When the conversation turns to domestic violence, how many times have you heard someone declare "It happens to men too!"?
This is a fact. Yes, domestic violence does happen to men.
Men, like women, can be both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, or domestic abuse as it is often referred to as.
But, the statistics tell a story.
This is a crime which affects women and children more than men.
According to the most recent personal safety survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016, one in six women over the age of 15 had experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a current or previous partner, compared with one in 16 men over the age of 15.
Further, one in four women (compared to one in six men) had experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partner and one in five women (compared to one in 20 men) had experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. (Source: ABS, Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017a) Personal Safety Survey 2016 ABS cat. no. 4906.0. as cited in Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Family, domestic and sexual violence)
This data is just the tip of the iceberg.
As someone working in this space, I see it with my own eyes. I regularly see women who report physical abuse, financial control, social isolation and complete and utter overwhelm.
Then there's the women who report potential homelessness, threats to their lives and endless police interventions.
The reality is, this isn't just my professional experience. My colleagues regularly provide the same feedback. Women and children are knocking on the doors of support services begging for help, generally not men.
But why is this?
Why are there more female victims of this complex and often catastrophic violence?
Maybe it's male entitlement? Maybe it stems from the longstanding inequality that permeates society? Maybe it's the result of intergenerational trauma? Maybe it's because boys are often still being told to "suck it up" or "quit crying like a girl".
The theories are endless and not something that can be summed up in a nice, neat 450 word article.
Gender based violence is a multifaceted problem that requires a multifaceted approach to achieve elimination.
But, ultimately it starts at home with we parents.
We must heal ourselves to save our children. We must let our boys cry. We must teach our girls to wait for what they deserve and not settle for what they don't.
We need to address the root causes and drivers of this violence, not band-aid the symptoms of the dysfunction.
But most of all, we need to call it out. Stand up. Speak out and make a difference for generations to come.
- Erica is a Southern Highlands counsellor who works with women over 18. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, on 0412 707 242 or via socials @shecounselling.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.