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Abuse of men 'hidden epidemic'

Women beating up their men -- whether physically, emotionally or financially -- has become a hidden epidemic because blokes are too fearful of being labelled wimps if they cry for help.

A new study has found for male victims of “intimate partner abuse”, the cumulative effect of repeat “knees in the nuts” or being heaped with scorn is a damaging erosion of self-worth. But a typical response to men who do complain is, “C’mon, you’re a bloke -- get over it”.

Similar to the pattern of abuse of women by men, it often starts with verbal, financial and psychological abuse, but over time escalates to physical and sometimes even sexual abuse.

The issue is even more under-reported for men than women, because men fear either being seen as wimps or not being believed, the study says. Support services for abuse victims are skewed towards females, it adds.

“I didn’t expect that the stories I was hearing from men would be so similar to the stories of female abuse,” said Alfred Allan, professor at Edith Cowan University and co-author of Intimate Partner Abuse of Men.

“Physical abuse isn’t as big a problem for males as females, and when a male assaults a female, it’s generally more severe, but there are male victims out there who are falling through the cracks.”

The study is based on interviews with male victims and service providers working in the field of domestic abuse.

“She would actually hit him with the pan . . . throw reasonably large objects at him . . . punch him to the point of bruising,” one service provider recalled of a client’s interview. “I’ve lost count of how many times she’s kneed me in the nuts,” a male victim said.

The report notes the growing prevalence of the abuse of men by their partner. More than 80 per cent of the nearly 200 service providers in the areas of health, welfare and justice reportedproviding support for at least one man in the previous 12 months who had been a victim of intimate partner abuse, the report says. Some are same sex, but many are female partners.

Psychologist and author in men’s mental health Elizabeth Celi describes the abuse of men by their spouse as a “silent phenomenon”. She says women perpetrators tend to combine verbal and emotional abuse of their partner with any physical violence.

“Given women’s verbal and emotional literacy, a viper tongue can really maim a man’s sense of self-worth,” Dr Celi said.

“Men also face the social stigma of being a victim. Not only is he questioning his own masculinity and identity, unfortunately he is more often than not disbelieved or disregarded. ’You must have done something to deserve it’ or ’C’mon, you’re a bloke, get over it’, are typical reactions.”

Gary Bryant, executive officer of Men’s Advisory Network, which commissioned the study, says it proves men aren’t just perpetrators of domestic violence ; they’re also victims, but with less of a voice.

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