Originally posted on September 12, 2012
In the ten years that I have been involved in advocacy for male survivors, I have learned that male survivors are seen as pariah in the abuse awareness community. Most of the organizations to do outreach are women’s groups, and few of them make any attempt to help abused men and boys. When one asks them about male survivors, most organizations will say that male victimize is bad and a legitimate problem, yet their actions rarely match their words. I have written about that on this blog several times.
The most impressive example that comes to mind is what happened in the UK several years ago. The United Kingdom had to mandate that domestic violence shelters provide assistance to male survivors or the shelters would lose their funding. Then there was the women’s shelter that chose to close its doors rather than admit men. My personal favorite was the case where a rape center was booted out of the Scotland’s national rape crisis network for deciding to help men.
As powerful as those cases are to me, I am sure that few feminists or women’s groups have ever heard of them. That is why some people like Ron Couchman can write things like this:
In Ottawa, as one example of many, I have been working with the Ottawa coalition to end violence against women for 4-5 years now. During my support work I often speak with men,or friends of men that share your legitimate concerns about resources for men. Almost every women’s org I have approached about it have been VERY supportive about creating awareness, improving access to services for men, going an environmental scan of services for men etc. The opposition only comes when the idea is presented similar to the way it is presented here…
As someone doing graduate research on gendered language I can tell you it is really important to recognize that most violence of this nature (over 85%) is by men towards women.. even 80% of men who are abused are abused by other men. The language has to stay gendered even if there are exceptions to the rule.
I would suggest we recognize that WRC has a mandate to address violence against women. I myself work with Men for Equality and Non-Violence, we work in solidarity with WRC, as well as womens groups, but very much have aa focus on peer support for men… both men who have been abused and men who have been abusive and want to change etc. Every org has to h ave a mandate that is specific and narrow otherwise no one will fund them.
Have you considered approaching women’s orgs that deal with these issues compassionately about trying to increase visibility for men’s experiences of violence? I have and have been amazed ant the change in conversation here.
You can agree that it is important for this language to stay gendered for this purpose, and also agree that men need more support, it is not an either or problem, you can have both.
I have advocated for male survivors of sexual violence for almost ten years. During that time, I have seen few women’s organizations support addressing sexual violence against men and boys. Most are open to the idea of acknowledging male survivors as long as people, particularly the male survivors themselves, state that what happens to males is rare and less traumatic. Most of those organizations do not provide any services to males, and for the few that do there is little counseling, no legal advice, no assistance for men with children, little public outreach, and very little information to even hand out. Many of these places simply refer abused men to homeless shelters or batterer programs. And when asked to create services for male survivors, most show zero interest in doing so.
Ron’s statistics do not match any study I have seen. The most recent study I read about this issue, the CDC report from last year, showed that the majority of sexual violence against males is committed by females. This claim that only men abuse just does not ring true.
The reason why gendered language is problematic is because if you tell people that only women are victims and only men are abusers, people will not bother to look for male survivors or create services that may compel male survivors to come forward. Gendered language is simply about playing politics. It is about pushing a political agenda rather than helping anyone. That does not mean that anyone in favor of such language does not care about female or male survivors. Yet it does mean that they are willing to let rhetoric, not facts, dictate who they help.
While I agree with Ron that is not an either or problem (although his side seems hell-bent on making such), I disagree that he can have it both ways. You cannot on one hand frame sexual violence as something only men do to only women, and then on the other hand try to help the male survivors you just said do not exist. It costs you nothing to do for male survivors what you do for female survivors without any caveats or conditions.
It is time to stop playing this game because it obviously does not work.