Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Spotlight on Men
Over the course of October, we will be exploring many different facets of domestic violence, particularly violence against women and girls. It is important however to keep in mind that not all victims of domestic violence are women. The statistics show that more women than men are the victims of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence, but that does not mean that men are never victims. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, more than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Additionally, approximately 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Men certainly face the threat and the reality of domestic violence, as well as unique challenges to overcoming abuse and maltreatment.
Due to the fact that the majority of the focus of domestic violence is on women, men encounter different barriers to reporting abuse and seeking help. Oftentimes, their struggles are ignored or not taken as seriously, or even more disturbingly, they are held to blame. Additionally, there are not as many resources for male victims as there are for female victims, and the organizational and advocacy structure that exists is almost entirely focused on expunging violence against women.
We must change our approach and our assumptions when we talk about domestic violence. Men and women face different challenges to escaping abusive relationships and have to overcome different gender-based stereotypes when they seek assistance and talk about this issue more broadly. We often assume that when women are victims of domestic violence, it is their male intimate partner who perpetrated the abuse, and this is mostly the case. According to a report from 2000 available through the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 15% of men living with male intimate partners experience more intimate partner violence than do men who live with female intimate partners (7.7%).
This table from the same report illustrates the prevalence of intimate partner violence by type of assault and victim gender. Although the percentage of physical assault by an intimate partner in a lifetime is more than twice as high for women than for men, it still means that approximately 1 in 13 men will be victims of domestic abuse.
The Talmud (Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 73A) teaches that we are bound to save another person if we see they are being assaulted, because Leviticus 19:16 states that “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” “Neighbor” refers to the most literal definition of that word, but we also understand “neighbor” to mean our communities – an individual whose face we might not recognize, but whose needs and rights we recognize as our own. As Reform Jews, we place great importance in the health and vibrancy of our communities, and we ought not to turn a blind eye to anyone who is the victim of violence, whether we feel as though the image is familiar or not.