THE ONE IN THREE CAMPAIGN
One in Three is a diverse group of male and female professionals – academics, researchers, social workers, psychologists, counsellors, lawyers, health promotion workers, trainers and survivor/advocates. The Campaign aims to raise public awareness of the existence and needs of male victims of family violence and abuse; to work with government and non-government services alike to provide assistance to everyone affected by family violence; and to reduce the incidence and impacts of family violence on Australian men, women and children. Download our March 2015 Report.
Listen to excellent radio interviews from the ABC Life Matters program with a male victim and female ex-perpetrator of domestic violence.
WHAT IS FAMILY VIOLENCE?
Family violence and abuse is a serious and deeply entrenched problem in Australia. It has significant impacts upon the lives of men, women and children. It knows no boundaries of gender, geography, socio-economic status, age, ability, sexual preference, culture, race or religion. Domestic violence between partners, boyfriends and girlfriends (also known as intimate partner violence or IPV); violence between other family members (siblings, parents, children, aunts, uncles, and grandparents); most elder abuse, child abuse and sexual abuse are all different forms of family violence. Thankfully reducing family violence against women and children has been firmly on the agendas of government for many years. Now is the time to move to the next, more sophisticated stage of tackling the problem: recognising men as victims as well.
AT LEAST ONE IN THREE VICTIMS IS MALE
Contrary to common beliefs, up to One in Three victims of sexual assault and at least One in Three victims of family violence and abuse is male1 (perhaps as many as one in two – see our overview of research page). The vast majority (94%) of perpetrators of intimate partner violence against males are female, reflecting the fact that the vast majority of intimate relationships are heterosexual (men in same-sex relationships are just as likely as straight men to experience IPV). Other family members who perpetrate violence against males are just as likely to be male as female.
LATEST DATA FROM THE ABS AND AIC
Research from the 2012 ABS Personal Safety Survey and Australian Institute of Criminology shows that both men and women in Australia experience substantial levels of violence.
75 males were killed in domestic homicide incidents between 2010-12. This equates to one death every 10 days.
RESPECTFUL RELATIONSHIP POSTERS
One in Three has produced a series of seven free digital poster designs aimed at educating boys and young men about respectful and healthy relationships. Covering issues such as sexual abuse/unwanted sex, social abuse/isolation and physical and emotional abuse, the posters aim to encourage young males not to accept unhealthy or abusive behaviours in their relationships.
1IN3 RESPONDS TO NO TO VIOLENCE AND DR MICHAEL FLOOD
The One in Three Campaign has responded to a reply by No To Violence to a question taken on notice about male perpetrators at the November 5, 2014 hearing of the Senate Committee inquiry into Domestic Violence. Our response, lodged with the Senate Committee inquiry in December 2014, is finally able to be released after being accepted by the Committee as correspondence some 5 months later. Our response also contains a detailed analysis and rebuttal of claims made in a seminar paper by Dr Michael Flood titled “He Hits, She Hits: Assessing debates regarding men’s and women’s experiences of domestic violence,” that was presented a number of times during the second half of 2012. Read the full 1IN3 response.
KEY FACTS AND STATS
- At least one in three victims of family violence is male
- One male is a victim of domestic homicide every 10 days
- Almost one in four young people are aware of their mum/stepmum hitting their dad/stepdad
- Male and female victims of reported domestic assault receive very similar numbers and types of injuries
- Men who have experienced partner violence are 2 to 3 times more likely than women to have never told anybody about it
- Post-separation, similar proportions of men and women report experiencing physical violence including threats by their former spouse
- More facts and stats here.
MALE VICTIMS LACK SUPPORT
While many services have quite rightly been established over the past four decades to support female victims of family violence, the needs of male victims remain largely unmet. Historically government policies have been based on the assumption that the vast majority of perpetrators are male and the vast majority of victims are female, and the policies of current governments are still based on this erroneous position. Indeed, regretfully, the National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children did not include male victims in their otherwise laudable March 2009 recommendations which have been enthusiastically supported by the federal government and the Council of Australian Governments. Now is the time for action by politicians and community leaders to recognise that a comprehensive approach is required to combat the scourge of family violence.
REDUCING FAMILY VIOLENCE
Family violence and abuse can never be excused or justified, however, in order to reduce the levels of violence in the family, we must seek to understand the causes and contexts that give rise to it. We need to address the complexities of violence. All victims need compassionate and highly responsive support, and all perpetrators need services to help them stop their use of violence and abuse. Dysfunctional relationships in which both parties use violence need to be supported to change, as it is these environments that are clearly the most harmful to children.
It is, however, a myth that has taken hold, having been cited in The Sydney Morning Herald, Q&A and the Daily Telegraph to name only a few. As the basis of a submission to the Senate enquiry into domestic violence, this myth now also poses the serious risk of altering the way governments approach the issue.
Photo: SIMONE BECCHETTI
The facts are that women and children are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence and men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators.
As Dr Michael Flood, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at University of Wollongong, said, the One in Three claim “could be described more accurately as a campaign against efforts to address men’s violence against women.”
So let’s look at where the myth comes from, and exactly why it is wrong.
At first glance, the data in Table 3 of the PSS does appear to suggest that males are 33 per cent of people who have experienced an act of violence from a current partner in the last 12 months. That number, however, is clearly marked with a warning that states: “Estimate has a relative standard error of 25 per cent to 50 per cent and should be used with caution.”
Apart from the statistical issue, the very nature of the question is problematic. Domestic violence is extremely complex and it’s not unusual for victims to be confused about whether their relationship is actually abusive. Nor can it always be defined by simply identifying “an act of violence”.As Leslie Morgan Steiner said in her TED talk:
“I didn’t know he was abusing me. Even though he held those loaded guns to my head, pushed me down stairs, threatened to kill our dog, pulled the key out of the car ignition as I drove down the highway, poured coffee grinds on my head as I dressed for a job interview, I never once thought of myself as a battered wife.”
Even if that were not the case, disclosing abuse to a stranger would be confronting. The PSS is not a compulsory survey and the response rate in 2012 was only 57%. It’s obviously impossible to know how many of the people who refused to take part did so because they were afraid of their partner or of confronting the truth of their relationship, but it would have to be considered as a possibility.
Additionally, Will Milne of the ABS confirmed that staff who conduct the surveys are highly trained and would not proceed if doing so could endanger the respondent. Given this, it seems likely that at least some victims of domestic abuse would self-select out of the survey.
Milne also told Daily Life, “the survey isn’t asking about the lived experiences of domestic violence. What a person is saying when they end up in this table is just that they have had this experience. The question doesn’t consider the complexities and nuances of domestic violence”.
A question from the PSS that takes a longer view, which may be both statistically and slightly inherently more reliable, asks about the respondent’s experience of violence from a previous partner since they were 15 years old (Table 4). 21 per cent of the people who answered yes to that question were men, so already we’ve gone from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5.
But this isn’t the full story.
Violence is defined in the PSS as “any incident of physical or sexual assault or threat”. What those datasets don’t include is how often a person experienced such violence. So someone whose partner once threatened to throw a potato at them has the same representation in that data as a person who was controlled, beaten, raped, or humiliated every day for a year.
Table 22 of the PSS gives some information about the frequency of partner violence. As above, current partner violence is unreliable, so we need to look at the more robust data on previous partners. 84 per cent of the people who reported more than one violent incident from a previous partner were women.
Even if you were to accept the problematic claim that PSS is a reliable indicator of domestic violence, what it actually says is that only 1 in 5 of the victims are men, 4 in 5 victims are women and most of those women experienced more than one incident of violence.
So much for the One in Three theory. But this is still not the full story:
The PSS does not address the effect of the violence on the victim.
It doesn’t ask if the victim was physically injured by the violence.
It doesn’t ask if they felt frightened or helpless or controlled.
It doesn’t ask if the violent act was committed in self-defence.
It doesn’t ask if respondents wanted to leave the relationship because of the violence, or if they were able to do so.
It doesn’t ask if they needed help to leave, or if that help was available and effective.
As Dr Flood told Daily Life, “the real issue here is that the PSS is limited as a tool in understanding the dynamics of domestic violence.”
The One-in-Three claim deliberately ignores those limits in its attempts to divert attention away from male violence.
Obviously this does not mean that we should ignore the needs of male victims. Nor does it mean that we are doing so.
Karen Willis, Executive Officer of Rape and Domestic Violence Services NSW, told Daily Life:
“In terms of service provision, safety from domestic violence or sexual assault, or assistance with the criminal justice system, we should be, and are, gender-blind. Anyone who needs help will get it, gender is just not relevant.
The problem is that by that point, the violence has already occurred.
If we are going to talk about prevention, and we take gender out, we are never going to get anywhere, because the perpetrators of violence are almost always men. Gender analysis of the perpetrators is critical in understanding and therefore preventing sexual violence and assault.”
The purpose of debunking the One in Three myth is not to vilify men or win some macabre abuse competition. Nor should anyone suggest that it is an excuse to ignore male victims – where they are in need of assistance it should absolutely be available to them. But in a discussion about how we address domestic violence and where the resources need to be concentrated, we must understand the facts.
And the facts are that women and children are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic violence, and men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of violence, both against women and against each other.