‘Men as Victims’
by Mara Rafael
Statistics do not allow us to forget that women are the most affected when it comes to Gender-Based Violence, especially domestic abuse, but the truth is that men are victims as well.
Gender-Based violence is no more than violence directed against a person because of their gender and it can be practiced in many various ways. This compromises rape and attempted rape, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, forced early marriage, domestic violence, marital rape, trafficking and female genital mutilation.
The Istanbul Convention itself, signed by Malta in 2014, recognises in its preamble: “although domestic violence affects women disproportionately, men may also be victims of domestic violence…”. Men are victims, although in a smaller percentage than women. So that we may reflect about the issue and the consequences of men being victims, it is important to understand how it affects men and creates consequences that nobody hears.
Which are the most frequent forms of violence against men?
Conflict-related sexual violence is referenced by the United Nations, which includes wartime and post war violent attacks to men and boys. Sexual violence against men before, during or after the war is on the one hand a frequent practice, and on the other, is extremely hidden. They can experience incidents of genital beating and electrocution, forced nudity, rape with objects and forced witnessing of rape of other detainees.
Concerning domestic abuse - a crime that can be practiced in different forms such as psychologically, sexually, physically or financially, between love couples or relatives, as long as they live in cohabitation - is often incomprehensible for most people when it’s about a woman doing it against a man. But the truth is that it happens. Victim Support Malta has been supporting men who have suffered domestic violence and who are still suffering on an ongoing basis.
Furthermore, LGBTQI as a minority group, have been suffering hate crime and violence from different people, homosexual male victims included. Even in the countries where homosexuality is legal, this group is being targeted with bullying or physical assault, and in extreme cases, homicide. Social homophobia and religious reasons continue to be used to justify this act of discrimination.
Considering social stigmas about the ‘power position’ of men over women, when a male is a victim of violence, usually the case remains silent and unreported to the police services – the discrepancy between real cases and reported can be enormous.
But what are the reasons?
The stereotype of women as weak and consequently victims, and men as stronger and usually the perpetrator makes men feel ashamed of seeking help - afraid to be laughed at or ignored by police and also by family and friends.
According to some reports, within romantic couples, when a woman is a victim of domestic violence, society judges the man and defends the women who is seen as needed to protect the children as well. Contrariwise, if the offender is a woman and the man leaves home because of violence carried out by the woman, society will judge the man anyway, saying that he has abandoned the family.
This is visible in practise, as different countries all over the world don’t have legal frameworks about domestic abuse when the perpetrator is a woman and the victim a man. Furthermore, in cases of war, the issue “is using a mask”, replacing the term “rape” by “torture” in order to avoid the cases being disclosure.
If an individual is traumatized because he is a victim of a crime, adding the shame and fear of divulging this could be much harder for a man to face than a woman. As we can see, if the public’s mentality itself creates a stereotype that victims are not male, it will be even more difficult for those men who do suffer. We need to be aware that it is happening, and that men need support as well.