Saturday, August 3, 2013

It's the Same Old Domestic Violence ... Or Is It?

The exchange, videotaped on the victim's phone, lasted more than two  minutes. Throughout the incident the victim was yelled at, pummeled, grabbed by the hair and slapped, All the while the victim pleads," Please stop. Stop, you're hurting me. Just let me go home..."

You can picture the scene, can't you? Without knowing more you can fill in the details of that incident...the story is all too familiar. Well, this time there may be some details that you hadn't considered.

Are you surprised that the batterer is an Iraq war veteran? Are you surprised to learn that the batterer is an NFL cheerleader? That's right, in an alcohol-fueled, jealous rage she unceasingly assaults her boyfriend, who eventually calls the police. Was this the scene you pictured?

It's a fact, domestic violence occurs in all types of intimate relationships, and occurs in the same frequency in gay and straight relationships. And even though it challenges our basic understanding of intimate partner violence, in some relationships the abuser is the woman and the victim is a male. Sometimes the abuse is physical, sometimes emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. It's the same dynamic of power and control.

What's different?
Stigma can be an even stronger deterrent to a male victim seeking assistance. It's hard for a male victim to say, "I'm being abused by my girlfriend." Male victims wonder if they'll be believed, or will they get the reaction "You're bigger and stronger than her. How could she hurt you?" For the same reason, they're often afraid to fend off the blows, lest they be accused of being the aggressor. If they call the police will they end up being arrested? Many male victims report they've been told since they were children, "Men don't hit women." They've never been told what to do if they're being hit by a woman...and because it's rarely spoken about they're too embarrassed to ask.

Lack of awareness of resources can prevent men from seeking support services. As domestic violence advocates, we've fallen short on letting male victims know that we can help them (and, in fact, unlike DVRC, some advocacy programs only assist female victims.)

Call it what you will, relationship abuse, power and control, domestic violence. The message is the same. No one deserves to be abused. All relationships should be safe. For men and for women.

At DVRC we say:

  If you're a woman who is a victim of abuse, You are not alone...we can help.

And we also say:

If you're a man who is a victim of abuse, You are not alone...we can help.

Related posts:
For more information about domestic violence

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