Domestic Violence Awareness Month

As we reach the end of the International Domestic Violence Awareness month, many of us have listened to various organisations, groups and individuals talking at great length about violence against women. These messages ranged from the serious to the risible, from stern warnings about the dangers facing the vulnerable in the asylum seeker system, to grown men tottering about in high heels, presumably in solidarity with those women forced to such sartorial heights under threat of the stocks or something.

SAFE Ireland is one of the primary movers and shakers behind October's efforts, a group which specialises in evangelising for women and children affected by domestic violence. Nothing at all objectionable about that in and of itself, until we get to their fêted "Man Up" campaign, wherein they advise men to "take action" against domestic violence by men against women. The home page of Man Up prominently features a peculiar little verse:

We are amazing men.
Men who feel.
Men who talk.
Men who respect women.
Who play with children.
Who know how to love.

Who act against domestic violence.
Who stand against abuse
When we do that, we don’t weaken our manhood.
We strengthen it.
A man’s man is a woman’s man too.

Do they imagine there's some vast conspiracy of men who look the other way if a woman is being abused by a man?

With hypocritical shades of Emma Watson's #heforshe speech at the UN recently, Man Up calls on men to simultaneously cast aside their traditional macho stereotype and instead take on a traditional chivalric role as protector, however mostly what it seems to be calling for are donations. I hope the person doing the accounts for those isn't the one responsible for their statistics

SAFE Ireland stressed that the figures within the Census document the women and children who sought and received support – a figure, which is dwarfed by undisclosed prevalence, it said. A recent EU-wide survey showed that a 70% of Irish women did not contact any organisation following the most serious incidence of violence. That survey showed that 26% – 394,325 women – had experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15.  

This is a reference to the FRA Europe report, which categorised "physical or sexual violence" as including jostling or being called a nasty word. Further the FRA survey did not allow women to declare whether or not they had been raped, following in the methodological footsteps of the infamous Mary Koss, who "discovered" similar percentages. Despite this, the majority of the women she found had been "raped" continued to have sex with and indeed form relationships with their "rapists", an inconvenient turn of events for aspiring moral panic mongers.

And when one applies these same methodologies to men, which the FRA report did not, one gets very similar results. But SAFE Ireland isn't interested in helping men, instead they'd rather imply that men as a group are responsible for domestic violence.

If you, or someone you know is at risk of abuse or control… or if you, or someone you know is abusing or controlling a woman and her children – help is available.

The reality is that domestic violence is not a gendered issue, this is a bibliography which examines 286 scholarly investigations including 221 empirical studies and 65 reviews and/or analyses in dozens of countries which demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. The aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 371,600., the sole Irish charity dedicated to helping men and boys suffering from domestic abuse, reports similar findings.

Further, on Tuesday 5th July 2005 the National Crime Council (NCC), in association with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), published the first ever large scale study undertaken to give an overview of the nature, extent and impact of domestic abuse against women and men in intimate partner relationships in Ireland. Among the notable findings are:

And there are many other non ideological surveys both national and international which have found the same results.

One of SAFE Ireland's most publicised stunts recently was to gather hundreds of people in Temple Bar Square to illustrate the extent of domestic violence and the need for services to support victims.

ON ONE DAY in 2013, 467 women and 229 children – over 700 people – were receiving accommodation and support from a domestic violence service in Ireland, according to the 2013 SAFE Ireland One-Day Census.

The numbers, which SAFE Ireland CEO Sharon O’Halloran said were in reality “the tip of the iceberg” were taken over a 24-hour period on Tuesday, November 5, last year.

O’Halloran said that if there was anything that distinguished that day it was that “it was a quiet one for most of the 37 domestic violence services participating in the census”.

Of the total, 115 women and 155 children were accommodated in refuge and a further 16 women could not be admitted to a refuge because there was not enough space.

Over the 24 hours, 109 helpline calls – nearly five calls every hour – were answered by domestic violence services throughout the country.

Assuming these numbers are more reliable than the FRA report, according to the undeniable facts of gender symmetry in domestic violence, on one day in 2013 almost 500 men had no services or support to help them to escape and survive domestic violence. Instead these men got to see other men "walking a mile in her shoes" and were told to "man up". Where can they run to? Who can they call? Many are too ashamed to even tell their close family, such stigma is attached to being a battered man.

Is it any wonder that male suicide rates are five to one those of women in Ireland today.

Everyone wants to see an end to domestic and intimate partner violence, but fixating on one half of the problem like SAFE Ireland and the White Ribbon Campaigns means you're never going reach that end, which is unacceptable. Mens Human Rights Ireland calls for a non gendered approach to dealing with domestic violence, to address the factual realities on the ground, not in favour of one gender or the other, so that finally we can start to deal with the full picture.

A picture we can only see by looking at more than half of it.

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