MYTH: Domestic Violence Affects Only Women
There are many factors that may contribute to the number of domestic violence charges in Chicago and our country as a whole, but one of the major issues is a general failure to understand what domestic violence really is.
The first major misunderstanding is that you can only be charged with domestic violence if you cause physical harm to someone you’re in an intimate relationship with. In reality, the state of Illinois can charge you with domestic violence for non-physical, but emotionally intimidating acts such as verbal threats, destruction of property, and stalking. The second major misunderstanding is that only men can be charged with domestic violence. While it’s true that men are more commonly offenders in domestic violence cases, women can also commit acts of violence in an intimate relationship.
The first step to reducing the national rate of domestic abuse is to increase awareness about situations that aren’t commonly considered instances of domestic violence, such as a woman pushing and yelling at her boyfriend. ManKind Initiative, a British non-profit organization that assists male victims of domestic abuse, recently set out to do just that by releasing a powerful public service video.
Video Reveals Double Standard in Attitudes towards Domestic Abuse
In the video from ManKind Initiative, we first see a heterosexual couple arguing in a crowded public place. The man is yelling at his girlfriend and eventually starts pushing her and cornering her against a fence. Several people on the street immediately step up to put a stop to the altercation and tell the man that if he keeps attacking his girlfriend, they’re going to call the police. It’s the kind of reaction that you would hope to see when a public argument turns violent, because most people in our society recognize that it’s wrong for a man to berate and shove his girlfriend. However, the video then goes on show how the public reacts when the gender roles are reversed.
The scene plays out for a second time on a different crowded street with the same couple, but this time it’s the woman who is yelling and pushing her boyfriend. The reaction, this time, is completely different: none of the witnesses steps in to stop the altercation, and some even smile at the sight of a woman physically intimidating her boyfriend.
This second scene raises an important point: because partner violence against men is less publicized than violence against women, our society generally takes it less seriously or even finds it humorous, and we fail to recognize how serious the problem really is. One in seven adult men in the US has reported being victims of intimate partner violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control—and those are just the men who reported it. Because of the gendered and deeply ingrained expectation that men should be “strong and stoic,” there are most likely many other men who have experienced violence but haven’t reported it out of shame or fear.
All this is not meant to minimize violence against women. Rather, it aims to draw attention to the fact that domestic violence is something that affects both men and women, and that it’s important for both men and women to recognize signs of domestic abuse. In addition to physical violence, this may include:
- Possessive or jealous behavior (e.g. monitoring a partner’s emails and phone calls)
- Verbal threats (e.g. an aggressor threatening to take the kids or to tell the police that the victim is actually the one committing acts of domestic abuse)
- Destroying the victims’ possessions, such as a TV or car
- Verbal abuse or humiliation in front of friends, family, or coworkers
- Attempts to isolate the victims from their own friends and family
- Making false allegations to the police about the victim’s behavior
Speak Out against All Domestic Violence
Whether you’re a man, a woman, or don’t identify with a gender, it’s important that you get help if you’re in an abusive relationship. Domestic violence shouldn’t be a gendered issue; it should be something that concerns everyone.
It may seem particularly difficult to get help if you’re a man in a heterosexual relationship and you’re worried that your partner will counter any claims you make with the allegation that you’re, in fact, the aggressor. If your partner does try to level false allegations against you, you may need to work with a domestic violence attorney in order to put together a strong case and reveal the truth. Don’t hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg; together, we can work to raise awareness and fight domestic violence.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area for the Law Offices of Andrew Weisberg. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and violent crimes to theft-related crimes and traffic violations.