By Grace Pawsey
Modern feminism has gained such prominence within our society in recent decades, that it has led to major cultural changes and viral social media campaigns. Social media campaigns, such as that of the #metoo movement, have granted a platform for women to speak out on oppression and sexual assault, while also challenging societal concepts based on women’s rights and equality. All of this has been much needed as it has redressed imbalances in the past where women’s rights and voices have been wrongly and unfairly marginalised. Although this growth of feminism has importantly allowed for many of these issues to be brought to the forefront of community concerns, some feel that due to a focus on the injustices faced by women, issues relating to men have been sidelined, marginalised or demonised. How much truth is there in this? One area where this may be occurring is in the realm of domestic violence.
Domestic violence is an issue that is growing in Australian society. It mainly involves sexual and/or physical violence that occurs among partners, within the home, or towards children. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare states in a 2018 report on Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence in Australia that 2,800 women and 560 men were hospitalised in 2014–15 after being assaulted by a spouse or partner. This number is astounding, and shows the consequences of extreme physical violence within the domestic scene. Understandably, the media can fixate on female victims as females are the majority of victims, but these statistics reveal that men are also becoming part of this mix of victims of domestic assault.
According to the NSW Government’s Family and Community Services, “there are no official statistics on how many men experience violence and abuse in their relationships, but it could be as many as 1 in 3.” In fact, proportions of emotional abuse against men are even higher, and 58% of intimate partner violence reported involve both the female and the male partner. This lack of publicising and understanding of the broad spectrum of domestic violence issues can become problematic as it skews the true complexity of the issue.
In 2015, as a response to a new government strategy to tackle domestic violence, Swedish Politician and chair of the Moderate Woman’s Party Eva Solberg stated that “we know through extensive practice and experience that attempts to solve an issue through this kind of analysis have failed. And they failed precisely because violence is not and never has been a gender issue.” Uncomfortably, Solberg continues to rebut views on the traditional narrative by suggesting that domestic violence, in at least half of its occurrence, is carried out by female perpetrators.
Erin Pizzey, a novelist and family care activist known for having started the first domestic violence shelter in the modern world, states that “we must stop demonising men and start healing the rift that feminism has created between men and women.” These are strong words from Pizzey and may be neglectful of the many positives feminism has brought, but she does provoke thought. Clearly, too many men are aggressive and violent, and any abuse of women needs to be stopped, but clearly not all men are the same, and the statistics clearly show that some are victims of abuse.
Humanity has long since learned that placing an entire group of people as one stereotype is no longer acceptable.
We, as a human race, need to stop characterising groups, whether they be gender or otherwise, as a stereotype. All victims of domestic violence should be cared for, respected, and acknowledged, and governments should resolve to transcend debates surrounding gender when dealing with this issue. Their focus must solely be on doing everything they can to eradicate this growing social problem.