Today, a fascinating – and infuriating – case study in how Men’s Rights Activists twist reality around in order to fit their peculiar ideology. Obviously, they do this all the time, but it’s hard to find a clearer example of the MRA Reality Distortion field in action than the video I’ve pasted in below from A Voice for Men.
The video features a recording of one of AVFM’s regular commenters calling a domestic violence hotline, pretending to be a man named “Reno” who has been abused by his wife. In reality, Reno is Ian Williams, a puckish Australian who has made himself AVFM’s go-to guy for prank calls; you can find several other prank calls from him on his AVFM contributor page.
Here’s what Williams, who also goes by the pseudonym Dr. F, has to say about the call:
If you’re a man and you are a victim of violence from your partner you may face difficulties finding help. Don’t listen to me, here’s the guy himself who called. His name is Reno.
Reno calls a battered women’s shelter and is denied help.
He is denied help, even though he tells the person on the other end of the phone that he is worried his wife will return with a cricket bat.
That sounds pretty damning, and, in the comments, the regulars at AVFM responded with predictable outrage.
“No concern for a beaten man or a boy that could also be a victim and, only able to help(willing) women,” wrote Raven01. “It makes the hate filled ideology apparent to all.”
“[Go] feminism- the humanitarian justice movement brought to you by the modern KKK!” Perseus added. “Sieg Heil, cunts!”
Not one of them seemed to care that everything Williams says about the phone call is false. “Reno” was offered help many times. He was the one who refused it.
If you listen to the call, here’s what you’ll find:
Williams, pretending to be “Reno,” called a Domestic Violence counseling line, not a battered women’s shelter. He told the counselor he’d been attacked by his wife and that he needed a place to go. The counselor explained to him that he’d called a counseling line and that she personally couldn’t arrange for shelter, but that if he called the men’s help line, they could arrange for him and his 6-year-old son to get free hotel accommodations at a location unknown to his wife. The counselor offered several times to connect him directly to the men’s help line.
Williams also told the counselor that he was thinking of calling the police. She told him she could connect him directly to the police, and would be happy to explain his situation to them and to make sure he reached an officer who specializes in domestic violence.
Ignoring all her offers to assist him in getting shelter and further help, Williams insisted that he wanted to be housed in a battered woman’s shelter instead. The counselor, naturally, was puzzled by this strange insistence on his part, and explained to him again that he could get free shelter at a local hotel for as long as he needed. She again offered to connect him directly to someone who could get him immediate help.
Having refused all of her offers of assistance, Reno abruptly ended the call — to the obvious distress of the counselor, who despite the patent weirdness of his behavior on the call had been patiently trying her best to get “Reno” the help he claimed he needed. (I suspect she sensed that his story was phony, but tried to help anyway in case it was true.)
Listen to the call yourself. It’s utterly surreal. What’s even more surreal is that Williams would make the bald claim that he had been “denied help” — and then put up a recording that clearly reveals that this claim is complete and utter bullshit. And I can’t tell if he’s lying or delusional.
That’s always the question with MRAs, isn’t it?
EDITED TO ADD: A commenter here has prepared a rough transcript of the call. There are a few moments where it was impossible to figure out a word or two, but otherwise this seems to pretty accurately match my memory of the call, which I’ve listened to several times. Let me know if I need to make any corrections.
Counselor: Hello, this is *redacted* speaking, how can I help you?
“Reno”: Oh, hello. I um, was speaking to someone a short while ago called Maria,
Counselor: Uh huh…
“Reno”: And, and my name is Reno. And, um…
Counselor: Uh huh…
“Reno”: I was explaining, I was explaining to her that my, my wife, uh, is violent towards me with a cricket bat and other things.
“Reno”: And, uh, she gave me a phone number to call, and uh…
“Reno”: I called them and um…
Counselor: A phone number for what?
“Reno”: Uh… Uh, it was to help, it was a, um… Pardon me, it was 1-800-015-188. It was a…
Counselor: I don’t know what that number is, so what is it for?
“Reno”: Uh, it’s a helpli-, it’s a possible, it’s a place where they might be able to tell me where I can get some shelter for the night. But there’s none of the… DV places ? are gonna help me, because I’m a man, you see.
Counselor: Have you called the men’s line? ‘Cause they’re the ones who specialize in, because in Australia unfortunately most of the, um… Services. Well not unfortunately, fortunately though, most of the services are for women, because 95% of domestic violence is perpetrated by men. So that’s why they don’t really have um… They don’t really have… So many refuges for wom-, for men. They do have places where men can go, but they’re normally um, like overnight men’s, um, places, like… Which state are you in?
Counselor: Victoria. I don’t know the ones in Victoria but there’s quite a few, for example, in Sydney um, that provide um, overnight accommodation but they don’t call them refuges as such because um… It’s the different situation only for women ’cause often they’re, well normally they’re fleeing with children. So um, normally the men’s ones aren’t, they’re not called refuges, they’re called like, a men’s hostel or an overnight, um, men’s overnight um, shelter, or they’ll call them different names but they don’t call them refuges. So, um, if you’re looking for men’s refuge that’s probably not in existence, but there are a lot of men’s shelters.
“Reno”: Will they take me and my boy?
Counselor: If you’ve got a child, um, they’ll probably prioritize you, I would say. Um, have you rung men’s line? Because they’re the ones who really have this type of information, um because they specialize in helping men. While general lines, like, we’re a counseling line, so we don’t actually have access to phone numbers for, um, directly for refuges. We can connect you to the refuge line. How old’s your, how old’s your son?
Counselor: How old?
“Reno”: He’s six.
Counselor: He’s six. And where is he right now?
“Reno”: He’s with me. My wife’s gonna be coming home in about three hours, and she’s gonna, she’s gonna beat me.
Counselor: And he, and your son’s not asleep now?
“Reno”: No, he’s with me now.
Counselor: Why isn’t he in bed at 8.40, 8.48 in the-… Sorry Reno, but why is he awake at this time of night?
“Reno”: Because we’re about to just go somewhere, anywhere, out of the house because we just… We’re terrifed. He, we’re ready to go, so. We, we’re ready to go.
Counselor: Reno, this is really concerning me. Is he listening to you as you’re speaking on the phone?
Counselor: Where is he right now?
“Reno”: He’s got some headphones on. He’s watching…
Counselor: What’s he doing?
“Reno”: He’s watching television now, he can’t hear any talk. I made sure of that.
Counselor: Yeah, I’m really concerned that he’s um, awake at this time of night. Um, the other organization that could most likely help you find accommodation and probably would be your best option would be ? Community Services, because they deal especially with children and families in crisis, and so they would definitely keep you together, they would probably actually put you in, normally they pay for a hotel or motel. A men’s shelter wouldn’t be the appropriate place to go with a child, definitely not. So, um, ? they give you, they have a lot of motels and hotels that they deal with, and put they in those instead of accommodation until they can find you permanent accommodation.
Counselor: Like, normally they’d pay for a flat or something instead, they wouldnt, they don’t continue to keep you in a, you know, holding pattern in a hotel. Sometimes they make you stay for, like, two weeks in a hotel.
Counselor: That would be a good option for you, wouldn’t it?
“Reno”: Yeah. And they wouldn’t let my wife know that, where I’m living? Staying?
Counselor: No, they wouldn’t do that.
“Reno”: ‘Cause she’s really violent. Really violent.
Counselor: They definitely wouldn’t. Um, they definitely wouldn’t let your wife know where you’re staying. I can help you with the phone call. I can introduce you, explain the situation, and see what they can do for you, if you’d like.
“Reno”: Hmm… Possibly, tha-, thank you. I think I might, actually what I might do is call the police now and then see how it goes in there.
Counselor: But your best option is calling the police and then asking to speak to a domestic violence officer.
Counselor: They’re the ones that are the most specialized in this, so they deal with this day in and day out, and that’s probably stationed… Are you in area, in an open area? Are you in Melbourne, or are you in a town, or…?
“Reno”: Uh, I’m in Melbourne.
Counselor: Well, if you’re in Melbourne, most Melbourne police stations will have a domestic violence officer, and they specialize in domestic violence, and um, what you can get is to get a detective to come over, or a domestic violence officer, and say that you’d like to um, that you have um, fear of, um, harm of your wife who’s been abusing you. And what they’ll do is, they might um, even try and get an AVO so that she has to move out of the house and you guys can stay in the house.
Counselor: They’ll try probably to do that so that you and the child can stay there. Or um, if you move, they’ll um, it would be, that she can’t actually have legal contact with you.
“Reno”: Yeah… No, we have to actually get away from her, we can’t stay here. So there’s nowh-, there’s no um, women’s shelter I could stay in, we could stay in tonight?
Counselor: Well, women’s, women’s shelter’s don’t take men.
“Reno”: They don’t take men.
Counselor: Why don’t you ring men’s lines? They would be able to tell you where you can go. Why don’t you ring the men’s line? Do you want me to connect you through to the men’s line? They deal with men. Men and women’s shelters are two totally different issues. Why do you want to go [to] a women’s shelter?
“Reno”: I just need somewhere where I can just get away from her, somewhere whe-
Counselor: Yeah, but why wouldn’t you, why wouldn’t you wanna go? Why aren’t you accepting this offer that ? will pay for hotel accommodations for you and your son?
“Reno”: Oh, because I…
Counselor: Why do you…
“Reno: Because I need to get out now.
Counselor: Yeah, but they would organize it now, they’ll probably organize someone to come and get you now. People work 24/7.
“Reno”: Oh, okay. I didn’t know what. Okay.
Counselor: ? Services work 24/7, or do you want me to put you through to your local um, police station and explain it to the domestic violence officer so that I can introduce you and explain your situation and see how they can help you?
“Reno”: No, I’ll, I’ll give them a call myself. Okay, thanks.
Counselor: Are you sure?
Counselor: I’m happy to do it, Reno. I’m very concerned about your son.
“Reno”: No, that, that’s okay. I, I’ll go now.