Posted 25 June 2016 1:21pm

In our Facebook Page posts about men and violence, we occasionally get comments from people implying that EveryMan is ‘not interested’ in men who experience DV, or that we label all men as perpetrators. Comments like these:

“Everyman…support services are geared towards helping perpetrators of domestic violence. Imagine how you would feel walking into a support service as a victim of domestic violence to be confronted by support overwhelmingly labeling you the perpetrator?” and  ” …if you wade through all of their advice, support, counselling and classes for perpetrators you eventually find “oh and sometimes we help victims too” but it kinda puts you off seeking help when your made to feel at fault from the outset.  We need support services solely focused on supporting male victims, a place they can turn to without the label of being a perpertrator, without being labeled the one in the wrong”

Is seeing domestic violence material challenging if you’re a man who has experienced domestic violence?   If you see the material where you go for support, of course you’re going to be concerned that you won’t be believed. You encounter the same thing everywhere when you deal with people you’ve never met before.

It’s not the services that a community organisation provides to men using violence that puts that idea into your head.  You had it before you walked in through the door, because of the fears that have kept you silent, or the negative reactions you’ve already encountered – and these anti-EveryMan comments don’t help.  In this environment, nobody has to do anything negative for you to feel cautious and wary of what other people might think, for you to have a concern that you’re about to be blamed, doubted or treated with suspicion.

EveryMan staff have heard men talk about their experiences, their fear of not being believed. We’ve talked with many people, including women who are feminists, who have male acquaintances who are afraid to speak up about their experience of violence and abuse because of their fear of not being believed, and the repercussions at home if the partner finds out they’ve been talking. Sometimes the partners are women, sometimes they’re men.

However, what the EveryMan critics are calling for is a men’s service where men’s violence is invisible, unmentioned, pushing the line that if any poster uses the word ‘men’ it is actually saying ‘all men are…’  Turn that on its head – does a poster about men as victims of DV say all men are victims? Or all women are abusers, or all gay men are abusers?

Make no mistake. This is about the ‘right’ to not be confronted, in the same way a group of complainers stopped an ACT government department from displaying anti-violence posters in the workplace, even though the department itself was party to ACT government policy on violence prevention.  Using the ‘not all men’ complaint.

OK, like most of us, you’re a man who isn’t violent to women. Should we assume that you don’t want to send a message to the men who are? Or that it’s ok for the men who do want to send that message to be silenced because you feel confronted by a poster that has the word ‘men’ on it?

Let’s get really, really clear about something – if somebody is responsible for the prevailing view of men as DV perpetrators, for the presence of anti-DV material in the media, for posters on the wall at work,  it’s the men who use the violence. They abuse people, and other men who aren’t violent have to live with their legacy, their stain on our collective reputation.

Perpetrators are a mixed bag, not all alike, and they include in their number people who use every means available to avoid being charged with violence, including playing the victim, co-opting your circumstances as a person who has been genuinely abused for their own ends – just like people using violence to male partners might do.

In fact, most men don’t use violence to women, or to other men.

EveryMan doesn’t label men. We call the men who use violence ‘men who use violence’ – if it’s to their partners or exes, it’s DV, if it’s to a family member, it’s family violence, if it’s in the workplace or outside of Moosehead’s it’s public violence.

We don’t label men who don’t use violence as perpetrators.

We believe that any man who has been using violence needs to have access to support to stop using violence because giving up being violent is in his interests as a human being, as well as the interests of the people affected. We also offer this service to women from time to time. For the same reason.

People who use violence are human beings too, and for every one that is helped to give up violence and learn respectful and positive ways of dealing with the people who have been affected, the number of people who actually benefit from the end of the violence is multiplied. And the man himself is right in the middle of that number.

In the negative comments about us, I have yet to see an acknowledgement that the work we do with perpetrators is itself pro-men.

If critics read our website, as some of them have,  to look for evidence that we don’t ‘really’ support men who are victims of violence, then go on to make these sort of comments, pretending that they found some, who is it who is turning off men who have been victims of violence from seeking support from EveryMan?

I quoted earlier the suggestion that a reader has to ‘wade through’ all that other EveryMan website content to find an attitude expressed by that critic as ‘oh and sometimes we help victims too’ (as if providing other services to men is irrelevant or inconvenient) – is anyone reading that likely to go to the website section concerned to see what it really says?  Sounds like a lot of effort, all that wading…and apparently for such little reward.

Well, here’s the link to our Violence Prevention page, if you’d like to have a look yourself.  Note in the dot points presented right at the top of the page, there are 5 violence contexts – 2 are for men as perpetrators of violence (DV and other) and 3 as victims of three different types of violence.

How about this from the home page of the website?

‘Violence and men

For over 15 years, we have been supporting men who have issues with violence and abusive behaviour in their lives – as perpetrators, as victims, sometimes as both. ‘

Who is doing the labelling here?

On the website, information about our Violence Prevention programs sits among information about all of our other programs. A significant proportion of our work lies in areas outside of domestic viiolence – men (and their partners and families) with relationship issues, social isolation, parenting issues, family breakdown, mental illness, intellectual disability, acquired brain injury and other complex needs. Much of our work supports men who are at risk of homelessness or involved in the criminal justice system, often both.

Do EveryMan critics ever mention this other work? No. That would work against the narrative they seek to create – that EveryMan isn’t a pro-men organisation.  Only the one they espouse would ‘really’ be – one which accords with an anti-feminism agenda  concealed under the guise of supporting men as victims of DV.

This is not readily apparent to people who are genuinely concerned about men who are experiencing violence and abuse from their partners – but these are the people that the anti-feminist critics are speaking to.They’re not really interested in anything EveryMan does, only in influencing those of  you with genuine concerns for male victims to come to believe that they are the ones who ‘really speak for men’.  You are the target audience.

If you’re not sure about what I’m saying, go back to our Facebook page and have a look at the naysayers’ actual comments. Do ANY of them ever equally strongly advocate for support for men who are victims of public violence? Or men victimized by family members? Or even for the needs of men who are using violence – even though so many of them were exposed to violence in their own families – victims who grow up to become perpetrators?  Point them out if I’m wrong, but I’ve been doing this for a while…

There have been occasions where their exploitation of our Facebook page to push their views has passed the threshold of reasonable tolerance, and I’ve invited someone to stop commenting or be deleted, but asked them to provide another site to which readers could go if they were interested in finding out more about their views – not one has ever offered a link.  It’s probably just as well. Many of the MRA-friendly sites seem to be unmoderated, given that obscene and violent language used in comments made about women is mostly let past without comment or criticism. I often wonder if the same generosity would be offered to commenters with different points of view.

In one recent sampling of our service user population (mostly men – not bad for an anti-men organisation, hey?) around 40 men reported experiencing some form of abuse by a partner.  Twelve agreed to participate in an anonymous survey. Types of abuses ranged from verbal to physical. Two ended up in hospital. All of them indicated that our staff believed and supported them. Only one indicated that he would have preferred a support group – the rest preferred individual support, although a couple thought they would have liked a group as well.

We just made three attempts to boost our post about victims of domestic violence who are men, and got knocked back three times by the Facebook Policy Team. Do you know of any other men’s interest group who has made public comment about men who are assaulted and killed by their new partner’s ex? The ‘EveryMan doesn’t speak for men’ brigade never mentions them.

We support hundreds of men every year who are so far below the glass ceiling that they don’t even have a foot on the bottom rung of the ladder, and these critics want you to think that we won’t believe or support men who’ve been victims of violence.

You’ve got to ask yourselves, what’s in it for them?

If you’re a man who needs support because you’re a victim of violence, get support from an organisation with a track record in supporting men no matter what their circumstances.

 


If you or someone you know needs help, contact

EveryMan (Office hours  9-5 Mon-Friday) or email to enquiries@everyman.org.au

After hours:  Lifeline:    13 11 14          Mensline: 1300 78 99 78

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