What is it like to be a male victim of domestic abuse?

9 Apr

Here’s a really  interesting post about the UK Centre for Domestic Violence Campaign to raise awareness about male victims of domestic abuse. Obviously, this is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed, but as Cara at the excellent Curvature blog points out, the campaign materials are problematic on a lot of levels!  Check out the poster.

Any thoughts on how we can better address this issue?

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One Response to “What is it like to be a male victim of domestic abuse?”

  1. feministcardiff April 19, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    This is an issue I’ve been doing a lot of work on recently within Welsh Women’s Aid. Recently produced a briefing with about 10 men’s organisations, called ‘Male Victims of Domestic Abuse’ (astoundingly original?!), which you can read here if you’re interested: http://www.welshwomensaid.org/news/28986.html (click on the link at the bottom of the page).

    We are often asked “what about men?” in our work (despite, um, being an organisation that clearly provides services *to women* – I wonder if organisations who work with ethnic minorities get asked “what about white people?” on virtually a daily basis?!). The available evidence suggests that there are significant differences both in prevalence (*significant* differences…) of female and male victims, and in the types of responses required by male and female victims.

    Whether a victim is male or female, a gendered analysis is essential to understand domestic abuse, plan appropriate safety services (which should be specialist and gender-specific) and design effective preventative programmes.

    Sadly there tends to be the assumption – in the general public certainly, but also, worryingly, amongst policymakers and commissioners of domestic abuse support services across the country – that men require exactly the same services as women. Also we are concerned that much-needed resources are getting diverted from women’s support services to meet an unevidenced “need” for services for male victims of domestic abuse. This genericisation is likely to get worse in the current economic climate and with impending further spending cuts.

    It’s worth touching on prevalence, as there is a lot of evidence suggesting that stats are somewhat skewed in this area, and it would be wrong to assume that just because men *can* experience domestic abuse, that they experience it on anywhere *near* the same scale as women, or that the context is similar. We work to the UN definition, i.e. violence against women “because they are women”, placing domestic violence on the same continuum as other forms of violence against women as both cause and consequence of gender inequality. We are not saying that individual men are never victims, but men *as a group* are not victimised by domestic abuse/gendered violence.

    For example, the Home Office (and Welsh Assembly Government) has much-touted their “1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse” stat (which is produced using faulty methodology), and all of the organisations that I’ve talked to who provide services to male victims have mentioned the fact that many male victims who present as “victims” are actually perpetrators, using the language of victimisation to justify their actions or as another form of controlling behaviour over their partners. One organisation, which provides refuge to male victims, gave me access to their stats; over 90% of their clients actually turned out to be perpetrators following further assessment (the few who were genuine victims were disproportionately victims of “honour”-based violence rather than interpersonal domestic violence; one of the domestic abuse “victims” was arrested *in refuge* for leaving to abuse his female partner).

    But try saying that to policymakers as a representative of a women’s organisation..! You do tend to get branded as a feminist nutball, despite the research literature and practitioner experience!

    Anyway – long story short – it’s a complex and specialist issue. Of course, domestic abuse *can* happen to men – and any awareness-raising campaigns or initiatives to address the issue should be developed in close consultation with organisations who are specialist in this area, to ensure that the message is suitable and the target audience is reached. Gendered analysis is vital. I can see what the UKDV Campaign is trying to do, i.e. display some kind of understanding of the emasculating effects that abuse can have on a male victim, destroying his sense of man as powerful, man as strong, man as macho, etc. I’m not sure about the approach, though. Will this reach out to male victims, or serve to further ostracise them and reinforce those feelings?

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