When we think of domestic violence, we think of female victims.
We seldom acknowledge that men, too, can become vulnerable to abuse. We ignore the fact that more men die from domestic violence than women.
Like sexual harassment, domestic violence against men is a problem long trivialised in society. This, even though a substantial number of domestic violence cases involve men being battered.
According to evidence heard last week by Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, there were 11,441 reports of domestic violence between 2010 and 2015, of which 25 per cent related to male victims. Yet, of the 131 domestic violence related deaths a disproportionate number of men died: 75 — or 57 per cent.
While it is believed that 25 per cent of domestic abuse victims are male, in reality the figure is probably higher due to under-reporting. In countries like the UK, campaign groups claim more than 40 per cent of cases involve male victims. Often men are subject to more severe forms of assault. The belief that a man capable of enduring more violence probably fuels more aggressive attacks. At the same time, the severe mental effects of trauma caused by abuse are more likely to be ignored in relation to men.
Tragically, there is currently little support for male victims. When men do acknowledge their plight and report the matter to police, they are likely to be ignored or ridiculed. There are few instances of court action being taken to protect men or punish female abusers. And there are currently no shelters dedicated to male abuse victims. The overall situation is, therefore, desperate.
The State’s move to retrofit a facility to provide a refuge for male victims must be lauded and welcomed. But one three-bedroom facility alone is not likely to provide enough support. The State must do more. It must provide ancillary support beyond physical infrastructure. And it has to continue efforts to reform police culture. Public awareness can also help address the social stigmas that are hurting our men. The State and civil society must collaborate on these efforts.
We often think of men as the stronger sex, but when it comes to this issue, men need all the help they can get.