At 3pm on May 16, Dan Perrins of Ontario, Canada “begrudgingly” ended his week-long hunger strike. The strike, which aimed to raise awareness for male victims of domestic abuse and men’s mental health issues, received minimal coverage with most discussion occurring on social media. Perrins identifies as a Men’s Rights Advocate in developed countries, and a Human Rights Advocate in third world nations, “I recognize tyrants don’t care who they abuse…”
On May 8, Perrins wrote a letter to the attention of Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Government. In the letter, Perrins states that he had just completed a 75-mile walk to raise awareness for men’s mental health. Perrins writes “We’re calling on the government to do two things. Number one: establish shelters for male victims of abuse and domestic violence. There are currently none. Number two: Section 300 of the Criminal Code of Canada be upheld. Those who libel and slander individuals advocating for the human rights of men and services for those in need must be held to account.”
Perrins also addresses his concerns with the suicide rate of Canadian men, pointing to his own brother, as well as Earl Silverman – a victim of abuse and former owner of Canada’s only shelter for male victims of domestic violence. Silverman was found dead from an apparent suicide after being forced to sell the shelter – which he paid for entirely out of pocket – because he could no longer afford to operate it. Repeated attempts to seek government funding were allegedly unsuccessful. Alternately, in 2012/13 it has been reported that $82 million was spent by the Ministry towards the operation of 95 shelters for women, with an additional $60 million being spent on other supportive services, “including community based counselling, telephone-based counselling (crisis help lines) and connecting women with supports to help them secure more permanent housing.”
When asked about the lack of media attention the hunger strike got, Perrins said “Well, it proves the inherent lack of compassion, consideration, and care for half the human race by a substantial portion of society… We have an ism that literally runs a large portion of the journalism entities. Why they are in such position of power is up for speculation. The push-back mostly comes from the non-equity feminists . And as I pointed, out they have managed to put themselves in positions where they have the ability to censor / quash any positions that do not agree with their man bad woman good narrative.”
People are afraid to talk about abused men.
I’m not entirely sure why. It is possible that some fear that simply acknowledging that women can be violent and abusive will lead to the dismissal of the dangers some women face. Or perhaps they feel that violent women aren’t as bad as violent men, which is not only a silly thought, but a dangerous and irresponsible one. Or maybe, for the really sick cases, people simply want to call “dibs” on victimhood.
I’m a survivor of severe abuse, and there’s no lack of organizations, publications, and individuals willing to talk about what happened to me, and many other women in a situation similar to mine. But for the sake of true equality I’m going to talk about abused men, and the ways in which society reacts to them.
In 2007, Georgia State University Professor and Director Daniel Whitaker led research used evaluate reciprocal and nonreciprocal violence between intimate partners in the U.S. The study found that almost 29% of relationships have a violent element, with 49.7% of those having reciprocal (both partners involved) violence. While it was determined that men were more likely to inflict injury, the study drops a bombshell, stating “In nonreciprocally violent relationships, women were the perpetrators in more than 70% of the cases. Reciprocity was associated with more frequent violence among women, but not men.” Simply put, in more than 70% of relationships where only one partner is violent, the abusers are women.
Following the release of this study, Tracie Egan Morrissey penned an article for Jezebel, entitled “Have You Ever Beat Up A Boyfriend? Cause, Uh, We Have.”In the article, Morrissey details accounts from several Jezebel employees, saying “we decided to conduct an informal survey of the Jezebels to see who’s gotten violent with their men. After reviewing the answers, let’s just say that it’d be wise to never ever fuck with us.” The article briefly details five instances where different women have admitted to using violence against a male partner, for reasons ranging from a sour breakup to an overheard flirtatious phone conversation. One of the more concerning quotes came when the author wrote: “Another editor slapped a guy when ‘he told me he thought he had breast cancer.’ (Okay, that one made us laugh really hard.)” The final line of the article: “He was, uh, totally asking for it.”
In the comment section of this same article, one woman details her ex boyfriend’s behavior – which included staying out late, being lazy, and being immature – and stated “one day I had enough of his horses*** (I honestly can’t even remember what triggered it, but I’m sure it was good) and I started beating the living s*** out of him. I felt really bad for losing control like that, but later realized it was much worse that I was with someone who could push my buttons that way.” Another said “I once dated an alcoholic (rite of passage for all good little girls) who came over drunk and got in my face. I punched him hard enough to knock him on his ass. After I dumped him, he served me with a restraining order, which I proudly showed off to all his friends. Stupid wimp.”
While many in the comment section were quick to condemn all abuse, many were just as quick to defend it, with one commenter stating “Why can’t we just say some people deserve physical violence and leave it at that?”
Many would like to believe that this is an isolated, quarantined situation on a single comment thread for a single article. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and the social acceptability of female abusers has set an extremely dangerous precedent.
A South African man was recently kidnapped and raped at gunpoint by three women, who then collected his semen and stored it in a cooler. The man was forced to drink an unknown substance in order to have an erection. Rape is a severe, grotesque, heinous crime. And yet many on the internet looked at the gender of the perpetrators, and victim, and declared the crime to be a joke. “Lol @ the woman who raped a man at gunpoint the other day” one user wrote. “A girl raped a man?? #Impossible” declared another. Yet another proclaimed “LMAO a girl raped a man at gun point! I find that shit hilarious :’)”
Last week, controversial British tabloid talk show host Jeremy Kyle berated his audience after they laughed at a male victim of domestic violence who appeared as a guest for a segment titled “You’re a violent cheat but I hope your baby’s mine!” During this segment, Kyle’s guest Geoff detailed an incident where he was hospitalized after being forced to jump from a third story balcony in order to escape his violent girlfriend, Danni. The camera cut repeatedly to Danni nodding along in agreement with the claims being made by Geoff. When the audience erupted in laughter, Kyle berated his audience, saying “…if a woman sat here and a bloke had locked her in a flat and she’d been forced to jump out and injure herself, you lot would not be laughing…You would be saying he is a total nightmare, he should be locked up and this is disgraceful. Just because it happened to a bloke, it’s not funny.” The audience fell silent with shame, and then applauded Kyle.
The Department of Western Australia’s Domestic Violence Helpline page includes phone numbers for Women’s and Men’s domestic violence helplines. The first two lines of each section are quite telling. Under women’s, the description opens: “The Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline is a statewide 24 hour service. This service provides support and counselling for women experiencing family and domestic violence.” Under men’s, the description reads: “The Men’s Domestic Violence Helpline is a statewide 24 hour service. This service provides counselling for men who are concerned about becoming violent or abusive.” While the men’s section does close out with the clarification that services are available for male victims of abuse, the women’s section includes no disclaimer about “women who are concerned about becoming violent or abusive.”
Psychology Today recently reported that about one-third of all working men reported some form of sexual harassment in the previous year, however “sexual harassment against men is often not taken that seriously. There has been extensive research looking at how sexual harassment can affect women, both in terms of the emotional consequences and reduced job prospects, but fewer studies have looked at how men are affected.”
There is a heavy stigma surrounding male victims of many crimes, particularly crimes typically seen between intimate partners or crimes of a sexual nature, and the availability of information, resources, and compassion are alarmingly low. Helping male victims does not un-help female victims.
When asked if he thought there was any hope for change, Dan Perrins said, “I see hope, it was there on the [hashtag] and as well in the populace. Can we manifest change? That is on society’s shoulders. I along with a growing number of others are working towards positive change. So I do have hope, not sure if I’ll see it in my lifetime but for the next generation possibly.”
Liz Finnegan is a soulless ginger with no political leanings. Pun enthusiast. Self-proclaimed “World’s Okayest Person.” Retro gaming contributor for The Escapist.
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