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Why we don’t hear about male victims of domestic violence

9News.com.au logo 9News.com.au 12/09/2015

As Australia reels from a spate of horrific domestic violence attacks on women and children, the chorus of people calling for action to tackle domestic violence is growing louder.

While most welcome the increased focus, there is growing criticism male victims of domestic violence are being ignored.

According to a 2013 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey into domestic, family and sexual violence, the vast majority of those who experience these forms of violence were women, but the true extent of the problem is difficult to measure as many incidents go unreported.

As Australia reels from a spate of horrific domestic violence attacks, the chorus of people calling for action to tackle domestic violence is growing louder. © Pavel Siamionau/Getty Images As Australia reels from a spate of horrific domestic violence attacks, the chorus of people calling for action to tackle domestic violence is growing louder.

Dr Deborah Walsh, a domestic and family violence specialist at The University of Queensland, said that partner or domestic violence is a gendered issue, but that there are some male victims who tend to suffer extreme psychological and emotional abuse.

Dr Walsh said the vastly different rates and the different ways that male and female abusers generally treat their victims could explain why male victims are less 'visible'.

“The underpinning feature of male domestic violence against women is power and control, and the use of coercive tactics,” she said.

“When we then look at women’s domestic violence against men, that power and control isn’t transferred in the same way, and the thing is male victims leave much quicker.

“When women are violent, it results in a lot more emotional and psychological abuse.”

The number of male domestic violence victims is certainly much smaller than that of female victims, Dr Walsh said.

“The levels of injury and homicide don’t have a comparison as they’re very different,” she said.

Male victims often experience a “crisis of masculinity”, and there is not a lot of space in society for them because people struggle to understand how masculinity and being a victim can both be a part of someone’s identity, Dr Walsh explained.

But Australian men suffering from abuse were urged to contact services available to them, she said.

“Male victims can contact Mens Helpline and other state-specific services, such as DV Connect in Queensland.”

The ABS survey revealed:

•About 78 percent of people who reported being a victim of physical partner violence in a 12 month period were women.

•About 17 percent of women had experienced violence at the hands of a partner after the age of 15, compared to five percent of men.

•About 62 percent of women experienced their most recent incident of physical assault in their home, compared to eight percent of men.

•Women were more likely than men to have experienced sexual assault by someone known to them, emotional abuse by a partner, and stalking.

•An estimated 67 percent of women and 68 percent of men had not been in contact with police after their most recent incident of physical assault by a male.

An A Current Affair investigation in August reported men are three times more likely than women to keep domestic violence a secret.

Research at Edith Cowan University, commissioned by the Men’s Advisory Network, found men are reluctant to report domestic violence because they are either in denial of what is happening or they fear they will either not be believed or will be blamed for the abuse.

The subsequent report, Intimate Partner Abuse of Men, recommended government funded public awareness campaigns be conducted to raise awareness, but that they should be carefully designed so as to complement campaigns about family violence against women, rather than damage them.

If you are male and experiencing domestic violence, support is available. Contact Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978 or the National Domestic Violence Line 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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