18 November, 2009


Dads on the Air |
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New campaign launched on International Men's Day for male victims of family violence and abuse

Did you know that in Australia...

• Up to one in three victims of sexual assault is male?
• At least one in three victims of family violence is male?
• 435,000 Australian men have experienced violence from a current or previous partner?

“Each night when she came from work I would be tense and nervous. I didn't know in what way she was going to abuse me.” This is Matthew’s story: the tale of a man who was regularly abused by his female partner in his own home. Unfortunately such stories are commonplace.

Male victims of family violence often face barriers to disclosing their abuse. They can suffer shame, embarrassment and the social stigma of not being able to protect themselves. They are likely to be told that there must be something they did to provoke their partner’s violence.

Alan, another male victim, finally summoned up the courage to talk to someone about his partner’s ongoing sexual abuse. “Who to talk to for advice - family or friends? No way. I spoke to a doctor. She seemed to listen to my stammering for a few minutes and then while scribbling asked, ‘What are you doing to make her behave that way?’”.

Dr Elizabeth Celi, a Melbourne psychologist says, “Unlike physical violence, many of the forms of domestic abuse faced by male victims are difficult to detect and hard for the man himself to defend against. A man’s health is wrapped up in his identity. Attacking his self-worth through various forms of criticism, manipulation and intimidation are forms of emotional and verbal violence that we need to learn about as a society and say ‘Enough!’”

As well as the effects of violence on men themselves, their children can suffer a range of negative impacts on their behavioural, cognitive and emotional functioning and social development. Neglecting violence against men means neglecting these children as well.

As part of today’s International Men’s Day celebrations, a new campaign for male victims of family violence is being launched. The One in Three campaign is named after the little known fact that up to one in three victims of sexual assault and at least one in three victims of family violence is male (perhaps as many as one in two).

For example, researcher Murray Straus conducted an extensive study of partner violence by university students in 32 nations and found that, in Australia, 14% of physical violence between dating partners in the past year was perpetrated by males only, 21% by females only and 65% was mutual violence.

The campaign aims to raise public awareness of the existence and needs of male victims of family violence and abuse; to work with government and non-government services alike to provide assistance to male victims; and to reduce the incidence and impacts of family violence on Australian men, women and children. Supporters of the campaign include Dr Elizabeth Celi, Maggie Hamilton, author of What Men Don't Talk About and Steve Biddulph, author of Manhood.

Hamilton says, “Until researching What Men Don't Talk About I had no idea about domestic violence towards men. I was shocked to discover this had touched the lives of several close friends - men of all backgrounds from manual labourers to professionals. While we remain silent on this issue, men continue to be hurt, to be ignored.”

Biddulph writes, “With family violence, we had to address ‘women and children first’; but in 2009, the troubling nub of violence is in families where both partners are violent, as well as those most hidden, where women hit men. Violence is a miserable way to live, for perpetrator and victim, and for little children forced to watch. Today nobody approves of or accepts wife bashing. Husband bashing needs this same condemnation and action.”

While many services have rightly been established to support female victims of family violence, the needs of male victims remain largely unmet. Acknowledging this imbalance, the Western Australian Men’s Advisory Network recently commissioned ground-breaking research by Edith Cowan University into the nature and extent of domestic abuse against men.

Greg Millan from Newcastle’s Men’s Health Services was recently contacted by a women’s domestic violence worker who had also started providing support for men after witnessing growing numbers of male victims in court without any assistance. Millan subsequently developed a training program called Working with Men affected by Violence, for workers in the domestic violence and family relationship sector.

On the international front, the Valley Oasis shelter in Lancaster, California, was the first in the USA to give refuge to victims regardless of their gender. “Our philosophy is that domestic violence is a societal problem,” said Carol Ensign, the shelter's executive director. “Nobody deserves to get hit, whether they are 2 months old or 80 years old, whether they are a man or woman, child or teen.”

A groundbreaking Dutch scheme has recently established shelters for abused men in four major cities. In Ireland, Amen provides a confidential helpline, support service and information for male victims of domestic abuse. In the UK, the Next Steps Housing Association has recently created 100 places in 35 refuge houses for husbands and partners of abusive women. Confidential helplines for men have also been established in England and Wales.

Greg Andresen, one of the founders of the One in Three campaign will be our special guest on next week's edition of Dads on the Air.

The One in Three website can be found at

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