Most people probably ignored the International Men’s Day on 19th November. Those who didn’t may have noticed the launch of a new website One in Three (www.oneinthree.com.au). This is the latest attempt from the male rights movement (which most, perhaps, don’t even know exists!) to break another appalling silence in our society.
I must be stupid to raise this subject on The Sola Panel. Some months ago, I raised the issue with a bit of an ‘aside’ to another discussion—or perhaps it was best described as an attempted ‘drive by shooting’!:
I must confess to being similarly confused with the local Labor member’s pamphlet that came through the mail this week. Apparently the Labor Party is mounting a national campaign to reduce violence against women and their children. That’s a relief; apparently violence against husbands and fathers, or perhaps just any old random male on the streets, is still okay.
Okay, perhaps that was not the best way to broach serious social issues that have depths of emotion riding just beneath the surface, and perhaps I deserved the flak I received. But since a human being is a learning organism (unlike an amoeba), perhaps I can attempt to prove I am not an amoeba. So after International Men’s Day 2009, here is a sober note without any poor attempts at humour, in an attempt to raise the same agenda.
For almost two decades, those in the male rights movement have been trying to speak on behalf of male victims of domestic abuse. Their new website draws attention to a bibliography of 256 scholarly items representing a total research sample of one quarter of a million people. Conservatively, one in three victims of domestic abuse are male (see the latest ABS figures). Other research shows that it may, in fact, be one in two.
For almost two decades, those in the male rights movement have been trying to say, on the basis of this research, that there is a lot of misinformation being spread, due to the slanted politics associated with the issue of domestic violence. The new website has a page listing examples—many of them from government sources—of the misuse of statistics, and whether or not a retraction has been made of this misinformation.
So far, this is simply operating upon the standard definitions of ‘violence’ used to generate the figures of violence against women. One in Three also points out that the abuse of the male by his female partner often takes on a subtle form. Supporter of the campaign Melbourne psychologist Dr Elizabeth Celi says,
Unlike physical violence, many of the forms of domestic abuse faced by male victims are difficult to detect and hard for the man himself to defend against. A man’s health is wrapped up in his identity. Attacking his self-worth through various forms of criticism, manipulation and intimidation are forms of emotional and verbal violence that we need to learn about as a society and say ‘Enough!’.
Elizabeth Celi also warns against the common tendency to dichotomize the issue, as if a stand against violence against men somehow detracts from a stand against violence against women. Perhaps this explains the misinformation and the difficulty men’s rights have had in changing public perceptions. But there is no need for the dichotomy. This is basically about a common sense of humanity. If it is wrong for men to abuse women (and children), it is equally wrong for women to abuse men (and children).
Perhaps the time is ripe for society to hear this old viewpoint once again struggling for air in the public domain. Last week, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd released a survey of 10,000 people that shows that 46 per cent believe that women also commit acts of domestic violence. Most of those surveyed still believe that men commit the majority of abuse, so there is still work for groups such as One in Three to do in drawing attention to the research in order to bring about more nuanced public opinion.
But nevertheless a head speaking for the male has appeared over the parapet once again. There are other victims out there—usually silent, supplied with almost absolutely no resources to help them. Isn’t it time we heard their silent cry?