Sauce for the Gander is Sauce for the Goose,

… and So is its Absence.
(c) 2017, Davd

Yes, I do believe, there is a problem, a moral wrong, one of the Evils of the World, embodied in the fact that women’s shelters are common and men’s refuges are rare*. Women abuse men, violently and otherwise. The men they abuse deserve protection equally as much as women who are abused by men, deserve protection—either that, or the equality of the sexes is a cruel lie.

Research that considers violence women do to men, as well as the other way ’round, finds that violence done by women to men, is at least half as common as violence men do to women; and no more than twice as common. This is not an essay on statistical inference, and we don’t need to know more exactly than “between half and twice as much”. There ought to be between half and twice as much refuge space for men abused by women, as the other way ’round.

In fact, men’s refuges are vanishingly few.

There are some, i have read, in the UK; and some may be being started in Australia. One tragic hero of the effort to provide some refuge for abused Canadian men, was Earl Silverman, founder of the Men’s Alternative Safe House in Calgary. His frustration after years of efforts to get public funding for men’s safe houses in a century when such funding for women’s shelters* was common—some would say, abundant—ended in suicide in 2013.

A friend of Earl Silverman, with whom I’ve corresponded several times but haven’t met face to face, reported that there was a pattern to the frustration:

To make [bureaucrats] accountable [Earl] asked [them] to respond only in writing. [They most] likely … invite[d Earl] to the office to “discuss” things and then no longer respond to … emails. This is what Earl used to endure as a regular course of business.” (Anonymous, 2017)

The friend concludes, “the only avenue available to you today is by self-financing.”

I would have called it “becoming a charity.”

His message wasn’t as discouraging to me, as it seemed to be to [Anonymous]. Amateur sports teams, Christian churches, gurdwaras, monasteries, mosques, museums, and many private schools are self-financing—if charitable donations to them be included in “self-financing”. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many volunteer fire departments, even, are.

A childless friend of my approximate age has “an acreage”, as they call them here in Alberta, less than an hour east of Edmonton. He wants the land to become home to some kind of charitable or “make the world a better place” work; and one of the four possibilities we’re considering, is “a refuge for men who have been abused by women.”

Refuges—most often called “shelters”* if they are for women—should provide safety and sympathy to people who have been wronged, whether those people be male or female. Most abuse victims are capable of doing useful work, and if they had never been abused, most would be expected to work to support themselves.

We had not expected to have taxpayers fund the effort, except indirectly and in part, as they fund churches, colleges, Girl Guides, monasteries, mosques, museums, private schools, temples, and all good works and religious observances which have achieved charitable status with the Canada Revenue Agency. I had figured, and so had my friend here, that we might seek and have a decent chance to obtain charitable “registration”.

While talking with him, the word “charitable” and the phrase “non-profit” have been common; words denoting Government funding have not been. It hadn’t occurred to us to seek Government funding for a men’s refuge, except perhaps “as a test case” some years into the future.

When i invited a friend, a chef whose business venture had failed, to share my home, i didn’t expect to get Government funding for that. Later, when i heard of Earl Silverman’s frustrations, i wrote him with a suggestion he consider coming where i lived then for an extended retreat and recuperation. I didn’t think of Government funding as a consideration; my house guest earlier had helped with the chores, and that was enough.

Can a men’s refuge operate without Government support? The answer, if we widen our field of vision somewhat, is that they have been doing so for centuries, and quite successfully.

Most monasteries are self-supporting, some entirely and some with the help of voluntary donations. Most monks spend more hours per week in prayer and liturgical ritual than in practical work. Yet in the two monasteries where i have spent longer than a day (less than a week in New Brunswick, three weeks in Saskatchewan); the work of the monks and Novices, plus i believe some donations that are less coerced than passing the bag or plate in Sunday church services, supported the community.

If monasteries can be self supporting with monks working more like 20 hours per week than 40 (and praying more than 40 in some monasteries, if the liturgical ritual be counted); then Refuges should be able to support themselves, especially if they have some productive land (or machinery; there is no reason a men’s refuge couldn’t operate a furniture shop or a mechanic shop, for instance.)

I’ve no experience being a woman nor a girl, so i won’t try to include a sketch of what kinds of work women’s refuges could do to be self-supporting. I will say that if i believe men’s refuges can be charitable works supported by the labour of those who benefit and by charitable donations; i believe women’s shelters can be also. (If women are equally capable with us men, doesn’t it follow, obviously
perhaps, that they can support themselves?)

So let me suggest that Government is wiser in expecting men’s refuges to be works of charity, not needing nor getting funding; than they are in paying funding to women’s shelters [refuges by another name].*

Is the Province in debt? Is the Federal Government? Is the Provincial Budget in deficit? Is Ottawa’s? Maybe instead of men’s refuge[s] getting funding, women’s refuges should become the task of “the charitable sector” (which is not saying they should be shut down1.)

What’s sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose, … and so is its absence.


Anonymous, 2017. E-mail messages

Brown, Grant A. 2004 “Gender as a Factor in the Response of the Law-Enforcement System to Violence Against Partners,” Sexuality and Culture, v. 8, Issues 3 & 4, pp. 3-139.

Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006. Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.


* “Men’s Shelter” has another, older, Salvation-Army type usage, as a place where homeless substance dependent men were kept from freezing and starving. That was a main cause of my choice to write “Refuge” for men.

1. I have heard and read that in some cities there are so many that more shelter space is available than is used. In such cases of “excess capacity”, perhaps some shelters should be closed, (or “re-purposed”; i also read and hear that much more helping space is needed for opioid users, for instance.) The main thing i’m saying is that they ought to be able to operate as charitable entities, as i believe men’s refuges can.


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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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