Women’s Aid excellently explain that the 40% figure is based on single incidents but that abuse is not about single incidents of violence rather it is about power and control exerted over a period of time. They point out that 89% of those who experience four or more incidents of domestic abuse are female, and of the remaining 11% many are in same sex relationships, rather than men suffering abuse at the hands of women.
It’s not only Women’s Aid who acknowledge that Domestic Abuse is, in the majority of cases, perpetrated by men; Lundy Bancroft is a renowned expert in Domestic Violence, having worked for many years with perpetrators. In his book “Why Does He Do that” he writes:
“Where are the men whose partners are forcing them to have unwanted sex? Where are the men who are fleeing to shelters in fear for their lives? How about the ones who try to get to a phone to call for help, but the women block their way or cut the line? The reason we don’t generally see these men is simple: They’re rare…….Even if abused men didn’t want to come forward, they would have been discovered by now…..Among my physically abusive clients, nearly one third have been arrested as a result of a call to the police that came from someone other than the abused woman. If there were millions of cowed, trembling men out there the police would be finding them. Abusive men commonly like to play the role of victim, and most men who claim to be “battered men” are actually the perpetrators of violence, not the victims.”
The last point that Bancroft makes, that abusive men often make out they are the victims has been my experience. I look at that statistic of 40% and I realise that it includes my abusive husband as a “victim.”
After I left my husband it took a couple of weeks for the dawning realisation that I was a victim of abuse to hit me. When it did I had a bit of a meltdown. I foolishly, and naively drove over to his house to confront him (if you are a victim of abuse and leaving your partner don’t EVER do this- it’s very dangerous.) When he told me to ‘get lost’ and slammed the door in my face I was distraught, through my tears and frustration I threw a small handful of gravel at his door. My husband made a malicious call to the police saying I’d broken his window I was arrested and charged with criminal damage, the incident was classed as “domestic” and my husband logged as a victim of domestic violence. Despite the fact that he was actually the perpetrator when we look at the national statistics my husband will appear as a victim.
How many more of this 40% are abusive men who have made malicious complaints playing the victim? (which Bancroft explains is common behaviour among perpetrators) How many of this 40% are men who have sustained injuries as their frightened victim lashes out in defence? How many of them are abusers whose victim has finally snapped and hit back? This is why it is important to look more carefully at statistics, and particularly place more emphasis on repeat calls to the police than single incidents.
In many ways as hidden hurt
point out, it doesn’t really matter whether more perpetrators of abuse are male or female:
“ We know that there are many men who DO experience Domestic Abuse at some stage in their lives, and whether there are 1000 or 100,000 per year in the UK alone doesn't make any difference to the individual suffering and fear and pain experienced by any one man in an abusive relationship. What is important, is that their suffering is taken seriously, and that support and help is available when needed, regardless of gender.”
But let’s not kid ourselves and buy into myths that abuse doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender- it does. And sometimes, by buying into the notion that men suffer abuse as much as women we unwittingly enable those perpetrators who like to play the victim. We also fail to provide adequate levels of funding for female victims; if female victims account for 80% then the majority of refuge spaces need to be available to women, the majority of support groups and support services need to be made available to women. Of course every abuse victim needs to be supported regardless of gender, but in order to do that we do need to be aware of who the victims are.
If you are a male victim of Domestic abuse you can contact the men’s advice line run by Respect on 08088010327.
Finally you can buy Lundy Bancroft’s book here. It is an excellent read, incredibly insightful and informative, if you only want to read one book about Domestic Abuse read this one.
Please check out the rest of the Abuse is not series by clicking on the tab at the top of this post