What about the men?

1st December 2022

But what about the men experiencing Domestic Abuse? They’re experiencing “Intimate Terrorism” too, why aren’t they getting 16 days? After all, according to Mankind, a third of all domestic abuse victims are men.

Indeed, a third of all police callouts for domestic abuse are to male victims. Yet the picture is more complicated than that because a common perpetrator tactic is to “play the victim” and because genuine victims will sometimes use violence as a response to abuse. As we have seen with the Depp/Heard trial it’s not always easy to work out who the actual victim is, especially when looking only at a single incident.

Domestic Abuse is defined as “a pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour,” When we look at repeat incidents of Domestic Abuse we find that women make up 83% of the victims. We also know from looking at crime statistics that when the perpetrator is male and the victim female, higher levels of violence are likely to occur and the risk of homicide is much higher.

All that said though, we are not in competition. It doesn’t really matter whether men account for 33% or 17% of victims, it doesn’t matter if they’re not as often murdered, it’s still a life changing, traumatic experience for each man who experiences domestic abuse, whether or not more women have experienced it. The numbers of other men and women who have experienced abuse don’t make the experience any less traumatic for each victim, and thus, as men and women we should want to end all domestic abuse, against everybody.

You know what makes it worse for male victims though? Male perpetrators. Male perpetrators love to identify as male victims, in fact 50% of calls for help to male domestic abuse services have been found to be from men who are the primary perpetrator, and services who support male victims have to have an incredibly robust screening process to make sure they are helping genuine victims and not collaborating with perpetrators. The first thing every victim needs is to be believed, automatically, not interrogated or questioned or treated with suspicion. Male perpetrators throw suspicion onto genuine male victims, they make it more difficult for them to be believed, because of the sheer weight of numbers, and that must be a horrific experience, not to mention perpetrators wasting the valuable time of the services who are there to help genuine male victims.

Simply put, if there weren’t so many more men perpetrating domestic abuse, we would have more resources available to better support male victims, who would also be more likely to be treated with the compassion they deserve.

When men do experience domestic abuse the root cause is the same- their partner exercises power and control over them because of expectations about how men and women should behave based on gender stereotypes: When the male perpetrator shouts “get back in the kitchen woman” the female perpetrator shouts “Man Up, you’re pathetic” If we address Violence Against Women at it’s root cause- patriarchy, misogyny and sexism, we will also be addressing the cause of domestic abuse against men, because it comes from the same place. Fighting for gender equality benefits both male and female victims of abuse.

So, perhaps this 16 days of activism is badly named, perhaps those of us who seek to end violence against women are short sighted in failing to include male victims in the campaigns, perhaps if we did men would see that this doesn’t need to be a culture war, this isn’t about Him vs Her, it isn’t about demonising all men or women playing the victim. It is about recognising the truth, that whilst women are disproportionately affected by gender based violence, men are hurt by it too, and this problem needs all of us, not just shouty women like me, to solve it.

16days #16daysofactivism #orangetheworld