Reno calls a domestic violence hotline: The MRA Reality Distortion Field in action [UPDATED with transcript]


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.

Recorded message:
Family Violence Counseling Line. Please note for training and quality improvement purposes only, your call may be monitored. If you do not want your call to be monitored, please let the counselor know. If you wish to listen to ? regarding our privacy policy if you are already speaking to a counselor press one now, otherwise hold on the line for next available counselor.

[Ringing sound]

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.

Counselor: Mmhmm…

“Reno”: And, uh, she gave me a phone number to call, and uh…

Counselor: Mmhmm…

“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?

“Reno”: Victoria.

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?

“Reno”: Six.

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?

“Reno”: No.

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.

“Reno”: Okay.

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.

“Reno”: Mm.

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.

“Reno”: Okay.

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.

“Reno”: Mm.

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?

“Reno”: Absolutely.

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.

About David Futrelle

I run the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, which tracks (and mocks) online misogyny. My writing has appeared in a wide variety of places, including Salon,, the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review and Money magazine. I like cats.

Posted on April 2, 2013, in a voice for men, antifeminism, domestic violence, facepalm, imaginary backwards land, imaginary oppression, lying liars, misogyny, MRA, shit that never happened, the c-word and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1,160 Comments.

  1. Send chocolate-or-sweets-of-choice to Marie, stat!

  2. @kittehs

    Yay😀 I actually did have some cookies, but they weren’t very chocolatey😦 This place is all chocolate deprived😦

  3. It’s just as well I’m at work, ‘cos when I’m at home and we talk chocolate I end up heading to the fridge! (Monte biscuits, mmmm)

  4. @Marie:

    A while back, there was a bit of a (friendly, I think) kerfluffle on Manboobz over the correct plural of “octopus.”


    And I think atheists are factually wrong in not believing the stuff I do, but I’m not going to go round telling ‘em that, much less doing so condescendingly.

    (a) Thank you for the awesome welcome!

    (b) This is a personality flaw of mine (one that’s easier to control IRL than on the internet) but I kind of love debating. And even though there’s a reasonable part of my brain that says “Hey! Religion! Sensitive topic! Feelings will be hurt! Not a good thing to debate!” there’s also a greedy, immature part that says “OOOOOHHH WE DISAGREE ON THIS IMPORTANT TOPIC AND I’VE GIVEN A LOT OF CONSIDERATION TO MY POSITION SO I HAVE PLENTY TO SAY ABOUT IT LET’S DEBATE FOREVER IT WILL BE FUUUUUUN.” Which is admittedly akin to a five-year-old assuming that just because she wants to play “Candyland” for five hours straight so does everybody else.

  5. Eh, debating’s awesome if everyone wants to debate.

  6. This particular topic has been done to death to the point where I’m ready to stick a stake in it.

  7. Um, oops I just read your last line /that’s what you get for posting while reading, Fade

    So yeah, whenever I’m going to broach a potentially sensitive debate/conversation with my friends I just through out a “does this bug you/tell me if you wanna talk about something else”

  8. “This particular topic has been done to death to the point where I’m ready to stick a stake in it.”

    The vampire subject instead of the zombie subject, for a change!

    Perhaps we should feed it to Greebo. We know vampires can rise from the grave or the crypt, but not from the cat.

  9. This particular topic goes nowhere productive. It always devolves into utter bullshit.

  10. And, I think I should go to bed now, cuz I’m tired and getting up early, so just gonna give an apology to all (you’re included in that, Qocheeky) for being such a meanie/ grumpy pants all over this thread. G’night.

  11. So yeah, whenever I’m going to broach a potentially sensitive debate/conversation with my friends I just through out a “does this bug you/tell me if you wanna talk about something else”

    That’s a good tactic, and one that I’ve been learning to adopt myself. I think it helps that all of my good friends also like debating, and that for the most part we agree on major issues and only debate nuances, and even then we’re generally able to recognize the merits of each others’ positions.

    (The “see above” thing on the last page wasn’t directed at you; it was referring my comment about . . . more than one octopus.)

  12. And bad feeling, as we’ve seen already.

    So, how’re people enjoying their weekends?

  13. Niters Marie!

  14. thebewilderness

    I prefer discussions to debate. That is one of the reasons I enjoy manboobz off topic topics. A wide ranging discussion is more interesting to me than pro and con debates.

  15. @ Marie:

    Apology not accepted . . . but only because it’s totally unnecessary. I was being quite a bit of a butthat. I should probably go do some work or something, so I can go to bed before 10 billion o’clock. Night, all!

  16. he “see above” thing on the last page wasn’t directed at you; it was referring my comment about . . . more than one octopus

    Ah. I never saw one of the octopus debates, so I didn’t know.

    Re: weekends. My weekend has been going horrible. I took the unwise option to go on a two-mile bike ride with my dad and then go to karate the next day because everything seemed fine on the fibromyalgia front.

    Key word, seemed. I was completely konked out, and not in a “exercised for the first time in a long time” way. In a “ouch joint ache can’t turn my neck without hurting” way. I hope I recover all the way for school tomorrow.

    So um, how was your weekend?

  17. night. qocheedy. looking forward to seeing you again!

  18. Not caught up but first, we are not doing octopī/octopodes/octopuses ever again — I thought we’d all agreed to disagree on that!

    Next “I’d get like, the welcome package out, but I don’t remember what it is.”

    The complementary welcome package consisting of a misandrist hard chair, matching bath towels, SCENTED MOTHERFUCKING CANDLES, flavored bottled water (your choice of brand and flavor) and cupcakes, delivered by female (whore) penguins in spanx.

    And a kitten care of katz.

  19. Damnit, katz’s kitten really does send the welcome package into mod, let me try that again.

    Not caught up but first, we are not doing octopī/octopodes/octopuses ever again — I thought we’d all agreed to disagree on that!

    Next “I’d get like, the welcome package out, but I don’t remember what it is.”

    The complementary welcome package consisting of a misandrist hard chair, matching bath towels, SCENTED MOTHERFUCKING CANDLES, flavored bottled water (your choice of brand and flavor) and cupcakes, delivered by female (whore) penguins in spanx.

  20. Ow, ow, ow! That sounds hugely painful even if you didn’t have fibromyalgia. I hope you’re feeling better now!

    My weekend was very quiet. I’d hoped to go out but my legs were stiff and sore, so I stayed home (and they stayed stiff and sore ‘cos I sat messing around on Manboobz most of the time, lol). I got two new pics done and posted them on my blog, and a bit of knitting for a beret that’s going to be positively lurid when it’s done (lots of bright purples and greens and oranges and teals). I just hope it’s not going to be too warm to wear, it’s pretty thick yarn.

  21. @Argenti

    I followed all those links expecting a cute female penguin in spanx. For some reason. Little did I know it would explain the references

    /the tiredness confuzzles my brain

  22. And if you’re really lucky, the Misandrist Hard Chairs might come from a certain Ikea store!

  23. Well, once I looked up a what a beret is, I can say what you describes sounds pretty cool!

    And um, trying to find out the best way to ask this so tell me if I’m overstepping bounds. You photoshop your pictures? Because you can’t photograph Mr K? Um, because if you do you have mad skillz. If you don’t opps.

    Anyway, I used to be pretty athletic before I got fibromyalgia/hurt my knee so I tend to way overestimate what I can do, especially when I have a rare good day (like the day I decided to take the bike ride)

  24. Sorry to disappoint, but the links go to things like the infamous all female penguins are whores rant by Tom Martin.

  25. that makes sense.😄 though out of curiosity i did google penguin + spanx. This came up.

  26. This also did. From now on, whenever I walk on ice I’m going to imagine I’m a penguin

  27. Fade, that sucks even more having fibromyalgia when you were athletic before.😦 Bad enough condition for someone fairly sedentary, but to have even more to lose, activity-wise, that’s really rotten.

    No, you’re not overstepping any bounds, not a bit! Yes, I photoshop Mr K for that reason, and thank you! My pics are patchwork, there are so many bits thrown in together. I blame my sister, she’s the one who said “Do you know Bruce Springsteen looks a lot like Louis?” Poor Mr S doesn’t know he’s been the donor for a lot of pictures!

    I love berets, especially since I found a pattern that’s really easy to knit. This is the second one I made.

  28. Penguin in Spanx!😀

  29. @Kittehs

    It looks cool (the hat). 😀

    Well, I could barely tell they were photoshopped (hence why I had to ask. XD) Though I will also admit to not being able to use photoshop for… anything related to photo purposes. Mostly I used photoshop elements for drawing because it has more tools than sketchbook.

  30. I never got my head around photoshop at all. I don’t like Adobe’s programs. I tried learning Gimp, which seems the free equivalent of photoshop (which is SO expensive!) but couldn’t figure it at all. I use a very basic one called PhotoStudio. It came as the software for my first scanner, and I only started playing with it when the scanner conked out and I couldn’t upload drawings any more. I wouldn’t go back to drawing now, I like doing pics this way MUCH better. Apart from anything else, I couldn’t colour for shit.😉

    Don’t I wish I had a camera that could take real pictures of Mr K, though!😄

  31. I have to admit, I have never really tried that many drawing programs, just photoshop elements and sketchbook which I mentioned hating. They were the ones that came with the tablet.😄

  32. ::use-the-freebies high five::

  33. Speaking of which, if you do feel like trying other programs any time, there’s a freebie called Paint.Net that’s not bad. It has a nice layering function where you can get different sorts of blends (not sure if that’s the word). I use it for things like tee-shirt pics. Like, if I want a pic of Louis wearing one of my tees (which he does a lot, he is a shameless tee-shirt thief) I can take a pic of mine and put it over a pic of a guy in a tee shirt, and the layers can blend so it looks like the colour/pattern of mine is curving around the guy’s torso.

    Not very well explained, here’s a sample!😛

    My tee: mauve with pattern

    Original photo tee: white.

  34. That does sound handy. I might check it out if I ever photoshop a photo as opposed to a drawing or think when I’m drawing ‘If only I had that program that let you use the layering function that kitteh’s was talking about in… dang… I can’t remember the thread… Oh no! I can’t remember the program! AAAAAAAAH”

    /my prophecies are weird. But it would totally happen.

    On the bright side, I just psyched myself into bookmarking it, to avoid that very specific situation

  35. LOL you are not alone in having that happen!

  36. @kittehs

    So, how’re people enjoying their weekends?

    My weekend was fine, but rather slow. Relaxing though. Got makeup though, and that was fun, my dad’s fiance taught me how to put on eyeshadow.

    I love berets, especially since I found a pattern that’s really easy to knit. This is the second one I made.

    And nice hat!😀

  37. This call may have been completely fabricated bullshit, but this sort of thing does happen. There are diffidently lines you can call for counseling, but when it comes to calling shelters and getting help, it becomes very difficult. For example, none of the shelters in my area will offer help to men, and most will refer men to batterers programs.

  38. Anon: Your description matches what Denise Hines reported in this 2011 paper:The Helpseeking Experiences of Men Who Sustain Intimate Partner Violence: An Overlooked Population and
    Implications for Practice
    published in Journal of Family Violence

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