By David M. Fitzpatrick
Special to DadsDivorce.com
I’ve been a newspaper writer for several years, although my real passion is writing fiction. More than 40 of my short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, and I’ve recently co-edited or edited several anthologies, with more brewing. But while fiction is fun, it doesn’t pay the bills — thus the newspaper job. It was through that job that I met Jan Brown, which suddenly resulted in me editing my first nonfiction anthology: one about male victims of domestic abuse.
That very phrase is alien to many. Indeed, talking to Jan Brown, I heard many shocking examples of men turned away for victims’ services because those services didn’t help men, didn’t believe the men’s claims, and even literally laughed at them. Are these appropriate ways to treat men who have found the courage to set aside their embarrassment to ask for help after they’ve been physically, sexually, mentally, or emotionally abused by intimate partners?
My brief meeting with Jan Brown, at a Dunkin’ Donuts in little Newport, Maine, stretched far longer than I had planned. Several hours later, I knew I had a big story on my hands, and I had come up with a fund-raising idea. And if anyone needs to raise funds, it’s Jan Brown. Jan runs the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women, a nationwide toll-free helpline based in Maine. It’s the only service of its kind that assists men nationwide, and in fact stands in for men across the country who can find no local assistance. The DAHMW isn’t just one link in a long chain; it’s practically the only link in a very, very short chain. Jan draws no salary to run DAHMW, and instead sinks her own money into it. On a good year, the organization exists on barely $15,000 and the staunch dedication of volunteer phone operators across the country—many of whom, by the way, are women.
I didn’t meet up with Jan expecting to come away bewildered, confused, angered, and touched by a sense that I had to help, but that’s what happened. There’s no denying that Jan’s mission hit home, since I had once been married to a woman who specialized in mostly psychological warfare and emotional blackmail. But the day she pummeled and kicked me until I defended myself is still crystal clear in my mind. I never touched her, but that didn’t stop her from driving to the police station and telling them I choked her. She was wearing a turtleneck that day, and it still astounds me that nobody even checked for nonexistent bruises, even as they sent two police officers to my home to arrest me—without question, without caring, without anything other than disgust for how I had violently (allegedly) choked my innocent (not) wife. She relented the next day, and undoing that mess practically required an act of Congress. But that’s not what this article is about.
Jan Brown needed fund-raising ideas, and I offered one to her: an anthology of true-account stories of male victims of domestic abuse, and the trials they had trying to find help. I volunteered to read submissions, edit accepted submissions, and lay out the finished book. All profits from the anthology will go to DAHMW, to help support what is surely one of the most needed organizations out there for men who are being abused and don’t know where to go.
The most difficult part of this process for me will be when I have to act as an editor, rejecting some submissions and accepting others. Unlike other projects, the word “reject” seems far harsher than usual. Maybe that’s because I’ve seen many submissions so far, with men and their loved ones relating painful tales with great courage and resolve. There will, of course, only be room for so many of the submissions. I think everyone will understand. Mostly, that’s because we’re all on the same page here; we all want to put together a tool that tells some of these men’s stories to the world, and raise some money to help DAHMW be the best organization it can be—the only one of its kind.
If you’re a male victim of intimate-partner abuse, consider submitting your story for consideration. To learn more, visit www.fitz42.net/epicsaga.