“I got to a place where I was fearing for my life and I didn’t know how to get out of it.”
It’s a statement most of us would attribute to a woman when hearing about a domestic violence situation. Not a burly, broad-shouldered man some of us would move out of the way to let pass on a crowded sidewalk.
“I get that a lot actually. It’s just my nature. I’m not the type of person who would defend myself or hit another person. It was the darkest time of my life. I literally didn’t know what to do next.”
Michael Healey says he spent five years in a mentally and physically abusive relationship with a woman who first began throwing small things at him “like paper and posted notes and then that progressed to heavier objects which were being thrown at me.”
The violence continued to escalate to hitting and punching then to “brandishing a weapon.”
When his partner pointed a knife in his direction, Healey knew he had to find the strength to leave.
“It was the darkest time in my life.”
Over a five year period, a 2014 Statistics Canada report found that an equal percentage of men and women reported being victims of spousal violence across the county. Though when Healey called out for help, he found there were limited places for men and no support services available to help men fleeing a violent relationship.
It’s a gap in the system, says Justin Trottier who is the executive director for the Canadian Centre of Men and Families. And it’s a gap he is trying to close.
“Single men can, of course, go to a homeless shelter, but they don’t get the support they would were they women going to a violence against women shelter,” he said. “Those violence against woman shelters are critically important for women in abuse situations. They have legal services, they have trauma counselling, they have emergency support.”
Trottier is clear, this isn’t about “men versus women.” He feels more resources are needed for all genders fleeing traumatic relationships. His hope is to close the resource gap for men and men with children, by raising funds to open a first of its kind shelter in a major North American city by mid 2018.
“These big centres, these big population centres where there’s thousands and thousands of men and women dealing with domestic violence there’s not a single family shelter for abused men and their children in these population centres,” he said. “Toronto could be the first and, of course, the hope is others would follow the lead.”
The goal is to raise $300,000, currently $175,000 has been raised. The hope is a ‘Go Fund Me’ campaign which has been launched will help Canadian Centre of Men and Families reach their goal. Each dollar publicly donated is being matched by a private donor.
For Michael Healey his hope is a shelter for men and their children will also help lift the stigma and backlash he received when he reached out for help.
“I received responses that were on the verge of hostile. I was told I was the perpetrator. Men hear those stories and they fear that’s what will happen and then it becomes very difficult for them to leave their situation.”