By Ellie McFarland
It is becoming increasingly apparent that sexual assault and domestic abuse are impending crisis on American social and legal culture. As more and more celebrities are outed as habitual predators or wife beaters, the media is being driven into a sex panic. It is splendid that these issues are being given more attention and that horrible people are being driven from powerful positions. However, these issues have been in the news for ages. It’s time to address the far more hidden, far more quiet issue of domestic and sexual abuse committed against men.
Recently, only a few months ago, the first men’s shelter in the country was opened in Batesville, Arkansas permanently. Prior to that, all other attempts to open a men’s domestic abuse shelters have been shut down due to primarily, and lack of funds, but also threats to the owners. The Batesville shelter set off a trend of increasing numbers of men’s shelters in South East and West America. Currently, it’s gotten up to 5 shelters and 10 hotlines. Only 15 resources for male victims of domestic abuse, and over 1500 resources for women.
Perhaps the reason there are so few shelters is because a commonly held belief is that men don’t need domestic abuse shelters because men are never the victims of domestic abuse; that domestic abuse is a strictly female issue. These notions are deplorable and damaging to men everywhere. In fact, it can be seen in male victims of abuse. Many of them say that they didn’t know men could be abused. Others say they feared to fight back because their abuser was a woman. This dangerous sentiment isn’t helped by movies and TV depicting wives hitting their husbands as something lighthearted, funny, or even desirable. That same thing would never be acceptable if a husband was slapping his wife.
There are deeply regrettable things being said about these domestic violence shelters. An article from XOJane.com Katie Fenton described men’s shelters as “a misuse of nonprofit funding”, and many readers responded by saying that the victims “probably deserved it”. There are stories upon stories of wives abusing their husbands and facing zero jail time. Take for instance the case of “AlienJack” (pseudonym), where his wife physically and emotionally abused him, stole his children, and even tore open his sutures after heart surgery. His wife also got no jail time.
The deficit of Men’s domestic abuse shelters is a gravity some people have recognized in the Feminist circle, which on its own is good. However, their reasons to be concerned with male domestic abuse victims are far from pure. Some feminists say that the reason for men’s unwillingness to come forward about domestic violence is in truth, the patriarchy, and toxic masculinity. While working to end violence against all people is a noble goal, this way of going about it paints abuse victims as people who brought this on themselves, which is simply incorrect.
Domestic abuse is not a men’s or women’s issue. It is a human issue that spans across gender, race, and economic class. Claiming that domestic abuse against men is funny, the fault of the victim, or simply nonexistent is dishonest and is a symptom of an unequal society. The shortage of domestic violence shelters for men is a public health crisis and needs to be solved. It is up to everyone to provide help and safety to all victims of abuse, and collectively agree that violence is a serious crime that is not gendered.