Gender-based violence is a prevalent topic in feminism and a lot has been done to shed light on the issue. When looking at an issue like domestic violence from a feminist perspective, it is quite a harrowing and a deeply engrained part of traditional heteronormative relationships. Nowadays, we know its forms, we know it’s common and most of us have (hopefully) reached the conclusion that it is not okay. Approximately three in five women will find themselves in an abusive relationship at some point in their lives, a scary statistic to know and be a part of.
The abuse women suffer takes the form of emotional, psychological and sexual control and manipulation as well as physical violence. Not all are fully recognised on their own, emotional abuse was not recognised in Irish law until a year ago. However, progress in the form of women’s shelters, counselling services, charities and simply speaking up about personal experiences has really helped us move forward as a society. We now know more about how to help those we know and love through times like this but there is still so much more to be done both socially and constitutionally.
So, we’ve talked about women but the statistics for male victims of domestic abuse appear to be very much the same as those recorded for women. According to Parity, a men’s rights campaign group, over forty per cent of domestic violence victims are men. In my own experience of speaking to male friends, many know someone who has been abused or have been abused themselves. This is almost the same as my female friends, however, unlike them, men don’t know about any of the resources and support available to them. Men’s sheds and other support groups do exist but information on and promotion of these organisations is nowhere near where it should be.
The case that prompted this post is that of Caroline Flack, a television personality who is due in court for assaulting her partner with a lamp. Coverage of this incident and the response to it has in many ways been distasteful and insensitive, to say the least. Over the years we have all seen cases where men are victims, this isn’t new. A Jeremy Kyle episode that aired in 2015 featured a man called Geoff who was beaten and verbally abused by his girlfriend.
During the show, Geoff, a father of two, told the television host and a live studio audience about a time he was locked and ultimately trapped in a flat by his girlfriend. After he broke the handle of the door as he desperately tried to get out he was then forced to jump off of a three storey high balcony to escape. In response hearing this, the audience laughed at him, people found it funny until Jeremy Kyle pointed out that had it been a woman, that would not have been the case.
An article written in the Daily Mail at the time portrayed the show in a sympathetic way in favour of Geoff and yet five years later, another article is talking about how refreshed Caroline Flack seems after her holiday did her “the world of good”. The woman assaulted her boyfriend, he is quoted telling the police during his call “she’s trying to kill me mate”, how sick do you have to be to look the other way at this? I don’t care about the adidas tracksuit Flack has donned, the only outfit I care about her wearing is an orange jumpsuit.
It is not a disservice to the feminist movement if we shed light on ALL victims of domestic violence. These cases do not disregard the experiences of millions of women worldwide and these men deserve the same compassion and support. When you’ve been abused, it is much easier to have empathy, woman, other or child, our hearts should break the same way for them. Abuse is abuse and it is not something to laugh at when it’s directed at a man, that is not progress, it’s just sick.
Abusing men is not empowering, it is not taking back control, it is inflicting all of the pain and suffering you know too well onto someone who did not do that to you. When you have been abused, you do not abuse, you love, respect and protect the person you’re with. You ensure that those around you never feel how you did and never experience the pain and fear you did. You do not get to use your gender as a literal get out of jail free card when you consciously inflict any form of pain and suffering on your partner. When you decide you’re a feminist, you are not signing up for double standards. You are promising to be better and do better and to be aware of how patriarchy affects us all, without exceptions.,