Male abuse victims with nowhere to go
By Pamela Medlen
Updated Mon Jun 7, 2010 3:03pm AEST
A couple are in the kitchen, fighting. Their children are listening from the next room.
It's a familiar scene of domestic abuse that's been going on for years.
One of them grabs a pot of boiling liquid from the stovetop and throws it at the other; the pot hits them in the shoulder, knocking them off balance and the victim is scalded.
Most people reading this will assume the victim is a woman but in a number of cases, it will be a man - it is just that most men do not report abuse.
Psychologist Dr Elizabeth Celi says female aggression is on the rise and so is the number of men experiencing abuse and violence from women.
"Men can certainly experience physical violence by female perpetrators and it can range from biting, scratching, punching, kneeing in the groin, throwing hot water on him, domestic objects being projectiles, it can get pretty severe.
"Let's not be fooled into thinking that female perpetrators are any less damaging when it comes to violence."
Research from Edith Cowan University, commissioned by the Men's Advisory Network or MAN, has found men don't report abuse because they have a hard time getting their friends and colleagues to believe them.
"Male victims are just not recognised, they're right off the radar, nobody even acknowledges that they exist," says Gary Bryant, chief executive of MAN.
Mr Bryant says the network commissioned the report when it realised there was very little that existed to assist men who have been abused.
The study was headed by Alfred Allan, a professor of psychology at Edith Cowan University.
His team surveyed male abuse victims and almost 200 service providers.
Professor Allan says men experience the same sort of abuse that women do, starting with verbal abuse escalating to violent abuse.
"Many men don't actually think about it as abuse, there's a lot of denial. Secondly, even if they understand, they're often very ashamed and think this doesn't happen to a bloke, I should be able to cope and it's very embarrassing to talk to anyone about it, and then they don't know who to go to.
"They're worried they won't be believed because our society doesn't think of men as victims."
The study made several recommendations including a government-funded campaign to raise awareness of the issue to complement the campaigns about violence against women and children.
It also found there should be more services specifically for male victims and provision of training for health and welfare workers to deal with men more effectively.
Dr Celi agrees more specialised services must be aimed at men.
"At the moment, there aren't many because a lot of them have been developed on the back of many decades of helping female victims and male perpetrators.
"Services need to take into account some of those barriers that men experience internally, the shame and the guilt in disclosing first up, because unfortunately more often than not, men are disbelieved and disregarded and they're more likely to retreat and suffer in silence."
Dr Celi says men need appropriate counselling services just as much as women do.
"Where female victims were, prior to the much-needed social education of the past few decades, modern man is experiencing now.
"Men can go to counselling where there's anonymity, confidentiality - a supportive environment where he can re-build his self-worth and learn assertiveness skills and helps him realise where he's a victim."
Long road ahead
The Men's Advisory Network hopes the State Government will look at and implement the report's recommendations, but Gary Bryant is aware there's a long road ahead.
"Hopefully some of the service providers, those that are already providing counselling services for men or maybe some of the domestic violence services that are working with women, will recognise that men are also victims and will be prepared to offer support to them.
"For example, the domestic violence helpline. It'd be great if it was to help both male perpetrators, which is what it's set up for, as well as male victims."
Professor Allan says it's a big task because services for women are already stretched.
"Service providers should probably be trained to deal with men because men will probably seek out help in a different way.
*The Men's Advisory Network will hold an all-day workshop at Gloucester Park on June 16th for service providers. Details can be found on the group's website www.man.org.au.