There is a cultural perception that men do not get abused and are the abusers in domestic violence relationships. In my perspective of domestic violence, it is important that I note that my definition of domestic violence will include physical, sexual, verbal, financial, and emotional abuse. I also need to note that in this chapter I am strictly discussing adult abuse. Our culture is very sympathetic to children being sexually and physically abuse regardless of the sex so discussing this is not very relevant at this time. Traditionally in western culture, men have been viewed as the head of the household. This gives us the feeling that men would be the main providers, stronger and the dominant figure in a traditional household. There is also a cultural belief that men cannot be raped and they should want sex at any time and all of the time. These views of the household have shifted significantly with the advent of feminism, dual income households, and openly gay and lesbian families. Also, in regards to sexuality, women are much more open and sexually aggressive; open or free woman is no longer considered to be taboo as they once were. Even in this modern “equality” day and age, there is a carryover of the “men are the head of the household” perceptions. Thus, it seems unorthodox that men can be victims of domestic violence or rape. Currently the numbers vary between one in 7 and one in 11 males as victims of domestic violence. Personally, I would argue with those numbers as in my practice I have had more male victims than women at times.
On average, my practice numbers do run equally. Why do the numbers seem so skewed? I believe that it is under reported because there is a lack of men who seek help or even talk about it. Men are going to battle significant self-esteem issues due to the cultural prejudice, so it isn’t surprising that a man who is being abused may not reach out for help, let alone have the ability to find support services. Even if they do, chances are likely they are going to be turned away so who would report those numbers anyway? Additionally, it does not help that men generally do not have the intimate conversations with other men that women do. Even if he is allowed to have male friends, it is petrifying to think about the judgment his friends may have against him if a male domestic violence victim were to admit to a male friend that he is being abused by a woman. In this chapter, I am hoping to raise awareness, sympathy, and advocacy for this silent group being lost in the system.
Due to changing roles for families, I am seeing a number of men who have elected to be the primary caregiver of child and take on the stay at home role. Despite modern society’s growth, every stay at home dad that I have encountered has reported feeling a significant stigma with their roll. There are few support systems for stay at dads such as Mom’s clubs which is a national organization developed for stay at home moms to establish a support system of mothers’ helping mothers. Additionally, I have seen a great occupational bias against men who decide to reenter the workforce after staying at home for a number of years. Even fellow men will consider these gentlemen as soft and weak for making that choice. So, any of these men who are in violent relationships and have chosen the role in their relationships are often already at a disadvantage for finding support.
This carry over the concept that men cannot be victims of rape and domestic violence has led to a significant population which is falling through the cracks. There are little to no facilities that offer support services for male survivors, and every man that I have ever encountered in practice had been turned away for overnight housing or support when they have finally reached out for help. Several of my clients were referred to the Salvation Army homeless shelter or told to go to a hotel. Unfortunately, much like women who are trying to escape these relationships, they too are strapped for finances and may have children with them which makes both of these options unreasonable. So many times they simply return to their abusers. Now to be fair, I have a found a few organizations that will support gay men in domestic violence situations within the gay community, however, this does not help those who are heterosexual males.
The court system is another area where abused men are treated unfairly. There is a stigma that all men are stronger than women so when a man pursues a restraining order or injunction, it seems as if they are responsible for a greater burden of proof in order for it to be enforced. I once had a male client who was a rather large man and had been abused for more and a decade by a petite woman. This woman had spent years verbally, emotionally and even physically abusing this man. Even after their divorce, she continued to call this man and threaten to burn his house down and left hundreds of messages, emails and voicemails that were threatening, critical, delusional, and, depending on what drugs and alcohol she was using at the time, very frightening. During one Christmas season, she threatened to kill herself and their daughter, had driven to the school to pick up the daughter and when the police were called and had told them what she had planned on doing. Consequently, she was hospitalized. This gentleman then went to court in two different countries seeking an injunction for the safety of himself and his children. Despite the evidence, including the testimony of the police officer, his injunctions were denied. Of course, this only increased her abuse, because she managed to get past the law.
In addition to struggling with obtaining injunctions, the family court system also has a biased against men. For example, until recently in Florida, primary custody was offered to mothers in the marriage during divorce situations. Even now with the changes in the law and the advent of “time sharing” where the parents are supposed to share time equally, in theory, this still is a concept that the courts are taking their time with info.
To learn more about this topic from Dr. Harmony’s new book, The Silent Man and other Dr. Harmony titles are available from Amazon.
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