Carleton students raise awareness for violence against men

The Ottawa Men’s Refuge, supported by fourth-year sociology students attending Carleton, hosted a panel discussion about domestic and sexual violence against men on Nov. 9.

The event, titled “Coming Together In Conversation,” took place at the Heron Road Community Centre.  

The Ottawa Men’s Refuge is an emerging service that will eventually allow men who are victims of domestic violence to call a hotline if they are experiencing a crisis. After the hotline is created, the group hopes to have collected enough funds to create a shelter for male victims.  

“I believe anyone who has experienced violence deserves support,” said Matt Schaaf, of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women’s I can MANifest Change Program, when he addressed the crowd.

Schaaf acknowledged there are still many stigmas facing male victims of domestic violence today, the most prominent one being that they are supposed to be the “dominant” partner in a relationship.

According to panelists, shelters for victims of domestic abuse in the Ottawa area are underfunded. Attendees also heard that there is currently no emergency safe housing for men fleeing violence in the majority of Canada, Ottawa included. The panelists unanimously agreed that this is a prominent issue for the city of Ottawa, and that it is expected to increase over the next few years.

Melissa Heimerl is the executive director of Ottawa Victim Services (OVS), which provides emotional and practical assistance to victims of crime and tragic circumstances in the Ottawa community. Heimerl said that Ottawa should be concerned with the lack of beds in the Ottawa region for domestic abuse survivors.

“Our domestic violence shelters for women are full, and when talking about male victims in specific, there are no shelters available for them,” Heimerl said in an interview.

Other gaps in services that the OVS recognizes is that there are no free services for men fleeing intimate partner violence, or any specific groups and legal services catered to male victims.

Jason Riopel is a member of the Ottawa Police Service who was with the Domestic Violence Unit for five years, and is also on the board of the Ottawa Men’s Refuge. According to Riopel, there are approximately 5,500 domestic violence calls in Ottawa each year, with about 3,000 of them serious enough to be elevated to a second stage investigation.

Deborah Conners, a Carleton sociology professor in charge of the Community Engaged Sociology class hosting the panel, said she believes that Ottawa needs to create resources for male victims of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence.  

Conners said in an interview that these services are crucial so victims can help themselves leave potentially dangerous relationships, as their safety is the key concern.

“The Ottawa Men’s Refuge is a new service in Ottawa that is trying to address gaps in men’s services . . . and their goal is to work with individuals who have identified as victims of domestic violence, whether it is a same-sex relationship, an opposite sex relationship, or masculine identified in a non-binary relationship,” Conners said.

Nastaran Alqaddoumi, a fourth-year sociology and political science student who helped host the event, said people often don’t understand that all genders can be victims of abuse.

 “We want people to recognize males can be victims, whether they are in a same-sex relationship or not,” Alqaddoumi said.

Photo by Aaron Hemens