Are Men Really Victims of Intimate Partner Violence?

There is now no debate with regard to the prevalence and impact of partner abuse and violence against women. Despite an imperfect legal and judicial system, with the Family Court in particular being accused of making a number of inappropriate and even unsafe decisions with regard to the children of violent parents, and a shortage of services for women victims, nonetheless government and community alike have responded to this tragic phenomenon and taken steps to address it.

However, male victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) are yet to be truly recognised by the judicial system or the larger community. There are a number of beliefs about male victims of IPV, such as that men are rarely genuine victims; if they are, they must have done something to deserve it; they aren’t affected as much as women are; and it is easier for them to leave their relationships.

These are all myths. There is substantial and reliable evidence of the prevalence and nature of partner violence against men, and just as for women, there are barriers to men disclosing victimisation and seeking help or leaving relationships. While it seems that the level of violence and the severity of impact may frequently be less than that for women victims, that is not a good enough reason to ignore those men who are seriously affected by their female partner’s violence. And, of course, their children are just as much affected as the children of violent husbands. Unfortunately, this data has been overlooked or distorted for four decades in academia, the judicial system, the media, and government and community campaigns.

The acknowledgement of male victims has ramifications for government policy, the police and the judicial system, and the provision of health and community services. We need a lot more information from and about male victims of partner violence in order to be able to meet their needs. Academics, clinicians and service providers need to be open to the possibility that a man who claims he is a victim of partner violence actually is.

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