Violence has no gender?
by Anne-Sophie Rebner on March 24, 2015 - 10:33am
Domestic violence against men has been starting to be discussed on a broad level in the last years. The research on the subject is still meagre but conscience is slowly rising. Men as victims are starting to get noticed and women are said to adapt their violence behaviour to men because societal roles are changing.
What portion does domestic violence against men take up and in what forms does it appear? Is the violence that men experience by their partners really the same as women’s? And what can be done about it? I will try to paint a full picture.
Domestic violence can be physical, psychological or sexualised and is defined as the act of violence of an intimate partner which includes split up partners or partners not living together and also adult family members. It reaches from insulting or intimidating the partner or controlling where they go to hurting or killing them.
The numbers about this violence against men vary substantially, it is quite hard to get a definite picture. But I found some interesting statistics. A professor from the University of Central Lancashire talks about men making up 50 per cent of people being assaulted, 30 per cent of being injured and 25 per cent of being killed by an intimate partner. According to the police statistic of crime in Berlin 2013, 23.8% of suspects in cases of domestic violence were women. Of the cases of grievous bodily harm, even 32.7% was by females. Of course this includes female victims and male relatives besides male partners. Still, the woman as perpetrator is a significant reality. The different numbers stem firstly from different definitions of violence (are small acts of violence like to shove someone included or not?) and from different ways of data acquisition.
A German study of 2004 shows that one in four men have experienced physical violence from the current or previous partner at least once. So is domestic violence against men really the same as violence against women? Can you talk about a subject that is detached from gender and do men need the same help as women?
All in all it can be said: women still suffer more from domestic violence than men. To say that domestic violence is not a gendered topic would be false because both the quantity, the forms and arguably the reasons are different for men and women. In a British study of 2001 this is illustrated. “Women are the overwhelming majority of the most heavily abused group. Among people subject to four or more incidents of domestic violence from the perpetrator of the worst incident (since age 16), 89 per cent were women. Thirty-two per cent of women had experienced domestic violence from this person four or more times compared with only 11 per cent of men.” Women are hurt and killed a lot more often due to domestic violence, sexual violence is also very marginal for men. For men, the set of problems is a different one.
For every refuge house for battered men in Germany, three in total, there are 145 battered women’s houses. Although the conscience for the subject is rising, there are still less men who even want to get help and the estimated number of unreported cases is very high. Men are still seen as the perpetrator and it is not common for them to see themselves as victims. Some forms like bar fights are sometimes seen as “normal”. The threshold is much higher for them even to admit to themselves that they are experiencing unjustified violence. Arguably, the male role in society has not changed as much in the past decades as the female and violence of women against men is still a taboo theme.. The feeling that they should put these things away because they’re a man is still widespread. Some forms like sexual violence when the victim is still a minor or when it is carried out by a woman are so stigmatised that men rarely ask for help or speak about it.
The cases of non-severe violence like shoving or scratching are higher when the perpetrator is female but women do hurt men as well. They make use of objects more often, like throwing things. Also, studies have shown, psychological violence, insulting, belittlement or humiliation, is very common. Many men report of excessive control over social contacts, where they went and when they came home.
So what is done about it? Some countries like the UK have recently funded more help for men suffering from domestic violence. There are also projects by individual cities like Stuttgart that focus on the subject and want to raise awareness. Psychological help and counselling is given to men and there are three apartments as a safe shelter for them.
The subject stays complex. Since the British law, there have been complaints by women’s support organizations which have been obligated to cut the help for women because of the obligation to build an infrastructure for men. Despite the awareness campaigns, men do not seek help as much as women though. The centres have to turn people away while there are unused resources on the other end. They argue that help should be distributed by need and that statistics claiming that men are as affected by domestic violence are misleading.
For me, there are some conclusions to this. As men and women struggle with different gender stereotypes, the problems stemming from domestic violence are also differentiated. And the subject must be handled senstitively and differentiatedely. There has to be tailored help as well as awareness raising for the different needs of a victim. This is the most important thing. Because domestic violence, caused by men or women, with a female or male victim can cause deep harm, physical and psychological.
Domestic violence against men:
Statistics of crime, Police Berlin, 2013:
German study by the ministry of family, 2006, violence against men, short version:
German study by the Robert-Koch-Institute, Violence against men and women, 2013:
Stuttgart’s initiative against domestic violence against men:
British Study, 2001:
Gender neutral domestic violence services?: