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Men: Hidden Victims of Domestic Violence

by Sara Kugel
A A
Man
Étienne Ljóni Poisson, flickr

Studies suggest there are almost as many male victims of domestic violence as there are female victims.

Often male victims of abuse reach out to domestic violence services but are turned away because the service doesn’t have the proper resources to assist males. Other times, services won’t speak to a male caller, suspicious that he himself is an abuser searching for a former victim.

According to a 2000 Department of Justice Study, about 40 percent of all intimate partner violence victims were men. Nationwide there are over 2,000 services for female victims of domestic violence. But only a handful make services available to both women and men.

Jan Brown is the executive director of the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women (DAHMW) one of the few resources in the country that specializes in working with men who have experienced abuse from women.  According to Brown, DAHMW, based in Maine, gets about 850 calls each month from all over the country.

Brown said she hopes society begins to see domestic violence as a gender-neutral issue. “The attention should be on the abuse [itself], bottom line...It shouldn’t be because women are the majority that we need to pay all the attention and give all the services to women; it should be for everyone.”

Brown said she believes there are more male victims than studies and reports show. “I’ve heard male victims are rare, but how do we even know?” Brown questioned. “Before we studied women as victims we didn’t know the extent [to which women were abused] and we haven’t done that much research on men, so how do we know the extent [of male victimization]?”

However, not everyone agrees that equal resources and attention should to go towards male and female victims:

Director of the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Amy Barasch says domestic violence victimization is most prevalent amongst women. “Oftentimes people will say there are all these male victims,” Barasch said. “But it's disproportionally males against women.”

“That’s not to say there are no male victims, “ Barasch elaborated. “But I'd say what evidence we do have makes it clear that there are more female victims and when females are victims they are more seriously harmed, often because men are typically stronger.”

She said she relies on what she calls “finite, known quantities,” like state statistics, hospital records and homicide reports to discern among which demographics domestic violence victimization is most prevalent.

Dr. Denise Hines, Ph.D., of Clark University has performed studies on the victimization of males in cases of domestic violence.

She agrees that less men report being abused by women due to stigmas that exist in American culture.

“There is a huge population of men out there that are not seeking help because this is something that [is believed] doesn’t happen to men, so they are thinking they are all alone,” said Hines. “It’s an issue where men are taught they can handle this themselves and that this is something that they are supposed to take care of themselves, that they are supposed to be self reliant and take control of the marriage, and not really realizing that this is something they really do need help with.”

“The more non-normative the problem is for men, the less likely they are to seek help,” Hines explained. “The more we think of domestic violence as a women’s issue, means that this is a non-normative issue for men.”

Copyright 2011 WFUV News

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