Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Family violence: Men are victims too

New Zealand has the worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the world. Eighty per cent of incidents go unreported — so what we know of family violence in our community is barely the tip of the iceberg. Today is part four of We’re Better Than This, a week-long series on family violence. Our aim is to raise awareness, to educate, to give an insight into the victims and perpetrators. We want to encourage victims to have the strength to speak out, and abusers the courage to change their behaviour.
The victim kept the abuse private "because it was embarrassing". Photo / iStock
The victim kept the abuse private "because it was embarrassing". Photo / iStock

When you think of family violence, chances are you imagine the abuser as a male.
In most cases, you'd be right.

In most cases the victim of intimate partner violence is a woman. In most cases her children see her being physically, sexually or psychologically abused by her husband, partner or ex.

But we must not forget that men are also abused in their homes.

According to the Ministry of Justice men's experiences as victims of family violence are often different from women. In a public discussion document published to support Justice Minister Amy Adams' review of family violence laws, the difference between the genders was explained.

SPEAK UP: SHARE YOUR STORY HERE

"Male victims of intimate partner violence tend to report that they ar not living in an ongoing state of fear from the perpetrator and experience violence that is far less severe than in male-to-female violence," it said.

The Herald spoke to a man who was in a violent relationship and was regularly assaulted by his wife.

"I was married for nine years. In hindsight I should never have married her but was naïve at the time. We argued a lot and in the last two to three years of the relationship she started to physically assault me," said the man, who the Herald has agreed not to identify.

The arguments and assaults became more frequent when I told her I wanted to leave.

"From that point it was another 12 months before we separated. Most of the assaults in that time were unprovoked."

The man said his then-wife had been sexually abused as a teenager by a family friend and as a result, was very controlling about how she wanted their lives to be.

"It often felt like I was being blamed for the abuse that happened to her," the victim said.

"I tried to be a good husband and was a great father- - we had two children and I was actively engaged in their care on a daily basis as much as I was able to be as well as running a business while she stayed home caring for them."

He did not realise that he was experiencing intimate partner violence until he left.

I did not think about it as domestic abuse. I never hit her or fought back, only defended myself which was mostly to restrain her.

"Only when I left did I have time to reflect on the experience and realised what had happened... I decided that I was worth more and wanted to be with someone who appreciated me."

He kept the abuse secret for a long time.

"I guess I kept it private because it was embarrassing. I eventually talked to a few close friends around the time we separated. They were shocked."

He spoke out in a bid to highlight the fact that while it was mostly women represented in the family violence statistics, men were not immune to abuse.

Abuse towards men happens as well, it's not ok - just as it's not ok for men to hit women.

He wanted to let other men know that asking for help was not shameful nor did it make them less of a man.

"Talk to someone outside the relationship about the abuse to get a different perspective about what is happening. Talk to your partner about it -if you can.

"If it does not stop - leave."

If you're in danger NOW:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you
• Run outside and head for where there are other people
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you
• Take the children with you
• Don't stop to get anything else
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz

How to hide your visit

If you are reading this information on the Herald website and you're worried that someone using the same computer will find out what you've been looking at, you can follow the steps at the link here to hide your visit. Each of the websites above also have a section that outlines this process.

Take a stand - NZ is #BetterThanThis

New Zealand has the worst rate of family violence in the developed world. One in three women will be subjected to physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lives.

Take a stand. Change your social media profile picture to demand that we are better than this. Right-click on this image below (or press and hold on your mobile device) to save, then upload to your social profiles. Or you can download the image here.

- NZ Herald

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