Compassion and understanding towards female victims of domestic abuse has certainly grown over the past several years, and many more men are speaking up and stepping in to stop and prevent violence against women. However, a new study from the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters shows that for many men, their understanding how domestic abuse affects and damages women is still sorely lacking.
Is it ignorance? Callousness? Or perhaps it is that some men simply cannot empathize with female abuse victims. Here, we take some of the disturbing statistics from the ACWS’s report and try to explain them in terms even those unlikely to experience abuse will understand.
Only 1 in 4 men consider yelling at a partner to always be domestic abuse
Shockingly, 25 per cent of men think that yelling is sometimes justifiable – and that number jumps up to 3 in 5 when a woman has been unfaithful. But verbal abuse is just as, and in many cases more damaging than physical abuse, as breaking down someone’s mental defences and self-esteem can leave emotional scars that can take years to heal (if ever). This ChildLine ad shows the harmful effects of verbal abuse on women and children, and how damaging it can be when the person who is supposed to be your supportive partner verbalizes your insecurities:
3 in 5 men don’t understand why women stay in abusive relationships
Above all, because of fear. Not irrational fear, either; the very real fear that their partner will hurt or kill them if they try to leave. In the U.S., more than 80 per cent of violence against women is committed by their intimate partner, and that, oh, yeah, ONE THIRD of women murdered were killed by their intimate partners. The fear that your partner could hurt you – and possibly your children – if you attempt to leave is a powerful motivator to stay in an abusive situation. And as this incredible TedX talk from abuse survivor Leslie Morgan Steiner shows, there are many, many reasons why a woman might choose to stay. The video is 16 minutes long, but worth it.
Nearly 1 in 2 men think it’s not abusive or only sometimes abusive to withhold money from a partner in order to control them
Except that it is. More than 1 in 2 domestic violence survivors reported that their abusers denied them access to or knowledge of their finances, or that their abusers took control of the victim’s money, in order to isolate and control their actions. Without access to money, the victims had no resources to leave the relationship.
Still not convinced? Well, what if it was your sweet, elderly grandma who was being financially abused?
It doesn’t seem so inconsequential when it’s an old lady, does it? But regardless of age, it’s just as damaging, and no one deserves to be controlled through financial means.
Nearly half of men think a woman could leave an abusive relationship if she really wanted to
According to the ACWS, 48 per cent of Alberta men believe that a woman could extract herself from her abusive situation if she were truly motivated. But even if we put aside the fear for her safety, the financial control, and the verbal and physical abuse that has broken down her self-worth, there’s still the question of whether anyone is paying attention when a woman asks for help. As this NO MORE commercial from 2015 shows, sometimes cries for help can be ignored unless we’re open to the signs:
Of those who witnessed abusive or harassing behaviour against women, 1 in 3 men did not intervene
When people see an abusive situation, they often don’t want to intervene in favour of “minding their own business” and “keeping the peace.” But the peace is already broken, and minding your own business only serves the purposes of the abuser, not the victim. Staying neutral is no longer acceptable, as the Who Will You Help campaign from the Ontario government aims to prove:
1 in 3 men think that women who were pressured into having sex when they were inebriated shouldn’t report it as rape
When alcohol gets involved, suddenly many people think that consent becomes a grey area, but the truth is that if a person is inebriated, they lack the judgment to consent. Yes, even if they said “yes” after an hour of saying “no.” Yes, even if they say “no” after a night of saying “yes.” That’s not a personal preference, that’s the law.
The Don’t Be That Guy campaign attempts to get this across. One important thing the campaign achieved was recognizing that rape doesn’t only happen to women:
In case the final photo in that row is too small, here’s a larger version. Rape is rape, regardless of whether the victim is male, female, or undefined, but the Don’t Be That Guy campaign makes it clear that all of those instances are rape, and none is “less rape” than the others.
50 per cent of men think women frequently falsely report rape
False rape accusations often receive a lot of media coverage, which can lead many to believe that they are common. But a 2013 report from the Crown Protective Services show that, at least in the U.K., for every 161 allegations of rape that they investigate, only one person is ever charged with making false allegations. That’s 0.62 per cent. Doesn’t seem so common now, does it?
1 in 3 think women put themselves at risk by wearing provocative clothing
The good news is that 6 out of 10 men don’t think a woman’s clothing is to blame if she’s assaulted, but 30 per cent of men need to get with the program. Maybe this comic from Everyday Feminism’s Alli Kirkham will help show that your outfit doesn’t actually override your consent:
More than 1 in 10 men think women mean “yes” when they say “no
While 77 per cent of men agree that “no” means “no” (phew!), a disturbing 13 per cent think that women are just playing hard to get and actually mean “yes.” (And 5 per cent of men stayed neutral – what did we just say about staying neutral, guys?) But just as Alli Kerkham’s comic above showed how one’s apparel doesn’t invite harassment, her other comics also perfectly illustrate how insane it is to assume that someone has consented to something that they haven’t: