On male victims of domestic violence

The rationale for government funding being directed to services for male perpetrators and women and children victims of violence is often given as, “men make up such a small percentage of victims of family violence that services should focus on the majority of clients: women and children.”

One of my colleagues works at a New South Wales (NSW) Local Area Health Service. She attended a compulsory training session for all NSW Health workers covering the use of a NSW Health domestic violence screening tool. The following is a direct transcription from the one of the presenters:

Well, you will encounter gender issues, obviously, throughout the whole of society. But around domestic violence, because, well as you know, because over 90 per cent, something like 98 or 97 per cent of perpetrators are male in our society, NSW Health decided to focus their Domestic Violence Policy on women, because we only have so much time and resources.

First, it should be noted here that a NSW Government employee is giving staff misinformation about the gender breakdown of domestic violence. There is absolutely no evidence showing that “something like 98 or 97 per cent of perpetrators are male.” The most conservative recent estimates [1] (from police reports, which do not cover the vast majority of male victims who never report their assaults [2] show that 82 per cent of offenders in NSW between 2001 and 2010 were male, while 30.8 per cent (almost one in three) victims of domestic assault were male.

 

I’ve put myself in my own prison because I don’t want to have any interaction with society any more. I feel too vile, too dirty, because the mainstream of society says this kind of behaviour from a woman is OK

Kevin – Male DV victim

 

Secondly, this rationale is never presented when talking about services for any other sub-population. For example, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) or Aboriginal victims of family violence aren’t ignored because they make up a small minority of victims. To the contrary: there are specialist services available for these sub-groups precisely because they are in the minority and need services tailored to their specific needs and circumstances. The same is true of male victims of family violence. It doesn’t matter whether males make up 5 per cent, 15 per cent, 35 per cent or 50 per cent of victims of family violence; the fact is that there are no services currently available to assist them. This flies in the face of our international human rights and equal opportunity obligations.

The following statistics demonstrate that at least one in three victims of family violence in Australia is male (perhaps as many as one in two). This figure includes assaults by both male and female perpetrators, and includes family members as well as intimate partners. When reading these quantitative statistics it should be remembered that family violence is extremely complex and doesn’t just boil down to ‘who does what to whom and how badly.’ The context of the violence and abuse is extremely important. Abuse can occur without the use or threat of physical violence.

Recent Australian statistics

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey (PSS, 2006) [3] is the largest and most recent survey of violence in Australia. It found that :

  • 28 per cent (around one in three) people who experienced physical assault by an intimate partner (current partner, previous partner, boyfriend, girlfriend or date) in the last 12 months were male
  • 29.8 per cent (almost one in three) victims of current partner violence since the age of 15 were male
  • 24.4 per cent (almost one in four) victims of previous partner violence since the age of 15 were male
  • There were no statistically significant differences in the prevalence rates between women and men experiencing physical assault by known perpetrators in the last 12 months (2.6% or 198,500 women and 2.7% or 213,100 men)
  • In their most recent incident of physical assault by male and female perpetrators in the last 12 months, the difference in estimates for men and women reporting physical assault by a male or female family member/ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend were not statistically significant. However this information does not infer that there were no differences in the overall prevalence of men and women experiencing physical assault by family members/ex-boyfriends/ex-girlfriends.
  • The characteristics of the location of the most recent incidents of physical assault by males and females in the last 12 months showed that while men experienced almost equal numbers of most recent assaults by male and female perpetrators in a home; and while women experienced almost five times as many most recent assaults by male compared to female perpetrators in a home; the total number of most recent assaults experienced in a home was similar for men and women. It is not possible to generate estimates for the total number of persons who experienced physical assault in a home. ?Significant problems with this survey include, (a) only female interviewers were used, (b) a much smaller sample of male informants was used compared to female informants, and (c) no data was published on types of violence or injuries or threats received by male victims.

I was petrified to come home from work and would see her car in the drive and have to drive away and sit for an hour or so by myself to prepare for the likely barrage to come. I lived in terror walking on eggshells around her for nigh on 20 years. I attempted suicide a number of times.

Dan – Male DV victim

The SA Interpersonal Violence and Abuse Survey (1999)[4] found that 32.3 per cent (almost one in three) victims of reported domestic violence by a current or ex-partner (including both physical and emotional violence and abuse) were male.

The Crime Prevention Survey (2001)[5] surveyed young people aged 12 to 20 and found that:

  • while 23 per cent of young people were aware of domestic violence against their mothers or step-mothers by their fathers or step-fathers, an almost identical proportion (22 per cent) of young people were aware of domestic violence against their fathers or step-fathers by their mothers or step-mothers
  • an almost identical proportion of young females (16 per cent) and young males (15 per cent) answered “yes” to the statement “I’ve experienced domestic violence”
  • an almost identical proportion of young females (6 per cent) and young males (5 per cent) answered “yes” to the statement “my boyfriend/girlfriend physically forced me to have sex”. ?The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR, 2005)[6] found that between 1997 and 2004, 28.9 per cent (almost one in three) victims of domestic assault in NSW were male. Men and women suffered similar percentages of injuries and similar injury types as illustrated below.

 

Poor dad. I had seen him walking naked in the back yard at night all up- set and embarrassed; and I had seen him crawling under the bed to escape her vicious attacks, and I have seen him nursing his fresh wounds in the toilet, and he would say no word against her.

Son talking about parents

 

Click to enlarge

 

 

Click to enlarge

BOCSAR also examined trends and characteristics of domestic homicides in NSW over the period January 2003 to June 2008 [7]. During this time, there were 215 victims of domestic homicide; 115 females and 100 males (almost one in two victims were male). Intimate partners were responsible for 43 per cent of domestic homicide victims (70 females and 23 males – one in four were male).

The Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission (2005)[8] found that 32.6 per cent (almost one in three) victims of family violence reported to police were male.

The Australian Institute of Criminology (2008)[9] found that 48.7 per cent (almost one in two) adult victims of family homicide and 35.4 per cent (over one in three) victims of intimate partner homicide in 2006-07 were male.

The Victorian Victims Support Agency (2008) [10] found that 31 per cent (almost one in three) persons admitted to Victorian Public Hospitals for family violence injuries were male.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies (1999) [11] observed that, post-separation, fairly similar proportions of men (55 per cent) and women (62 per cent) reported experiencing physical violence including threats by their former spouse. Emotional abuse was reported by 84 per cent of women and 75 per cent of men.

A University of Melbourne / La Trobe University study (1999) [12] found that men were just as likely to report being physically assaulted by their partners as women. Further, women and men were about equally likely to admit being violent themselves. Men and women also reported experiencing about the same levels of pain and need for medical attention resulting from domestic violence.

An extensive study of dominance and symmetry in partner violence by male and female university students in 32 nations by Murray Straus (2008)[13] found that, in Australia, 14 per cent of physical violence between dating partners during the previous 12 months was perpetrated by males only, 21 per cent by females only and 64.9 per cent was mutual violence (where both partners used violence against each other).

The Queensland Government Department of Communities (2009)[14] reported that 40 per cent of domestic and family violence protection orders issued by the Magistrate Court were issued to protect males.

A study of risk factors for recent domestic physical assault in patients presenting to the emergency department of Adelaide hospitals (2004)[15] found that 7 per cent of male patients and 10 per cent of female patients had experienced domestic physical assault. This finding shows that over one in three victims were male (39.7 per cent).

The Australian Institute of Family Studies’ evaluation of the 2006 family law reforms (2009)[16] found that 39 per cent (more than one in three) victims of physical hurt before separation were male; and 48 per cent (almost one in two) victims of emotional abuse before or during separation were male.

A study of relationship aggression, violence and self-regulation in Australian?newlywed couples by researchers at the University of Queensland (2010)[17]?found that female violence was more common than male violence, with 76 women (20 per cent) and 34 men (9 per cent) reporting to have been violent. In violent couples the most common pattern was for only the woman to be violent (n=48/82 or 59 per cent of violent couples), next most common was violence by both partners (n=28, 34 per cent), and least common was male-only violence (n=6, 7 per cent).

We reiterate: it doesn’t matter whether males make up 5 per cent, 15 per cent, 35 per cent or 50 per cent of victims of domestic violence, the fact is that there are no services currently available to assist them and this flies in the face of our international human rights and equal opportunity obligations.

[1] http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/pages/bocsar_mr_bb61

[2] http://www.health.sa.gov.au/pros/portals/0/interpersonal-violence-survey.pdf . http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-224-x/85-224-x2009000-eng.pdf . http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/296149/0092065.pdf.

[3] http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4906.02005 (Reissue)?OpenDocument

[4] http://www.health.sa.gov.au/pros/portals/0/interpersonal-violence-survey.pdf

[5] http://www.crimeprevention.gov.au/agd/WWW/ncphome.nsf/Page/Publications

[6]?http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/pages/bocsar_mr_cjb89

[7] http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/pages/bocsar_mr_bb42

[8] http://www.cmc.qld.gov.au/data/portal/00000005/content/73653001131400781353.pdf

[9] http://www.aic.gov.au/en/publications/current%20series/mr/1-20/01.aspx

[10] http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/victimsofcrime/resources/e/1/e12b7580438a02bd93bfd7898c252b91/victorian_family_violence_database_nine_year_report-part_1_1999_2008.pdf

[11] http://www.aic.gov.au/en/publications/current%20series/mr/1-20/01.aspx

[12] http://www.mensrights.com.au/page13y.htm

[13] http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/ID41-PR41-Dominance-symmetry-In-Press-07.pdf

[14] http://www.menshealthaustralia.net/files/Magistrates_Court_data_on_QLD_DVOs.pdf

[15] Stuart, P. (2004). Risk factors for recent domestic physical assault in patients presenting to the emergency department. Emergency Medi- cine Australasia, 16(3), 216-224.

[16] http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/fle/evaluationreport.pdf

[17] Halford, W. K., Farrugia, C., Lizzio, A., & Wilson, K. (2010). Relationship aggression, violence and self-regulation in Australian newlywed couples. Australian Journal of Psychology, 62(2), 82-92.

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