One of the key topics that gets addressed each year at the National Conference for Men and Boys is the issue of male victims of domestic violence.
One of the leading charities working to tackle this issue is Abused Men in Scotland (AMIS) who attended the event last year.
AMIS has been going from strength to strength and is beginning to shape the broader debate on the issue of male victims. One of the key ideas that AMIS is highlighting is the need to change the “public story” about domestic violence to include male victims.
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Nick Smithers of AMIS wrote an article about the “public story” of domestic violence published at The Good Men Project this weekend, where he spoke about his experience of presenting at a recent conference. Here’s a summary of some of the key points he makes:
“Conversations about male and female victims of domestic violence can often get reduced to arguments about gender politics. AMIS works hard to avoid this type of dialogue. As a frontline service we bring real expertise of working with male victims and we back this up with rigorous and original research such as our recent report on Men’s Experience of Domestic Abuse in Scotland.
“One of the key themes that has emerged from our research is the extent to which the “public story” of domestic abuse is extremely pervasive—that being the notion that domestic abuse is perpetrated almost exclusively by men against women. It’s one thing knowing this, the challenge we face is finding ways to create a new public story that accounts for both male and female victims.
“I was asked my view on the introduction of the term “gender based violence” (GBV) to replace ‘domestic abuse’ in many official publications and discourse. I suggested that this could be another barrier to men getting help as the implication was that GBV was male on female—the standard assumption. My co-presenter intervened to make what, to me, was a telling clarification. It was asserted that GBV was not about ‘who does what to whom’ but about why some people were victimised due to their gender.
“My co-presenter then stated that social construction theory explains this phenomenon as it illuminates the fact that men are brought up to control women and that this is the context for domestic abuse. Well I was somewhat taken aback by this statement which I could neither relate to on a personal level as a man nor on a professional level having worked with men in a deprived area of Edinburgh for six years.
“This exchange has been reverberating in my mind since then. It seems to encapsulate an ideology which is the hidden, guiding hand of domestic abuse policy here in Scotland and beyond. While it was surprising for me to hear such a political definition of sex roles it was highly instructive as to why abused men in Scotland often suffer in silence.
“Men experiencing domestic abuse can feel stigmatised and ashamed. In many cases men will not recognise their experience as domestic abuse such is the prevalence of the public story- they will believe it is something which only happens to women. It is imperative that the narrative around domestic abuse shifts to allow gender inclusive language to become the norm.”
To read Nick’s full article and the debate in the comments section below see The Good Men Project website.
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