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Abused men’s shelter challenges myths, stereotypes

The Canadian Shelter for Abused Men and Children will be the first of its kind in Canada, providing services to men only, but it needs $150,000 more in donations before it can open, Toronto family lawyer Gene C. Colman tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Myths and stereotypes” around violence against men have made it challenging to develop such a refuge, says Colman, principal of Gene C. Colman Family Law Centre and a member of the advisory board for the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), which is behind the initiative.

"Society tends to view men solely as the perpetrators of abuse — that they’re inherently violent and don’t need assistance in the same way other disadvantaged sectors of society need."

Colman says services for abused women have been available in Canada for years, but there are few resources for men.

"It's time we provide services to everyone in need and in this case we're talking about intimate partner violence," he says, adding the family structure has changed significantly in Canada and programs need to adapt.

The organization is hoping ordinary people will make small donations to the shelter's fundraising drive, Colman says.

"We’re looking for a number of individuals to support the shelter and become donors,” he says. "Of course, if a larger organization wants to get involved we're certainly not going to turn them away.

"The key is to get more donors to demonstrate wide support. This is not something that should be entirely privately funded," Colman says. "Government at the various levels should step up as they properly stepped up for women."

The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics reported that in 2014, "equal proportions of men and women reported being victims of spousal violence during the preceding five years (four per cent, respectively). This translated into about 342,000 women and 418,000 men across the provinces. As in previous years, women reported the most severe types of spousal violence more often than men."

Statistics Canada's data from 1999 showed that almost equal proportions of men and women had been victims of intimate partner physical and psychological abuse. The findings were consistent with several earlier studies which reported equal rates of abuse by women and men in intimate relationships, the report notes.

"It's not a contest to see which gender is more abused, the levels are approximately equal," Colman says. "We are in many respects a violent society.

"Whether you're a woman, a man, or a same-sex partner, the statistics are there. It seems, unfortunately, people's emotions are up when they're in an intimate relationship, they feel it's permissible to lash out at their beloved partner," he adds.

CAFE is hoping to establish the first centre in Toronto, using the standards of practice set by women's shelters, before considering expanding to other communities, Colman says.

"We don't have to reinvent the wheel," he explains. "This has been done already by very smart people."

So far, the fundraising drive for the shelter has raised $250,000 from about 3,000 donors and the goal is to reach $400,000, Colman says.

"We're in the process of gearing up to approach governments and foundations for support, so it's a critical time for people to donate,” he says. "We want to show governments that there is huge public support and that politically it's a ‘no-lose, only gain’ proposition for whatever party is in power.”

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