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  • Men and domestic Violence

    Joey’s Survivor Story

    Men don’t suffer from domestic violence, right? Wrong. In the United States alone, one in four men experiences domestic violence. Often, men struggle to get help for domestic violence out of fear of not being believed. They also fear being perceived as less masculine. When men access services, they tend to minimize the abuse and try to avoid the social stigma that comes with their inability to protect themselves. Let’s break down male domestic violence with a few figures.

    • According to the CDC, every 37.8 seconds, a man is the victim of intimate partner violence somewhere in the U.S.
    • Nearly 56% of men who were victims of sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced these or other forms of violence before age 25.
    • 63% of males, as opposed to 15% of females, had a deadly weapon used against them in a domestic violence incident.
    • Only 15% of the domestic violence reported to law enforcement officials is against men.

    In other words, domestic violence among male survivors is a huge problem that often goes unreported. Although most shelters aid male survivors, most have only limited units that can accommodate them. Therefore, many male survivors of domestic violence do not receive the support they need. That’s not the case with Haven Hills, though. 

    We can accommodate survivors, regardless of their gender, since most of our units are single units. More and more male survivors are coming forward to seek help and, luckily, organizations like Haven Hills are available to help them rebuild their lives with shelter and supportive services. Joey, for example, entered our crisis shelter program a few years back.

    At first, Joey resisted seeking help because his abuser would tell him that no one would believe him and that they would say Joey was the aggressor because he was male. He also viewed his sexual orientation as a barrier that prevented him from seeking the domestic violence support services he needed.

    Once he entered our crisis program, Joey attended a support group and learned how to identify signs of an abusive relationship correctly. He also started individual counseling and discovered not to be ashamed of being a male domestic violence survivor. His son also benefited by receiving tutoring services through our children’s program. 

    When I called Joey to confirm his acceptance into our transitional program, he cried. This 18-month program provides Joey with no-cost temporary housing as he continues to stabilize his life and plan for the future, providing him with tools to establish credit, develop a budget, find a permanent place to live, and develop a safety plan.

    Joey regularly calls to express how thankful he is for all the supportive services we’ve provided him. For years, he stayed in an abusive relationship because he thought there was no help for him and his son. Unfortunately, that may also be the case for an unknown number of male survivors who experience domestic violence but are too afraid or ashamed to seek help. 

    Joey’s story is a powerful reminder of the importance of keeping our services available to all survivors of domestic violence. No one deserves to suffer domestic violence, and Haven Hills is here to help people of every gender break the cycle of abuse.

    Marissa Lemus is the Residential Program Manager for Haven Hills. In this role, she provides services and manages the crisis shelter, transitional shelter, crisis line programs, facility, and staff. Marissa’s professional and educational background is in clinical neuropsychology, which allows her to support both staff and clients holistically. She and her team meet weekly for client case consultations that enable survivors to receive trauma-informed care. Marissa’s main objective is to develop programs that instill self-sufficiency, resiliency, and community within residential clients.

  • Children and Domestic Violence

    Iliana’s Survivor Story

    My earliest childhood memory — I must have been three or four years old — is of my parents fighting. I’m sitting on the couch in the dark, and I hear them arguing in the next room. Arguing is putting it lightly, though, as I can still hear my mother being hit and screaming in pain. I was scared, confused, and crying. Every time someone asks me why I choose to be the executive director of a domestic violence organization, I go back to that memory. 

    Of course, it’s not a memory that I always share with others. It took me two years in this position before I could even utter the words “because my mother is a survivor.” It still feels raw to say it, acknowledging the trauma that my brothers and I experienced in the place where we should have been the safest. But, I say it because I choose not to keep secrets like that anymore. 

    Growing up, I never told anyone. I learned to pretend that everything was okay, which was not a difficult thing to do, given that my father isolated us from family and neighbors. He also kept our friends at arm’s length and never allowed us to have play dates or sleepovers. To this day, it’s hard to let people into my inner sanctum. It can be terrifying to think about inviting others into my home. 

    Now, looking back at my childhood, I’m surprised no one ever guessed. I exhibited the textbook symptoms of a child who has witnessed domestic violence. I had debilitating headaches to the point that my pediatrician feared that I had a brain tumor and ordered an MRI. Moreover, I was always anxious, depressed, quick to anger, and on guard. So, I kept to myself and had trouble making friends. My brothers also exhibited physical symptoms, including severe nosebleeds and stomach aches. Thankfully, though, we skirted many of the other adverse effects domestic violence often has on children:

    • Higher probability of suffering from child abuse
    • Engaging in risky behavior, such as unprotected sex and using alcohol and drugs
    • Bad grades and trouble learning
    • Starting fights, bullying others, or being bullied at school
    • Skipping school or getting into trouble with the law
    • Becoming a victim of domestic violence or abusing an intimate partner

    I decided to take this job because, as a childhood survivor of domestic violence, I saw Haven Hills as an opportunity to help other child survivors overcome the effects of their trauma. I wanted to make sure that this organization had the financial and staffing resources to provide others with what I lacked as a child. 

    We invest a great deal into the children that come to our shelters and attend our programs to ensure that we stop the intergenerational cycle of abuse before it’s replicated in the next generation. That’s because we believe the most important thing that we can provide a young person to counteract the devastating effects of domestic violence is a safe, caring environment with staff available to help them work through their trauma. 

    Although children may never forget the trauma they experienced, they can learn what it means to have healthy relationships and positively manage their emotions. And the sooner we offer that intervention, the easier it becomes for them to develop into healthy adults. I know that the other staff and I at Haven Hills take that responsibility very seriously. 

    My story and that of my brothers’ has a happy ending. We’re mostly well-adjusted individuals with caring partners and have built homes that are free of the trauma we experienced as children. We were lucky to find our way. My hope now is that Haven Hills staff can help others find their way, too.

    Iliana Tavera was named Executive Director of Haven Hills, Inc. in 2015. At Haven Hills, Iliana is responsible for managing one of the largest domestic violence providers in Los Angeles County. She has 25 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, operations, and a strong track record of developing successful collaborations among the private sector, nonprofits, and community partners.

    Please visit this webpage from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services for more information on the effects of domestic violence on children.