Abused men often suffer in silence

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Abused men often suffer in silence
Regular Contributor
Joanne Hatherly
Victoria Times Colonist

Friday, October 27, 2006

VICTORIA — Terry is like any other spouse who has suffered physical abuse at a partner’s hands. The shame, the stigma, the sticking it out in the hopes that things will change — all these are part of Terry’s experience.

“I couldn’t believe it was happening to me,” says Terry in a phone interview. Terry is not his real name. Yes, you just read a masculine pronoun.

He is one of Canada’s 546,000 male victims of domestic abuse. His wife’s behaviour escalated into physical violence within their first year together. Identifying factors about Terry’s story have been altered.

While the ratio of male-to-female victims is much closer than commonly believed, the availability of support services is lopsided, says Robert Waters, 51, a fathers’ rights activist.

“There is a reluctance on the part of the spousal-violence industry to acknowledge that females could be perpetrators and males could be victims,” Waters says.

The report, Measuring Violence against Women: Statistical Trends 2006, shows that male victims of spousal assault trail females by only one percentage point, with seven per cent of female respondents saying they had experienced violence from their partners within the past five years, compared with six per cent of men. That’s 654,000 women and 546,000 men who have experienced physical abuse ranging from shoving, slapping and scratching all the way to assault with a weapon.

It’s a far cry from the rate of assaults found in a 2005 report from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, where only two in 10 offences are reported to police by male victims.

Sherry Wallace, a spokewoman for StatsCan, says that the disparity between the reports can be attributed to men’s reluctance to report violence to police. Men are only half as likely as women to seek social services and to report violence to police.

Jonathon Van der Goes, 55, director of client services at the Men’s Resource Centre in Nanaimo, B.C., says it’s very difficult for male victims to come forward. “It’s absolutely a harder thing to do. They have a sense of powerlessness. The stigma is huge.”

So huge, in fact, that counsellors at Victoria’s Men’s Trauma Centre recommend male victims call them before calling the police so they can accompany the victim to the police station.

“We know the officers; we can steer the victim through the process,” says Alana Samson, 56, therapist and director at the centre. “It’s such a tremendously difficult step to take that they need the support. Being abused is one thing, but when someone disbelieves them, it can be worse than the abuse itself.”

Emotional abuse typically predates physical abuse, and in this area, victim support counsellors say some abusive women might excel over males.

“They know what hurts and where. They know how to humiliate,” says Maureen Betts, 57, program manager at Greater Victoria Police Victim Services. “They can have incredible psychological power over another person. It’s a bullying mentality they had as children, and they’re very successful at it.”

Women are more likely to kick, bite, hit or slap their partners, and Frances Strauss, 58, victim services co-ordinator at the Men’s Trauma Centre, says a woman wielding a frying pan is not just a stereotype. Ambush is a common strategy.

The StatsCan report says, “Overall, women were two-and-a-half times as likely as men to report the most serious forms of violence, such as being beaten, choked, threatened with a gun or knife, and sexually assaulted.” But the estimated number of men who suffered attacks of this severity over a five-year period was 89,000, markedly less than the 254,000 women, but a number that Waters says should draw more attention.

Males are also victimized by their homosexual partners. The survey found that between 1991 and 2004, spousal homicides among estranged homosexual partners showed the same history of domestic violence as for female divorced heterosexual homicide victims. Spousal violence is twice as common among homosexual couples.

All the problems that abused women face are shared by male victims, but with a twist. Female assailants sometimes exploit the stereotypes in the social services and justice systems to their advantage.

Strauss says, “The wife says (to her male victim), ‘Do whatever you want, I’m going to call the police and say that you hit me.’ “

Sometimes men stay in the relationship because they fear leaving their children alone in a home with a volatile mother who might later use the court process to block the father’s access.

“They know that the courts tend to see the mother as the primary parent,” Waters says. “Once a man has been accused of abuse, he has a very difficult time overcoming that allegation. Even if you overcome, there’s six to 12 months to wait for a court date, and the stigma sticks.”

Like most male victims, Terry never reported the abuse to police. He’s still wary of rocking the boat with his ex-wife, who has custody of their children, and from whom he is divorced. He is, however, in counselling.

11-11-2006 09:57 AM

Re: Abused men often suffer in silence
Regular Contributor
Yeah, crimes men do get major play on the media, whereas crimes gays or women do get very little coverage!

Women have been proving for the last 30 years that men have been right for the last 30 centuries!

11-11-2006 01:45 PM

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