By Reardon Palmer
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (‘ABS’), the rates of men experiencing domestic violence is rising each year but there is a concerning lack of services that are provided for male victims.
“I am focused on providing more support to women and children escaping domestic violence.”
This is what Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated in a media release earlier this year as the Federal Government announced a new $78 million investment for providing safe spaces for women and children as a part of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children (2010-2022).
However, there was no commitment of providing help to male victims of domestic violence within this media release. Nor was there any government programs that funded male domestic violence victims.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (‘AIHW’), one in sixteen men have reportedly experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or previous partner since the age of 15.
Greg Andresen is the Senior Researcher for One in Three, which is a charity set up for male domestic violence victims. Andresen stated that the lack of services available to male victims acts as a barrier for men seeking help.
“Many barriers to male victims disclosing their abuse are created or amplified by the lack of public acknowledgement that males can also be victims of family violence, the lack of appropriate services for male victims and their children, and the lack of appropriate help available for male victims from existing services.”
A recent example for the lack of commitment to providing safe spaces for male victims can be linked back to the Western Australian government’s hotline for domestic violence victims. They stated on their website a man can ring up if they are ‘concerned about becoming violent or abusive,’ with no direct suggestion that male victims can seek help as victims of domestic violence. This consequently reveals the double standard in regards to who the victim is in a domestic violence situation.
The AIHW in May 2018 suggested that ‘males are less likely to specify the perpetrator of their assault than females and this may cause an underestimate of males hospitalised due to assault from a partner.’ This can be linked to the ABS findings where they state that men are two to three times more likely than women to have never told anybody about experiencing domestic violence from a partner.
Andresen believes that why more men are not reporting this is because they experience the feeling of ‘shame’ or the ‘fear of being called ‘weak’ or ‘wimpy’ for being abused by a female partner. Thus, supplementing the ABS finding that men are 50% more likely than women to not seek advice or support about experiencing partner violence.
This is backed by former social worker Jade Rodrigues, who has worked with domestic violence victims, as she believes that there is a stigma on men feeling embarrassed being abused by their partners.
“You’re the man you should be able to control your woman… what sort of a man lets their woman hit them”
Through Rodrigues’ experience, she has worked in hospitals with victims of violence both male and females but imply that male and female victims are treated differently after suffering physical abuse. Any signs of bruising on female victims “were automatically enacted that you had to follow through to do a screening,” whereas males were not subject to the same level of analysis. Rodrigues suggests that a male “being a victim of domestic violence was probably at the bottom of what I would assume what was going on for them.”
“I just never picked up on it because I wasn’t really trained to look out for it. My training was around looking out for female victims and children.”
Domestic violence is not directly related to just physical violence, as domestic violence can include emotional, sexual and psychological abuse. The AIHW report states that one in six men have suffered emotional abuse within a relationship.
“Calling him names or just being really vicious towards him and then that was all probably I would say the most common like where they would just feel like they were being torn down emotionally and they’d have no self-esteem and no confidence they’d feel emasculated” stated Rodrigues who recalls different incidents during her experience.
Rodrigues further states, “So things like telling him that he’s not good in bed… not allowing him to engage with her at all in sexual activity… it was usually alongside of things like a lot of emotional and psychological abuse like being really possessive of him.”
Andresen believes that a common problem is that men do not know where to look for particular services as he implies.
“Many domestic violence services aren’t open to males, e.g. many counselling and support services; shelters and other accommodation for victims and their children; helplines and crisis response; community education and prevention programmes…Not only does this mean that men can’t access the same range of services and support as women, they may struggle with working out how and where to find help.”
The One in Three foundation is a charity that aims to raise public awareness of the needs of male victims of family and domestic abuse. The charity works with government and non-government services alike to provide assistance to everyone affected by family violence, and to reduce the incidence and impacts of family violence on all Australians. The One in Three campaign is run entirely by volunteers without any funding.
This campaign has made significant strides over the past decade as recent state and federal government inquiries have acknowledged that a significant proportion of victims of family violence are male and that men lack access to the range of services that are available to women and children.
Despite this, the lack of services that are available to males are minimal and not as visible as they are to females as Rodrigues suggested that, ‘she wouldn’t even know where to start,’ when exploring options for male services.
Paul Fletcher, the Minister for Families and Social Services, was contacted for comment on this issue but did not respond to our request for an interview.