On Wednesday insideMAN published an article detailing the findings of a new study into male victims of domestic violence that found the male victims who contributed to it were often arrested under false accusations and their disclosures of victimisation initially dismissed by police.
Following a surge of interest in the findings and more than 5,000 views of our article, insideMAN contacted the study’s author, Dr Jessica McCarrick, a Senior Lecturer in Counselling Psychology and Chartered Psychologist at Teesside University, to find out more about what motivated her to undertake her research.
Here are her responses to our questions.
Why did you choose this area of study?
The reason I chose this area of research stemmed from both a need within myself to conduct research which would have meaning and application to people’s lives, and experiences I’d had as a Trainee Counselling Psychologist in my early placements.
Following a six week training course in domestic violence, which was heavily influenced by the feminist model, I began to question some of the assumptions underpinning this philosophy. Through my doctoral training as a Counselling Psychologist I was encouraged to think reflectively about issues which affect people, and to focus on people as individuals, rather than broadly categorising people.
It was these thought processes, coupled with my doctoral training that began to nourish the initial idea for my research. This idea was then developed further when I began my first placement, which was in a local charity which provided therapeutic support to both male and female survivors of domestic violence.
It was on this placement that I really began to learn about the violence, trauma and psychological distress that men and women experience within abusive relationships. Later in my doctoral training, whilst in the midst of writing up my research, this charity, which was the only service in the local area providing support to male survivors of domestic violence, sadly lost its funding and was forced to close.
Knowing that there was now even less support in the local area for men affected by domestic violence motivated me to complete my research and publish it, with a view to spreading the word and making changes on a societal level.
Why do you think there is resistance to acknowledging male victims of domestic violence?
I believe this resistance is stemming from a number of complex factors, rather than one cause. It’s likely that people are resistant to believing that domestic violence towards men occurs due to the belief within society that men are strong and tough.
Recent research has displayed that stereotypes around gender and domestic violence are still apparent within society, and there is still a way to go before we move towards a more gender-balanced view of domestic violence. I believe society needs to work towards recognising the complex and multi-faceted psychological impact of domestic violence.
The research and policies that have supported female survivors of domestic violence have been invaluable to service provision and the local services for women in my area are excellent sources of support. I would like to see the same happen for men and this change needs to be supported in a ‘bottom-up’ way through research and campaigning, but ultimately from a ‘top-down’ way, in order for services to be provided with funding and support on a national level.
How many men did you speak to?
I had six men participate in my study. However since the beginning of the research process back in 2012 I have received many e-mails from male survivors detailing their own personal experiences.
Can you tell us about any further experiences the men you spoke to told you about that are not detailed in the article?
“I can now fully understand how Afro-Caribbean people felt in the 50s and 60s when they first arrived in the UK. They were treat like pariahs, they were segregated and that’s how it feels.”
“I was basically walking on eggshells… you know it’s going to happen you just don’t quite know when.”
“If a police car was driving up my street, I was wary about where they were going, whether they were following me.”
The men in my study described a negative psychological impact which was likened to ‘a pressure cooker’ and this was connected to feelings of rage, loss and post-traumatic stress symptoms.
I would like to call for professionals and people in society to look beyond black and white stereotypes and to listen carefully to the calls of both men and women and respond appropriately to the people involved in this hidden crime.
You can find out more about Dr McCarrick’s study Men’s Experiences of the Criminal Justice System Following Female Perpetrated Intimate Partner Violence here