The Truth About Intimate Partner Violence – Part 2

April 7th, 2009 by Pelle Billing

In the previous blog post I wrote about how partner violence is falsely presented as a problem where men hit women. The myth of the male perpetrator and the battered woman is so pervasive that even most mental health professionals and social workers ascribe to it, though it flies in the face of substantial amounts of academic research.

In reality, gender is a very poor predictor of violence in the home, even though conventional feminist wisdom portrays men and presumed male privilege as the leading reasons for domestic violence.

So what are the consequences of misrepresenting the causes of domestic violence? What are the effects of perpetuating the myth of the male perpetrator?

  1. You move further away from solving the issue. Partner violence is caused by psychosocial problems such as mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, raising young children, unemployment and poverty. If you don’t deal with these issues directly, and instead try to solve the problem by telling all men that manhood is the cause of violence, then your chances for success will be slim indeed.
  2. You perpetuate current myths about the sexes. By incorrectly stating that nearly all partner abuse is caused by men hitting women, you cement the notion that women are weak victims that are easy to exploit, while men are strong individuals who are likely to abuse the power awarded to them from society. In reality, women are far from weak, and men inhabit the whole spectrum from being empowered to being disempowered.
  3. You blame and shame men for an issue that is actually a human issue and not a male issue. The traditional male gender role presents men as stoic creatures that can handle anything life throws at them. While it may be true that many men have the ability to persevere under difficult circumstances, men are far from immune from being shamed, and having this affect them on a deep level. Blaming ordinary men for the societal issue of domestic violence, when women in fact instigate just as much violence (and most perpetrators have psychosocial problems), is in itself a subtle form of psychological abuse.
  4. You scare women and children by putting out the message that it’s ordinary men who hit their spouse. In reality, men who hit their spouse are much more likely to have psychological issues or drug abuse than ordinary men. Criminality is also vastly over-represented in men who physically abuse women.
  5. Children stay stuck in violent environments. Since female violence in the home has been made invisible by the current myths around partner violence, these women can carry on their abusive activities without any interference. This leads to children of all ages having to grow up in a violent environment, and potentially being physically abused themselves.
  6. Male victims cannot get the help they need. In the dominant worldview broadcasted by the media and politicians, male victims of partner violence hardly exist, and therefore there is no need to offer much help – if any – to men who have been abused. Men are thus doubly traumatized: first of all by the violence itself, and second of all by being made invisible by society and not getting any help to heal psychologically. 

It’s great that women have access to women’s shelters nowadays, and that social workers and the police alike are vigilant about battered women and male perpetrators.

But when will we see similar support systems geared towards battered men, and have the police be as vigilant about female perpetrators who hit their husband? When will men be able to bring themselves and their children to a safe-house in order to escape a violent wife?

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5 Responses to “The Truth About Intimate Partner Violence – Part 2”

  1. Jane McGillivray Says:

    I guess, abused men will be able to take themselves and their children to a shelter when enough men get busy and organize shelters for this purpose. The impetus for women to organize and get shelters arranged came from the critical need of getting themselves and their children to a safe place, a place where they could reorganize and rebuild their lives……. The work that women have done in looking at the patterns of codependency and the cycle of abuse has been ground breaking over the past decades. It is wonderful that you and other men are doing this work now too.

  2. Pelle Billing Says:

    Jane,

    Yes, men need to get busy organizing shelters for abused men and their children – nobody else can do it for us. And there are probably lots of insights that can be learned from studying women’s shelters.

    Besides volunteer work, it’s also important that government grants are divided fairly between women’s and men’s shelters. However, at this point I’d be happy if governments starting recognizing that battered men even exist, and starting giving any kind of funding to this issue. Once this phenomenon is on the political agenda, then you can no longer ignore the problem.

    I agree that the psychological research about codependency and cycles of abuse likely applies to battered men too, and that male shelters can apply those insights.

  3. Bj0rnborg Says:

    “at this point I’d be happy if governments starting recognizing that battered men even exist”

    According to radical feministic theory battered men dont exist. (men beat women to sustain their power; ergo women dont have power so they dont beat men.). So what we need for battered men to be recognised as victims for spousal abuse is a separation between gouvernment and feminism; a better understanding from society that feminism does not represent: 1. equality and 2. women, but just one (gynocentric) perspective out of many.

    The gouvernment need a bigger and more objective perspective on equality than what feminism can provide. Once that is achieved, all laws, grants and gouvernmental actions must be genderneutral and “tried for the individual need”. (Sorry dont know the english term; behovsprövat).

    And that is all that is needed for male suffering to be as cared for by the state as female suffering.

  4. Pelle Billing Says:

    Bj0rnborg,

    Yes, ideology needs to be replaced by facts.

    Given the available research, or even the biased statistics that are much better known by politicians, it is unacceptable to have no funding for male shelters.

    It is very easy to be swayed by one’s own experience and beliefs when discussing gender issues, so it’s crucial that we allow the available research to guide our decisions.

  5. Danny Says:

    Once this phenomenon is on the political agenda, then you can no longer ignore the problem.
    Women’s advocates know this and it scare the hell out of them. They don’t want abused men to get help because acknowledging that men can be victims of abuse is a small bit of proof that men are not as all powerful as they claim and women are not as weak as they claim.


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