Writer, musician and insideMAN contributor, Chris Good, was subjected to severe domestic violence both privately and in public at the hands of a former girlfriend. Here he asks why women's groups so often resist efforts to support male victims of domestic abuse.
The other morning, I was pleased to read that the Premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk, was one of very few public figures to acknowledge male victims of domestic violence, even stating that more needs to be done to support them.
Putting it into perspective, it is a small, but significant, step in the right direction and I found myself encouraged that, even though it was news from Australia, the subject was credibly brought into the public sphere of our global society. As a UK men’s rights writer, I might have taken a quiet ‘celebration’ sip of my morning coffee after toasting ‘a fairer society’…had I not read this news in the context of feminist objection to Ms Palaszczuk’s stance.
At Palaszczuk’s mere acknowledgement of men as victims of domestic violence, she was, as reported in The Guardian Australia, ’warned not to put the domestic violence against men above women’. Unsurprisingly, this word of caution came from feminists and female focused domestic violence support services. But this is nothing new. A constant rebuttal to articles and campaign efforts that raise awareness of male victims, is that women have it worse and men are the main perpetrators.
In an attempt to pull focus back to women, Karyn Walsh, CEO of Micah projects stated ‘the overwhelming issue is the attitude men have to women as their possessions, as something they can control and punish. It is about their attitude.’ Not only is this statement a generalised and, at best, unsubstantiated idea -or accusation- of how ‘men’ think of women in our society today, but it is considerably off-topic, as Walsh shifts focus from male victims to male perpetrators.
What relevance does the attitude of a male criminal possibly have to a male victim? How can male victims be demonised alongside perpetrators, simply because of a feminist perpetuated gender stereotype? On what moral or ethical basis does one ignore a victim of crime because of perceived similarities to a criminal? And, perhaps the biggest question of all: Is this bigotry a good foundation for our societal norms?
The issue of domestic violence should not see a mention of the perceived or supposed attitudes of men, as proposed by a sub-culture of our population. Neither is raising awareness for male victims anything to do with taking attention and support away from the estimated 1.4m female victims. Let me be clear, it is our moral duty to help these women and provide services and refuge to them. However, I would rather hope our compassion, empathy and sense of justice, as a society, could stretch far enough to bring aid to the estimated 700,000 men who are reported to suffer domestic abuse, every year, without support, victim services, refuge, cultural understanding or, indeed, anywhere to turn.
This year I have somewhat vanished from the gender equality debate in order to work on my first book -soon to be available in all good stores…so on and so forth. In the book, I argue that our discussion of gender equality issues is so often steeped in allegiance to gender labels, movements and our own bias, that much needed change is prevented from seeing the light of day. We need to have a reform of our discussion for the sake of achieving effective change. This is, perhaps, most necessary in issues such as domestic violence. People are hurting; I can find no better reason for the mindless squabbling to end and for us to find a way to work together in order to support all those in need of help.
In the interest of true equality, I fully support the work of those who provide refuge and help to women, which should not be detracted from. But if we take a moment to focus on the victims of domestic violence and acknowledge that, by all accounts, men constitute around a third of those victims, can we really stand by and do nothing?
While our friends in Australia are busy deciding how they will help male victims of domestic abuse, here are the key facts about the UK’s male victims. And let’s ask ourselves: Can we really stand by and do nothing?
Every minute, a man will be the victim of domestic abuse
In 2014, the Office of National Statistics stated that a third of domestic abuse victims are male. That's 700,000 men a year…that’s 1,917 men a day…that’s one man a minute suffering domestic abuse.
The report also showed that both men and women are more likely to experience non-physical abuse (emotional and financial) than any other kind of partner abuse. However, of those that are physically abused, men are more likely to suffer what’s called ‘severe force’ (34%) than women (28%), which involves being kicked, hit, bitten, choked, strangled, threatened with a weapon, threatened with death and the use of a weapon.
Only 0.4% of refuge spaces are dedicated to male victims
If we were to make support for all victims of domestic violence proportionate to the accepted percentages of female and male victims, how does nearly 400 specialist domestic violence organisations providing refuge accommodation for women in the UK, with around 4,000 spaces for over 7,000 women and children; compare to a total of 63 spaces available to men, of which 17 are dedicated to male DV victims only (the rest being for victims of either gender)? That equates to 0.4% of spaces dedicated to male victims.
Government allocated money for male victims was made all but inaccessible to them
In a "scraps from the table" offering to male victims, the Coalition government allocated £225,000 to be shared between 12 charities from 2011 to 2013, for the benefit of male victims. Only one of these was a service devoted only to male victims.
Domestic violence support should be focused on the victims
The inescapable fact is that the UK estimates 2,100,000 victims of domestic abuse each year and a third of these victims are men. Yet feminist and female focused organisations strive to keep the attention and provision focused only on women because, as Moo Baulch, CEO of Domestic Violence NSW, states, 'the overwhelming number of victims were women and the overwhelming number of perpetrators were men’. Regardless of the perpetrator’s gender, male victims are in need of support.
Basing support provision on the gender of the perpetrator simply wreaks of ulterior motives and agenda when, in a civilised and compassionate society, our only focus should be on improving the situation faced by all recorded victims: relieving their pain, helplessness and loneliness.
Putting gender aside, with all victims of domestic abuse in mind, we must consider that in a society saturated with the depiction of male perpetrators and female victims, in a society that focuses 99.6% of its refuge support on women and in a society that denies men their cry for help, the 'overwhelming number' of unsupported, silenced and ignored victims of domestic violence...are men.
Chris Good is a writer and musician who writes on gender equality at Thought Catalog and is currently writing his first book on feminism and men's rights. He is one of the contributors to the insideMAN book and you can follow him on twitter @goodwayround
- UK Statistics on male victims (ManKind Initiative)
- Australian Statistics on male victims (One In Three campaign)
Chris' personal story of experiencing domestic violence from a former girlfriend and the often callous reaction from people who witnessed it, is one of the powerful and important stories in the new insideMAN book.