“My boyfriend killed himself,” said the 37-year-old woman as she called the police. Shortly thereafter, based on the data collected in the autopsy results and repeated contradictions, the woman was arrested for murder.
It happened in Valencia last year, and this is one of the few cases of violence by women towards a man with whom they were in a romantic relationship. Cases of men abused by their partners are relatively rare , yet those who suffer it are also victims who need protection.
Mistreatment of men in numbers
According to the report on domestic violence of the General Council of the Judiciary of Spain, the number of men killed by their partner or ex-partner would be approximately est e:
Year 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Murders of men261077
The offenders were five women and, in the case of homosexual couples, two men, according to 2011 data.
Comparison with gender-based violence
The number of murders of men by their partners or ex-partners, however, is not comparable to the number of victims of gender-based violence in quantitative terms.
For example, according to 2009 data, the number of men killed was 10, while the number of women killed by men rose to 55 . The statistical difference is so substantial that it could be a more than likely explanation for why there are no specific studies on male victims.
The Concept of Domestic Violence
Abuse by women towards men falls under the heading of domestic violence. Furthermore, the data provided by the National Institute of Statistics of Spain indicate that a quarter of the reports of domestic violence correspond to aggressions by women towards their partners .
It is also known that a high number of women who abuse their partners have suffered violence in the course of their childhood or from one of their partners on previous occasions. The percentage of women who assault their partners without having been subjected to violence is much lower than that of men.
A silent and hidden violence
According to data from the report on domestic violence of the General Council of the Judiciary , the average age of male victims of murder at the hands of their partners or ex-partners was 45 years , and their nationality was usually Spanish. Only five of them were living with their aggressor at the time of their death. But the most significant thing is that none of the men murdered by their partners had filed a complaint.
This type of violence, in which it is reproduced in the abuse of men, is rare, but more invisible and silent compared to other forms of abuse.
Family and friends help
The abused have a greater difficulty in recognising that they are the object of these aggressions , they are not able to report them and often it has to be their own environment that helps them to press charges. Male victims of domestic violence tend not to take legal action because of shame.
Thus, most complaints are calls for help from relatives in the same environment. However, many of the abused men still deny having any such problem , do not assume the situation and believe that what is happening to them is normal.
Abused men and lack of social visibility
The fact that there are few cases of maltreatment of men by their partners means that society is less aware of this phenomenon than the opposite case, namely the tragedy of male violence that leaves so many victims, as we are unfortunately used to seeing in the news. It is also the case that the lack of attention from the media, the unfavourable treatment in terms of public aid and the blow to their self-esteem, cause a large number of the victims to give up when it comes to going to the authorities.
The fact is that, culturally, man should be a model of strength . This is as real a social cliché as it is in the opposite case; women should have a passive role and dedicate themselves to the care of children. Thus, the male who is attacked by his partner interprets what is happening to him as a sign of his own weakness, and this leads to a questioning of his virility and masculinity instead of being aware of his role as a violated party. This is why the victims do not tell their story and it is their lawyers who expose the facts to the authorities.
Examples of mistreatment and abuse of men
This trivialization of abuse by male victims is easy to see in most cases.
One particular case is that of a man who came home from work and was slapped and thrown by his wife. He justified it by claiming that his wife was mentally ill and that it was not an everyday occurrence. It is, without any nuance, the same justification as in the case of women victims of male violence; the gender here is irrelevant, there is an aggressor and a victim who out of shame, dependence and/or fear, rationalize their situation by taking into account any mitigating factor.
There was once a case of a woman who had been convicted of abusing her spouse, and was currently awaiting imprisonment. He received aggressions on a daily basis, ironically this was a large man who worked in security . He never defended himself against his wife’s aggressions, he feared that defending himself would imply violence on his part, given his social role as a man. Finally, he denounced.
An unprecedented case is that of a man of normal stature and his girlfriend, a very large and sporty foreign woman, who is also very violent. He said that he had come to Spain to flee from the authorities in his country because he had killed two ex-couples. As time passed and events unfolded, he came to believe it. He suffered constant aggressions and even broke his foot . The last time she was arrested was when in the middle of the street she started to hit him with her fist in his face.
After a long time, he finally assumed that he had to report it, which terrified him because he thought it would end up going to him. After several assaults he had to flee from his own home and took out a restraining order after going to the doctor, who processed a report of injuries. However, the restraining order was denied by the judge, as he found the story of this victim implausible as it was a man . Four months later, he obtained a divorce; however, the consequences remained. He is currently on leave from work and in psychiatric treatment for a severe anxiety and depression.
Legal and cultural factors that play against
It is the case that there are countless legal differences when the victim is a male. In Spain, gender-based violence carries a substantially higher penalty than domestic violence, which encompasses not only violence by women against men but also violence against minors. For example, threats in the case that the woman is the victim are considered a criminal offence, while if the victim is a man it is classified as a misdemeanour . Of course, this does not serve to justify gender-based violence, but rather shows a lack of legislation.
This is one of the reasons why the problem is not being tackled: the lack of visibility makes it difficult to dedicate time and resources to changing the legal framework and to building support platforms for abused men. Awareness raising is, in this aspect, a fundamental key to change this.
- Violence in adolescent relationships
- Learned helplessness in victims of abuse