Men as Victims of Women
Some men often reply to the important and relevant issue of violence against women by raising the equally important and relevant issue of violence perpetrated by women against men.
So let's get into that. Those who ask, "What about women who abuse men?" or say "Well, men are victims too!" are absolutely right! In fact, the issue of men as victims of domestic violence is one which is too seldom mentioned and it is time to acknowledge it openly.
While there is a lot of research about men as perpetrators and women as victims of intimate partner violence, there is a growing body of research which looks at the issue of men as victims of abuse perpetrated by women.
Half the Story
For years, men and men's advocates have asked for a more balanced approach to examining and reporting on issues of domestic violence. In essence, when the research and reporting on the studies focus on female victims and do not give equal space to reporting male victims, they are telling half the story! For more on this, see the video below.
In relation to the well known Duluth Model, some men's advocates have sought to have it amended so as not to vilify men. On its face, they claim that it sets men as perpetrators and women as victims of all family violence.
Research suggests that in many instances where intimate partner violence is alleged, both parties are engaging in words or conduct which falls within the definition of "violence against women" as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
The image below represents what a gender-neutral Duluth model of Power and Control for intimate partner abuse may look like.
How and Why Women Abuse Men
In many cases, women are allegedly using various strategies to control their male partners or apply psychological harm and suffering to them. In some instances, they use actual physical violence or threats to allege being victims of such to cause men to face criminal charges, lose their jobs or lose custody and visitation rights to their children.
Men who are faced with challenging relationship issues may be ignorant of the true nature of the situation as they are unable to recognize the signs of domestic abuse. Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic about Domestic Violence against Men which all men should know.
Over the years, there have been attempts to identify why women initiate aggression. An older study of females found that their reasons varied widely. Some responses included "I believe that men can readily protect themselves so I don't worry when I become physically aggressive" to "I have found that most men have been trained not to hit a woman, and therefore I am not fearful of retaliation from my partner" and even "I believe if women truly are equal to men then women should be able to physically express anger at men".
An extremely interesting upcoming report actually looks at women as perpetrators of what is called Intimate Terrorism against their male partners. Investigated and written by primarily female researchers, it explores both the phenomenon of female intimate terrorism and the mental health consequences for men who suffer intimate terror from their female partners. Those consequences include low self-esteem, depression, and more complex and debilitating challenges such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
Access the PDF Fact sheets by clicking on Intimate Terrorism by Women and Symptoms of PTSD by Men Suffering Intimate Violence.
'Gender' Issue or 'People' Issue?
Well, instead of engaging in a tug of war over which sex abuses more than the other, we must focus on the fact that violence in family relationships is NOT healthy, regardless of who perpetrates it and who it victimizes. These are also the conclusions of Dr. Murray Straus in his review essay "Thirty Years of Denying the Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence: Implications for Prevention and Treatment".
Some parties have suggested that this is about people and not gender. People of both sexes are committing acts of violence against other people and the result is hurting the family as a whole, including the children.
In fact, to put things in perspective, violence within the home is also committed by parents, children, siblings and other relatives. Moreover, violence against men outside the home is predominantly perpetrated by other males.
So yes, we need to change the way people approach conflict and why they choose to resort to violent words and behaviour. We must encourage a much more restorative, peace-building approach to addressing conflict and in relationships, both in the sanctuary of the home as well as in the wider society.
More to It than Family Violence
However, the issue is not only about the above forms of behaviour. Rather, as Article 2 of the 1993 UN Declaration indicates, the discussion is a wider one expanding to sexual violence, workplace and public/street sexual harassment, forced prostitution and sex trafficking to name a few.
In that regard, the view of males as primary perpetrators remains a strong one.