Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Men's Role In Women's Shelters

Sorry for the low postage recently. Yesterday I was diagnosed with a sinus infection and pinkeye! Joy of joys, the spreading of the daycare illnesses has begun! Anyway, I feel like crap so I was going to do minimal blogging.

Then I ran across this post: The Women's Room? on the blog What She Said!. Essentially she links to a story about a women's shelter in New England who hired a man to run the shelter and she said:
This is just wrong. When you're dealing with women and children who have been terrorized by the man in their lives, sending them into a place run by a man defeats the idea of a safe house.

Before I post my comment to her, which will be my blog post for the day, I do want to recommend her blog to you. She looks an interesting woman and Wiccan. Also, she describes herself as every Republican's worst nightmare so I know I'm going to like her!

Anyway, my response to her:
Back in '94-'96 I worked at a women's shelter in Colorado called Women In Crisis. At the time I was in law school and my primary job was to assist women in getting restraining orders against their abuser.

After working at the shelter for over a year I was asked if I wanted to be a part-time counselor. I was pretty stunned but said yes. I was never "in charge" of the shelter, but I was on staff. That means that there were sometimes as many as twelve women in there with me as the only staff member present. I took crisis calls, I did intakes, discharges, I helped with job applications, immigration appeals, watched kids, called cops when batterers showed up in the parking lot... everything except cook and that is because I once did cook and was forbidden from doing that again. I worked night shifts, yep, all night with me as the only staff member present. I had keys to every lock and door in the shelter.

One important note; I almost never enter the top floor where the women's rooms were. But I was not forbidden from going there; I just never had a reason to other than helping move furniture once or twice.

When Women In Crisis hired me, and I was the only man on staff at that time, they said that their thoughts were that roughly half of the human race is male; the women at the shelter were going to have to deal with males sooner or later. Most of the judges who would hear the requests for restraining orders or handle the divorce were male. Almost all of the Jefferson County Sheriff's department was male. I was also told that the other staff members at the shelter felt it was important that the boys in the shelter see a positive male role model.

That was the most important and fulfilling job I have ever had in my life. I miss it tremendously now. I felt like every day I had a chance to make a positive difference in the lives of other people. I loved what I did.

I don't think my being there was a problem for any women in the shelter. The only one who ever objected to me was the one that I caught drinking in the shelter - no alcohol allowed. I hope I made a positive difference for some of those families.

They made a huge difference in my life. I learned a great deal about patience, tolerance, love and sorrow working there. I'm grateful for the trust of my coworkers back then.

I'm not even sure this is really a response to your comment. You just made me remember vividly a time in my life when it really was a privilege to be able to get up and go to work. I sure don't get that in corporate America.