Often times cases like David Sorensen's become a he said, she said scenario and it’s difficult to sort through precisely who did what, when.
But to the question of whether men can be victims of domestic violence, expert Rebecca Hobbs, Executive Director of the Family Crisis Services of Maine says men can be and are victims. She says the challenge is getting them to report the violence and abuse and to take advantage of the resources nearby.
“A barrier for them coming forward would be that fear of emasculation,” Hobbs explained. “It’s another cultural issue we have to deal with in which men suffer as much from a sort of a machismo culture as women do.”
That so-called ‘machismo’ Hobbs refers to is real. Her organization helps victims—female and male-- in Cumberland County.
Last year alone, they received more than 10,000 calls, many were through their Hotline: (800) 537-6066. Others find them on their Facebook page and on Twitter: @familycrisisservices
“We certainly do work with men who have experienced abuse, physical abuse and otherwise.”
“If they’re afraid of the person that’s perpetrating that abuse on them, if they go into hiding, I think those experiences are really similar.”
Hobbs says at the heart of it all is one person exerting power and control and the other is the victim. But sometimes that victim engages in retaliatory or protective violence.
“You know there are few people who have been in violent, physically violent relationships over years who haven’t at some point tried fighting back. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that if they split up and were in new relationships that that would continue with new partners.”
Making a new start—for some—happens only when friends, family, even strangers intervene.
“You know that saying, ‘silence is the voice of complicity,’ if you don’t say something, that’s I think why over time victims of abuse feel invisible.” The tell-tale physical signs of abuse, bruising, a victim who can’t make eye contact, aren’t always there.
“Sometimes there aren’t signs, if you ever wonder ‘is my neighbor in danger, is my co-worker being abused, being attentive to what they’re saying is the most important thing.”
Hobbs says there are some other warning signs to be aware of: a partner who wants to spend his or her time solely with you, who doesn’t want you to see friends because he or she wants to be with you all the time. They don’t like when your mother or family members call.
The first step for anyone in that situation is to call the Hotline for help. “Sometimes people will call the hotline to do safety planning with the advocate on the phone, perhaps their safety planning will lead them to seek shelter in one of our emergency shelters, or perhaps we can work with that person to stay safe at home sometimes by getting a protection order, by calling law enforcement and having the offender leave the home or just moving to another location.”
And as far as men who are victims are concerned, doing nothing is not an option.
“if they are feeling barriers to the safety of what it is to be a man, that’s a negative thing for everyone.”
If you need help, here are additional important hotline numbers around the state of Maine:
(877) 995-5247 -- Safe Helpline
(866) 834-HELP…(866) 834-4357 (state of Maine)
(800) 315-5579 -- Domestic Violence Project in Hancock and Washington Counties
(877) 890-7788 -- Abuse Services Kennebec and Somerset Counties