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Column Abused men often don’t tell anyone. Here’s why.

Men can be victims of domestic violence too – but society seems to want this problem to just go away, writes Niamh Farrell.

MANY PEOPLE DO not believe that men can be victims of domestic abuse.

It can be very difficult for a man to come forward and admit that he is a victim of domestic abuse. In 2005 the National Crime Council found that 26 per cent of men suffer domestic abuse but only 1 in 20 men reported this abuse to the Gardai.

Amen Support Services Ltd is here to help stamp out the stigma that is attached to being a male victim of domestic abuse. In January 2012, Amen had 500 contacts with the service.

Men who have contacted Amen tell of the physical, emotional and psychological abuse they encounter from their female partners. Many men also report that various kinds of false allegations have been made against them and that their children have been alienated from them. One client told us:

I would leave, sleep rough in ditches, cardboard boxes, under bridges, derelict houses, sheds, barns, crying in pain, not going home so as not to upset my family.

The male victim may come from any walk of life, social background or culture. Over the last number of years there has been an increase in the number of foreign nationals seeking assistance. Men will suffer society’s stigma for not protecting themselves and often become depressed in their isolation, feeling suicidal – and in some cases they do take their own lives without disclosure. There have been incidents when Amen would hear from a family member after a suicide.

Male victims are victimised because they fail to conform to the ‘macho man’ stereotype; they are perceived as wimps when in fact they are caring, sensitive people who love their children and want to provide for their families. Male victims are often removed from or asked to leave their homes because it is the easy option.

She coaxed me back. We got engaged, about a month before we got married she really went for me, I begged her to stop scraping, pinching, slapping and punching. You only feel the first one or two. The scars remain, they are horrible, you can’t wash the marks away.

Men in abusive relationships employ various methods to attempt to diffuse potentially violent situations. They often go into another room or lock themselves away in a safe place. They often leave the house, end up sleeping in their car, shed, garage or wherever they can find shelter. Men believe that they should accept responsibility for all sorts of untrue accusations and cover up for their violent partner. They often promise to do whatever she asks or demands, anything to stop the outbursts.

These are all survival tactics, but will not stop the attacks. However, most men will do anything in the vain hope of stopping the abuse. What they fail to do is record the incidents, injuries or pattern of events. They fail to tell any family members of the situation and make excuses for their injuries even when they attend the hospital or the doctor. They fear the humiliation and stigma of disclosure even when the abuse is life-threatening.

If men attempt to report incidents of abuse they are met with blatant discrimination, disbelief, gender bias and comments such as “You must have done something terrible to deserve this!” “Look at the size of you! Maybe she was just defending herself!” or “We can’t arrest her, what about the children”

‘Society seems to want these men to go away’

Or it might be “Why don’t you just leave? Give her time to calm down.” Society seems to want these men to go away because there is no simple solution to their plight and there are no adequate support systems in place to deal with them.

When a woman is violent and abusive in a relationship, it is not necessarily assumed that she is a bad mother. If a man is violent towards his partner, it is automatically assumed that he is an unfit parent. The law presumes that the children are almost always better off with their mother. Consequently the only options for men seem to be to put up with the abuse or to leave the home, since under the law there is no real protection for them.

If a male victim seeks help, society should offer the same protection and help to him and his children as is given to female victims. Women should be judged by the same standards as men, and women who are violent should be held legally responsible for their actions.

Niamh Farrell is the manager of Amen. For further information, contact: Amen Support Services, St Anne’s Resource Centre, Railway Street, Navan, Co Meath. Email HELPLINE: 046 9023718

Amen’s services include a confidential helpline, information and a support service for male victims of domestic abuse; information on legal and other remedies available to men who are being abused in their homes; practical information to abused men on what to do and where to go; regular support group meetings; court accompaniment; outreach service; and counselling.

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