My life as a roadie
We landed in Memphis after midnight, and were up at 6:15 to make the 2 1/2 hour drive to Batesville, AR.
Eastern Arkansas is flat and rural. I saw more tractor and farm equipment dealers than car dealers, and the car dealers inventory was 80% pick up trucks. The fields are all low crops–they grow soy beans, rice and some corn in this area. Land here is still cheap, which leads to roads with wide grassy shoulders, even small houses on large lots and broad sweeping cloverleafs for minor exits. Traffic moves along swiftly and there are darn few police on the highway.
We got to Batesville, population around 11,000. They have a Kroger and a WalMart, lots of churches and 4 motels. Lyon College was founded in 1872, and is the oldest independent college in the state.
The address we had was for the office of the Family Violence Prevention, Inc., (FVPI) the parent organization of the shelter. The shelter itself, Taylor House, does not publish its address as there is considerable confidentiality associated with the building and its residents. David made a call and we drove a few minutes to an older brick home in a quiet area, and found our location.
The shelter is a 3 bedroom house that once belonged to a doctor. When he passed away, his family donated it to FVPI, and they decided to create a shelter for male victims of domestic violence. After receiving the necessary funding, they managed to turn the building around in 6 weeks and create a facility that can house up to 9 persons. Open less than 1 year, they have already served 17 clients and their usage rate is growing.
People laughed when I said I was coming here to work on a documentary about domestic violence against men, but those who work in the field know that domestic violence knows no gender, and there is as much abuse directed at men as there is against women. It just doesn’t fit the narrative of “men are abusers”, and therefore isn’t talked about.
We were there to interview the director, Patty Duncan, and the manager, Bill Miller. They are experts in the field, and run a very professional operation where the clients are not just given housing but a complete program to help them rebuild their lives.
David is making a documentary, titled “What about the men?” addressing the vast issue of domestic violence aimed at men. I was there to carry things, a task I am well suited for. We set up his video camera and he proceed to spend a couple of hours conducting in-depth interviews with Patty and Bill regarding the genesis, operation and philosophy of Taylor House.
I made sure the lights were on and the fans were off. I’m very good at my job.
Although there are some shelters for women that will accept men, Taylor House is currently the only shelter in the US dedicated to assisting male victims of domestic violence. That is changing, and there are a few more coming line as awareness increases.
Taylor House accepts men from anywhere, but they have no funding to bring clients in. Still, some of their clients have come from considerable distances (although the nearest intercity bus station is 30 miles away in Newport) and they have received phone calls from as far away as the west coast. The demand is out there, the supply must follow.
After we “wrapped” (that’s show biz talk for finishing up) Patty took us out to lunch at the good barbecue place in town.
I drove back in the rain the long slow way, through countless town of 100 to 600 people, noticing dozens of churches, past more auto dealers with yards full of trucks, stopped at a gas station where the cashier was covered in needle marks and had teeth rotting away in “meth mouth”, saw dozen of silos full of rice or beans and yet there were almost no political signs in front of the houses. We saw one car with a Trump/Pence bumper sticker.
Taylor House is an impressive achievement that fills a crying need. Arkansas is lucky to have it, and the organization that created it. This being a roadie is fun–maybe there can be more shelters for men so David and I can do it again.