Domestic violence advocate and reformer Patricia Overberg, MSW, passed away at age 77 in Torrance, California on August 11, 2011. Overberg was committed to reforming the domestic violence system so that all victims of domestic violence—female and male, straight or gay—could have access to services and support.
I first interviewed Overberg in 2002 for a newspaper column, and met her at several conferences over the years. I was always impressed with her intelligence, honesty, and directness.
As the director of the Valley Oasis Shelter in Lancaster, California from 1989 to 1998 she courageously made Valley Oasis the first shelter in the U.S. that would accept male victims of domestic violence.
In a press release issued by Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting, the National Coalition For Men, and the Men’s Health Network, they explain:
Overberg was trained in social work before most social work programs adopted the philosophy that all domestic violence is rooted in patriarchal power and control. She believed that family violence needs to be viewed holistically, and her commitment to the principle of equal treatment for all informed everything she did.
Although most battered women’s shelters refuse admittance to sons 12 years or older and force mothers to place their sons in foster care or be denied entrance to a shelter, Overberg refused to require mothers to choose between their own safety and the well-being of their children…
Erin Pizzey, founder of the first modern battered women”s shelter, says: “Pat was a brave, honest and courageous woman. She faced persecution from her colleagues in the domestic violence field and fought back. All of us who work at the coal face of human relationships owe Pat a great deal.’
Because of Overberg’s principled refusal to discriminate on the basis of sex or sexual orientation, she was treated as a pariah by many of her peers. In a 2002 sworn deposition, Overberg testified that she “was subjected to continuous abuse by other shelter directors for sheltering battered men.”
Patricia will be remembered by many as a hero…Her policy of inclusion remains in place today under a new director.
Overberg encouraged Marc E. Angelucci, Esq. to file a successful lawsuit challenging California’s discrimination against male domestic violence victims and their children. Fathers and Families’ legislative advocate Michael Robinson, who assisted Angelucci with the lawsuit and worked extensively with Overberg over the years, calls her “One of the true pioneers dedicated to equality and equal treatment.” This legal victory makes it unconstitutional for the State of California to exclude male victims from state-funded domestic violence services.
Overberg”s children Virginia, David, and Theresa have informed us that gifts in memory of Patricia can be made to her “favorite organization,” The Valley Oasis Shelter, by contacting Carol Crabson at 661-547-5879. Her children have also set up a memorial site for her at http://patriciaoverberg.remembered-forever.org/.
Together with you in the love of our children,
Glenn Sacks, MA
National Executive Director,
Fathers and Families