For men. Domestic Violence Victims and How to Leave the Relationship
Rachael Scharrer founder of online resource, Divorce Answered, wants to raise awareness of the male victims of domestic violence and offer advice for leaving a relationship involving domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is in May and is to raise awareness of Domestic Violence in all relationships. Often it is skewed towards the female victims and many men don’t realise that they too can fall victim to domestic violence in their own homes.
Domestic Violence is any behaviour that is violent, aggressive, abusive or intimidating within a domestic, home or family situation. The offender/abuser can be a partner, carer or other family member. Domestic violence can creep up on victims and sometimes the warning signs are subtle but it can come in varying forms including verbal, physical, emotional, financial and sexual, even social.
With the rise of Domestic Violence in the media, there are many organisations designed to support female victims. However, one in three victims of domestic violence are men (1). They are the lesser known and lesser recognised victims despite experiencing the same challenges as their female counterparts. The men who are speaking up about being a domestic violence victim need to be equally commended. They have experienced abuse by their wives or female partners – women who are hitting, screaming, controlling and/or being deceptive.
The more men that I speak with the more surprised that they are that there are so many male victims. Many men don’t talk about the pressures, issues and abuse within their marriages or relationships which results in many men being unsupported and unrecognised.
Women, wives and partners can demonstrate domestic violence by:
- Threatening suicide if something isn’t done the way that they want it to be or go
- Self-harm, alighting a moving vehicle or intentionally placing them in danger
- Falsely claiming physical violence when it has never occurred
- Hitting, kicking, slapping and punching their spouse
- Screaming, name calling and verbally attacking and verbally abusing
- Manipulating the truth and changing stories making them out to be the victim
- Recklessly over spending or financially abusing their spouse by limiting funds
- With-holding sex or forcing unsolicited sex upon their spouse
- Become over-protective, possessive and constantly check up on their spouse
- Isolating you or alienating you from your family and friends
It is not known why people (men and women) are domestically violent. The cause could be learned behaviours from generations past, it could be due to other under-lying or undiagnosed issues (such as mental health, financial issues, cultural differences or ethnic tolerance towards the opposite sex) or free will choice to behave poorly to their spouse.
On a positive note, there are organisations to support male victims of domestic violence, including:
1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732 (support for men and women)
LifeLine: 13 11 14
MensLine Australia (24 hours) 1300 789 978
(WA) Crisis Care Helpline: (08) 9223 1111 / 1800 199 008
(WA) Men’s Domestic Violence Helpline: (08) 9223 1199 / 1800 000 599
The challenge that many men face is that often women are granted Domestic Violence Orders or Aggravated Violence Orders against their male counterparts by misleading the courts and police. The widely-accepted fallacy is that all men are stronger than women, therefore the man must be at fault. This highlights a greater need for men to stand up and speak up about domestic violence therefore changing attitudes, increasing awareness and making a positive mark on society and our community.
It takes a brave person to ask for help and move away from a relationship of domestic violence. When you are informed and when you know what support is there for you, you will be more confident taking positive steps towards a brighter future. The decisions that you make today will make the difference between continuing the domestic violence cycle or breaking it and being free.
If you are experiencing domestic violence and are able to prepare to leave the relationship, here are a few tips:
- Set up the emergency or panic function on your mobile phone
Each mobile phone is different, so research the specific functions for your phone within the settings. Enable and personalise your emergency settings so that your location and an audio clipping will be alerted to selected family or friends. When the alert has been received, your family or friends can contact the police on your behalf.
- Inform the local domestic violence police officer or liaison
Remember the police are allies to victims of harassment and domestic violence. Meet with your local Domestic Violence Police Officer (DVPO) to get informed about your rights. The DVPO can refer support services and assist you wherever possible. Don’t be afraid to contact the police if you are concerned for the safety of yourself and your children. The police can instigate interim and emergency Apprehended Violence Orders (AVO) or Domestic Violence Orders (DVO) at short notice if required. Both orders help to restrict the behaviours of the offending person, allowing you to have some legal recourse against their actions. Should the offender breach the terms of the AVO or DVO, report it to the police.
- Plan ahead
If you are able to prepare to leave at any time, you will feel more confident and comfortable in making the difficult decision.
a. Have a planned excuse. Ensure you have a reason or excuse to leave the house, particularly if you have children.
b. Know where to go and what to do. You may have a relative or friend who can offer a place to stay for a short period of time. Similarly, it is worth researching organisations that can assist with temporary accommodation in a safe place.”
c. Gather important documentation. This includes birth certificates, marriage certificates, copies of accounts, financials and more. DivorceAnswered.com.au provides a free Separation Checklist for items that you should take or make a copy of. Don’t forget to back up documents and emails. Consider giving a copy or access to these files to a person you trust.
d. Store heirlooms. Make sure special or sentimental items of value (e.g. photographs) are located in a safe place outside of the house.
e. Have an ‘exit box’ ready. This is handy if you are in a rush as your key belongings will be with you. The exit box should include money, keys, keep-sakes, certificates, licenses, passports, medication, clothes and digital copies of documentation. This box could be kept at a friend or relative’s house. Alternatively, if you do have to leave suddenly and the exit box is in your home, the police can escort and supervise while you take your belongings.
f. Have some funds set aside. If possible, save money into a separate account as it will make your financial situation easier. Organise pre-payment of expected outgoing expenses. Quite often finances are tight once separated, so whatever you can save will help with starting a new life.
g. Change passwords on everything. This include passwords for bank accounts, phone, emails and other resources or accounts you use.”
- Share with a trusted friend
Tell them about your concerns and plans. Most importantly, keep in regular contact and ask them to contact police if you fail to make regular contact. It is also useful to have a ‘help’ word with your friend which notifies them to step in.
- Contact support or government organisations
There are many organisations set up to assist victims of domestic violence. If you want to continue living at home, contact Staying Home Leaving Violence (NSW only). National organisations which you can contact include Victim Support Services, Domestic Violence Advisory Service, Relationships Australia and your local police station who will also know of other local organisations which can help.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Everyone wishes they did things differently – however, the resounding consensus is making extra effort into preparing to leave.
For further assistance, please review the e-book ‘How to best separate: Domestic Violence’.
(1) Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013), Table 3 EXPERIENCE OF VIOLENCE DURING THE LAST 12 MONTHS, Relationship to perpetrator.