As I write, DV awareness seems to be high on the political agenda. In recent days a scheme dubbed Clare’s Law has been implemented as a trial scheme in selected areas of the UK. This scheme gives partners the right to ask police authorities whether their partner has a known history of domestic violence. Clare Wood was murdered in 2009 by her violent partner George Appleton who she had met on the internet. Clare had made several complaints to her local police force about her boyfriend. It transpired that he had a violent background and was known to the police. In the United States, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) has been recently renewed amid great controversy. Not being a US citizen, I can’t claim to have a general understanding of the complexities involved.
When I first started raising awareness about DV, I was asked to write of summary of my story for a Christian News Agency. After the article was submitted, I was asked whether I knew of any resources/support available for male victims particularly any offering a Christian perspective. Help for male victims is very minimal and there was no denominational organisations that I was aware off who were seriously addressing the issue.
In recent weeks, an international Christian alliance called Restored has released ‘Ending Domestic Abuse – a pack for Churches.’ It is commendable that someone is finally addressing the issue within Christianity. The material is very user-friendly and should be a starting point for congregations. However, it has a strong gender bias portraying the male as the perpetrator and the female as the victim. This is a prejudice that I am encountering every day. People can accept that women can be victims, but men are the physically stronger sex and therefore no man could possibly suffer from domestic abuse is the misguided rationale. As far as I’m concerned, my ex partner had anger issues (and no doubt other issues as well) which she vented on me. I choose not to use my greater physical strength in retaliation. Does that make me a weaker or stronger man?
The Restored Church Pack included the following paragraph in its introduction:
‘the majority of domestic abuse is perpetrated by men against women. However, domestic abuse can be inflicted by women on men and also in same sex relationships. Female terms for victims and male terms for abusers in this resource are used as this is the most common presentation of domestic abuse, although the needs of male victims should be treated with equal concerns.’
I challenged this viewpoint and Restored’s response was that their mandate is to end violence against women and that their belief was that the majority of DV is carried out by men against women. Sadly, I am encountering many who share this outlook. Plenty of statistics are easily available and there are many projects offering support to women and children, but barely anything for men.
So is DV a gender issue? Just what is the truth of the matter?
Plenty of media outlets will quote figures relating to female victims, but very few will publish information about male victims.
In Febraury 2012, The ManKind Initiative produced ‘Male Victims of domestic and partner abuse – 21 key facts which makes shocking and startling reading. Although from a male perspective, their reporting also states female statistics so that comparisons can be drawn. Every source is given so these are not some pretend numbers to highlight the problem. The 21 Key Facts buries the myth commonly accepted that ‘the majority of domestic abuse is perpetrated by men against women’. All figures come from the British Crime Survey carried out between 2008 and 2011. Again these are only reported instances, and a lot of domestic abuse goes unreported.
ManKind Initiative : Male Victims of domestic and partner abuse – 21 key facts can be found here:
Here are some of the facts:
1) For every three victims of partner abuse, for every three victims of domestic abuse and for every three victims of stalking – two will be female, one will be male.
2) One in six men (aged 16 or over) and one in four women will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime .
3) 12 % of men and 24 % of women have been victims of partner abuse in their lifetime (1.9 million men and 3.8 million women). In 2010/11, 4% of men (600,000) and 6% of women ( 900,000) reported having experienced partner abuse – a ratio of 40%/60%
4) 21 men and 94 women were murdered by a partner/ex-partner (classified as the key suspect) in 2010/11. This equates to one man every 17 days.
5) For men who were victims of partner abuse 29% said they were a victim of ‘severe force’, more than female victims (27%).
6) 20% of men who have suffered partner abuse have done so for more than one year (97,000 men).
7) The number of women convicted of perpetrating domestic abuse has more than quadrupled in the past seven years from 806 (2004/05) to 3,965 (2010/11).
8) Twice as many male victims (28%) than women (13%) do not tell anyone about the domestic abuse they are suffering – highlighting the level of underreporting.
9) Male victims are three times (10%) more likely not to tell the police they are victim than a female victim (29%) and only 4% of male victims will tell a health professional compared to 19% of female victims.
10) Only 1.25% of men who access services as a victim are actually assessed to be perpetrators (pretending to be victims) – there is no equivalent research on females as no organisation is willing to make the same assessment.
These astounding statistics (and the remaining 13 key facts) highlight than there is a clear Gender bias in understanding and the resourcing of domestic abuse victims. They also demonstrate how little support there is for male victims – who there are clearly more of than the widely held view.
Domestic Abuse is not a gender issue and men should not be commonly cast as the perpetrators. DV is a matter than transcends gender, race, and sexuality. There needs to be greater equality in the resources and help available to ALL victims, not just women. This will only happen when more men break their silence and speak out.