Domestic Abuse

abuseDomestic abuse is not specific to any one group or gender. That is the message Amen, the voluntary group who provide information to male victims, want you to remember this Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“It affects men, women and children,” says Eugene Wogan, the services spokesperson. “When you look at the figures, it’s pretty even. 29% of women and 26% of men will have suffered some form of domestic abuse when severe and minor incidents are combined. This evens out at 13% each when minor physical incidents are taken into account.”

While the severity of attacks made against women tends to be far worse, it must also be noted that only 5% of men ever report to Gardaí in comparison to 29% of women. “The problem stems from men’s role in society,” Wogan says. “The Irish constitution put in a protection for the family, which has been defined through years of legal precedent, as mother and child. Men are now viewed as separate from it.

So when there is a problem in a family, the first thing society tries to do is get rid of the father. Even when he is the one to have called the police, they often take the man from the house. We hear that sort of story over and over again through our helpline.”

He says this outcome can leave the male partner out of home and, more worryingly, leave the children exposed to violence. “Often the father is the one protecting the children in this situation and with him removed the children are left at the mercy of the violent partner.”

He encourages men who believe they are being assaulted to keep a diary recording any and all assaults made on their person and to be open about the abuse. “It’s easier said than done,” he admits. “There is still a stigma attached to men being abused. People say ‘well, sure he’s six foot whatever and she’s only five foot dot, how could she be assaulting him?’ That kind of thinking suggests that the male should respond violently. Most other times there is a belief that the partner deserved to be attacked, ‘there’s no smoke without fire’, ‘she must have been defending herself’. General societal attitudes cling onto this idea that the only victim of domestic abuse is a woman.”

He makes the point that violence takes on many forms. Amen gets numerous reports of partners stabbed in their sleep or warned not to go to sleep, leading to severe psychological distress.

It’s important, he believes, to report abuse to the Gardaí and to medical professionals and to ensure that they keep a record of your injuries and all details of the assault, to create a paper trail. “This way there is more chance of them believing you if you apply for a protection order which is a court order requiring respondents to desist from that kind of behaviour. A failure to be believed is one of the biggest problems faced by men.”

It’s also important to partake in counselling, both one-on-one and as part of a group. “Domestic abuse being a ‘woman’s problem’ is so ingrained in societal attitudes that victims themselves are genuinely shocked and find it difficult to accept that it is happening to them. It’s a form of bullying and bullying happens to everybody.”

Amen offer a helpline and a number of support groups which aim to help men’s self-esteem and general health as well as with legal issues. “We want to give guys the tools to cope, recognition that they are not the only person to go through this nor are they a failure as a man, a dad or a husband. We try to teach them assertiveness, to recognise themselves, their own emotions and notice when someone is pushing them. We even look at physical health as well as emotional health.”

By Caomhan Keane