Update August 3rd: Added Corrine’s latest article which was initially behind a pay wall but is now not.
The subject of DV seems to be heating up in Australia of late, particularly in the RendezView section of the Australian Daily Telegraph:
- June 22, 2016: Why you should never give a cent to White Ribbon by Nina Funnell
- June 27, 2016: We stop violence at the source. And the source is men by Libby Davies, CEO of White Ribbon Australia (in response to Funnell)
- July 21, 2016: ‘Hysterical feminism’ isn’t helping our fight against domestic violence by Corrine Barraclough
- July 26, 2016: Domestic violence: don’t put up with disrespect [from men] by Lauren Novak
- July 28, 2016: Stop the man bashing. It’s time to fight back against feminism by Corrine Barraclough
- August 2, 2016: The irrefutable facts of domestic violence in Australia by Jane Gilmore
- (New) August 2, 2016: Feminism or victimism? Bashing men is not the answer
by Corrine Barraclough
… with promises of more to come.
I posted a comment to Jane Gilmore’s article, which may serve as a combination summary and critique. This is a slightly augmented version of that comment.
Feminist journalist Jane Gilmore’s article is really quite artfully written: it gives the impression of balance and acknowledgement of male DV victims while driving the focus back to female victims using “irrefutable” data.
Well, let’s see about that.
There are several problems with the thesis of Gilmore’s piece.
First, provocation is an excuse that works both ways. If women can excuse their violence in terms of the man’s provocations (abusive or otherwise), then so can men. That gets us nowhere.
Second, Gilmore plays down the significance of psychological abuse. I experienced a great deal of bullying as a kid and as a teen. A little of it was physical, but by far the majority of it was verbal — and girls did it just as much as the boys. I’m here to tell you that psychological abuse can be utterly devastating.
It’s not good enough, in fact, it’s inexcusable to say that emotional and psychological abuse “can be terribly damaging on its own” and then dismiss that damage by saying that the combination with physical violence is “exponentially worse”. That’s straight out of intersectional feminism: those who suffer the confluence (or intersection) of different types of abuse (or oppression) have it worse than those who experience only one form of abuse or oppression, creating a hierarchy of oppression.
Third, there is an implicit argument that infrequent events (eg unprovoked violence by a wife toward her husband) deserve less attention. Taken to its logical conclusion and given that DV is still rare in absolute terms (12-month prevalence < 2% for both sexes [ABS PSS 2012 Table 3], which is still more common than it should be), no DV would be tackled at all. It is a contradiction, therefore, to say that one rare event should be addressed while an even rarer event should not on the grounds of how rare it is. It begs the question of where the empathy threshold lies, and why.
Fourth, anybody who objectively researches the subject (ie without ideological presuppositions) will discover that there are no DV services for men [in Australia] that don’t assume that the man is in some way responsible for the violence he experiences.
Part of the reason for that is that the presumption of male guilt is codified into [Australian] government guidelines which providers are then coerced into adopting if they want to continue to get government funding. Look at Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework published by VIC state government. Page 40 says:
The research evidence and experience of family violence professionals demonstrate that relatively few men in heterosexual relationships are solely victims of intimate partner violence.
As discussed on page 41, men are much more likely than their female partners to be using a number of repeated, patterned forms of violence to dominate and control over time.
A man who is the principal (or sole) user of family violence can present as a victim or the
victim of the violence.
Page 41 continues:
Men who admit to using violence often try to justify or minimise their violence, or to blame their partner—perhaps for ‘provoking’ an attack or giving him ‘no way out’. They might refer to their partner as being over- sensitive, irrational, hysterical, a danger to themselves, or even mentally ill when trying to minimise their own behaviour to others. These characterisations of women can be reinforced by social norms that do not support equitable relations between women and men.
For these reasons, in all circumstances where a man is initially assessed as or claiming to be a victim of family violence in the context of a heterosexual relationship, you should
refer him to a men’s family violence service for comprehensive assessment or to the Victims
of Crime Helpline. His female (ex)partner must always be referred to a women’s family violence
service for assessment, irrespective of whether she is thought to be the victim or aggressor.
If women lash out less frequently than men, then it may be because they have services they can go to before things get so bad that they can’t contain their frustration any longer. If men have no equivalent services that won’t treat them as presumptive criminals, then it should come as no surprise that they lash out when they can bear it no longer.
It should come as no surprise that men find it difficult to ask for help if they are presumed to be batterers without self-awareness, or else trying to head off at the pass complaints about their own violence.
Articles like Gilmore’s reinforce the perception that DV is gendered, which reinforces and encourages governments and providers alike to adopt the gendered approach — and, just as DV is generational, the cycle perpetuates until it becomes a cultural axiom or assumption that DV is gendered. Oops, we’re already there.
Fifth, crime data reflect complaints, not the true incidence of DV. If men aren’t believed — or worse, if they fear that they’ll be arrested rather than their batterer — they won’t come forward to the police and so the violence they suffer goes unrecorded. Gilmore even acknowledges this!
To say that homicide data are the only reliable indicator is absurd. DV is still DV even when nobody dies; homicide represents only the most extreme end of DV. It is also disingenuous, because nobody is suggesting that only DV that results in homicide is worthy of attention.
That’s why survey data are so important. Yes, they’re samples of the population, but not even court data actually purport to report 100% of actual crime committed. Court data may be a larger sample, but they are still a sample nevertheless.
Two examples of relevant surveys include the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey which is quoted in 1-in-3’s infographic and UK Home Office Report 191 (which is based on the British Crime Survey) page 18 of which reports, “Of the BCS sample that were, or had been married, 18% of women and 13% of men said they had been assaulted by a current or ex-spouse at some time”
Since gay marriage wasn’t legalised in the UK until 2013 and these data relate to 1996, it can be said with certainty that the 13% of men were assaulted by women; therefore, of those married respondents who reported some experience of DV, 42% were men. Between them, the rate of male victimisation appears to be somewhere in the vicinity of 2 in 5 and 2 in 6 (of all DV victims).
Finally, nobody’s including suicide (especially by men, despite suicide rates being much higher in men) in their analysis because there’s no consistent way to develop data on the causes of suicides, and the victims aren’t talking.
Men, lacking any form of public support, are left to grin and bear it. To man up. When they can no longer tolerate their suffering, they end up in either the DV perpetrator or suicide statistics.
The whole industry is rotten to the core and desperately needs a shake up. The saddest thing is that, as ingrained as the sexism exhibited in Gilmore’s article is, reform wouldn’t be all that difficult to achieve. All that’d be required is for government agencies to mandate non-gendered policies of themselves and make funding conditional on the provision of services and publicity thereof for men.