yes, and that is the part that really never made sense to me, unless you honestly believe that no woman in the world could ever hurt anyone else, which, gosh, turn on your news every night and you know that is not true.
JAN BROWN: Right.
LEXI: But you know, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but that is only true for boys.
JAN BROWN: Right.
LEXI: We know that children, any child in an abusive, you know, home can end up being abusive, and yet they completely ignore that and they take in these young women and they don’t really help them to stop being abusive in the future. They just say, oh, well, it’s dad’s fault, you know?
JAN BROWN: Yes.
LEXI: It just made absolutely no sense to me. So, you know, obviously —
JAN BROWN: There was some — there was a center, I remember reading a few years back, there was a center that was very proud, in Washington state, that they were opening up a bigger shelter or a new shelter and they were all excited because they were going to take in adolescent boys and pets. So, that kind of proves that it’s — it’s an anomaly, you know.
LEXI: Things just don’t make sense for so many reasons, and we’re really glad to see organizations like yours trying to change things and provide services for both.
JAN BROWN: Thanks.
LEXI: And we know that domestic violence affects men and women alike. As a provider for both men and women, what, if any, differences do you find when one or the other calls into your organization?
JAN BROWN: Well, I think one of the most striking differences is that abusive females know how to continue the abuse, after their victim has left, by using the court system against them. Abusive females can set a victim up in such a way that he can be arrested for protecting himself, too —
JAN BROWN: — against his female partner’s attacks.
MICHAEL: We have seen that.
JAN BROWN: So, you know, I mean when it comes to arrest, ten times out of ten they are going to try to arrest the men.
JAN BROWN: In most instances, how close is that to most instances? But you know, so she can continue to do that, she can keep the children away and all that, but that is what we hear from some men that call the line, who have gotten out.
When I first started this line, my goal was to eventually have a line where most of the callers were men who were still in the situation, and we safely help them to remove themselves and their children. That is my dream because that would mean everybody was aware that domestic violence happens to men and everybody was aware that there was a program that helped them.
JAN BROWN: But that is not there yet. But it is still my dream, you know.
LEXI: Do you find that men usually call you when they are still in the situation, or do they call you —
JAN BROWN: Oh yes.
LEXI: — after they have gotten out? When they are still in?
JAN BROWN: No, both; both instances. And if they call when they are still in it, I get kind of excited because, you know, nothing bad has happened yet and we can, hopefully, give them safety planning, you know, offer them emergency shelter, help them with a protective order if the local people won’t help them, even do it by phone. I do, anyway. You know those kinds of things to try to get things in place to protect them before stuff gets out of hand like that.
LEXI: Have you found a lot of legal resources for men? Because I know —
JAN BROWN: No.
LEXI: — we hear every day from clients. You know, women can get legal aide in almost every circumstance. Gosh, even Michael’s ex-wife has gotten free legal aide based on total crap stories. But for men, you know, if they can’t afford an attorney, there is almost nowhere to go.
JAN BROWN: Right. And the challenge is that most of your legal aide programs, services are set up that they collaborate and are in partnerships with the battered women’s shelters.
JAN BROWN: So, if the battered women’s shelters, you know, if a woman goes to the battered women shelter, she is automatically going to be more than likely qualified, qualifies for free legal help. And then, and most of those are — well, I shouldn’t say most, but many are your legal services, you know, the statewide kind of free legal services, so then —
JAN BROWN: — they can’t help the man because it’s a conflict of interest. So, automatically, you know —
MICHAEL: They are left out in the cold.
JAN BROWN: — the guy is out of luck.
JAN BROWN: Right. Unless they happen to get to a shelter, unless they are a victim and they happen to get a program, a local program that believes them and helps them. We have had a few —
LEXI: Right. And gets there first.
JAN BROWN: Hmm?
LEXI: And gets there first.
JAN BROWN: Yes. That’s the sad part.
LEXI: The really sad part is, you know, you always hear women and children, but even if you’re men and children, the children aren’t being protected. And this is kind of off topic, but when Michael lost his job last year, he called to get CHIP for the children because we couldn’t afford to pay for COBRA on top of losing, you know, all of his income, and he was not eligible to get it simply because he had a child support order. Not because he was behind on child support; he wasn’t. Simply that the child support order was in his name, he was not eligible for state benefits that benefit his children.
JAN BROWN: Now, if she had a child support order, would that be the case?
LEXI: Exactly. Exactly. And the woman, actually, she was like, well, you know, what kind of custody do you have? Well, no, she didn’t even ask. He just said, well, what about, I have 50/50 custody, you know I have my kids half the time, technically I shouldn’t even pay child support, but the courts —
JAN BROWN: Right.
LEXI: — you know, they can do whatever they want, so they still make him pay it. She had literally told him she had never heard of a father that had 50/50 custody.
JAN BROWN: Oh my gosh.
JAN BROWN: Yes, it’s —
LEXI: Yes. I’m like —
JAN BROWN: — to hear that —
LEXI: She is like, I’ve — and these are the obstacles that men are dealing with. So, now you have a man who is being abused, you know, doesn’t have access to finances, and there is really nowhere to go.
JAN BROWN: No.
MICHAEL: One of the things that I found disturbing, despite my best efforts to try to educate people, and I guess, within certain social circles that I run I talk about the domestic violence issues and how it relates to men, and one of the disturbing things I find, particularly among men, is that it is just simply not taken seriously, despite the wealth of information that is out there, despite what we sometimes see on the news out there. And the common, I guess, the stereotypical theme that rings true among men who can’t grasp the seriousness of the situation is, you know, if the man lets himself get beat up by a woman, he is a wimp or a sissy or he deserves it, and despite my best efforts I can’t seem to change that mindset, or, who knows, maybe they are just trying to egg me on or make me get riled up about the passion I feel on this subject.
So, I guess that leads me to a question. That is, what are the types — what types of response will a man expect to receive when calling the local domestic violence shelter, and what kind of a response would they expect to receive when they call the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men & Women? Can you articulate the differences, based on your experiences and your research?
JAN BROWN: Well, most battered women’s shelter programs will tell a man calling that they do not help men, and hang up on them.
LEXI: Even though they are funded by federal dollars?
JAN BROWN: Even though they are funded by federal dollars. Or they will claim that they help men, but they don’t have to prove it. Who do they have to prove it to, you know? Unless there was some kind of inside investigation of some sort. They can say anything they want, and who is going to doubt them? They can say they help men just by picking up the phone and talking to them for five minutes. That’s — we help men, you know?
JAN BROWN: Give them the full compliment of services they give women? Can’t ask that question. So that is what, many times, men run into when they call their local domestic violence shelter. With a very — you know, I mean, it humbles them so much to even make that call, you know, and to get rejected, it is just ridiculous.
They call us, we let them know that we are here to support them, we try to give them referrals, we work with them on safety planning, we talk about options, we say we understand, you know, we get lots of calls from men, so that they realize they are not alone. All my helpline advocates are very open to working with male victims because 80 percent of our callers, at this point, are men.
MICHAEL: That leads me into the next question that I had lined up. What percentage of the overall number of people who call your organization are men versus women?
JAN BROWN: Well, until 2005, when we added “Women” to our name, 95 percent of the calls were for and about men being abused. Now, I would say it’s about 80/20; maybe 20 percent of the calls come from women, and the rest come from men or someone about a man who they’re concerned about being abused.
MICHAEL: That is interesting.
JAN BROWN: Still a high percentage.
LEXI: Yes, I like hearing that other people are concerned about men and calling in for them. That’s —
MICHAEL: That’s the thing that —
JAN BROWN: Oh, yes, we get a lot of those calls, yes.
MICHAEL: I was going to say that’s the thing that most disturbs me when I encounter people who either just outright dismiss the abuse issue, at least as it relates to males, or make fun of men who are brave enough to come forward and say, hey, yes, I was in a domestic violence situation. And the thing that I think that just — it seems obvious to me, and I guess I get disheartened that it’s not obvious to others, is that men and women alike have men and boys, young adolescents in their lives who they love, who someday have a fair likelihood of being affected by this type of stereotypical, judgmental behavior about men who are experiencing domestic violence, and it is just a shame, from my perspective, that it would take somebody to actually be hurt for these people who are so dismissive about it to realize that it’s a real issue and it’s a serious issue, and that domestic violence should be fought regardless of gender.
JAN BROWN: We have to make it safe for men to speak out. That is a challenge, too. There’s no outreach efforts within those 2,000-or-more domestic violence shelter programs for women. There is no outreach effort for men, in many of them. There’s a few that are starting to take notice and have outreach materials for male victims, but majority don’t. So, how would a guy even know that what’s happening to him —
LEXI: Right. And most of them know —
JAN BROWN: How would he even know he is experiencing domestic violence?
LEXI: Right. And the ones that do know, usually when it becomes critical, when their wife comes after them, you know, with a knife —
JAN BROWN: Right.
LEXI: — they, of course, call the cops because that is immediate, but they are not even listened to most of the time, then, and oftentimes they are taken in and she’s let go with absolutely no consequences, you know.
JAN BROWN: And men don’t want their partners to get in trouble. They don’t want them to go to jail.
JAN BROWN: So they’re not going to call right away. They’re going to do everything they can to try to rectify the situation —
JAN BROWN: — rather than bring in the authorities.
LEXI: I can tell you, Michael was there in that situation when we started dating five years ago. His ex-wife lost a court battle; she broke into his home, with the children —
MICHAEL: I love this story.
LEXI: — decided to —
JAN BROWN: He lived this story.
LEXI: — move back in, and he — it was, literally, I think two weeks after we had started dating, so, and we lived four hours apart, we lived in different states, you know, it wasn’t, certainly, anything serious at that point, but he did email and let me know what was going on. Or no, he called me and said she had called him from inside the house, called him at work. Of course he sees his home phone number on the phone, is like, um, what the heck?
So, anyway, he went home and she was threatening everything from suicide to harming him, and he would not call anyone or file a restraining order against her because she worked with children and he did not want her to lose her job.
JAN BROWN: Right.
LEXI: So, I’m going, wait a minute, you have a three year old and a six year old, home, listening to all of this, and your attorney is telling you to file a restraining order, but you’re worried that she is going to lose her job.
MICHAEL: Yes, I think my main concern, at that point, like you referred to, Jan, is that you want to just try to solve the problem. So, my mindset, in my own particular situation, was that, given the fragile state or what appeared to be the fragile state of her psyche at that point, two things crossed my mind. The first one being I was afraid that filing a restraining order might result in her attempting to take her own life; and if that didn’t occur, that having a restraining order on her record would likely cause her to fail a background check and lose her employment.
So, again, my concern, at that point, was less about myself and more about the ultimate impact on her life, going forward. And to make a long story shorter, I ended up having to file one because she made threats against me in the days after that break-in, and I just said, you know, this is enough, it’s out of control. So, I ultimately ended up having a restraining order put on her for the break-in and the threatening behavior.
JAN BROWN: Was this in Pennsylvania? Sorry.
LEXI: That’s okay.
JAN BROWN: Well, I’m wondering about — the difference — did you find somebody to help you, Michael, to do this?
MICHAEL: I had to go to a — this was a surreal experience and one I’m sure you can relate to. For me to file a restraining order against my ex-wife, I had to go to a woman’s place.
JAN BROWN: Yes.
MICHAEL: And the chilling —
JAN BROWN: I know that.
MICHAEL: You could — the chilling affect of me walking through the door — well, at first, it confused me because I thought I would be able to just go right up to the courthouse, you know, I had no experience with this, so I believed that I could go to the — you know, a restraining order, I had to go to a police station or go up to the courthouse and just fill out some paperwork. And then, to get the ball rolling, and this actually goes directly to our conversation today, I actually had to go walk into an organization’s door, to their office, that is dedicated, essentially, to helping only women, because that is where I could get the paperwork necessary to file for a restraining order against my spouse. My — yes, I guess she would have been soon-to-be-ex-spouse at that point.
So, it was — you would have thought I was an alien when I walked into that building.
JAN BROWN: Oh yes, men walk in those places, some of them get really freaked out.
MICHAEL: It was — there was no discussion —
JAN BROWN: They don’t let them go near the door.
MICHAEL: Yes, there was no discussion. I asked for — you know, I had no problem walking in there because I knew that the situation was serious enough that nobody could say or do anything, at that point, that was going to dissuade me from following through with it, but you know, there was no discussion, they handed me the necessary paperwork, I filled it all out, and then that started the process going, but definitely, the chilling —
JAN BROWN: Did they help you with the paperwork?
MICHAEL: No, no, no, no, no. No, we had no discussion at all. They handed me the paperwork and all, and I just figured —
JAN BROWN: If you were a woman, they would have sat next to you, held your hand, and worked, you know, helped you write the affidavit because they would have known that, you know, being a victim, you’re distraught, a little distraught, nervous, anxious, you know —
JAN BROWN: — so you might need a little bit of assistance.
LEXI: Absolutely. And I always say, in that case, if the roles had been reversed, he would have lost custody of his kids immediately.
JAN BROWN: Absolutely.
LEXI: He would have been kicked out of the house. Her? Nothing. She got a restraining order, 18 months, which stopped her from doing absolutely nothing, which — well —
JAN BROWN: Right.
LEXI: — would show on restraining orders later.
JAN BROWN: Yes, I was going — and a lot of times, they’ll go in, the abusers, the abusive women will go in and get a restraining order either at that courthouse or at another one, and try to negate yours, you know, find a way to get yours to disappear, and a lot of times Judges will actually do it because there is — there is a thing called — the biggest discrepancy between male and female victims, as far as getting help, I think, is that, the word “fear,” okay.
JAN BROWN: Now, if I can demonstrate this. I went to a training here, because we went from primary aggressor laws to predominate aggressor laws, so they were training domestic violence workers and police officers on how to determine who the predominate aggressor was.
So, the facilitator had little vignettes he was doing and he made, he said, for example, he was trying to get the crowd to determine, you know, who was the predominate aggressor, and he said, for example, say a woman walks up to a man — say a man walks up to a woman and slaps her, and she goes and gets a frying pan, okay, and hits him on the head with it, who is the predominate aggressor. Well, of course the man.
So, I raised my hand and I said, okay, so if a woman slaps a man and he goes and gets a frying pan and hits her? He looked at me very nastily and said, is he in fear? Okay. So that is your big theme, is if guys aren’t afraid, then they’re not really victims. But guys —
MICHAEL: And —
JAN BROWN: — don’t show fear.
MICHAEL: Yes, and if they — I was going to say and if they are afraid, then they’re sissies.
JAN BROWN: Right. You know, they can’t win for trying. So —
MICHAEL: That’s right.
JAN BROWN: And so, that’s a big challenge for male victims, is to get by that. And who, what guy wants to tell another guy that they’re afraid of their wife or girlfriend, you know?
JAN BROWN: I mean, so, it’s a really tough thing for them, but that is one of the bigger things that’s going on in society as far as arrests and things like that.
LEXI: Right. So, do you think that the significant disparity in resources allocated by, not necessarily the government, but by the institutions that are using government money to provide these services, essentially only serving women contributes from the lack of widely public acceptance of the realities of women on men domestic violence?
JAN BROWN: Good question. Absolutely, it does, yes. But keeping in mind that, back in the 70s, we had a battered women’s movement, not a battered person’s movement, and we also had a women’s movement in conjunction with the battered women’s movement. So, it was all about women 30, 40 years ago, you know. If it had been a battered person’s movement, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
MICHAEL: So true.
JAN BROWN: You know? So that’s the challenge, is getting change. Change is always difficult for people, especially if they have a dogmatic view about something.
LEXI: Right and I think —
JAN BROWN: Most of your traditional domestic violence, battered women’s advocates — all right, I’ll cut that off — just battered women’s advocates, they started domestic violence services and they did so because they believe that men were the cause, men were the problem, so all their services should be for women.
LEXI: Right. I —
JAN BROWN: But as generations, as new people come up in these centers and work and the old-guard kind of — I like to call it the old guard — steps down, I think we’re going to find that we’re going to progress more into that gender-inclusive type of atmosphere of some of these domestic violence programs.
LEXI: It’s definitely going to be interesting. I mean, I get kind of riled up that the whole women’s movement and feminism, and we still have, you know, I mean, Yale, Harvard, all of the big campuses still doing huge, you know, women’s studies programs and everything, and the whole background of all that is so that women have more power. And yet, all of the foundations and everything that they are supporting and trying to push through basically rely on the concept that women have no power, still. And I’m like, how — how can you —
JAN BROWN: Yes, they are still —
LEXI: — push both things? You know, you can’t say you’ve come so far, and yet still push that you are all victims and you always will be all victims.
JAN BROWN: Right, and that’s what I — I believe, you know, our system is antiquated. We’re still working back in the 70s and 80s, you know, when we first started calling domestic violence a social problem, with the new systems that, you know, get all these federal and state funds. So, they need to come up to the 21st century.
MICHAEL: One of the things that your website, Jan, indicated is that 90 percent of your hotline volunteers are women. How, exactly, are they trained to deal with both women and men, when society is under this constant barrage of misinformation, that claims men commit almost all the domestic violence, by some higher profile mainstream organization?
JAN BROWN: Well, we have a training that every helpline advocate has to go through before they take the helpline shifts, and our training was built by me, so you know it’s got a lot of information in there about male victims.
JAN BROWN: So, they don’t have a choice. By the time they’re done with that training, they know, you know, that this is part of, a big part of what we do, and if they are not comfortable then perhaps they won’t go on, you know, and if they are — and a lot of young people are. I get calls from college students trying to do papers on male victims for school classes, and you know, just the younger people get it.
JAN BROWN: They really do. I get calls all the time.
MICHAEL: That’s really great to hear, Jan.
JAN BROWN: Yes.
MICHAEL: That’s really great.
JAN BROWN: And if I say, we specialize in helping men, oh, that’s great, because they need it. You know, I mean, it’s just getting much more accepted by the general public. It’s the people that work in domestic violence that are having a real hard time with it.
MICHAEL: Have you ever had any of your prospective women trainees depart your program, prior to either finishing the training or after starting, because you’re helping men?
JAN BROWN: Well, we interview people. We go through, you know, a process, and they have to fill out an application, we do a telephone interview, we do background checks. You know, it’s a pretty good-sized process, and one of my — one of my advocates, or my coordinators was speaking with a potential volunteer, and when she heard that we help male victims she said, oh, I’d rather marry George W. Bush than help male victims. So, needless to say, she is not one of our volunteers.
MICHAEL: That’s good.
JAN BROWN: But that is, like, rare. We don’t get that too often. People know by looking at our — we have notices up on volunteermatch.com and all the different volunteer sites —
LEXI: Oh, good.
JAN BROWN: — and they know, if they really look, that it’s very obvious, looking at our website, what we do. And so, right off the bat, if they’re not, either they’re not paying attention, if they’re not, you know because you can’t miss it on our website.
LEXI: Okay. So, just once again in the middle of the show, here, I want to say if anyone needs help or knows a man that needs help, you can call the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men & Women at, make sure I get this right, Jan, 888-743-5754.
JAN BROWN: Mm-hmm.
LEXI: And Jan, tell us what we can do to help, or if anyone is looking for a volunteer position, what we can do to help your mission.
JAN BROWN: Well, one thing, definitely, we always need volunteers for the helpline. The helpline has to be covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, volunteermatch.com, we have all our volunteer needs up there, pretty much, so if anybody wants to go there if they are interested in volunteering.
LEXI: And they can be from anywhere, since it is online, you work with volunteers from everywhere?
JAN BROWN: Yes, we train online. We do everything through group lists, we — everything, you know, chat, so. I don’t have any — or I should say I have a couple of volunteers in Maine, but most of my volunteers, there’s about 50 total, are out there everywhere. So, basically, they can be anywhere in the United States. Hawaii and Alaska are a little trickier, because of the time zone difference and all that, but —
JAN BROWN: — it’s still doable. And the other thing, right now, is that we’re involved in America’s Giving Challenge, and Facebook is actually promoting that particular challenge, and we’re a cause on Facebook.
JAN BROWN: They’re having, this America’s Giving Challenge is about a month long and whoever, whichever non-profits get the most donations to their cause per day, not the most money but the most donations, have a chance to win $1,000.00 a day, and if they get the most donations overall, over the month, then they have a chance to win $50,000.00, and we surely could use some good funding to help men and women even more, so. I would appreciate that.
LEXI: Okay. We will put up a link, on the radio show page, to that, so everyone can click on that.
LEXI: And do you want to go into the West Virginia case, specifically?
MICHAEL: Well, one of the things that I recently happened to cross, it was a West Virginia court ruling, a major domestic violence lawsuit that yielded some positive results.
In West Virginia, there is a Judge James C. Stucky who ruled, in essence, that the allocation of resources violated that state’s constitution for equal protection, and that, I believe one of the items I have noted here was that the Judge cited, among 12 items that were cited in his ruling, that the legislature had expressed a clear intention to provide licensure and funding for perpetrator intervention programs that are gender-neutral. The board, apparently, in West Virginia, acting on its own, ignored the intent and created a gender-specific program that includes only men for intervention, and excludes all women. And also, the resources available for helping victims were almost exclusively for women and none for men.
How do you feel about such a high profile, or soon-to-be high profile ruling, in a particular state and how that, you know — do you think that we’re going to start seeing more and more of that across the United States?
JAN BROWN: Well, that is the second ruling on behalf of discrimination against men, you know, male victims in about a year. California had one in 2008.
So, it is unfortunate that this is how things have to change, you know, make — how things — yes, I’ll get it out. It is unfortunate this is what we have to do in order to get equal services for men and women, but this is how the battered women’s movement also, you know, got services for women, you know.
LEXI: The bad thing is —
JAN BROWN: Through lawsuits.
LEXI: — you know, women’s shelters are being shut down or something, but maybe it will make people recognize that, okay, we need to serve everyone.
I know at the beginning of the year, in the budget cuts that Governor Schwarzenegger made in California, we kind of made a joke-title, but we said that, you know, he was making sure everything was equal and that was by giving no one money. He cut funding for women’s shelters, completely, and you know, it’s a horrible situation for anyone to be in, but men have been in that situation for pretty much forever.
JAN BROWN: Yes.
LEXI: And so, you know —
JAN BROWN: The U.K. had the same thing. The U.K. did the same thing to another women’s shelter over there, for the same reason. So, it is slowly starting to change and I’m — I’m sad to see it have to come to this to do it, but if that’s what it takes, what are you going to do, you know? It’s discrimination. They couldn’t say, well, you’re Black, so you can’t come here.
JAN BROWN: Why is it any different? You’re a man, so you can’t come here, you know.
MICHAEL: That’s a great example. A great example.
LEXI: Okay. Well, Jan, do you want to do one more question, and then we actually have a caller on the line that we will bring in.
MICHAEL: Oh, that’s great. Well, what I wanted to — we kind of talked a little bit about that — about this already, but just because I want to drive the point home. What more do you believe can be done to help society understand that domestic violence can and is committed by many abusers from both genders, and that all victims should be treated with kindness, compassion, and resources?
JAN BROWN: Public awareness, you know, that’s the most important thing. I find that media plays a pivotal role in how people look at things. So, when you see, in the newspaper, that a woman is murdered and she is a victim of domestic violence, and then you see a man is murdered and they don’t mention domestic violence, even though it was the same kind of scenario —
JAN BROWN: — that’s what hurts the equal-ness of victims, you know. The media needs to also treat a man who is a victim the same as they treat a woman, and then society can see. It will start seeping in that it’s not — there’s no difference.
LEXI: The media, especially, always, they look for a reason for the woman’s abuse.
JAN BROWN: Right.
LEXI: Well, he must have been —
JAN BROWN: We don’t have enough time for me to go into all that, believe me.
JAN BROWN: I can go into a whole bunch of stuff on that.
MICHAEL: Another show.
JAN BROWN: Exactly.
LEXI: Well, it was funny because I think I was the only one on Twitter and Facebook and everything else, but when Chris Brown hit Rihanna, at the same time the — I can’t remember her name — the housewife from New York City, on that show, hit her boyfriend, and there was like two newspaper articles about it, and Chris Brown is going through all this stuff. And while I don’t know —
JAN BROWN: Right.
LEXI: — anything that Chris Brown did, why was there not any attention paid to this woman who beat the crap out of her boyfriend?
JAN BROWN: Well, the first domestic violence homicide in this state, this year, was a man whose wife, who was out on bail for domestically assaulting him three months prior. She came in, while he was sleeping, to the bedroom and she poured flammable liquid all over him and she lit a match and she — 85 percent of his body burned and he died. The headlines read, you know, man dies in arson fire. You know, I mean, hello.
JAN BROWN: It’s just crazy.
MICHAEL: Actually, I would think, Jan, I would think that it would say, when you think about newspaper editors and they’re sitting there and the writers are working on a headline or what-not, that it actually takes extra work to go out of your way to call a situation what it isn’t.
JAN BROWN: Right. Well, you know what, I write in to reporters all the time and I just point these things out to them, and sometimes they’re, you know, okay about it, and other times they give me the standard line of we don’t know what you’re talking about.
But most recently, I did that, and the big thing is when you have, like the case I just talked about, did they think to contact the local domestic violence shelter to get quotes, did they think to, you know, find out if they were going to have a candlelight vigil for this man? No.
JAN BROWN: But if it were a woman in the paper, the first thing they do is they have quotes from the domestic violence program all about domestic violence, you know, and that’s the big difference. How can men be thought of that way if they don’t do the same thing, you know?
LEXI: Exactly. The media is a huge, huge —
JAN BROWN: Huge.
LEXI: — thing for me.
JAN BROWN: Absolutely.
LEXI: Okay. Jan, well, thank you for joining us.
JAN BROWN: You’re welcome.
LEXI: We will definitely get the link up about the fundraiser.
JAN BROWN: Thanks.
LEXI: And if anyone does need help, once again the number is 888-743-5754.
And we are going to now take a live caller. I’m not sure who it is, but we’ll find out. And you are on the air with Mr. Custody Coach. How are you? Maybe not.
MICHAEL: Last chance, if you have a question for the Mr. Custody Coach crew.
LEXI: I don’t know if they don’t know that they’re on the air or if they’re just not there anymore.
MICHAEL: Maybe they accidently hit the call button and didn’t realize it.
LEXI: Okay. Well, we’ll take them off, then, just in case they come on and try to do anything later.
So, join us, obviously, on our message board, if you’re a member. If you’re not a member, you can become a member today.
Next week, we are going to be discussing how to find an attorney in a high-conflict divorce or custody dispute, with author Bill Eddy.
He has been a blessing to us. I know we found him, gosh, what was it, four years ago?
MICHAEL: Yes, roughly.
LEXI: Four years ago. His book is Splitting. If you haven’t picked it up yet, pick it up. It’s amazing.
MICHAEL: Yes. It is Splitting, what to expect — let me grab my notes here. That’s a shame I’m messing that one up.
LEXI: He has a couple of other books, too. High Conflict Personalities in Legal Disputes. He has a new book coming out about the new therapy program that they, I guess, kind of invented, is the word.
MICHAEL: The New Ways approach for families.
LEXI: New Ways for Families, which is starting in California, and hopefully spreading around the country, to help families who are going through high-conflict divorce and custody situations, helping them to, hopefully, stay out of court and get through everything.
MICHAEL: Yes. The book was Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist, and I actually have, did my book review. That is on the site, mrcustodycoach.com, if you would like to take a look at that.
LEXI: Yes, you can take a look at that, and you can get it on Amazon and Bill Eddy’s site, as well. So, we’ll be talking with him about finding an attorney; if you already have an attorney, what the problems may be, and how to find a different one that will actually help you through.
High-conflict is very, very different than divorcing and dealing with a custody situation with a quote “normal” unquote person. I don’t like using that word because I don’t think anyone is normal, but it is a huge, huge, hugely different scenario, and I think we have done some research, the statistics.
You know, most people can settle everything in a divorce and custody situation by themselves in like 90 percent of the time. The other ten percent go to court. Only about two percent of those go to court multiple times, and those are typically high-conflict people, whether it’s because of a personality disorder or some other situation. I believe Michael and his ex have been in court, what, 30 —
MICHAEL: A lot. Just a lot.
LEXI: So, obviously, we have a lot of experience with that, which is the whole reason we started this consulting business, to help other people through this situation. So we cannot wait to talk to Bill and find out everything that is going on there.
MICHAEL: Yes, I want to thank Jan Elizabeth Brown again, the founder and Director of the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men & Women. The website is D as in David, ahmw.org. Again, dahmw.org, the Domestic Violence —
LEXI: Domestic Abuse.
MICHAEL: — Abuse Helpline. I keep saying that. Our topic was domestic violence. It’s dahmw.org, the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men & Women, and the helpline number is 1-888-743-5754, if you or somebody you know is in need of assistance.
And to the rest of you who are listening, thanks for joining us today and listening in. As always, we’ll be happy to answer all kinds of questions on our private forums at mrcustodycoach.com. Please sign up today.
Additionally, we have just released our first e-book entitled Creating a Custody Agreement, available on the mrcustodycoach.com website at the e-books page, for a special introductory launch rate of $19.95, so act now.
And I think that’s a wrap for today. Join us next week when our guest will be Bill Eddy.
Interview Transcription provided by ALM Transcription Services, L.L.C.
The fight against domestic violence would be exponentially stronger if the infighting between the men and women would stop and they could somehow join forces to raise awareness.
Abuse is abuse. We deal with men and women who are survivors. It needs to become socially unacceptable with much more volume.
Even in the family courts in Hawaii (and nationwide), judges are giving custody of children to the abusive parent – against statutory law – and the protective parent is called a liar. This is even true with hard and fast evidence, prior convictions, etc. There needs to be an honest accountability system put in place that actually does some work instead of pretending to hold consequences for judges that step outside their position and the law….we’re waiting…
My only problem is that despite your attempt to appear gender neutral, you’re not. And while many organizations such as your make such wild claims as if this were epidemic and that all of these abusive men are obtaining custody, the reality simply doesn’t bear that out. Further, your website is devoid of any commentary about the vast masses of abusive mothers who obtain custody of their children under the same circumstances as you abhor every single day.
I look forward to the first one of those stories you post on your site. We’re waiting…