40 Stories for 40 Years: Margie Heilbronner

by Emily Roberts | Nov 13, 2018

Margie Heilbronner started working at The Family Place in January 2003 as an adult case manager. About a year ago, she became a resident advocate for men in our emergency shelter services. The job was familiar to her since she had worked with the men in the military in California prior to coming to The Family Place.

“That was my first exposure to male victims,” she said. “I learned that it took a lot of courage to get help when you’re a male victim. It’s really something to have a young marine come to your office because he couldn’t tell his sergeant that his wife had put a knife to his throat.”

When The Family Place opened a men’s shelter in 2017, it was the first in the state. Since that time, Margie said she has seen a lot of amazing dads. One of the first shelter residents was the father of two girls, a 17 year old and a nine year old, who had cerebral palsy. He had been the sole caregiver for the younger child, who used a wheelchair and had severe allergies—all while working in IT for Verizon.

When they came to the shelter, he had to prepare all of her meals because of her allergies. She also suffered from debilitating seizures, but his wife did not believe in medical care. This was a constant source of conflict for them, Margie said. While at our shelter, he was able to get his daughter on medication that controlled her seizures.

Like so many female victims we see, his abuser not only physically abused him but also controlled him and isolated him from friends and family. Seeing his children suffer was a strong motivation to leave. While at our men’s shelter, he reconnected with his family and eventually was able to move to Florida where his mother lived. He has since found a school to accommodate his younger daughter’s special needs, and his older daughter tested out of high school and is attending Florida State.

“He was a dedicated dad,” Margie said. “It really impressed me that he was able to do his work and take such good care of both daughters while healing and moving beyond his victimization. “It’s hard for people to understand that men are victims, too. Female abusers use power and control the same way male abusers do.”

Margie said her favorite part of her job is being a voice for male victims who need services.

“I enjoy being able to advocate for them—in the office, in the courts and in the community,” she said.