ABC RADIO - NIGHTLIFE - 26TH MAY 2010
DOMESTIC ABUSE OF MEN - TRANSCRIPT

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Tony Delroy: Tonight I thought we’d spend our first hour talking about an issue that doesn’t usually get much media attention, but a report released today in Perth is probably going to change that. I’m talking about domestic abuse of men; a situation that turns the traditional male as the abuser, female as the victim scenario on the head. Sadly, the domestic abuse of men in Australia is regarded as significant, but hidden. The report was commissioned by the Men’s Advisory Network in Western Australia and in the last 18 months, researchers from Edith Cowan University have interviewed a range of people impacted by the abuse of men. 

Joining us in our Perth studios tonight, the Executive Officer of the Men’s Advisory Network, Gary Bryant, and Dr. Elizabeth Celi, a psychologist with experience of working with male victims. Welcome to you both. 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Good Evening, Tony. 

Gary Bryant: Hi Tony. 

Tony Delroy: Gary, I’ll start with you. When the Men’s Advisory Network commissioned the report by the researchers, what was the objective, what were you trying to do? 

Gary Bryant: Well, we had been making submissions to government for, I guess, many years, to say that, you know, there are male victims and we need some support services for them, but got absolutely nowhere with that sort of approach. And we set up a steering committee for the project. We received funding from Lotterywest, the lottery commission here in Western Australia, and put together the study brief and selected the Psychology Department at Edith Cowan University to undertake this study. And I mean, our bottom line was, and still is, to try and get support services for men. And what we were hoping to achieve out of this was that it would demonstrate that there are genuine male victims because people just don’t recognise that and they’re invisible. 

Tony Delroy: It’s interesting, a little while ago, there was a federal public servant, or an ex-federal public servant who actually took the Federal Health Department to court claiming that there was a women’s health policy, but not a men’s health policy. Do the men get overlooked? 

Gary Bryant: Well, it’s interesting because we’ve now just in the last month or so had a national men’s health policy released. But certainly in this area of domestic violence and abuse, absolutely yes, there’s just not the support services there for men. 

Tony Delroy: Gary, the research was conducted in two stages. Tell us how that unfolded. 

Gary Bryant: Yes, the first stage was interviews with male victims and also with significant others, such as family and friends. And I think there was one adult child in amongst those significant others, and also with some service providers. And that found that men suffer from the same range and forms of different sort of abuse, so it’s not just physical violence, it’s things like emotional and psychological put downs, it’s social isolation so that they are cutoff from family and friends. It can be financial abuse, even sexual abuse; a whole range of different forms of abuse. 

Tony Delroy: How easy was it for them to find people who could not only help, but also who were willing to talk about what is a difficult experience? 

Gary Bryant: Yes, it was very difficult. In fact, they had a number of men who contacted them, but these men were really just looking to find out where they could get support services and they declined to want to be interviewed. Originally we had hoped, or the researchers had hoped, and we had putting the project together to interview Aboriginal men, gay men, men from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. But they did not get any of those. In fact, the youngest man that they interviewed was, I think 33, and so that sort of 20 years age group was another group that they very much would have liked to have spoken to victims, but didn’t get any. 

Tony Delroy: Indigenous men just said “no”. 

Gary Bryant: Well, it wasn’t so much that they said, no. They just did not come forward. I think there’s major barriers for a lot of these men, and they – certainly, the men also, the original plan was they would be interviewed face-to-face, but they didn’t want to be interviewed face-to-face, they wanted to be, sort of more anonymous by telephone. And I think the barriers for, let’s call it the mainstream, sort of Anglo-Australian men are considerable, but they are even greater for say an Aboriginal man or a gay man. 

Tony Delroy: Before we talk about some of the specific findings, Gary, were there any huge surprises or shocks in the findings for you? 

Gary Bryant: No. As I say, they found that all the sort of forms of abuse that women suffer, men suffer the same; that there’s often multiple forms of abuse. The one thing that they did discover that had not been reported anywhere else in previously in the literature or any other research, was what they called legal administrative abuse. And this is where somebody takes quite legitimate legal administrative processes and uses them to abuse the other person. I know this is where things like making false accusations to get violence restraining orders, denying fathers access to their children. Those forms were identified as forms of abuse. 

Tony Delroy: Interesting. Dr. Celi, you spoke at today’s launch and you’ve obviously had broad experience with male victims. Anything stand out for you? 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: The qualitative research that has just been launched today; yes I did speak at the launch today. And it was very encouraging to see a lot of the key factors affecting men that they do experience multiple ranges of abuse and violence by female perpetrators. The other significant findings were about the barriers to disclosure and how difficult it actually is for men and some of their fears in disclosing. And as Gary just explained, this unique variable of legal administrative abuse that is specific to male victims by female perpetrators. So, they’re quite significant and encouraging findings in drawing out a lot of the factors I’ve found working clinically and one-on-one with male victims over the last few years of which about 40 percent of my client base would be male victims that I’ve worked with over the last few years since releasing my book. 

Tony Delroy: Elizabeth, are the approaches in helping male victims similar or very different from that given to female victims? 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Well, when you’re dealing with male victims, you’re really working through a significant amount of shame. And that was one of the first barriers to them disclosing. And so a man that’s experienced – a male victim that’s experienced abuse and violence by a female perpetrator, despite less verbal expression in public or talking about it within his social circles, male victims most certainly experience a significantly deep internal sense of shame, failure, and immense self-doubt. So, he’s questioning his own identity as a man, he’s questioning his masculinity, his self-worth, and questioning his place and with the multiple forms of abuse that he faces, the incredible helplessness and powerlessness that develops over time become quite significant issues you need to address with him, initially building up his self-worth again and his self-concept. 

So, as you’re working through that and helping him re-establish his own inner strength, if I can put it that way, you’re then helping him develop some assertive communication skills and self-confidence again in order to look at the context of the abuse, the dynamic that’s going on, and you’re weighing up the pros and cons of risks in keeping him safe and helping him keep his kids safe with the female perpetrator or the mother of the children. In how he is then assertively communicating himself if he chooses to stay in the relationship and any risk of escalation, ongoing abuse, or if he chooses to leave and the risk of retaliation or vindictiveness and manipulation that female perpetrators can then inflict and the legal administrative abuse that becomes more of a risk that can unfortunately be all too easily used against a male victim adding to the range of issues he needs to contend with. It’s incredibly fatiguing for him. And an incredible challenge every step of the way. 

Tony Delroy: Elizabeth, you’ve also had a chance to analyse the psychology of the females who abuse males. How do they differ from male abusers? Do you know? Is there a specific thing? 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Female perpetrators really parallel male perpetrators in that they’re just as driven by motives of power, control, fear, and intimidation over their male victims that they’re violent and abusive towards. And so in female perpetrators, a key variable, speaking from my own clinical experience as well, is that the excessive need for control becomes quite a factor and it translates itself in excessive verbal criticisms, verbal barrage, emotional abuse, attacks on his manhood, attacks on his masculinity and sexual performance, attacks on his role as a father and so really demeaning his role and his relationship, his role as a father and relationship with the kids where the kids are then unable to establish a relationship with him as a father and man in his own right. 

And so, you know, the same motives of that power and control, intimidating him and manipulating him are there from a female perpetrator. So, we’ve just not, not have to kid ourselves that women can’t be just as manipulating and damaging in how they treat their male partners. 

Tony Delroy: It’s interesting. So it’s not only the relationship that breaks down, it’s the family unit completely. It – 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: It has this – yes. I’m sorry to interrupt you. It does have a significant impact on the family. You’ve got the children watching this role modelling of the mother abusing the father, the mother demeaning him in his character as a father, and the children even receiving specific comments that insult the father. And then add to that the unfortunate witnessing of physical violence, the throwing of domestic objects, scratching, hitting, punching, all amongst this frenzy of emotional abuse that becomes quite a war zone, so to speak, that children exposed to that can be just a traumatised as the male victim is so often sort of referred to female perpetrator’s viper tongue that can really create quite a stun gun effect to a man’s psyche. He’s quite shocked and it’s quite difficult to defend himself. So the kind of abuse and – the kind of abuse that a female perpetrator may inflict is difficult to detect and difficult to defend against. And it can creep under the skin that before he knows it, his self-concept’s diminished considerably and he’s accepted far more unacceptable behavior than a lot would. 

Tony Delroy: Gary we saw an interesting news story happen only in the last week or so where a young teenage girl was attacking a male teacher in a high school, and it was a situation where, you know, the footage that was covered, you know, by an amateur person in the classroom off a mobile phone, I mean, the little girl looked as though she was a Virago and the teacher was, you know, battling as best he could to control the situation, but she was just belting into him. 

Gary Bryant: Yeah, and look, I’m not a researcher and Elizabeth might be able to comment more, better on this than I can. But certainly the whole thing of, say with teenagers and the sort of teen dating abuse and violence and so on, that as I understand it, the research shows that basically all of the boys and the girls believe that it is wrong for a boy to you know, physically or emotionally abuse a girl. Whereas, both of them, you know, don’t see it as being wrong for the girl to do the same sort of things to the boy. 

Tony Delroy: I also notice in this report, you used the term intimate partner abuse instead of domestic abuse. Why the different terminology, Gary? 

Gary Bryant: I’m not altogether sure on that one. 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Tony, there’s a lot of background research that does refer to intimate partner violence and intimate partner abuse in actually having a look at male victims and female perpetrators. And so it’s looking specifically in the context of intimate relationships between a man and a women, hence why it’s called intimate partner violence as opposed to say a male victim being a victim to extended family whether it be a mother or an auntie for example, that’s the perpetrator in the violence or the abuse that he’s experiencing. So, intimate partner violence is looking specifically at the relationship context. 

Tony Delroy: Elizabeth, what about the domestic abuse in same-sex relationships. How does the abuser and the victim, both being male, change the dynamics of how you treat the situation? 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: That’s a difficult one for me to answer Tony in that as Gary mentioned before, there weren’t many homosexual men that came forward. And so some of the specific factors that can affect gay relationship or lesbian relationship violence, whilst there is a lot of similar motives and power, etc., there are other blocks and barriers that the gay and lesbian community also face in being able to disclose some of their concerns. So, I may not be able to give you as informed a comment on that. It’s another difficult target group to be able to access some of those intricacies. 

Tony Delroy: Indeed. Gary, I know the research came up with a lot of findings. Can you take us through what the major discoveries were? 

Gary Bryant: Well after we talked about the interviews that they did at the first stage, the second stage then was to have a questionnaire survey which was based on those findings plus other things that are in the literature and to survey service providers. And what that found was that it, you know, reinforced, validated what the individual interviews had found. And it was pretty much that the same sort of barriers to why men would not come forward, it also came up with – this was in the survey, some of the factors that would facilitate men coming forward, what the service providers needed to do, and the service providers themselves said, “we’re sort of doing okay, but look, we could really do much better in meeting the needs of these male victims”. 

Tony Delroy: Gary, what are you going to do with the findings now? Have you made some recommendations yourself to authorities and you know, are they considering making some changes? 

Gary Bryant: The researchers themselves from the University did make several recommendations. And I mean, the bottom line for us as an organisation is to try and get the support services for men. Now one of the first steps is to raise community awareness that this is an issue and that there are legitimate male victims out there. And I think that one of the recommendations was that there should be a government funded campaign to raise awareness. 

Now, I think we’ve got, you know, not much chance at all of getting governments to jump on the bandwagon in the next, you know few months, or whatever, to do that, but that would certainly be a major step forward. The sort of thing that I think that hopefully will happen and we’re going to run a workshop in about three weeks time for the service providers is that we’ll get some at least of the service providers to say, “OK, yes, we recognise that there are male victims and we are prepared in our publicity of programs and so on to say yes, and we cater for male victims”. And that will be, at least, you know, a starting point. 

Tony Delroy: Elizabeth, there are some who are concerned that this report is anti-women. Will the findings help target support services for men without it necessarily detracting from women’s services? 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Well I’m glad you raised that Tony because that is really an erroneous assumption that constantly comes up in this area of advocacy in that people make the automatic assumption of what you just said. That it’s either to take away services from female victims or demeans the value or the intensity of what female victims face. And that is so not the case. It’s not an “us versus them” scenario. It’s very much a female victims and male victims are experiencing this distress. And so in parallel, we need to be able to assist both, because any forms of abuse and violence, regardless of gender, is unacceptable. And so that’s a myth and an assumption that we very clearly would like to dispel. It most certainly doesn’t demean or diminish any of the immensely valuable work that female victims need support with. 

One of the key things out of this particular research study, which I was also glad came out, is that male victims of abuse by female perpetrators really feel it would be easier for them to disclose their experience if there was greater public knowledge and understanding of how they experience abuse and violence by female perpetrators. And so service providers, researchers, policymakers, government, in particular need to be made very aware of the factors that are impeding male victims from disclosing the abuse that they experience from female perpetrators. 

And so it’s really being able to increase community understanding, dispelling a lot of myths, or just simple naivety or ignorance about it where if you’re not flagged that this is a possibility and to keep an eye out for certain signs and signals, then you just don’t know what you don’t know and it’s likely to fly over the head just quite naively. 

And so male victims of abuse by female perpetrators tend to face quite flippant comments when they do pluck up the courage to say something. Comments like, “You must have done something to deserve it” or “Come on, you’re a bloke, just get over it.” And so, where female victims were three or four decades ago in terms of the silent phenomenon of domestic violence is very much where male victims are in today’s day and age. And so thankfully with the multitude of much needed awareness on female victims over the last few decades, it’s unfortunately created a bit of a side effect that “all men can only be perpetrators”. And that “all men are to be treated with caution” and so male victims are then viewed with judgment, disbelief, and far less compassion and empathy. 

And the other top two barriers to men disclosing was a fear of being disbelieved or disregarded and a fear of gender bias. And I regret to say that in reality, they’re not just fears. They’re actually occurring. I’ve seen that occur for male victims, which is really unfortunate. So they’re re-victimised. 

Tony Delroy: Yes, it is the reality. 

Gary, how well equipped are our police forces around the nation to deal with calls to domestic abuse situations particularly where the victim’s male? 

Gary Bryant: I’m not all together sure about that one. I mean, I think – I mean it’s interesting that virtually all legislation is gender neutral; however, it’s the way in which things are then put into practice. And I mean, I know going back probably 10 years or so ago, the police were being trained that if they went to a domestic, then, you know, the man is going to be the perpetrator – get rid of him. And the female is going to be the victim. I think probably awareness within the police is changing that there can be the female perpetrator, male victim, and on a lot of occasions, it’s the mutual abuse. You know, did he start it, did she start it. I mean, if they both stuck into each other, then they both need help because they’re both victims and they’re both perpetrators. 

Tony Delroy: Talking tonight about Domestic Abuse of Men - a brand new report just released in WA Today. And the Executive Officer of the Men’s Advisory Network, Gary Bryant, who was the spark for the report, is with us tonight and also Dr. Elizabeth Celi, a psychologist with experience of working with male victims. 

Just wondering whether you have some issues in this area that you’d like to talk about. Perhaps you have been a victim in the past. Perhaps you have been a female perpetrator of abuse in the past. Perhaps you have had the upper hand in a relationship and not been afraid to use it. Sometimes it’s, as we know, sticks and stones can break the bones, but words really do hurt. 

Domestic abuse on men. We’d love to hear from you tonight. 

[MUSIC] 

Announcer: Nightlife. This is Tony Delroy’s Nightlife. 

Tony Delroy: With us in studio tonight in our Perth studio is Gary Bryant from the Men’s Advisory Network and Dr. Elizabeth Celi, a psychologist. It’s 20 and a half minutes to the latest ABC news, I think we’ll go to calls straight away. Steve, you want to talk about the government processes used to abuse men. 

Steve: Well I’ve got a couple of quick points, Tony. First of all, I reported an assault done to me by my ex-partner in 2003 while I was holding our two-year old daughter, and all the police officer did was laugh at me. And said if I wasn’t satisfied with the relationship perhaps I should leave. Which ultimately, I did do, but then what I’ve had to do since separating from a six-year relationship, I’ve spent the last seven years fighting through the criminal system, the administrative system, the family system, the federal system. I’m broke, I’m not represented, and a favourite trick appears to be lodging of false child support claims as an example of administrative abuse. And a Deakin University study in the mid-90’s, attributed 21 male suicides a week to the actions of the Child Support Agency. 

Tony Delroy: Gary, are you hearing stories similar to this from Steve? 

Gary Bryant: Yes. And that was one of the things that the study identified which other previous studies had not recognised and that is this legal and administrative abuse. And it can take all sorts of different forms. 

Tony Delroy: Can you see – Steve, I was just going to ask, can you see a way out of this, or are you stuck in a revolving door? 

Steve: Well, luckily I’ve come across a guy and I won’t mention his name, but he may become known to people as time wears on, and apparently the CSA for example, are actually breaking their own laws by putting people on a capacity to earn. I’ll state you an example, Tony, they’re telling me that I should be earning $48,000 a year. I’m unemployed, I’m looking for work, but at the same time, they’re telling me I should be on $48,000 a year. Centrelink have done assessments on me in the past and said “you had depression at the time”. I’m no longer suffering depression. I’m no longer suffering anxiety, I’ve come through that, but at the time they’re saying, well you’re capable of working maybe eight hours a week, at the same time, the Child Support Agency is telling me, you should be on $48,000 a year. I have, as we speak, a $17,000 child support debt. 

Tony Delroy: I think that says it all. Elizabeth you wanted to comment. 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Tony, yes. Steve’s comment earlier of the kind of comment he received of, “Well if you don’t like the relationship, just leave,” unfortunately, is all too common in people really grossly underestimating the psychological impact that male victims are experiencing in their internal sense of shame, guilt, being battered and quite legitimately having diminished psychological health to actually do something to defend themselves. So, to receive comments like that and then going through the kind of administrative distress that Steve’s described, is asking for energy that has already been depleted and you’re asking it from someone with incredible, an incredible sense of helplessness and powerlessness, which adds insult to injury. 

So, we really need to recognise how we’re underestimating the psychological impact on male victims. 

Tony Delroy: Steve, thanks so much for raising that issue tonight. Fred, you want to talk about how your wife abducted your child. 

Fred: Well that’s exactly right. And poor Steve there, I feel for him so much. The Child Support Agency is absolutely ridiculous. But they have been good in times. I mean, at times, I’ve been docked my whole wage, and not even had enough money for fuel to, you know, to get home – this is when I was working before the whole scenario which went on. And actually, I’m actually calling for some help, if I can get some help. Because I’ve still got an ongoing case – well, it’s not an ongoing case – I don’t want to mention too much, but it’s now I’m being actually sued from my solicitors for court costs even though I’ve been awarded court costs through the Federal Magistrate Court, but yet they say – my solicitors say that they’re awarded to me, not them. Therefore it’s for me to take up with the other party, and that’s why I’m – anyway. But I’m in a spot where I actually called my solicitors to say I was, you know, I’m seeking legal advice – 

Tony Delroy: Between a rock and a hard place and nowhere to run. 

Fred: Well, none at all. But it was also really difficult because the child was absent – like I said, was taken out of the state, changed name, and all the rest of it, but yet, I am – and all I was wanting was having access to my son before any of this started. And we had a 50/50 well before then, it was all fine, until whatever – something happened, probably the new boyfriend. I don’t know but then it was “see you later”. And that was with court orders in place. And it still didn’t make any difference. 

Tony Delroy: Gary? 

Gary Bryant: The national support line for men is Mensline Australia. 

Fred: Oh yes, I’ve called them. 

Gary Bryant: Yeah, I was just going to give the number, perhaps other people would be interested in it – 1300 78 99 78. 

Tony Delroy: 78 99 78. Okay. 

Gary Bryant: Yep. That’s Mensline Australia, it’s a 24-hour support line for men. Now, the whole thing is, there’s very little that can be done. I mean, that – these sort of stories, it’s anecdotal but we hear them all the time. 

Tony Delroy: Fred, you’re in a situation where you’re being sued by your own lawyers now. 

Fred: That’s exactly right. 

Tony Delroy: And it’s because your wife has essentially disappeared and – 

Fred: Well, ex-partner. No I actually have my child in my custody now. And she’s actually, she was on supervised visitation for quite a – now, people will, she’ll know who it is now, but anyway, but could pay up to $1,500 a week to do that. At $100 an hour. 

Tony Delroy: So, you have possession of the child, but you also have a huge bill. 

Fred: Now, I’ve gone back to the court and we’ve settled with he gets every second weekend with his mom, which is about what is – you know, it ‘s about the child, you know. 

Tony Delroy: Nightmarish stuff. Thanks Fred for talking about it. Unfortunately over the phone we can’t do anything direct for you. Eva, you know of a woman who used to bash her partner. 

Eva: Yes. I’m worried about making this call, but I’ve watched this women go through two marriages. The first one, she married in her 20’s and the man was slightly feminine and she was much bigger than him. He broke up with her after about 10 years, and he was a friend of mine. He sort of turned a bit gay, I think after. And he was very angry and I was having a drink with him one day and he just broke down and he just said “she started bashing me up”. And he said, “I told myself I can go through this”, but he just couldn’t. 

The second man she married, I happened to be at the doctor’s clinic where he went and he had really nasty slashes down his face and – well obviously had a big swipe with nails. And you know, I said to him, “what happened to him”, and she said, “oh, blah, blah, blah”. But I’ve never known whether to report it, I’ve never known what to do about it. It’s just that I know of a man basher and I’m just trying to contribute tonight and say they really are out there. 

Tony Delroy: Absolutely. Elizabeth, serial offenders? 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: I beg your pardon? 

Tony Delroy: There are serial offenders out there sometimes? 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Female perpetrators, yeah. Look, one of the things that we tend to do, and Eva’s story again is a common one in witnessing female perpetrators. Firstly, it shocks a lot of observers because you’re thinking, “wow, what do I do and where do I go?” It can be quite incessant and quite shocking. It leaves people feeling rather helpless. And so, the thing that we end up doing inadvertently in society by not speaking up about it, is that we’re inadvertently endorsing abusive behavior by female perpetrators by not saying something. 

And so, if you think back, as Gary was mentioning before, boys and men are incessantly taught never to hit a girl or a woman, and yet are girls and women taught never to hit a man just as incessantly, or is she ever pulled up on slapping him or hitting him or incessantly criticising him the way a man would be pulled up without a second thought? And so by staying silent on observing some of these behaviours and abusive behaviours, we’re inadvertently endorsing it. 

Now having said that, it is incredibly difficult to say something because they can trigger immense fear. Female perpetrators, the motives I mentioned before of control and fear and intimidation, there’s incredible abuse and violent tactics and strategies that help keep people at a distance or put them into fear so that nothing’s said, and people just kind of back away and then it creates a nice – 

Eva: But who should I have contacted? 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: At times it could just be assisting the male victim to get some support for himself, some counselling to re-strengthen him and being a support in his circle. Sometimes it’s really quite contextual and situational, Eva, as to, if you were to say anything to the perpetrator and at times it just may not be safe to given their behaviour. But in certainly helping the victim gain some support and some understanding that there’s people around that notice and helping him get to some psychological help is a very important first step in helping him build up his strength. And as with many of the male victims I’ve assisted, once they get some understanding of the situation and they realise they are not to blame, that they have every right to feel safe and that the female perpetrator is responsible for their inappropriate behaviour, then he can start making some informed and empowered decisions, and you can then be a far better support for him in that process. 

And so, having someone walking alongside him can be incredibly powerful and helpful. So don’t underestimate that as a support. 

Tony Delroy: Eva, thank you so much for raising the issue. Greg, you were saying that you marriage has come to divorce and you were fatigued from the verbal abuse that you copped. 

Greg: Yeah. It was insidious because the abuse – my ex-wife is a charming, delightful person, and for anyone to meet her you’d be greatly impressed with her. And but what happened in the marriage and with my children, who are now 18, 16 and 14, was her anger was – everything was relative. So that if I was trying to provide some sort of guidance, that actually would be demeaned in front of the children, also “that’s just your opinion”. And the frustration built up over years and years to the point where I just had to try to control my language, my actions, my gestures, speak calmly, but inside you’re just this volcanic eruption of frustration over years and years of this cycle. 

The effect it’s had on me basically is my memory is shot when it comes to memories with anything to do with the family, children, work, otherwise. My memory – I’ve got next to no damned memory. And yet to meet my ex-wife, she’s an absolutely charming person. But – 

Tony Delroy: Yeah, like butter wouldn’t melt. 

Greg: It’d fry! 

Tony Delroy: [Laughs]. Elizabeth? 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Greg, thank you for sharing what you have, that’s also quite common. One of the things for male victims is, with the incessant verbal barrages, the constant attacks, the criticisms, it becomes incredibly fatiguing. And men end up basically in a position of just holding on to their own identity for dear life. It’s a matter of survival, of just holding on to his identity, remembering who he is. And working through the clouds of confusion from the insults, from the turning things against him, using his own words against him and manipulating things that are said and done. That it creates quite a confusion within his own mind that he really doesn’t know north from south. And that’s part of a battered syndrome that male victims are experiencing and hence where we’re grossly underestimating the emotional impact in his ability to do something about it in a particular timeframe. 

Men also seem to have different thresholds in terms of when they realise they’re actually being abused. So the goalposts are quite different for men in that it will take repetitive abusive or violent behaviour before they’ll click – “hang on, I’m being abused”. And actually call it, which is a difference between male victims and female victims in some instances. 

Tony Delroy: Greg, I just wanted to ask, was there anybody you could talk about this to? You know, I mean, was there a mate, or anyone else within the close vicinity that you could actually talk about the problem with? 

Greg: Yeah, but what, sorry, the psychologist there, the lady – her first name? 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Elizabeth. 

Greg: Elizabeth. Well what Elizabeth was just saying is very true in that I wasn’t aware it was abuse. I just realised it was a difficulty in the relationship. And I think a lot of men, you know, a lot of men honour their integrity and will try to do the best and model and give an example to their children. 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Absolutely. 

Greg: And, I was very conscious of that that my actions, the way I speak, etc. is modelling for the children. What Elizabeth has pointed out tonight which has shone new light on the situation and the behaviour of my children, is that my wife has modelled how to abuse a partner, another person. And that’s their modelling of how to have a relationship, it’s just disastrous. 

Tony Delroy: Greg, thank you very much for your candour. Andy, you were in a relationship with a violent, bi-polar partner. 

Andy: Yeah. I didn’t realise it, and none of her friends did. And we bought a house together and we were going to renovate and then buy another one and then slowly build up houses. And then I realised that she wanted more than just the houses, and then as I tried to get out of that she was violent and aggressive and as I tried to get out further, she tried to suicide. So, I then felt sorry for her and stayed. And then the violence got worse and worse and worse, and then she tried to suicide again. So I felt sorry for her and stayed. Yeah, and it just got out of control. 

And Elizabeth is so on the money. I’m in the middle of shaving and I stopped and I’m half-shaved. And I went “wow, this lady has got the details so down”. I need to meet you, I need to talk. You are just so – I went to counsellors that are absolutely useless and spent a fortune trying to get my head sorted and I’ve moved a long way from that, but you are so in the detail – fantastic! Amazing. I’m not being nice to you; I admit that many people who think they know, they should be digging holes or something. Your detail is amazing. And it’s really exciting to know somebody’s picked up the thread that’s been floating around for ages that people haven’t touched and it’s just wonderful to hear you speak. 

Tony Delroy: Andy, thanks very much for the call. I appreciate it. Simon, you were also a victim of domestic abuse. You want to talk about the cycle of violence. 

Simon: Yes, I do Tony, thanks. Elizabeth, good evening. Was there another guy as well, the guy from Western Australia? Is he listening in? 

Tony Delroy: Yeah, Gary. 

Gary Bryant: Gary, I’m here. 

Simon: Yeah, Gary, look, you got to be in on this too. I was really, this is for you Gary, I was really annoyed ‘cause I took about two years for me to get out. I had my abuser, my ex, she’s now my ex, I don’t call her my abuser anymore ‘cause things are going okay. But I’m very wary. Um, she’s charged, she’s got a criminal record. Brings us back to your last question Tony – how do the police handle it? I was very lucky down where I live, my psychologist told me. He said, “You were very lucky. Usually they just send you back home to sort it out”. But they took it seriously and they arrested her over the phone. They went round there and she was charged and she was – she told me that night she was thrown into a cell with a prostitute and she was treated accordingly. 

But back to you Elizabeth. It takes a lot of effort to be a victim. You actually become one. And you get good at it, don’t you? 

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Well, Simon there’s an aspect of the helplessness where, in choosing to stay in the relationship, it’s actually accepting a less fulfilling relationship and succumbing to a poorer quality of life in that it seems like this is my lot, this is just how it is. This is the relationship. I can make it work. Things will get better. And you end up settling for an abusive dynamic. Tony, if I can add in for many men, I think it was Greg earlier had made a comment about maintaining integrity. One of the things I’ve found with male victims is their level of loyalty to their partner and the loyalty becomes unconditional to the point that it becomes a weakness and ultimately self-defeating which a female perpetrator can then manipulate and abuse. And so I’ve often found with the male victims as we are helping simply acknowledge some of the abuse and some of the occurrences that are happening verbally, psychologically, or physically. That whilst he’s actually speaking of her abuse toward him, he feels a parallel sense of guilt at his perceived betrayal toward her. So, there’s still love there, there’s still care for her and care for her as the mother of their children. And that loyalty becomes a bit of a distortion in that it becomes unconditional loyalty and it’s a double-edged sword for male victims as they’re trying to break the cycle and understand it a little bit more. 

Tony Delroy: Indeed Elizabeth. I have to wrap it there, but thank you so much for joining us tonight. Dr. Elizabeth Celi with us tonight, a psychologist from WA. Gary Bryant is also with us tonight, Executive Officer of the Men’s Advisory Network that sparked this latest report on domestic abuse of men. Thanks Gary.