I am glad to be serving the state of Maryland on the Family Violence Council [embed]http://goccp.maryland.gov/victims/family-violence-council/membership/[/embed]
According to WHO, “Intimate partner violence(IPV) refers to behavior by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors.”
Many countries report data on IPV – also called domestic violence (DV.) Although both men and women suffer from IPV, abusers are predominantly men, and victims, predominantly women (IPV occurs in same sex relationships.) The male victim story is often used as a diversionary tactics. The fact that a person relates a story about a female victim does not equate to a declaration that females are the only victims of IPV or that abusers are only men. If I relate my experiences from Safe Haven or Rose Brooks Center shelter, it will be about women victim and male abusers, because they were female only shelters. If I talk about Rose Brooks Center Bridge Program, I can talk about male victims, because as a hospital response program, it dealt with male victims also. I however spent a short time with the Bridger Program. If I have more stories of female victims, it is because that’s what I am aware of, not because I am saying that females are the only ones who experience IPV.
It is often also quickly postulated that the data on men victims are low because men underreport abuse. Women underreport abuse too. Successful, professional women (Consultant, Dr. H. Thomas whose recent death continues to be controversial in Nigeria, is being reported as a DV victim) are unwilling to share their status. Who would believe them? And when they get overwhelmed and respond by committing suicide or just leaving the abusive relationship quietly without disclosing, they tend to fall outside the IPV data. Religious women, especially pastor’s wives, and church leaders also underreport abuse. Their spouses are demi-gods – who will believe them? So, underreporting occurs for both gender. And if reporting was duly done, women will still be the predominate victims? Why? Predisposing socio-cultural factors. In many places, it is the patriarchal values of the society. A woman can be killed by members of her own family, before she is “allowed” to disgrace the family by leaving her marriage. Many in the Christian faith wield the wand of “woman, submit to your husband,” “the husband is the head,” and “the wife sanctifies the home.” Economically, women still don’t get equal pay for equal work in many places, and economic limitations predispose them to dependency in unhealthy relationships. Looking at prevailing factors, a women is more at risk to be a victim than a man.
It is for this reason that many public health interventions targeting IPV employ the social ecological model. Abusers and victims are not expected to react in isolation, rather the communities in which they live, and organizations that provide services around them, as well as policies that support victims and hold abusers accountable moves societies towards ending DV.
The response to “A woman was a victim of domestic violence” should not be “Men too are victims. Women are also abusers.” Interventions are implemented based on needs, goals and resources. A response proportional to who is predominantly victim and abuser, does not and should not pitch interventionist of opposite sides when the goal is to end domestic violence in our communities.