Domestic Violence Against Irish Men

Do you think about domestic violence much? For most, it's never affected us or people we know, and when it does come to our attention it's usually in the form of a poster depicting an angry man looming threateningly over a cowering woman, or maybe we see the local football team tottering around wearing high heels, walking a mile in her shoes.

Domestic violence affects many more of us than most realise however, especially since half of its victims are almost never mentioned. Those victims are men, and you might know one of them.

Awareness of domestic violence towards men has been slowly emerging in Ireland today, we've had the odd newspaper article or an interview where the man's face is blacked out from time to time, but it's generally seen as being something that affects women for the most part.

This is not the case.

Even more disturbingly this peculiar cultural blind spot seems to extend to our own government agencies tasked with addressing domestic violence; Cosc tells us that "while women, men, boys and girls can be victims of gender-based violence, women and girls are the main victims". Even or perhaps even moreso at the European level, men are not just ignored but actively blamed.

When domestic violence surveys make the headlines, those surveys most publicised by ideologically invested groups, they often don't ask men about their experiences at all, as with the recent EU Fundamental Rights Agency survey on violence against women, and in almost all such reports the researchers involved decide whether or not domestic violence or assault had taken place - not the people being interviewed - as with the SAVI report.

When researchers have already decided that women are the main victims of domestic abuse that belief will be reflected in what they report as "abuse", and so the voices of male victims go unheard.

Despite which there's a great deal of professionally executed peer reviewed social research available for anyone who cares to look, research that hasn't made the headlines. In 2005 the National Crime Council in association with the ESRI published the first ever wide scale study on domestic violence against men and women in Ireland.

It indicated that approximately equal numbers of men and women suffer domestic abuse, physical abuse, and that only 5% of men report domestic abuse as opposed to a third of women. Further it found that of those turned away from womens refuges, 46% were for reasons other than the refuges being full.

This correlates closely with other such studies done in Ireland, such as the MRCS report in 2001, the ACCORD research in 2003, and a Department of Health study, all of which found that violence was mutual in most cases and where non reciprocal violence was taking place, the majority of it was perpetrated by women. These findings reflect the results of almost all independent two-sex studies carried out worldwide.

When presented with these facts detractors will often say that women suffer more serious injuries than men due to domestic violence, which is true, albeit not by much. However they never take a closer look at the circumstances surrounding serious injury, as was done by Dr. Deborah Capaldi over a 13 year period.

This research looked at all of the intimate partner violence possibilities - violence from the man alone, violence from the woman alone, violence from both with him starting it, and violence from both with her starting it. Dr. Capaldi found that the scenario most likely to result in future injury to women is when she initiates violence against him and he responds, although both mutually aggressive groups were close in danger levels.

Dr. Capaldi also found that physical aggression from men tended to stop when they found a new partner - instead of a man being a batterer or not, quite often his partner's violence predicted whether or not he would be violent to her. Those like Deputy David Stanton who call for a domestic violence register in Ireland should probably take this research into consideration.

Of course all of this will come as no surprise whatsoever to those professionals in the field of domestic violence who aren't ideologically inclined to ignore half the picture. Erin Pizzey, the founder of European womens' shelters observed back in the 1960s that most of the women in her shelters were just as violent if not more violent than their partners, for which she faced a severe backlash.

Ignoring male victims of domestic violence whether through social disdain or by officialdom has serious consequences. Domestic violence has been linked to suicide rates, so it doesn't take much effort to draw a line from the hidden victims of domestic violence to high male suicide rates.

And that's before we consider the psychological damage done, the shattered lives, the silent horror many men are living through, unable to speak up for fear of being laughed at, unable to seek help even from their family and friends.

Or the harm done to the children of such men, trapped with an abusive mother, especially if she gets custody should the relationship collapse completely, as is ordered in nine out of ten family court decisions.

Everybody wants to see an end to domestic violence, but it's something that won't go away while we refuse to deal with the whole picture. In fact by doing so, we're only perpetuating the problem and making it worse.

If you or a man you know is suffering domestic violence, get in contact with Amen, the only Irish charity dedicated to helping male victims.


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