The media silence on men affected by domestic violence is the greatest difficulty facing a problem that has some countries showing statistics of abuse against men almost as high as the instance of violence against women.
In recent years society has taken great steps towards recognising violence against women and working against it. However, there are significant shortcomings in the media, as well as in statistics and the law in cases where the man is the victim of domestic violence and the women is the instigator of abuse.
Experts say that is is difficult to establish reliable data on the number of cases because many men hesitate to report if they have been abused because they are afraid of the shame of being ridiculed.
Added to this is the fact that governments and organisations are much less vigilant against this type of abuse as compared to violence against women.
It is very difficult to find any global statistics on domestic violence against men, however in some countries organisations working on defending males’ rights, and also some national governments, have moved towards establishing reliable research projects.
In this country, 40% of victims of domestic violence are men and 60% are women, according to figures in the study “Domestic Violence, The Male Perspective” by the group Parity, who fight for equal rights for men and women in the country.
This study also shows that in many instances, the victims’ aggressor remains free and that men can face more problems than women when it comes to receiving protection.
A further example is the high number of cases in Mexico. Statistics from the government Ministry of Health in 2010 show that, just as in Britain, in 40% of cases victims of domestic violence are men. They also suggest that an estimated 80% of men do not report their abuse.
Also, in 2010 Peru released official information that there are 15 cases a day of violence against men, and in the United States a study undertaken for the National Violence Against Women Survey suggests that figures of abused men are as high as 35.6% of all victims.
In society it is less accepted that a woman would take the role of aggressor. However, women can instigate abuse in a similar way to men.
The most common form of abuse is psychological, including verbal abuse (insults, ridicule, derogatory comments) and emotional abuse where the victim feels controlled by a the aggressor (intimidation, verbal abuse, insults, coercion).
There are also a number of registered cases that show that women, just like men, can be physically violent, abusive, as well as sexually violent (rape, harassment) and in the most serious cases they can lead to death.
The effects of abuse on men, just as with women, are devastating, causing psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, fear, feelings of inferiority and guilt or justification of their aggressors behaviour. Specialists have also pointed out the increased risk of suicide in victims of domestic violence.
Together with this abuse is the social problem, that it affects not only the victim but also impacts everyone involved, including children, other family members and friends.
Juan, a 30 year old Mexican man, had his wife attack him while he was asleep. She dug her nails into his back after accusing him of having cheated on her. The injury sustained by this young man took many months to heal, and this wasn’t the first time she had hurt him. His wife had also thrown household objects at him during her outbursts of anger.
An example of domestic violence against men from across the ocean is the case of the anonymous creator of the Spanish website www.hombresmaltratados.com, who started a digital publication to increase visibility and report cases of men affected by domestic violence.
The website describes his case anonymously. It explains that after years of dedicating himself exclusively to his ex-wife, sharing his life, his friends and his family with her, they decided to have two children.
Their second child was a girl. Following the birth of their daughter his wife began to attack him psychologically, driven by her jealousy of the close relationship between father and daughter. This soon developed into physical aggression, she tried to cut him with bottles and threw pots at him from the third floor.
In this case, they did decided to begin the process of separation, because as he says: “She decided to follow her heart and her gut, rather than her mind”
Even more startling is the case of Ian McNicholl from England, whose wife is currently serving a seven year prison sentence after burning him with an iron. She also put cigarettes out on his skin, punched him in the face, beat him with a metal bar and poured boiling water over him.
Shelters and movement to increase visibility
Similar to the Spanish website, many organisations around the world are working to defend the rights of men who suffer from domestic violence.
Examples can be found in Australia, Men’s Rights Agency; the United States, Domestic Violence Against Men in Colorado; Scotland, Men’s Advice Line; and Venezuela, Ashoma– Asociacion de Hombres Maltratados (Asosiation of Abused Men).
These organisations defend male victims of abuse and men who feel more vulnerable than women under current protection laws.
One of the main demands of those affected is that the law for male victims of domestic violence be made equal with that relating to female victims of domestic violence, and that there is an increase in the number of shelters so that men can start a new life after leaving their abusive partner.
Countries like the Netherlands are leading the way on this problem. In 2009 the Dutch Minister of Health opened 40 shelters for male victims of domestic violence in the Netherlands, increasing the country’s capacity to accommodate victims. These shelters cater for men who have suffered physical and psychological abuse, as well as victims of ‘honour’ crimes and human trafficking.
For years domestic violence against women was taboo. Today taboo has shifted to violence against men, who struggle to be granted their basic rights in the large number of cases where they are the victim.
(Translated by Grace Essex: firstname.lastname@example.org)