A Different Set of Terrified Eyes

A Different Set of Terrified Eyes

“We provide help and support for victims of domestic violence!”  is usually the headline. You read on and it all sounded very promising: “no stigma, non-judgmental, help and support, safety”. All these words you desperately needed. So you picked up the phone and were ready to call, until something caught your eye: “our mission is to fight as hard as we can to end violence against women and children.” It even had a picture of the face of a terrified woman on the bottom of the flyer.

Wait a minute, something is missing here. How did they know if you were a woman or not? If you were  calling the suicide crisis line or seeking help for anxiety, they wouldn’t know about your gender until they heard your voice or met you in person, right?

But in this case, they seem to know. They seem to be sure that if someone is a victim of domestic abuse, she must be a female, despite this 2005 study which estimated the likelihood of the victim of domestic abuse in Canada being a male is almost the same as being a female (6:7).

Unfortunately, to the government and the mental health field, these some 546,000 men per year do not exist. In Canada, not a single government-funded service or program targets male victims of domestic abuse. There is a shelter and crisis line in Calgary which targets men who want to leave a violent situation at home, but it receives no government support.

Pretty harsh, huh? When it comes to mental health issues, it is not news that men are less likely to report their problems, let alone seek help, due to the gender stereotype the society places on them. In fact, another 2006 survey reports that 83% of domestic police reports are filed by female victims and only 17% by men. But at least you would expect something to be done for the 158,656 men who were courageous (or desperate) enough to speak up.

Take a moment and think about this. We no longer (I hope) consider depression or anxiety in men as weaknesses in character; why do we still force the victimized ones to hide in the closet?

Sources and More Information:

Another side of domestic violence, The Reporter

It is not just women who are victims of spousal violence, CBC News

The Gender Paradigm in Domestic Violence Research and Theory, Dutton & Nicholls

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