No Man’s Woman! – Violence Against Men

I love watching Coronation Street – it’s one of my favorite television shows. It’s about every day normal people, that you and I can relate to, getting into all sorts of trouble. There’s one particular storyline that relates to today’s topic for discussion; violence against men. The characters I’m talking about is Tyrone and Kirsty. You see Tyrone is this all around great guy, wears his heart on his sleeve and will go to the end of the earth and back for a friend in need. Kirsty, on the other hand, is a snob, brought up in a family where her father is a well-decorated policeman.  Kirsty followed in her father’s footsteps and becomes a policewoman.

23449Since moving to Weatherfield, Kirsty has quickly made herself unpopular with the locals due to her nasty and jealous behaviour. She nearly got pensioner Rita banned from driving and succeeded in driving Tyrone’s housemates Tina and Tommy out of the house. She ended up in a hospital when she drove into the back of Tyrone’s car while chasing him in a jealous huff when he went out for a platonic dinner with his friend Tina. Although Tyrone has had mixed feelings about Kirsty due to her bizarre behavior, he ignored his friends’ fears about her after finding out she was pregnant with his baby.

For awhile, things were going relatively well for Tyrone and Kirsty until she gets suspended from the force (that’s another story) and she now has to work at Carla’s factory packing undergarments. Hapless Tyrone tries to comfort his pregnant fiancée when he tells her not to over-react, she grabs a metal spoon and lashes at him; another time she manhandles him; last episode I saw she shoves him, saying nasty things and starts breaking dishes and sentimental personal effects, Tyrone escapes and runs out of the house.

Poor Tyrone!

The scenes played out on Coronation Street are uncomfortably familiar to some male viewers who are going through or have experienced physical and/or mental abuse from a woman. Of the millions of viewers watching, the storyline should “prick at the conscience” of perpetrators and those who are aware of violent relationships but have not told anyone. It also shows the hypocrisy between the genders as we generally view domestic violence as being a problem solely perpetrated by men. While domestic abuse of women has been in the public eye for many years, the extent of the comparable issue of domestic abuse of men is not as well-known and understood by the public. So let’s turn our attention to this subject and what we can do about this situation.

Male Abuse – Statistical Information

According to Health Canada‘s website on the subject; “Male abuse” refers to any act carried out by a woman with the intention, or perceived intention, of causing physical injury, intimidation or emotional pain to her intimate male partner.” With more research being conducted on this subject, I think it is important here to acknowledge that virtually all sociological data shows that:

  • women initiate domestic violence as often as men;
  • that women use weapons more than men, and;
  • that 38% of injured victims are men.

A recent study from the University of Florida found women are more likely than men to “stalk, attack and abuse” their partners. “We’re seeing women in relationships acting differently nowadays than we have in the past,” said Angela Gover, a UF criminologist who led the research. “The nature of criminality has been changing for females, and this change is reflected in intimate relationships as well.”

California State University surveyed 1,000 college women: 30% admitted they assaulted a male partner.

Their most common reasons:

  • my partner wasn’t listening to me;
  • my partner wasn’t being sensitive to my needs; and
  • I wished to gain my partner’s attention.

Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that:

  • men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available.
  • In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09.

Because of the complex interaction of factors and a lack of before-and-after studies, it is very difficult to identify “causes” of abuse. However, some studies have identified risk factors associated with abuse:

  • Compared with older men, younger men seem to be at a four to five times greater risk of experiencing partner abuse, one study reporting 12-month rates of 4% (men aged 25 to 34) vs. 1% (men 45 and over),41 and another finding rates of 21.8% (men aged 18 to 29) vs. 4.2% (men 65 and over).42;
  • Men living in common-law relationships seem to be at greater risk than married men (4% vs. 1%).43,44;
  • Conflict in other areas of life seems to increase risk substantially. Women who reported high levels of conflict in five defined areas of their lives were four times more likely to physically abuse their partners than those women who reported low levels of conflict (24.8% and 6.0% respectively). Similarly, 28.8% of those who reported high levels of conflict and 9% of those who reported low levels of conflict reported that they inflicted chronic (10 times or more during the previous year) psychological abuse on their partners.

Especially vulnerable are those partnerships in which roles are changing (e.g., young couples entering the workforce and/or beginning families, older couples who have reached retirement). Similarly, disrupting or high-stress conditions that can foster conflict – such as unemployment, low-income, personal bankruptcy, career setback, working overtime to make ends meet, and sustained economic uncertainties –are additional risk factors associated with higher rates of abuse. While the association between conflict and abuse is strong, the causal direction, if there is one, remains unclear. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that differences in educational backgrounds and income levels seem unrelated to the risk of spousal abuse. ~ Health Canada

What are the characteristics of an abusive woman?

The characteristics of women (or men) who are abusive fall into three categories.

Alcohol Abuse. Alcohol abuse is a major cause and trigger in domestic violence. Intoxicated people have less impulse control, are easily frustrated, have greater misunderstandings and are generally prone to resort to violence as a solution to problems. Women who abuse men are often alcoholics.

Psychological Disorders. There are certain psychological problems, primarily personality disorders,  in which women are characteristically abusive and violent toward men. Borderline personality disorder is a diagnosis that is found almost exclusively with women Approximately 1 to 2 percent of all women have a Borderline Personality disorder. At least 50% of all domestic abuse and violence against men associated with women who have a Borderline Personality disorder. The disorder is also associated with suicidal behavior, severe mood swings, lying, sexual problems and alcohol abuse.

Unrealistic expectations, assumptions, and conclusions. Women who are abusive toward men usually have unrealistic expectations and make unrealistic demands of men. These women will typically experience repeated episodes of depression, anxiety, frustration and irritability which they attribute to a man’s behavior. In fact, their mental and emotional state is the result of their own insecurities, emotional problems, trauma during childhood or even withdrawal from alcohol. They blame men rather than admit their problems, take responsibility for how they live their lives or do something about how they make themselves miserable.  They refuse to enter treatment and may even insist the man needs treatment. Instead of helping themselves, they blame a man for how they feel and believe that a man should do something to make them feel better. They will often medicate their emotions with alcohol. When men can’t make them feel better, these women become frustrated and assume that men are doing this on purpose. [Source: Women Against Domestic Violence]

Why Men don’t report Abuse

“About two in five of all victims of domestic violence are men, contradicting the widespread impression that it is almost always women who are left battered and bruised,” a new report claim. “Men assaulted by their partners are often ignored by police, see their attacker go free and have far fewer places of refuge to flee to than women.” says a study by the men’s rights campaign group Parity.

Campaigners claim that men are often treated as “second-class victims” and that many police forces and councils do not take them seriously. “Male victims are almost invisible to the authorities such as the police, who can rarely be prevailed upon to take the man’s side,” said John Mays of Parity. “Their plight is largely overlooked by the media, in official reports, and in government policy, for example in the provision of refuge places – 7,500 for females in England and Wales but only 60 for men.”

“The official figures underestimate the true number of male victims,” Mays said. “Culturally it’s difficult for men to bring these incidents to the attention of the authorities. Men are reluctant to say that they’ve been abused by women because it’s seen as unmanly and weak.”

The number of women prosecuted for domestic violence rose from 1,575 in 2004-05 to 4,266 in 2008-09. “Both men and women can be victims and we know that men feel under immense pressure to keep up the pretense that everything is OK,” said Alex Neil, the Housing and Communities Minister in the Scottish parliament. “Domestic abuse against a man is just as abhorrent as when a woman is a victim.”

According to the Health Canada website, an in-depth narrative study examined the experiences and effects of physical abuse for 12 married men, aged 25 to 47. The men sustained injuries such as multiple bruises and abrasions, dislocated ribs, injured genitalia, minor head trauma, numerous lacerations, and internal injuries. Weapons used by the wives included clothes hangers, steak knives, scissors, screwdrivers, cellular phones, fingernails, metal pots and pans, rolling pins, keys and other thrown objects. This study provided some insight into the respondents’ feelings about their situations and the effect those situations had on their self-identity:

Having been abused by a woman, the men felt that they had failed to achieve culturally defined masculine characteristics, such as independence, strength, toughness, and self-reliance. As a result, the men felt emasculated and marginalized and tended not to express their fears, ask for help, or even discuss details of their violent experiences. During the interviews, the abused men repeatedly expressed shame and embarrassment.

The men indicated that their disclosures of abuse were often met with reactions of disbelief, surprise, and skepticism from the staff of domestic abuse shelters, legal-based institutions, and hospitals, as well as friends and neighbors. These reactions may cause male victims to feel even more abused. While these findings are not generalized, they do point to the need for research if we are to understand the contextual factors that shape the motives, meaning, and consequences of physical and psychological abuse for men.

Case Study –  Ian McNicholl, 47, has painful memories to remind him of the terror he endured when he found himself a male victim of domestic violence.

His then-fiancee, Michelle Williamson, punched him in the face several times, stubbed out cigarettes on his body, lashed him with a vacuum cleaner tube, hit him with a metal bar and a hammer and even poured boiling water onto his lap. That at 6ft he was almost a foot taller than her made no difference. He still has burn marks on his left shoulder from when she used steam from an iron on him. Williamson, 35, is now serving a seven-year jail sentence for causing both actual and grievous bodily harm.

During the trial last year McNicholl told the court that, during more than a year of attacks and intimidation, he had lost his job, home, and self-respect. He had been too scared to go to the police and had considered suicide. She was only arrested after two neighbors saw her punch him.

Sentencing her at Grimsby crown court last year, Judge John Reddihough told Williamson: “Over the period of time you were with him you destroyed him mentally and seriously harmed him physically, leaving him with both physical and mental scars.

~ The Guardian

Let us remember that gender inequality results from unequal power relationships between women and men, and is one of the main root causes of violence against women/men – or I should say “gender abuse” (if that is a term I could successfully use). Abuse is abuse regardless of who is doing the abusing – man or woman – it is unacceptable!! “However, the abuse of men is a complex social problem that warrants close attention,” says Health Canada’s website. “Those who perpetrate and experience intimate partner abuse are often tied by the bonds of love, affection, and attachment. Nonetheless, acts such as assault and threats of violence, regardless of the context, are offenses under the Criminal Code of Canada.”

Suggested Reading: What Domestic Violence Looks Like Against Men – MEL Magazine