A look into the world of male domestic violence and why we aren’t talking about it

There are almost as many male victims of domestic violence in Canada as there are female victims, but those male victims aren’t getting the support they need in Alberta because female victims are seen as being more in need of help.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2009 there were 601,000 female victims of domestic violence. However, in the same year, there were also 585,000 male victims of such abuse, only a 16,000-person difference between genders.

Justin Trottier, the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Men and Families in Toronto, thinks male victims of domestic violence don’t seek help because men are “not supposed to be vulnerable, you’re not supposed to be taken advantage of or dominated in this way.”

He also sees lots of cases where men who ask for help are not taken seriously. And, even when they do ask for help, those men may end up being treated as the aggressors.

According to Wanda McGinnis, CEO of the Strathmore Shelter, “There is still expectations around what it means to be a man, and images around male victims of domestic violence doesn’t necessarily fit with that.”

“We just seem to have very little interest in considering the negative outcomes of the stereotyping that we tend to follow in these situations,” added Trottier.

Moreover, women are still viewed as more vulnerable to be a victim of domestic violence. 

Nicole Letourneau, the Director of RESOLVE Alberta, said women receive more resources because the risk domestic violence poses to women is so much greater than it poses to men.

“The point is that when women are victims, they’re much more likely to be injured seriously, they’re much more likely to be killed,” said Letourneau. “It’s not to say we should ignore men, in fact I think shelters should be a little more sympathetic to men, but there’s such limited resources that the risk to women is so much greater it makes sense.”

“There is still expectations around what it means to be a man, and images around male victims of domestic violence doesn’t necessarily fit with that.” – Wanda McGinnis

Still, Marcus Cheung, coordinator for the male domestic abuse outreach program at the Calgary Counselling Centre, believes that there are not enough resources out there for men.

“I think a case can be made that the biggest gap we have right now is services to men in a variety of areas, but in particular male victims of domestic violence,” echoed McGinnis.

When asked about the issue, Alberta’s Minister of Human Services Irfan Sabir said in an emailed statement: “No Albertan should live in fear of violence, and it’s clear that more needs to be done to stop this abuse. Our government is taking steps to support victims and those at risk, including an increase of $15 million to strengthen supports in shelters for women fleeing violence and abuse.”

Annually, the government provides approximately $95 million to support Albertans affected by family violence. But for the only men’s shelter in Alberta, the Strathmore Shelter, just over $1.2 million was provided when $15 million in new funding was provided for women’s shelters and second stage shelters. 

McGinnis, whose shelter is the only one in Alberta that provides services for men, said the shelter has received an increase in funding as they have clients that come from across all of southern Alberta.

However, to really solve the problem of domestic violence against men, Cheung said schools should educate students about that issue starting from a young age.

“I think a lot of that is student prevention education and awareness at a young age, especially starting at school,” said Cheung. “They have to learn what is healthy relationships.”

“There does seem to be more of an appetite to talk about these issues,” said Trottier. “This isn’t a gender war between men or women. This is about men and women working together to support families.”

Although awareness programs are on the rise, there is still a long way to go.

“I would rather see a collaborative approach than a competition for scarce resources,” Trottier added. “We just seem to have very little interest in considering the negative outcomes of the stereotyping that we tend to follow in these situations.”

Thumbnail courtesy of Tinou Bao, Creative Commons Licensed. 

tducklow@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this article is Ashley Materi, amateri@cjournal.ca