This page contains a selection of recent news articles and commentary about male victims of violence and abuse plus related issues. These articles are presented as a community service, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the One in Three Campaign.

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Gender-based Approach Misses the Mark in Tackling Family Violence

November 25 marks another White Ribbon Day and the all-pervasive message condemning violence against women. White Ribbon Day (WRD), like all campaigns that raise awareness of and reduce the incidence of violence, deserves our support and there is no doubt that this campaign has made some otherwise violent men think twice before engaging in destructive behaviour.

However, one of the primary principles of any social movement or NGO activism, particularly applied and used as a point of reference by aid organisations is the Do No Harm rule; that is, at the very minimum, interventions by civil society groups must do no harm in their attempts to do good. While not wanting to denigrate WRD and the good results that it undoubtedly produces in many instances, like any NGO or social movement, it can do better. There are at least a few areas where gender-based anti-violence groups may sometimes be off pitch in their zeal to reduce a particular form of violence.

Firstly, the gender-centric message gives the impression - perhaps unintentionally - that domestic violence and partner abuse is only committed by men. The best evidence suggests that this is far from the truth. When the Australian Bureau of Statistics in its Personal Safety Survey, Australia, 2006 (ABS Catalogue No. 4906.0) surveyed the extent to which respondents had experienced physical assault in the home within the previous 12 months, it found that 60,900 men (compared to 125,100 women) had experienced such domestic violence by a perpetrator of the opposite sex.

In addition, nearly all rigorous peer-reviewed academic population-based studies published in academic journals around the world have found that at least one-third, and often one half or more, of the victims of domestic violence are men. An example in our part of the world is:"Partner Violence and Mental Health Outcomes in a New Zealand Birth Cohort" by Fergusson, Horwood & Ridder published in the Journal of Family and Marriage (vol. 67. no. 5, Dec 2005, pp. 1103-1119).

Its key findings were that men and women have similar incidence of victimisation and perpetration of domestic violence and that the mental health effects of domestic violence are equally as severe for men as for women.

Similarly, the Australian Institute of Family Studies' Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms, released earlier this year, found that 53 per cent of fathers and 65 per cent of mothers had suffered family violence (physical hurt or emotional abuse) before or during separation (pp.25-26).

If we are serious about tackling family violence, we must not ignore these findings. Tackling two-thirds or one-half of the problem, while ignoring the other third to half, is doing a disservice to Australian families. We need to found the solutions to domestic violence firmly on the evidence base.

Secondly, gender-based campaigns state that the key to tackling domestic violence is to "break the silence". In this they are absolutely right! However, by constantly referring to it as a women's issue or a gender issue, they seem to be unintentionally enforcing silence on male victims - the very thing they claim to be against. The fact that this message is so insistent and that specialist services are largely withheld from male victims of domestic violence means that this group must usually suffer in appalling silence that has lasting health consequences on them, their children and families.

The incessant message that men are perpetrators and women are victims means that men who do have the courage to come forward and make claims of this nature will often be treated as "less than a man" or liars or both. Where are they to turn? Domestic violence policy should not become a weapon for inflicting domestic violence by making this class of victim voiceless.

Thirdly, gender-based campaigners state that domestic violence at its worst often involves the exploitation of power imbalances. Again this is absolutely right. But the message propagated by some of the more strident groups that "domestic violence can ONLY be men's responsibility" in itself creates a very real imbalance of power. It is simply human nature that some women will unfortunately abuse this situation.

Anecdotally, it has led to incidents where women initiate violence against their husbands or boyfriends knowing that he will be the one who gets the blame, especially if he tries to physically defend himself. Some extreme feminist groups assume that women's use of violence against male partners is always in self-defence and therefore always justifiable.

Like the famous line in Frost-Nixon that "if the president does it, it's not illegal", so it sometimes seems that if a woman does it, it's not domestic violence! This is how far the ideology has taken us in some instances. But implied impunity for any group in society only makes the situation worse and will increase the rates of domestic violence and family dysfunction.

Fourthly, the irony of gender-based campaigns that mandate discriminatory legal regimes is that they can only be achieved by also discarding the principles of English common law and twentieth century international human rights law. The erosion of these principles becomes collateral damage, or in economists' jargon, a "negative externality" in the quest to advance a particular cultural agenda.

We would certainly never tolerate a law against terrorism that states that a crime of this nature is predominately committed by Muslims. Even anti-hooning laws, to be human rights-compliant, could never state that these offences are predominantly committed by young males - even if this is statistically correct - because it would erode the ability of the justice system to fairly and effectively deal with offenders of whatever socio-demographic background.

Unfortunately, however, these same human rights norms are not respected when it comes to domestic violence. Recently enacted domestic violence acts in several states are prefaced by the words:"domestic violence is predominantly perpetrated by men against women and children" (eg. s.9 (3) of the NSW Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007).

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) in its far-reaching report Family Violence - A National Legal Response released earlier this month has recommended that similar discriminatory words preface all state and federal laws dealing with domestic violence, including the Family Law Act (see Recommendations 7-2 and 7-3 of its report).

Racial, or in this case gender-profiling, of offenders is controversial in law enforcement procedures, but to upgrade it into legislation is nothing short of extraordinary. It creates an obvious bias in the minds of judges and magistrates that a particular class of defendants is more likely to be guilty by reason of his gender or race than would be the case if he were of a different gender or race (and likewise the other gender or race more likely to be innocent).

In the case of the Family Law Act, its only possible application would be to prejudice fathers in parenting disputes since the Court would be required to assume that fathers are more likely to be abusive toward their children than mothers. To suggest that courts are somehow able to discard such bias in determining individual cases, while maintaining the general rule as to which groups are most likely to commit certain offences, is naïve and stupid. And if the bias is to somehow be withheld in the determination of individual cases, then why legislatively prescribe it in the first place?

The intent to breach international human rights provisions on discrimination - in particular, Articles 2, 4, 23 (4) and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and Articles 2, 7, and 16 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - is so brazen as to be almost beyond belief. But we need to remind ourselves that we are entering into a world where ideology reigns.

Assuming the ALRC recommendation is adopted, which seems likely, we have to accept that for the foreseeable future at least our country will be a place where justice is blind, but apparently not gender-blind.

In fact, laws of this type represent arguably the first time in the history of our system of law, or of any civilized system of law, where statute prescribes the socio-demographic characteristics of the persons who predominantly commit a particular crime. Even the criminal codes of Apartheid-era South Africa did not prescribe which race or ethnic group was prone to committing a particular offence.

Apparently criminologists will no longer need to conduct studies into these issues; they can just look it up in the statute! Whereas in the past, male victims of domestic violence already faced substantial cultural biases that trivialised and ignored their suffering, in an enlightened age, they now have a legislatively-prescribed presumption that they are more abusive than women in their family relationships and more dangerous to children.

What is also extraordinary about these developments is that the evidence base and the position of researchers, psychologists, psychiatrists, male health experts and sociologists in Western countries - as shown by the Australian Institute of Family Studies report, academic journal articles and the One in Three Campaign launched last year to help male victims - is increasingly moving toward an inclusive view of domestic violence that highlights the need to assist all victims regardless of their gender or socio-demographic background.

Even Richard Chisholm's Family Courts Violence Review released in January this year explicitly rejected a gender-based approach to domestic violence in family law proceedings (see page 46 of his report). On the other hand, if the ALRC report is accepted, policy will be moving in a 180 degree opposite direction. By seeming to institutionalise discrimination, the ALRC could very well weaken public confidence and support for anti-violence measures and weaken confidence in the legal system itself.

The victims of violence, whether male or female, deserve better than this. Family violence law and policy is not an arena to argue which group in society is more abusive than the other. We are never going to reduce violence with a one-sided ideological approach. The challenge now for practitioners, activists, police and legislators is to move beyond the gender blame game. Most of all, innocent children caught up in their parents' messes require us to put inclusion before ideology, safety before sexism and protection before parochialism.

We need to take the next logical, evidence-based step in the campaign that was pioneered by White Ribbon. Extend the protection and advocate for all victims!

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Court urged not to jail genital burner

A court has been urged not to jail a woman who burnt her husband to death in what her lawyer has called a momentary lapse of control.

Rajini Narayan was found guilty of manslaughter for dousing her husband, Satish, in petrol and lighting it with a candle at their home at Unley in Adelaide two years ago.

Defence lawyer Lindy Powell said the woman should be sentenced on the basis that she had planned to burn his penis as a minor circumcision after learning he had been having an affair.

Ms Powell said Narayan did not mean to kill the man but made a split-second mistake after he had insulted her.

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Federal funding 'misused' by White Ribbon Campaign

A coalition of domestic violence researchers, counsellors, psychologists and men's health workers has asked the Minister for Women Kate Ellis to investigate the possible misuse of Federal anti-violence funding by the White Ribbon Foundation.

The Foundation has been allocated $1 million over 4 years to help their White Ribbon Ambassadors work in regional, rural and remote communities - particularly in high schools - to influence the change of attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate violence against women in Australian society.

The Ambassadors have been sent a resource document by the Foundation titled "What about the men? White Ribbon, men and violence" containing numerous serious statistical errors and unreferenced claims about gender and violence which downplay the incidence and impacts of violence upon men and boys. (A complete and fully referenced three-page list of the errors can be found at

Among the many errors circulated in the document are claims such as:

  • men are less likely than women to experience violence within family and other relationships
  • we don't yet know the impact of violence on men's overall health
  • there is no evidence that male victims are less likely to report domestic violence than are female victims.

"Rigorous research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and the South Australian Department of Human Services has clearly debunked these dangerous myths," said Greg Andresen from Men's Health Australia.

"We now know that Australian men and women are equally likely to be physically assaulted by persons known to them; that the contribution of violence to the burden of disease in men is approximately 2.5 times higher than in women; and that women are almost three times as likely as men to report being a victim of domestic violence to the police."

Domestic violence counsellor and researcher Toni McLean said, "We are concerned that the Federally funded White Ribbon Ambassadors could be misleading the general public about the nature and dynamics of interpersonal violence in Australia."

"We are fully supportive of all attempts to reduce violence against women. However it is essential that a high-profile organisation such as the White Ribbon Foundation provides its Ambassadors and the general public with an accurate picture of violence in Australian society, especially when in receipt of Federal funding. If the White Ribbon Ambassadors are presenting the public with dangerous myths, their violence-prevention strategies are bound to be less effective, and could potentially cause harm - especially to children."

Psychologist and author Dr Elizabeth Celi said, "It isn't necessary for the White Ribbon Foundation to report incorrectly about male victims of violence in order to highlight the tragedy of female victims of violence. The horrific statistics about violence against women speak for themselves. The Australian Government has a responsibility to care for both male and female victims of violence - caring for one gender should not mean neglecting the other."

This is not the first time the White Ribbon Foundation has been caught using incorrect and misleading statistics. In 2008 the Foundation released An Assault on our Future: the impact of violence on young people and their relationships. This report was responsible for creating news headlines across the country exclaiming "Boys think it's OK to hit girls!" when the actual data showed that 25% of young people agreed with the statement "when a girl hits a guy it's not really a big deal."

Mr Andresen and his colleagues have written to the Chair and Board of the White Ribbon Foundation, as well as the Minister for Women Ms Ellis, but are yet to receive a response.

Media contacts:

Greg Andresen, Researcher, Men's Health Australia (NSW), / 0403 813 925
Toni McLean, Domestic Violence Counsellor & Ph.D researcher (NSW), / 0409 599 887
Sue Price, Director, Men's Rights Agency (QLD), / 07 3805 5611
Dr Elizabeth Celi, Psychologist & Author (VIC), / 0413 338 237
Micheal Woods, Adjunct Fellow, University of Western Sydney (NSW), / 0414 710 696
Greg Millan, Director, Men's Health Services (NSW), / 0417 772 390

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Two Domestic Violence Updates (USA)

Here are a couple of domestic violence updates.

First, it seems that Amber Portwood has finally been charged with criminal misbehavior for her battery of boyfriend Gary Shirley on nationwide television back in September. Read about it here (Eonline, 11/18/10). Portwood is one of the featured mothers on the TV reality series “Teen Mom.”

Her slapping, hitting and kicking Shirley occurred in the spring, but the feature only aired six months later. But, faced with video-recorded evidence, the Anderson, Indiana police neither arrested nor charged Portwood until now. I’ve been trying to figure that one out and my best guess is that they wanted to look at the out takes of the filming to be certain that the event wasn’t staged.

Apparently they’ve satisfied themselves on that subject and have charged Portwood with two felony and one misdemeanor count of battery and domestic violence.

For her part, Portwood said,

“I didn’t hit Gary in front of Leah so there are no felony charges,” she told “None of this is true, there’s nothing against me. They can’t charge me if they don’t have proof.”

Uh, Amber, remember you were on television. The whole thing was recorded. Your assaults, your battery, your obscenities - they’re all on tape.

Well, as I’ve said before, since her conduct didn’t cause Shirley any apparent injury, what Portwood needs is therapy, not prison, and previous reports have said she’s getting it.

I’m glad to see that the police apparently aren’t giving her a break because she’s a woman, or for any other reason, but we need to take a more sensible approach to DV. It’s time we stopped pretending that all DV is “battering.” It’s not; the vast majority of it is either completely non-injurious, or results in very minor injury.

As such, it shouldn’t be a subject for the police and courts; it should be dealt with as the emotional disorder it is. American and Scottish statistics show that injury more serious than a “minor cut or bruise” is fairly rare. In the U.S. 61% of women and 75% of men said they had incurred no injury whatsoever in the DV incident asked about by researchers; in Scotland 80% of men and women said they had either not been injured at all or had received only a minor cut or bruise.

In those cases, the police are not the answer, mental health professionals are. And perpetrators and victims alike must get help. DV is overwhelmingly a “family affair” in which both partners play a role, so both partners need help; it does no good to treat just one.

In the second case here, Scotland has reported that three times the number of men are reporting being the victims of domestic violence as did so a decade ago (Scottish Sun, 11/18/10). That’s probably because of heightened awareness of domestic violence on the part of men and their greater willingness to report it rather than greater levels of violence among their partners.

The hard data are that, in the previous 12 months, there were 51,926 incidents of domestic violence reported, of which about 16.6%, 8,604 were reported by males.

Now, as I’ve said before, Scotland did a study last year that showed that men are about one-sixth as likely as women to view a particular DV incident as a crime and about six times as likely as women to say that an incident is “just something that happens.” My guess is that those figures correlate pretty closely with men’s tendency (or lack thereof) to report DV incidents to the police.

If so, that would mean that the 8,604 reports by men represent about 51,000 incidents which, if women had been the victims, would have been reported to the police. In other words, there’s rough parity in victimization between the sexes. And that of course is about what you’d expect since the same study recorded 5% of men and 5% of women saying they’d experienced DV victimization in the previous 12 months.

Thanks to John for the “Teen Mom” heads-up and thanks to Ed for the info on male DV victims in Scotland.

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Battered men toll trebled (UK)

The number of domestic abuse attacks on men has TRIPLED in ten years, new figures showed yesterday.

The total number of incidents of violence in the home has dropped for the first time in a decade to 51,926 - 1,000 a week.

But there were 8,604 cases against men - 16 per cent of all attacks - compared to 2,869 in the year 2000, when they made up 8 per cent of the total. Housing and Communities Minister Alex Neil put the rise down to more males coming forward to report cases.

He said: "It is encouraging to see reported domestic abuse incidents are on the decrease. We're also pleased that more men are finding the courage to come forward." But Labour's justice spokesman Richard Baker said Holyrood's recent decision to scrap jail terms under three months could mean most abusers escape jail.

He said: "The figures are still worryingly high. There is no doubt detection rates are up but to give victims full confidence to come forward they must know the strongest penalty awaits their attackers."

Lib Dem justice spokesman Robert Brown said: "The downward trend in domestic abuse is certainly a move in the right direction. Advertisement

"However, the extent of domestic abuse in Scotland is still high. I want to see a zero tolerance approach for both men and women."

The total of 51,926 cases is a 4 per cent drop on the previous 12 months, down by 2,005 cases.

Only 15 per cent of abuse cases involved married couples with 44 per cent involving partners and 41 per cent involving exes.

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