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Domestic violence reality check for the 'manosphere'

  • 13 September 2013

Domestic violence is a crime in which, overwhelmingly, the victims are women and the perpetrators are men. A recent 11-year summary of domestic violence trends in Victoria by the Department of Justice found that nearly 80 per cent of victims were female and over 90 per cent of perpetrators were male.

Yet lately it seems that there has been a subtle shift in community perception. Whenever the topic of domestic violence is raised in the media, talkback radio, online comments and letters to the editor are suddenly flooded with demands that we acknowledge that men, too, are victims. According to a VicHealth report, one fifth of the community now believes that men and women are equal perpetrators of violence in the home.

The 'battered husband' claim has flourished within the online space known as the 'manosphere' where aggressive men's rights groups blame women, and more specifically feminism, for everything from high unemployment rates and shorter male lifespans, to false rape allegations and poor family court outcomes. The time has come, they say, to knock women off their pedestal.

Groups such as One in Three claim that as many as 50 per cent of domestic violence victims are male, and that women are as physically aggressive — if not more so — than men. According to one men's rights group website, feminists (or femo-nazis, to use the term preferred by many) 'invent fake domestic violence' so that they can continue to control, dominate, destroy and extort from men. Males, says another site, are facing increased hostility and being portrayed as the perpetrators of 'evil'.

There is no doubt that some victims of domestic violence are men. No one disagrees that this abuse is unacceptable and unforgiveable, and that these men are equally deserving of resources and support. But to suggest that domestic violence is a gender-equal crime is plainly incorrect, and dangerous.

These groups cherry pick studies with dubious methodology. The studies they cite have been repeatedly refuted for an approach that does not differentiate between the type and context of violent acts (for example, between a push in self-defence and a push down the stairs, or between a single act of retaliation and years of ongoing abuse). The research has also been criticised for interviewing only one partner in the relationship, and for ignoring post-separation abuse, which accounts for a very large percentage of intimate partner violence.

And of course it blatantly contradicts the vast majority