Dr. Karen Hudson experienced a tragedy that is every mother’s worst nightmare: the loss of a child. In 2015, Upper Darby police officer Mark Hudson was shot and killed by his girlfriend in his home.
Hudson reached out to Lutheran Settlement House and helped create a short documentary to tell her son’s story in hopes of spreading awareness that men are victims of domestic abuse and violence as well.
Cabrini University’s organization Students Against Violence Everyday, S.A.V.E., showed two screenings of the documentary. S.A.V.E had Dr. Hudson and three social workers from Lutheran Settlement house and Laurel House engage with students through a panel.
“I think its important to not keep quiet about domestic violence and dating violence,” Rachel Maxey, senior educational studies major and president of S.A.V.E., said. “Also to speak up and speak out about what is the truth and how female victims and male victims are treated differently and what we can do to make our society do better.”
According to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four men experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
“What we see from a lot male clients that come to us is not so much the physical abuse but the mind games and the emotional abuse,” Vashti Bledsoe, counselor at Lutheran Settlement House, said. “The person who is being abusive to them will attack their masculinity and make them feel less than a man.”
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, there are other forms of abuse besides violence. People being emotionally abused may be constantly getting put down, humiliated or feeling guilty. Abusers can also use money as a form of control by making the victim ask for money or preventing them from going to their job. Another common form of abuse is isolation. An abuser would turn the victim against their friends and family or not allow them to speak or see them.
“When I hear someone talking about their partner in the relationship and they sound genuinely afraid of the other person, then to me, that’s a red flag,” Sean Whiteman, counselor at Lutheran Settlement House, said.
Men can have a harder time reaching out for help in an abusive relationship than women do.
“Often times, men are not believed,” Anna Davis, director of counseling at Laurel House, said. “And they do not come forward [about abuse] because they don’t believe they are going to be believed.”
The guest speakers spoke about times when men were treated as less of a man by members of the community because they tried to reach out for help with their abuse. Courts and judges often make it harder for men to obtain a Protection from Abuse Order, P.F.A., against their partner. Men are also treated differently by police officers when they attempt to report wrongdoings by their partner.
Hudson’s son was afraid to file for a P.F.A. to protect himself against his abusive girlfriend. She recalled having a conversation with her son about going to court to ask for help.
“He said to me, ‘Mom, what would it look like or be like for me?’” Hudson said. “‘I am a police officer. I go in that court to help other people. How can I go in there asking for help?’”
Part of the solution for men to get more help in abusive situations is to try and break down the stigma that men need to be strong and extra masculine.
“They have this belief that they can’t be weak,” Davis said.
Hudson spoke on the bravery and strength her son had on a day-to-day basis.
“My son was a police officer and a volunteer firefighter. He carried a gun. He carried a big stick,” Hudson said. “Mark was not somebody who was afraid, but men can be victims of domestic violence.”
Video by Emily Miller.