Earl Silverman, who ran the country’s only known safe house for abused men, died on Friday.
Those concerned with the issues of men around the globe have responded with shock, anger, respect and determination over the death of Earl Silverman, thought to be suicide according to an article in the National Post.
A fellow Canadian campaigner, Jeremy Swanson of FathersCan in Ottawa paid the following tribute:
“Gruff, difficult in personality and hard to understand he might have been but he was something else too. He was a REAL MAN. He was a compassionate one and a determined activist who was always on the go, always planning, always leading, always prodding. Earl made hard work seem easy. He believed absolutely in what he was doing and while some might call him obsessed with the mission I prefer to call him determined.”
According to news reports, Silverman was a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of his former wife and struggled to access help:
“When I went into the community looking for some support services, I couldn’t find any. There were a lot for women, and the only programs for men were for anger management,” he said recently. “As a victim, I was re-victimized by having these services telling me that I wasn’t a victim, but I was a perpetrator.”
Three years ago Silverman set out to help other men in his position by turning his own home in Calgary into the Men’s Alternative Safe House (MASH). Around 20 men, some with children, used the service before it closed last month.
Silverman, who self-funded the venture, was unable to keep up with the bills and closed the shelter and sold his home last month. He was found hanging in the garage by the new owner, Steven Howitt, who told the National Post:
“I couldn’t have predicted this. I got the sense that he was pretty frustrated that the shelter didn’t work out. He was frustrated with the government that he didn’t get any help.
Silverman was known to many leading acolytes in the men’s rights movement around the world and many of them paid tribute to him this weekend.
Erin Pizzey, who founded the UK’s first women’s refuge in the early seventies, dedicated her “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit this to Silverman on Saturday, saying:
“We will all miss Earl. He opened his heart and home to men who were banished from their children. While I still care as much as I ever did about abused women I hope men especially come forward with stories and questions, for men have been ignored and forgotten in this conversation (when they aren’t portrayed as thugs) for far to long.”
In his lifetime, Silverman tried many different approaches to try and win greater support for male victims of domestic violence. Behind all those efforts was a straightforward logic, epitomized by this comment to the press in 2011:
“All I know is there are male victims of domestic violence. There are not the same support services available to men as there are for women. We have explored the needs of women for such a long time, at the expense of ignoring men. At what point do we say we can put that on hold and start looking at men now?”
As a former victim himself, Earl believed it was essential to provide men with more opportunities to reach out for help.
“Men are not really provided with an option of asking for help,” he said. “Number one, men are not victims. Victim is sort of reserved for women. I want men to be recognized.”
As Earl’s supporters try to make sense of his sudden death, many have shared their sense of shock and disbelief with each other. They include German activist, Hans Alef, who contacted the author Dr Warren Farrell and shared his response online:
“This is so terrible,” said Dr Farrell. “We ask people to take personal catastrophes and channel their energy into helping others. Earl did just that, and received little in return.
Earl was one of the most dedicated men to the cause of bringing help to men that I know.
I am so very sorry to hear of his dying, no less hanging himself. I so respected his honesty and dedication. Earl was such a pioneer in a world unconscious of male disposability.”
The feeling that Earl received little in return for his efforts, particularly in terms of Government support, is a common theme of the conversations that have been sparked by the news. Many men’s rights supporter have reacted angrily to the tragic loss, seeing it as further evidence that male victims continue to be overlooked by the authorities.
Mike Murphy from Ontario spoke for many of them, commenting in the local media:
“Earl was a persistent force over the years in lobbying governments at all levels to obtain funding for male victims of DV. He ran into brick walls from each level of government who are, to this day, in denial the problem even exists.”
Despite the sense of helplessness felt by many activists, some have vowed to build on Silverman’s legacy and carry on fighting in his name.
The recently formed Men’s Rights Montreal group has launched a fundraising drive and promised to establish an Earl Silverman Center for male victims of domestic abuse in his honor saying:
“Earl was a pioneer and had dedicated over 20 years of his life to helping male victims of domestic abuse. His death will not be in vain. We need your help to make Earl’s dream a reality and to honor his memory.”
Earl Silverman’s life and death embodied two of the major issues of concern for men — male suicide and helping male victims of abuse.
When a man like Earl Silverman works hard to make a difference, he can help many men in his lifetime. When he inspires others to carry on making a difference after he has gone, the difference he can make is immeasurable.
Earl Silverman spent his life bringing awareness to the issue of male abuse.
If you want to support Men’s Rights Montreal to establish the Earl Silverman Center for male victims of abuse you can donate online at The Earl Silverman Centre.
If you have tributes to Earl you’d like to share with others please feel free to add them the comments section below.