Many people don’t realise this, but men are quite frequently the victims of domestic violence. Whenever there is an awareness drive for domestic violence, no one addresses the issue of what happens to men who are victims.
Even though one in six men will be victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives, it’s more difficult for men to report domestic violence; but it isn’t just because they’re ashamed to admit that they’re afraid of a woman. It’s also because people are far less likely to believe them when they try to get help. There are very few safe places where men who are in danger from domestic violence can go, and yet when organisations do drives to raise funds for shelters, they never address the lack of shelters for men. They say that the reason for this is that fewer men find themselves in this situation. I would disagree. Far fewer men who are in danger report it because they know that no one will listen, and they know that even if someone did listen, there are no refuges available for them to hide in. That doesn’t mean that these men don’t exist. It means that no one has heard about them, and this isn’t the victims’ fault.
It is actually extremely common for abusers to frame the victims for the violence, as well as blaming the victims. I’ve heard men say that the woman broke her own arm so that she could frame him. She slammed her own head into the wall so hard that she needed stitches because she was upset at him. She injected herself with drugs, and bruised her arms up to make it look like he had grabbed her and forced her to take drugs. I have heard them all. In each of those cases, no one believed the abuser. It didn’t stop the men from trying it on, but no one believed them. The police were supportive, the shelters were ready. Try putting the man in the victim’s chair and see what happens. If the woman beats him up and says he did it to himself whilst beating her, or that she only did it in self-defence, the police are more likely to automatically believe her….even if she doesn’t have a mark on her. They are more likely to ignore the man when he tries to report his injuries, and are more likely to treat him as guilty from the moment he’s met up with. He’s arrested, ignored, imprisoned, and victimised further by the abuser who wants to make sure that he knows how much power she has over him. She has the upper hand, and she knows it. Now, there are still many women who are failed by the police when they try to report stalkers and abusers, and we all know this. However, I want to draw attention to the lack of help men who are victims receive. When a man is accused of violence, he is likely to be arrested on the word of his accuser. If he’s the victim, he’s far less likely to be listened to. In fact, of the cases that I’ve been familiar with or involved in, two thirds of the men were victims of gross miscarriages of justice in addition to being the victims of domestic violence, because the women made a huge cry out about being abused and the police and magistrates automatically believed them. One might think that the man was at least safe from her in the jail, but that isn’t necessarily the case any more than it’s the case for women who are victims after their abusers have been jailed. In addition, once in jail, he’s subjected to contemptuous treatment by officers who have already judged him to be guilty, who refuse to listen to him trying to report his injuries or tell his side of events, who refuse him any help or support…in short, who treat him the way women who tried to report abuse were commonly treated 40 years ago. On the one hand, I’m glad that women are more readily listened to now when they report abuse than they were in previous decades. On the other hand, we’ve swung dangerously in the other direction so that men are automatically accused and arrested. Unlike men who try to frame their victims but don’t get away with it, women who frame their victims hold all the power. I’ve known too many cases where no one believed the man until he was found murdered by the woman he tried to tell people was abusing him. If a woman reports injuries, police are now more likely than not to take pictures of every little bruise that will show up. If a man reports injuries, he’s still most likely going to be completely ignored and told to pull himself together. I find it appalling that police can still believe that women are not capable of this kind of thing. They are. In fact, women are capable of inflicting serious injuries, and then crumbling into delicate flowers with crocodile tears flowing down their cheeks as they tell the police that they are the victims, and his injuries are only from them trying to defend themselves. The police fly to the rescue, and the real victim finds himself being further abused by the willing constabulary. The police never bother to get his side of the story, and when he tries to tell it, they ignore him. They throw him into the cell and lock the door. In many cases, courts and police are trying to make up for all the times that they didn’t listen to women until it was too late, and I get that. However, it’s never alright to throw men under the bus just to make sure that you don’t get it wrong. Excuse me, but that’s still getting it wrong.
When I treat male clients who either are or have been a victim of domestic violence, I find that some of them do recognise that her behaviour was bad, but most didn’t think of themselves as victims of domestic violence. Men in my experience tend to be a lot more lenient, giving and forgiving than their gender is given credit for. So, when it finally becomes obvious even to them that things have gotten serious, it’s usually too late.
We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Just recently, police who had told me about 7 years ago that they were really trying to improve their reputation for poor responses to domestic violence gave a woman a fine for wasting police time when she tried to report a dangerous stalker – who later became her murderer. I wonder how long it’s going to take police to recognise that men can also be seriously abused. I wonder how long it’s going to take for police to start listening to men who try to report abuse. I wonder how long it’s going to take men to find a voice.
If you’re a man who is being abused, don’t take no for an answer. Get help. One source of help is www.mensadviceline.org.uk. Others are http://new.mankind.org.uk/ , www.hiddenhurt.co.uk, and www.dvmen.co.uk. Find out what you can do to get help and advice. If the police aren’t listening, find an advocate and make them listen. Don’t be embarrassed. Anyone can be a victim. It doesn’t mean that you’re weak or silly. It just means that someone is abusing you. Both men and women are equally capable of being violent, and of being victims of violence, and both men and women equally deserve protection and support.