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Safe House for Women offers support group for male victims of domestic violence
Domestic violence can happen in any type of relationship, and the Safe House for Women now is offering a support group for men who have experienced such violence.
Safe House director Jessica Hill said the group will offer support to male survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse or stalking.
Meetings will be at noon each Thursday at A Step at a Time Counseling, 605 Broadway in Cape Girardeau. Mary Ann Robertson, a staff counselor at Safe House, will lead each free and confidential meeting.
Hill said Safe House has been serving male victims in its outreach office for several years, but it’s seen an increase in numbers.
With male clients, generally speaking, the primary concern is to provide counseling, followed by court advocacy, Hill said. One of those clients suggested a support group.
“We know from years of providing support groups the value of being in a group where individuals have shared experience and mutual support and the support offered by the counselor,” Hill said.
“We thought this was a great opportunity to enhance the service we offer to male clients,” she said.
The group already has met a couple of times, Hill said.
“As you can imagine, since we’re just getting started, it’s a little smaller now, but we anticipate growth as we get the word out. We hope knowing it’s available will be the impetus they need to reach out,” she said.
Signs of domestic violence can be overt or subtle, Hill said.
“Obviously if someone is being physically abusive to you, then that is a sign that you’re in a relationship that is not healthy or safe,” Hill said.
“But if your partner is controlling of you, wants to know where you are at all times, engages in stalking-type behaviors like checking your phone or showing up at work unannounced,” those are troubling signs, she said.
Isolation from friends and family is another red flag, Hill said, as such behavior is an attempt to make one partner dependent on the other.
“Control of money or access to finances or any kind of decision like that — really any time they try to exert power and control over you — is the sign of an abusive relationship,” Hill said.
Hill included verbal abuse and criticism as a tactic used to erode self-esteem.
“All of those things are indicators that you are in an abusive relationship,” she said.
Hill said with male clients, some abusers are female, and some are male.
Survivors often have been able to maintain their employment, so housing is not as much of a concern; however, “other needs are there. The shame and embarrassment, feelings of inadequacy are sometimes more pronounced,” she said.
Hill said there is a social stigma associated with domestic violence against males.
“One of the reasons why we felt the support group is so important is to see other people who have had this situation,” Hill said. “You are not alone in this. We are here to assist you, as are our other clients who’ve been through something similar. That’s why I think counseling is so valuable and so needed for our male clients, to try to help overcome those feelings and help them move on.”
Hill said one of the most important functions Safe House counselors serve is helping build back bridges to a support network an abuser tried to sever.
“Family members or friends might not know what to do, and sometimes it takes the right time for an individual to be ready to leave an abusive situation,” she said.
“At least at the beginning, it might have been one of the best relationships the survivor had ever been in,” Hill said. “But the dynamic starts to change.”
Hill said it’s important to remember domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of income, education or family background.
“The main thing we want to share to males who experience this is it is not your fault. You deserve respect and compassion,” she said.
Hill encouraged anyone who has experienced domestic violence to call (573) 335-7745 for information on Safe House’s services.
“There are resources in our community to help. Don’t let the fact our name is Safe House for Women keep you from reaching out to us,” she said.
605 Broadway St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.