Part of the unwritten gentleman’s code of honour is to vow never to hit a woman. It’s a generally accepted norm that men hitting women, for whatever reason, is completely immoral. With this emphasis in place, and the reverse never discussed, it is only natural that when you think of domestic violence, unfortunately – and quite stereotypically – the image that comes to mind is one of an aggressive male and a subordinate female.
But what happens when a man becomes the victim and a woman is the attacker?
Not often discussed but always ready to be addressed is the issue of domestic violence against men. The statistics are surprisingly high; last year the National Crime Statistics reported that 800, 000 males were affected by domestic violence – around 5% of the male population. This is not much different to the number of female victims, which is roughly 7% of women in the UK.
Although the figures are higher than expected, what is perhaps most shocking is the treatment of male victims. In a chilling video released by charity Mankind, differing attitudes towards domestic violence is highlighted. The video, which has now received nearly seven million views shows a young couple arguing. In the first part, the boyfriend physically assaults his girlfriend, violently grabbing her face. This action results in several onlookers offering the victim support and threats are made to call the police.
But what happens next is disturbing. The video switches roles, with the boyfriend becoming the victim. After the girlfriend violently shoves and hurls verbal abuse at him, onlookers watch with, rather appallingly, amused expressions. Nobody comes to the man’s rescue but instead laugh as they watch the scene unfold. It’s an uncomfortable watch, but truly an eye-opener into society’s priorities.
Chairman of Mankind, Mark Brooks tells us why he chose to make the short video:
"We have been concerned for many years that social attitudes in Britain had not changed when it came to recognising the plight of male victims of domestic abuse in the same way society rightly does for female victims. We tested this through the video and were saddened to see that in fact society had not changed."
There is most unquestionably a distinct lack of support for men suffering domestic violence. The issue is almost unheard of, and never openly discussed. But why are male victims overlooked? Mark continues:
"There are three main reasons men themselves, social attitudes and the lack of government recognition and support. Men themselves find it hard to get help because of pride, shame and a worry they won't be believed. Society does not help them because we don't recognise and support men in that situation. Lastly, public policy in the UK fails to support male victims. There are no real awareness campaigns, domestic abuse policy is geared towards just female victims and there are precious services especially in areas such as safe houses."
There is a definite imbalance in availability of support for male victims. In the UK, there are over 4,000 support groups and refuge places available for women, while a mere 78 places exist for men – 25 of which are dedicated to heterosexual males only. It is shocking that the number of refuge places for men is completely disproportionate to the number of male victims, while women have an abundance of support available.
The attitude toward male victims is appalling and partly the reason why there are so few places for men who are suffering to turn.
Brian Hitchcock, Head of Legal Department at charity Men’s Aid tells us:
"The number of provisions available to men is a disgrace. There is an undeniable lack of support for male victims of domestic violence. A few years ago, £1.4 million was dedicated to female victims of domestic violence, while only £225, 000 was set aside for male victims. There is a definite fault in the way the government disseminates information. If you look at government commissioned domestic violence posters, men are always portrayed as the perpetrator, never the victim. It encourages menhating."
Mankind’s video serves to illustrate just how skewed gender perceptions can have such a dangerously negative effect. Male victims of domestic violence can quite easily go unnoticed or unsupported just because of the double standards that exist. The idea that domestic violence affects women ‘more’ or ‘worse’ is popular but of course, completely untrue because ultimately, violence does not supersede gender.
Men’s Aid, Brian Hitchcock continues:
"Violence is violence no matter who the aggressor is or who the victim is. One of our members suffered an attempted poisoning by his wife and stepdaughter. My ex-wife tried to blind me with boiling water. Both cases are horrific, violence is horrific. There have been many cases where men have been stabbed. It should always be regarded as a crime, whoever commits it and the police should always see it that way."
Jay Z & Solange Knowles
Domestic violence is obviously not just a women’s issue but many treat it that way, and when the tables are turned, it is considered humorous. Recently, Jay Z was assaulted by sister-in-law Solange, in what has now become the infamous ‘lift incident.’ The result was thousands of memes making light of the situation, while others casually wondered ‘what did Jay Z say to Solange?’ But had Jay Z been the attacker, would that be the question on everyone’s lips?
It’s an attitude that needs changing, it’s a double standard that needs abolishing because fundamentally, what is going wrong here is the complete disregard of a simple concept – violence is violence.