Seeing Both Sides of Domestic Violence
It has been a conventional wisdom to the average individual that domestic violence naturally involves males abusing females, especially housewives being beaten by their husbands or little girls being harmed by older men. On the contrary, there are cases which emphasize the fact that men also suffer from domestic violence in the hands of women, such as the report of the U.S. DHHS that approximately 4,000 children, most of which are males, are killed or maimed each year mostly by females (James, p. 1). Moreover, a study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that the number of male victims 12 years of age and older reaches nearly 1.6 million annually. On the other hand, a United States Department of Justice study also reveals that there are approximately 835,000 domestic assaults committed against men every year. While it is true that “each year, at least 1,000 women are killed by their male partners, usually after having undergone years of physical abuse from those partners (USDHHS, 1986),” it should not be denied that males also experience abuse from their female partners and other women in one way or another.
Tom James explains in “The Invisible Victims of Domestic Violence” that “gender-exclusionary laws and policies are justified” in the area of domestic abuse against women “because male victims supposedly comprise only 5 or 15% of the total (James, p. 1),” which poses the important question: does the low number of cases of abuse against men justify the government and the public from altogether ignoring these cases? James also draws the parallel between the relatively minor number of cases of abuse against men and the abuse towards Asians living in the United States by suggesting the argument that the fact that there is a lower number of abuses against Asians in America than abuses against Americans in their own land does not mean that the abuses against Asians should simply be ignored.
James brings out the crucial but oftentimes ignored observation that even though the cases of male victims of domestic violence are comparably low in contrast to female victims, it does not necessarily mean that laws and policies should only cater to the rights of women in general. While it may accepted that laws are created in order to protect the oppressed, it does not eventually mean that such laws should have an “oppressing” effect on others just to protect the interests of another. And while domestic violence accounts for more injuries than auto accidents, muggings, and rapes combined (Beebe, 1991), the 1975 National Family Violence Survey which is substantiated by at least ten additional investigations reveals that husband abuse, not wife abuse, is the most underreported form of family violence, and it is the area that is on the rise. Thus, it is not surprising to note that the public rarely gets to hear of news about battered husbands or abused male members of the families, which consequently creates the general impression that there is no such thing as domestic violence against men. That is what makes the situation abominable inasmuch as the attainment of the principle of social justice is concerned.
What is the reason behind the predominant perception that domestic violence is largely a form of violence caused by men unto women? For the most part, it can be said that the typical patriarchal setting of the society since time immemorial has contributed mostly to the abuses committed by males against females (Kimmel p. 264). It is a well-known fact in history that women were not allowed to vote and participate in the elections prior to the twenty-first century, and that the roles of women, specifically their gender-roles, are confined within the limits of the house, thereby further decreasing their open and legitimate participation in social affairs. Men, on the other hand, have long held substantial social positions and have long held power and authority in the society more than women have done thus far. The very observation that much of the society is patriarchal in nature extends the capabilities of men in fully participating in social affairs, which corresponds to a higher level of position in the society. As a result, the ‘stigma’ that men overpower women in so many ways creates the impression that domestic violence of men against women is not a farfetched idea.
Moreover, the rise of feminist groups seeking to address the domestic violence against women has created the illusion that women are the only ones who are abused when in fact men also suffer the same fate under the hands of the opposite sex (McRobbie, p. 98). In effect, the incidents of domestic violence against men have rarely been given the emphasis and notice since most of the public’s attention is drawn towards the abuse against women.
Giving due recognition of the fact that men also suffer from domestic violence is not the same as saying that the public’s attention should shift in favor of men and that the cases of domestic violence experienced by women from the hands of men should be abandoned. Rather, it should be the case that both men and women who suffer from domestic violence should be given equal treatment, removing preference to one over the other as it will further widen the disparity between the public’s perception towards domestic violence against men and women respectively. The public should be made well aware of the fact that domestic violence is not limited to violence against women alone. By accepting the reality that domestic violence encompasses both men and women especially in contemporary times, laws could be amended and general perception can be corrected in order to eliminate discrimination against the acceptance of the fact that both men and women can become victims.
Beebe, Saunders D. “Emergency Management of the Adult Female Rape Victim.” American Family Physicians 43 (1991): 2041-46.
James, Tom. “The Invisible Victims of Domestic Violence.” Transitions 24.6 (2004): 1.
Kimmel, Michael S. “Responses of Men towards Feminism at the Century’s Turn.” Gender and Society 1.3 (1999): 264.
McRobbie, Angela. “Feminism and the Third Way.” Feminist Review.64 (2000): 98.
United States Department of Health and Human Services. “Surgeon General’s Workshop on Violence and Public Health Report.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986.