Understanding Intimate Partner Violence: An Australian Perspective

A commenter named astyaagraha posted information about how the Australian government treats male victims of domestic violence on reddit. The information is hardly surprising. It shows how the Australian government uses a double standard when it comes to assisting male victims, or more accurately male abusers since their policy is to assume men claiming abuse at the hands of women are lying and are actually abusers. This is exactly how one would expect a feminist-run program to treat men, and it certainly lives up one’s woeful expectations. Here is astyaagraha’s full comment from reddit:

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I’d be interested in the perspectives of the sub on the way Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is handled in Australia.

A significant amount of the resources and training to public sector organisations (such as police, domestic violence crisis lines, and general victims of crime services) is provided by No To Violence (NTV). NTV is the national peak body for organisations running Men’s Behaviour Change programs (pretty much the only DV resource available to Australian men, either victims or perpetrators) and runs the only national dedicated men’s domestic violence hotline, the Men’s Referral Service (MRS).

The national domestic violence referral response is guided by the Common Risk Assessment Framework (CRAF), this framework is used by our national domestic violence hotline provider (1800RESPECT) to categorise calls and refer callers to appropriate supports and services.

Using the CRAF, women experiencing IPV are referred directly to available resources and support services, the process is different for men. For men experiencing IPV, they are first screened to make sure that they aren’t actually the perpetrator of the violence (this includes contacting the man’s partner) before they are referred on for support and assistance (from a generic victims of crime support line). The following is from pages 40 and 41 of the CRAF Manual:

Responses to men who report or are assessed to be victims of violence in a heterosexual relationship

The research evidence and experience of family violence professionals demonstrate that relatively few men in heterosexual relationships are solely victims of intimate partner violence. As discussed on page 41, men are much more likely than their female partners to be using a number of repeated, patterned forms of violence to dominate and control over time.

A man who is the principal (or sole) user of family violence can present as a victim or the victim of the violence. This presentation is often persuasive because:

  • women may retaliate which later may be interpreted as ‘evidence’ of a pattern of violence on their part
  • men may claim injuries (for example scratches or bite marks) as evidence of their victimisation that are likely to have been received from their partner in self-defence
  • even when they are not able to portray their partner as the sole aggressor and themselves as the sole victim, men can describe their partner’s actions (of self-defence) to present the situation as ‘tit-for-tat fighting’, perhaps by saying that ‘she gives as good as she gets’
  • women (people) experiencing fear or terror will sometimes make decisions (including the use of violence), which might add to the portrayal of them being hysterical or out of control
  • descriptions of women’s behaviour can be made in the context of a broader social history in which women have been portrayed as less credible than men, and can have particular resonance if men present as calm, charming, eloquent and ‘in control’.

The extent to which men in these situations believe that they are partly or solely the victim, versus the extent to which they know that they are not a victim can vary.

Men who admit to using violence often try to justify or minimise their violence, or to blame their partner — perhaps for ‘provoking’ an attack or giving him ‘no way out’. They might refer to their partner as being over-sensitive, irrational, hysterical, a danger to themselves, or even mentally ill when trying to minimise their own behaviour to others. These characterisations of women can be reinforced by social norms that do not support equitable relations between women and men.

For these reasons, in all circumstances where a man is initially assessed as or claiming to be a victim of family violence in the context of a heterosexual relationship, you should refer him to a men’s family violence service for comprehensive assessment or to the Victims of Crime Helpline. His female (ex)partner must always be referred to a women’s family violence service for assessment, irrespective of whether she is thought to be the victim or aggressor.

In these situations, you should always take into account the issues outlined in Assessing whether a person is using or in need of protection from family violence in the following section.

Considering that the referral process for men requires screening by a men’s family violence service (either MRS itself or another organisation trained by NTV) before being referred on to a Victims of Crime service (also trained by NTV), it’s interesting to look at the defintion of male family violence being used.

The following are some of the key elements of male family violence defined in the NTV Men’s Behaviour Change Program Manual:

Male family violence is violation.

Male family violence is any form of behaviour by men, in the context of intimate relationships, which violates the right of another person to autonomy, dignity, equality and respect.

Male family violence is power over.

Male family violence is behaviour that expresses men’s power over another.

Male family violence perpetuates and reinforces male power over women and children.

Men’s needs and wants are given primacy over others – at individual, social and systemic levels. Male family violence perpetuates and reinforces this primacy.

Unintended violence is still violence.

Intention is not necessarily a defining feature of male family violence. Any behaviour that causes violation is violent or controlling, regardless of whether the man is conscious of any intention to exert power or control. Behaviour is still violent or controlling even if a man says he feels powerless himself, or is not aware that the behaviour is violent or controlling.

Basically any behaviour (intentional or not) that affects your partner’s autonomy, dignity, equality or respect is violent and abusive.

Some of the forms of male family violence discussed (in addition to physical violence) are emotional abuse and controlling behaviour, defined as:

Emotional violence and controlling behaviour is behaviour that does not accord equal importance and respect to another person’s feelings, opinions and experiences. It is often the most difficult to pinpoint or identify.

It includes refusing to listen to or denying another’s person’s feelings, telling them what they do or do not feel, and ridiculing or shaming them. It also includes making another person responsible for one’s own feelings, blaming or punishing them for how one feels, and manipulating them by appealing to their feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness. It also includes emotional control, such as telling someone directly or indirectly that if she expresses a different point of view then she will cause trouble, and implying or telling her that avoiding trouble is more important than how she feels.

Emotional violence can be verbal, for example, verbal putdowns and ridiculing any aspect of a woman or child’s being, such as her body, beliefs, occupation, cultural background, skills, friends or family. It can also be non-verbal, for example, withdrawal, refusal to communicate, and rude or dismissive gestures.

It also includes “refusal to have sex as punishment” and encompases pretty much everything else:

This includes telling her what to do and not allowing her to carry out her own wishes (for example, always ‘losing’ the car keys or being late to look after the children when she wants to do something he disapproves of).

So how do I know all this? Simple, I tried to get help from the “resources” available to me to leave a physically, financially and emotionally abusive 20 year relationship. My experience led me to believe that “something was up” and that it “just wasn’t right”, so I tried to find out why it had gone so horribly wrong.

After reaching out for help, the mandatory contact with my now ex-partner made the abuse considerably worse (which is why, in general, you should never let the abusive partner know the abused partner is trying to leave). Pretty much everything I had done was framed as evidence of my abusive behaviour. Calling her out on her verbal abuse was just “trying to manipulate her by appealing to her sense of guilt”, me withdrawing and refusing to communicate was seen as me “not giving equal importance and respect to her feelings”. In short, everything that I did was further evidence of my guilt and I never even so much as raised my voice to her (I never have and I never will).

I guess my questions to the sub are:

  1. What, if anything, would you attempt to change and where would you start?
  2. Given that the response appears to be built on feminist theory (male power and control), how do you even attempt to change this without being seen as anti-feminist, non-feminist or feminist-critical?

*Note: * I’m being completely serious and totally honest about my experiences, all the documents linked to are either on government sites or on the sites of government funded organisations.

Men’s Behaviour Change Group Work: Minimum Standards and Quality Practice

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You do not need to take this man’s word for how Australia’s policies operate. Read the standards listed in the above link. It is unreal that anyone would institute such a practice. It is a clear example of what happens when you politicize issues like domestic violence. The ideology gets in and creates backwards, sexist, and dangerous policies.

The very notion that if a man reports abuse that the given practice in Australia is to assume he is lying and that he is actually the abuser is flat-out bigoted. That idea will taint every bit of support one could possibly give to a male victim. Even if they determine he is a “real” victim, the notion that he could be lying or exaggerating is already planted, and that will affect their willingness to help him, their willingness to believe him, and their willingness to prosecute his abuser.

More bizarre is the notion of referring the man to an anti-violence program first to determine whether he is a victim or abuser. How would one even do that? What criteria could one use to determine whether he is mitigating his own violence or whether he was acting in self-defense?

Equally bizarre is the notion of sending the accused woman to domestic violence support services “irrespective of whether she is thought to be the victim or aggressor.” Again, how do you determine that she is a victim and why would you send a suspected abuser to support services? What happens when the abuser realizes that the system is on her side and exploits it? Is this not the very thing they seek to avoid with men?

The most egregious, however, is that in order to determine whether the man is actually a victim, the Australian government will contact his female partner to confirm the abuse. I will repeat that just so it sinks in: if a man claims abuse at the hands of his female partner, the Australian government will contact the woman to ask her if it is true.

What if she lies? What if she did not know the man told anyone? What if she retaliates with violence against the man?

The point of these services is to prevent violence, not increase its probability. There is no way that anyone who created these policies would apply them in the reverse. There is no way they would not think that when told to contact a man accused of abuse to check if he is abusive that he would lash out at his victim.

That would be less of a problem if the victim were in a safe place. Yet in order for men in Australia to get access to support services they must be proven to be victims. So there is a good chance the man still lives with or is around the woman who abuses him when he reports the abuse. Yet this is the person the Australian government want to contact?

What could go wrong?

Here is where it gets interesting. Astyaagraha posted the comment on both r/Menslib and r/Askfeminists. These are two very feminist spaces, the former a pro-feminist male space and the latter a feminist message board.

On r/Menslib, none of the regular feminist commenters have commented. The moderators, most of whom are progressives, have not commented directly about the policy. One moderator did jump in to question the use of “gender essentialism.” Otherwise, all the regular feminists commenting on that subreddit, particularly the moderators, are dead silent on this topic, despite 136 comments.

At least there are comments on r/Menslib. Over on r/Askfeminists there is a whopping single comment.

No feminists want to touch this man’s story, and it is not difficult to see why. This is clearly a feminism-driven policy. It is based around feminist theories about male power and female oppression. It uses the same language found in most feminist commentary about how men exercise their power, especially in unconscious or unintentional ways.

Feminists are quick to deny that things like this ever happen, and I am sure that if astyaagraha posted his story without including the Australian policies feminists would have denied it happened or claimed he was an outlier (they also would have been much more talkative). It is much harder to do that when the evidence is right there in black and white with a link proving that what he said is 100% true. The best response would be to decry what happened and acknowledge the biased nature of this policy, like what happened on r/Mensrights. Instead, the feminists could barely bring themselves to say it was wrong.

It is less surprising to see that from r/Askfeminists, but far more surprising to see it from r/Menslib. The moderators of that space have continuously presented their sub as an alternative to r/Mensrights’ “misogyny.” They claim to support male victims of abuse and claim to want to rid society of sexism. Yet here is a case where they cannot be bothered to even give words of support publicly to this man. If ever you wanted proof that the moderators of r/Menslib are completely disingenuous and do not care one iota about male victims, this is your proof.

As for what happened to this man, unless the policies change I am not sure what can be done to prevent this from happening again. There is no reason for anyone who is a victim of abuse to have to prove they are not abusers before support providers will listen to their stories. There is simply no excuse to have this kind of double standard in place. Unfortunately, changing it will be hard to do because feminism is entrenched in Australian politics. It will be hard to push through changes that would prevent this level of discrimination.

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9 thoughts on “Understanding Intimate Partner Violence: An Australian Perspective

  1. “Men who admit to using violence often try to justify or minimise their violence, or to blame their partner — perhaps for ‘provoking’ an attack or giving him ‘no way out’. ”

    Note how above that the exact same scenario is used to justify female IPV against the man.

    “It also includes “refusal to have sex as punishment” and encompases pretty much everything else:”

    “Refusal to have sex”? Who is likelier to be “guilty” of this “abuse”, men or women in relationships? So the man has a choice between having sex he may not want or be labeled an abuser? That’s rape culture by the back door, dressed in victim drag..

  2. “It also includes “refusal to have sex as punishment” and encompases pretty much everything else:”

    It’s a pretty good indicator of the feminist attitude to any right to consent for boys and men.

  3. This disgusting treatment of male IPV victims makes me ashamed to be Australian.

  4. The issue of domestic violence has really picked up steam in Australia over the past year or so. I think it has been triggered by the rise of Rosie Batty from victim to celebrity advocate. Unfortunately the issue has been persistently framed by politicians and the media in a very gendered, men-hurting-women, sort of way. Take for example a statement by our Prime Minister: ““The issue of family violence, or domestic violence as it’s often called – which is just violence against women, which is the way I would prefer to describe it – is an enormous one.

    Thankfully, it’s not all bad news on that front.

    Late last year the ABC (government funded broadcaster), aired a special on domestic violence that entirely focused on men hurting women. Afterwards there was a panel discussion where the was a question that seemed to reference statistics from One In Three. Unfortunately, the panellists dismissed the statistics as in inaccurate, and despite one panellist conceding that about figure closer to 20% no-one was willing to touch on the issue of the lack of services for male victims.

    I was also rather disappointed at the way the discussion seemed to entirely focus on “toxic masculinity” as the cause of domestic violence. I was hoping for a much more nuanced discussion about the psychological and sociological causes (as currently understood). I actually did a fair bit of research on the issue as a result of my disappointment, but haven’t got around to writing it up.

  5. It’s a pretty good indicator of the feminist attitude to any right to consent for boys and men.

    That section is really astounding because it makes virtually anything a man does or does not do abuse. Again, that sounds exactly like the typical feminist talking point of men = bad.

  6. Pingback: Confronting the stigmas male victimization | Toy Soldiers

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  9. No one wants to hear it. Its easier to get an avo on the male without investigation. Been there done that dont worry about the spitting ,hot water thrown at me, kicking, biting, bullying my duaghters. My crime was to restrain her to stop the attack she had bruises on her arm that was enough to be kicked out of my home . I bet there are a lot more stories out there. They didnt even question the girls or my counsellor or read my counsellors record of texts and voice mails left. Just your a male guilty as charged.

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