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In Australia One in Three Victims of Family Violence are Men | VICE | Australia / NZ


Story by Paul Gregoire. Image by Michael Hili

In 2007, a New South Wales father of two who we'll call Kevin Logan fell ill. Paralysed, he went to hospital and stayed there for two months. On returning home, he was bedridden for most of the day and unable to work. That's when his wife's verbal taunting began. What started as persistent criticisms intensified into threats. Gradually the emotional abuse escalated into physical violence.

One night a few years later, as she set upon him with shoving and biting, Kevin pushed his wife. She fell and hit her head on the side of the couch. When the police arrived, she was demanding his arrest. But on hearing the full story, the police said she should be arrested. She'd initiated the altercation and her husband had acted to defend himself. Kevin refused to press charges.

After the episode with police, Kevin left his family home and lived out of his cleaning van for three months. "People say to me, 'Why didn't you go to your mum's or your brother's first?'" Kevin told VICE. "But how do you go and tell your family that your wife's been abusing you?"

The silence experienced by Kevin is typical of family violence against men. And while this could be said of family violence in general, there is a particular shortage of dialogue and services around male victims.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures from 2013 outline that for the prior 12 months one in three victims of current intimate partner violence were male. In January, NSW Police reported that last year one in every five family violence incidents they responded to involving intimate partners were for male victims. The perpetrators in these incidents were both male and female.

Any man can experience family violence, regardless of socio-economic status, sexual preference, and culture. However, the limited research available suggests that men with disabilities or mental health issues, members of the LGBTI community and those who have grown up in an environment with family violence, are more likely to experience it.

The 2010 Intimate Partner Abuse of Men Report outlines that the physical abuse suffered by men ranges from punching to biting to use of weapons. And there were many reported cases of abuse that were not physical but rather verbal, psychological, or sexual. The effects of abuse can lead victims to develop mental disorders and suicidal tendencies. They can lose sense of their own masculinity and many become unemployed as a result.

At present family violence is very much on the national agenda. Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced last week that a Council of Australian Governments national advisory panel into family violence will be established and a Victorian Royal Commission into the issue begins sitting this month. While these inquiries and others like them are vital, it's likely they'll only touch on the issue of male victims, if they do at all.

So as Australia begins dealing with its family violence crisis, what's causing the almost blanket denial of its male victims?

According to Greg Andresen, senior researcher of the One in Three Campaign, a lot of it has to do with society's deep-seated views on masculinity, which leave male victims unable to discuss what's happening to them because they're too ashamed.

"They fear they won't be believed or understood, that their experiences will be downplayed, that they will be blamed for the violence," Andresen said. "They may not even identify as a victim of family violence because they have been told victims are female."

Many in the community struggle to grasp the idea of a man being physically abused, but as Andresen explained, "a woman with a knife is going to be just as effective as a man with a knife."

This silence is further impacted by the lack of any specialist services for men. In 2009, when Kevin began his search for help, he found little available. A local case worker told him he didn't fit the criteria for their family violence program, while a second counsellor advised him to attend an anger management course.

"The services just weren't there. I rang the NSW Department of Community Services, their domestic violence hotline and they said, 'Sorry I don't believe you were abused by your wife. Only men abuse women,'" He recounted.

And little has changed. Frontline services — such as ambulances, Lifeline and Legal Aid — are available to both women and men, but most family violence crisis services that provide support through the court process and help in finding accommodation are available only for women. "That is the link in the chain that is still not available to men," Andresen added.

But there have been some positive changes in NSW. Recently, small pilot programs at the Downing Centre and Parramatta courthouses have started providing free assistance to men during the court process. The NSW Senate Inquiry into Domestic Violence recognised that men make up a significant portion of family violence victims, yet don't have access to adequate services. This has resulted in some services being made available to men as well as women, such as the housing subsidy Start Safely.

Last month, NSW Police posted a message on their Facebook page to raise public awareness about family violence towards men. Part of an ongoing family violence campaign, the post sparked a social media debate, simultaneously supporting police for finally addressing the issue, whilst criticising the approach they take when dealing with male victims.

But Andresen thinks on whole the police are doing a good job. "They're quite aware that male victims exist because they're out there on the front line going into houses at 3am." But he added, "Unfortunately there are still individual police officers who may, when a male victim comes to the station, tell him to man up, go home and take it on the chin."

Over recent years, NSW Police have been dealing with more incidents of family violence, as reported cases against both women and men have increased. Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch from NSW Police told VICE that police provide the same level of service to all victims regardless of their gender, age or social circumstance.

Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulrgregoire

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Reader Comments (3)

i myself was a victim in similiar circumstances,my partner was a violent drunk and would abuse me violently everytime,when i stood up to her she would call the police and by the time she and her mother had finished their version of avents i'd be the one charged.but one night i called the police and they came and she attacked them, well now the police know the truth and i have left that relationship and she still continued her abuse,the police now fully aware of the truth arrest her and she attacks them again.Atleast now people know the truth...

February 12, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdarrin rickards

So much verbal abuse .Then starts the physical violence. the pushing . shoving , throwing of things , smashing of things. You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors.The worst things is the children can suffer this as well . It wears you down and you start to question yourself . Am i the bad person . so you start to blame your self .But you stay for the children's and put up with it . No one to talk to as you ashamed to tell anyone because no one would believe you , as men are the abuse and the women are the victims. I need help .

February 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Di quattro

the system is a fucking joke when it comes to this subject. In 2007 a female friend of my partner was physical and verbally threatening towards my children, aged 1, 2, 4 at the time. the mother was happy to let this abuse go, turned her back and pretended it was not happening. for 6 months I rang police and family SA on my partner and her friend who had taken over the house. police response was it was a woman and there was nothing they could. family SA response was convince her to have a sex change, then they could do some thing about. the abuse got so bad I decided to leave the relationship. but she had my kids in her house for 11and half hours and would let them out. she was not the mother, a legal guardian a partner or an ex partner. I was the legal full time parent, and the biological father. my children also legally lived at my house full. police refused to get them out. I smashed down her door after my kids was bailed up in her house for a 11 hours, I was arrested and my kids was left for the next two days, in the violent child pretenders house bearing in mind she had no legal status to them what so ever. I was then blamed for the abuse, I had been reporting for 6 months, even tho I had a tonne of evidence that proved it was her and the mother. this evidence included doctor reports, security camera footage, video tapes from neighbour clearly showing it was going on. and testimonies from my child that she was doing it, they ignored all of it. when it came to the court case , she did not show up. her lawyer offered no defence, and the judge suddenly realized she was guilty and it could proven beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal court of law. so he decided the best thing to do was hold the trail in secret let her off with every thing and the abuse continued for another 7 months. women not only get a way with violence they have a whole legal system telling them it is ok , and police, family SA , judges, lawyers women's groups break what ever law is required in order to help them get away with it

February 13, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterrobert heithersay

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