According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 1 in 16 men have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a current or previous cohabiting partner. And many more have suffered at the hands of other family members.
It is hard for many of us to comprehend that men can be victim/survivors of domestic violence. As a society, we are falsely conditioned to believe that men can, and should, always protect themselves against threats.
Unfortunately, at Relationships Australia NSW, we receive more than 24,000 referrals from police every year for men who are reported as victim/survivors of domestic and family violence.
Their stories paint a concerning picture of the prevalence of violence in some Australian households and illustrate how varied the experiences of abuse can be. They also show the many hurdles men can face when seeking safety and support.
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Domestic violence is not just partners against partners
In approximately 50% of the cases referred to Relationships Australia, men have experienced violence at the hands of their intimate male or female partner. Meanwhile, the other 50% involve other family members.
Some of the most common stories of violence or threats of violence toward men include:
- teenage, adult children or stepchildren (particularly after a relationship has recently broken down between the child’s parent and stepparent)
- parent or stepparent
- the former partner of a new partner — or the new partner of a former partner
- a male family member of a new or former partner
Domestic abuse isn’t always physical violence – it can also be emotional
In many instances where men are the victim/survivors of domestic abuse, they may feel more psychologically unsafe than physically. In fact, according to ABS Personal Safety data, 1 in 6 men have experienced emotional abuse from a current or former partner. Intimate partners may make threats to take away access to children, to financially ruin their partner through legal action, or to make false allegations of violence to the police if their terms are not met.
A lack of emotional safety and stability within a relationship can lead to a range of negative side effects – including a loss of confidence and self-esteem, ongoing mental health issues and a reduced capacity for decision-making.
The Australian Government’s figures on family, domestic and sexual violence show that while men may be statistically less at risk of death or serious injury than women in similar situations, the threat is still very real, particularly where drugs or alcohol are involved.
Why do male victim/survivors of domestic violence hesitate to seek help?
Perhaps the most worrying issue is that men are much less likely to see help when experiencing domestic violence. Men may feel confused, invalidated, or humiliated when reaching out for help and support. They may worry what it says about them as a man, challenging their deeply ingrained beliefs surrounding gender norms.
If the victim/survivor of domestic violence is in a same-sex relationship, or in a small cultural community, potential repercussions such as social ostracism, can make the fear of speaking up even greater.
Due to the prevalence of male perpetrators of domestic violence, there are many instances of men being met with suspicion when coming forward as a victim/survivor.
The good news: there is help available
Violence of any kind, against anyone, is never acceptable. If you are experiencing violence and abuse, or know someone who is, there is judgement-free support, expert counselling, and professional advice readily available.
Silence and isolation can compound the problem, and violent behaviours are unlikely to change without professional support, and sometimes, legal intervention.
If you have experienced any of the following, please seek help and support:
- Physical violence such as hitting, scratching, punching, pushing, or slapping
- Emotional coercion
- Any kind of bullying
- Dominating, frightening, humiliating, or controlling behaviour, including making threats of violence.
- Behaviours or actions that prevent you from seeing or talking to your friends and family, leaving you socially isolated
Support services for male victim/survivors of domestic violence
If you’re looking for immediate support, these services offer 24/7 phone and online counselling:
A free telephone and online counselling service for men.
Call: 1300 789 978
Online and video chat
A national charity providing 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services via phone, online chat, and text messaging.
Call: 131 114
Text: 0477 131 114
A free national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.
Call: 1800 737 732
Mental Health Advice Line
Mental Health Line offers professional help and advice, as well as referrals to local mental health services.
Call: 1800 011 511
The NSW Government offers the following victim support services:
Department of Justice Victims Support Scheme – Counselling application
A service for anyone who has been injured by a violent crime with counselling and financial support.
Communities & Justice Victims Services – Financial support application
Victims can apply for a recognition payment, financial support for immediate needs, security upgrades, and to cover out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the event, such as loss of income, medical expenses.
For information and support with alcohol and drug-related issues, you can contact:
24/7 information, support and referrals for those affected by alcohol and other drug use.
Family drug support provides up to date information on all aspects of alcohol and drug use relative to the families of alcohol and other drug users.
For services that are LGBTQI+ inclusive and safe:
Australia-wide anonymous, LGBTI peer support and referral services for people wanting to talk about a range of issues including sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships.
A Sydney-based service working across New South Wales, providing a range of services for young people 12-25 including housing, mental health, counselling and social support.