triple j’s HACK: When men are the victims of relationship violence (mp3 audio)

August 4, 2011

triple j’s Hack. Shoving the J into journalism, Hack covers current affairs, music, politics and culture with youth in mind.

Hack : Thursday 04 August. When men are the victims of relationship violence. How would a fast train change your life… and 100% Mambo support for Mabo t-shirts.

 download mp3: 12.7 MB


Tom Tilly: Yesterday on the show we brought you some research about the way gender-based violence towards women has drastic consequences for their mental health. While that segment was going to air a few of you guys called in to tell us your stories. Around one in three young victims of relationship violence are male. And, if you are a guy whose been on the receiving end of some relationship violence please give us a call and share your story with us.

Announcer: HACK. 1-300 0555 36. Text 0439 75 7555.

Tom Tilly: One of the men that called in yesterday was a guy that we have called Johnny.

Johnny: Things like a hit across the face or a punch. Swearing, calling me “cunt,” “fuckhead,” saying the thought of touching me made her sick. Threats of suicide if I stayed, threats of suicide if I left. Self-harming in front of me.

Johnny: My name is Johnny. I am 26 years old and I was involved in a relationship and I still am. And for a time, it was an abusive relationship where my girlfriend was verbally abusive and actually physically violent and of course as a man there is no way I would ever retaliate. It went on for a while until I threatened to leave. But it had a major effect on my mental health. I lost my dream job restoring early cars. I got a bad case of the shakes. I became really anti-social – didn’t want to talk to anyone and genuinely, just had a break down, I guess you could call it.

Johnny: Still my concentration is atrocious. When I talk about it I get shaky again. I am trying to improve but it was a genuinely horrible part of my life and something that took me a while to deal with. I didn’t feel like I should have an issue because I just thought, “I am a man so I should be able to just harden up,” you know, just get through it and I thought it was just me being silly. But, after I started to lose my coordination, my job, my ability to focus for long periods of time, I realised that it did it was not on and had a major, major, major impact on my life.

Johnny: It was a real shock and it took a while to register. For the first while, I just thought it was just girls blow off steam, the crazy garden-variety women stuff. But it turns out it is not. It got worse and worse to the point where it was – had me in tears, I guess. And then that’s when I sought to get help. I see a psychologist and I learned that that behaviour was inappropriate and I had to make a definite change or she had to change. So that pretty much brings you up to speed of where we are at at the moment.

Johnny: I am on Escitalopram or Lexapro which is a form of antidepressant. I also have to have a lot of my own mental strategies in order to function on a day to day basis. My loyalty for the girl outways what my brain also says is you know, run while you can. But, I do believe I love the girl with all my heart. I do believe that she needs a lot of help. And, I do believe that I am able to be a supportive partner and I want to be so much, so, so, so much.

Johnny: The longer I stick around if it continues the more I am going to just get worn down until my own mental health is equally as destroyed, I guess, so it’s a bit scary. But we are trying to work it out and seek help for my girlfriend and see if she can sort herself out and this relationship can be saved. But, I am under no illusions that it will be easy and I’m under no illusions it will definitely work out so that’s where we are at at the moment.

Tom Tilly: Johnny speaking to our reporter Patrick Abboud there. If you’ve got a story that relates to Johnny’s, you have experienced relationship violence as a male give us a call.

Announcer: HACK. 1300 0555 36. Text 0439 75 7555.

Tom Tilly: A few texts coming in. One person says “physical violence of any sort is not on but many forget about emotional abuse just as important but no obvious scars. It destroys guys’ confidence.” That’s from Ryan. Another person says, “I was attacked by a partner, had to get a protection order but it took three attempts in court because I was male.” And that’s from Drew. Michelle, you have known three guys that could relate to Johnny’s story.

Michelle: Yeah, I have had three friends that have been victims of violence by their girlfriends.

Tom Tilly: Were they able to talk to someone about it?

Michelle: Yeah, not really like even when I witnessed one of my friends being hit by his girlfriend and when I sort of tried to talk to him about it like saying you know, “It’s not okay,” he was just like, “Oh, I don’t want to talk about it,” and didn’t really back away from that. He didn’t know where to go or what to do about it. And, yeah, it’s pretty hard for him to do that. You know, go through it.

Tom Tilly: Did you get the sense that he was really ashamed of what was going on?

Michelle: Yeah, and when I tried to speak to her about it as well, she was like, “Oh well, you know, he does this and he does that.” And she really was putting the blame back on him and he was almost mirroring that behaviour, like he was really embarrassed about it and you know just like as though he should be able to take that.

Tom Tilly: Thanks so much for the call Michelle.

Michelle: No worries, thanks.

Tom Tilly: Mike, you can relate to it and it’s made you terrified of getting into a new relationship.

Mike: Yeah absolutely. I have been single and celibate for over 11 years now. And in that time – I’m not putting tickets on myself – but I’ve have some quite attractive offers, but I’m terrified. It really scares me the thought of getting into a relationship.

Tom Tilly: Why is that?

Mike: Because of it was just endless verbal abuse and emotional blackmail and emotional abuse, and then fairly regular, like violent outbursts where I’ve had, you know, bottles, knives, endless objects thrown at me and I’ve been punched and kicked, kneed in the nuts, the whole thing. Actually I’m shaking.

Tom Tilly: Oh, that’s full-on. Obviously, you are still worried that that might happen in your next relationship.

Mike: Yeah it terrifies me. I’m actually shaking talking about it. It terrifies me.

Tom Tilly: Yeah, I can hear in your voice. Mike, thanks so much for your call.

Mike: No worries, thank you.

Tom Tilly: Brooke, you’ve been on the other end. You have abused your male partner. What happened there?

Brooke: Well basically, I hit him a couple of times and I know that is pretty bad. I am actually a black-belt in Taekwondo.

Tom Tilly: Wow. Frightening.

Brooke: I should probably know a little better than that. Yeah I was at a point where I had actually experienced some violence myself and I wasn’t defending myself at the time he was just constantly at me and arguing and emotionally abusing me. And, I am just the type of girl where I don’t like to argue and I don’t like to yell. I just like things to be over. And the only way I could see for things to stop was for me to hit him. It was actually, we were both intoxicated in the middle of the street and I punched him expecting nothing to happen because I’m a lot smaller and he’s a football player and I knocked him out. In the middle of the street.

Tom Tilly: Wow. You really did sort it out quite quickly.

Brooke: Yeah, and there was blood. And I freaked out. I’m crying, calling my dad saying “he won’t get up, I don’t know what to do,” and people think it is actually okay, and I, like the previous email caller…

Tom Tilly: How did you feel after that happened?

Brooke: I felt really guilty. You know it is not the right behaviour. I trained in Taekwondo for how ever many years to know that it’s a defence thing. He didn’t attacked me when I did it, he just aggravated me to the point where I just, I snapped, I guess. And you know, I know that that’s not okay and I’ve never done it since and you know, I’ve been in many arguments and so on. But, it’s just he seemed to be able to get at me to that point where there was nothing else I could do or say except to just stop it.

Tom Tilly: Thanks so much for the call there Brooke. That’s a really interesting story.

Brooke: Mmm, thank you.

Tom Tilly: We have Greg Andresen in the studio. He is a researcher in relationship violence, and particularly in relation to men, and he is part of a campaign called the One in Three Campaign. It highlights the fact that over a third of young victims of relationship violence are male. Greg thanks for joining us in the studio.

Greg Andresen: Yeah, you’re very welcome.

Tom Tilly: You just heard that really interesting story from Brook where there was a combination of the male partner being aggressive in a verbal sense and she fought back physically. Obviously there is a trade off of different kinds of abuse going on there.

Greg Andresen: Right!

Tom Tilly: How do you kind of manage that sort of scenario?

Greg Andresen: Well that’s actually, we hear a lot about domestic violence and the main story that is out there is about female victims and it is really great that you are talking about males today, but another story that you’ve just brought up now which does not get much of an airing is this mutual violence. It’s actually…

Tom Tilly: Of different kinds.

Greg Andresen: Of different kinds, right! So it’s actually, it’s more common for there to be this mutual violence where men and women are going at each other, both of them are in a sense abusive or violent but possibly in different ways. That is actually more common than this unilateral, one person abusing the other and so…

Tom Tilly: Yeah because we talk about victims, don’t we, and that seems to almost, you know, dichotomise them, but it is not often like that.

Greg Andresen: Right and then suddenly someone’s the saint and someone’s the evil party, but really violence is extremely complex especially, and here is another key, when alcohol is involved like in this story. The correlation between alcohol use and relationship violence is very, very high. People lose control of their normal inhibitions and unfortunately can lash out like your last caller.

Tom Tilly: One person’s texted in and says “I was mentally bullied by my first girlfriend for seven years. I’m now 34 and still haven’t recovered properly.” Why is it so hard for men to be able to deal with this?

Greg Andresen: Look, men, they really face a set of unique barriers compared to women which make them much less likely to actually report being a victim or to actually tell someone about it. And a lot of it is about this challenge to their sense of manhood or masculinity. There is a lot of shame or embarrassment for men if their female partner is abusing them. There is a real social stigma out there, because they are afraid that if they tell someone, they might be laughed at, they may be told, you know “Man up!” as that earlier caller said.

Tom Tilly: Well, actually a text has just come in and says, “The men should eat a teaspoon of concrete and harden up.”

Greg Andresen: Right.

Tom Tilly: Is that part of the problem?

Greg Andresen: That’s absolutely the problem. That’s the problem. And that attitude unfortunately does not just come from friends or family, that comes from, we have had men tell their stories on the One In Three website and there are stories of men going in to police stations, you know, this is where they should be taken seriously and the police saying, “Go home! Harden up!” you know, “There’s nothing we can do for you here.”

Tom Tilly: Is there work being done to change those attitudes?

Greg Andresen: Look, I wouldn’t want to tar the whole police with that brush. I think it is probably a few bad apples and on the whole, it’s actually probably pretty good, but, look, let’s hope that they are doing something and programs like this may help with that.

Tom Tilly: Bill, you weren’t taken seriously when you were in this situation.

Bill: No, not at all. I mean, you know, I was in a relationship were it was pretty good most of the time, but then there was a lot of emotional abuse coming my way. You know, and it got to physical abuse and it was both of us, you know. Nothing too major but at the end of it, when everything fell apart, I lost pretty much everybody, because I was taken as the bad guy because I’m a male when no-one really knew how complex the whole situation really was. Where, you know, I was trying to do everything, but nothing was ever resolved. And now I’m the bad party when really it wasn’t the case.

Tom Tilly: Was it her only that was carrying out physical violence or were you involved in that as well?

Bill: No, not at all. I mean, as far as, you know, there was a few slaps and things like that and a bit of pushing and things like that, but no nothing, nothing major on my half, it was more the other way but I…

Tom Tilly: Was she laying right into you?

Bill: Oh yeah, absolutely yeah, at times definitely.

Tom Tilly: Were you physically stronger than her like if you had wanted to would you have been able to overpower her?

Bill: Oh absolutely, easily but you know that’s not my nature.

Tom Tilly: But you never did?

Bill: No, no not at all. But I was always seen as the bad party in the end of it because you know, people thought the relationship got violent and it was my fault.

Tom Tilly: Thank’s so much for the call there, Bill.

Bill: No worries, ta.

Tom Tilly: Greg, that raises an interesting question for me because in a lot of cases on average, men will be stronger than women and they potentially could overpower them, unless they are a taekwondo black-belt like our previous caller.

Greg Andresen: Right.

Tom Tilly: But what does a man do in that situation? We all grow up with that great ethic “a men should never hit a woman,” but how does a man deal with that when physically he could solve that situation.

Greg Andresen: Right, well look, this is all too common and in fact, one other issue he brought which I just wanted to mention is often, men are really seen as the bad guy when there is mutual violence or even when they are are the victim of violence and that’s really, really unfortunate. But, yeah absolutely, this… men are told – well, little boys learn, you don’t hit girls and men learn you don’t hit women. It’s this sort of old chivalry thing that we all learn.

Tom Tilly: And obviously, you don’t want to do that. But, is that part of the problem, that sort of old school ethic in a way?

Greg Andresen: No, I think that is really great, because imagine if your last caller didn’t have that ethic and he’d laid back into her, he probably, because of his bigger size and strength, would have injured her a lot worse. So it’s actually great that he was able to restrain himself. But the problem is, that he ends up taking it because he feels there’s no way to, in a sense, fight back or to challenge it. So I really think men in his situation, they really need to tell someone about it. That’s the first step: don’t bottle it in yourself.

Tom Tilly: Greg Andresen thanks for joining us on Hack.

Greg Andresen: You are very welcome.

Announcer: HACK. With Tom Tilly on triple j.

Tom Tilly: That’s Greg Andresen. He is from Men’s Health Australia talking about violence in relationships where the man is the victim. That’s all we have time for today. Thanks so much for all your texts and calls. We’ll be back tomorrow at 5:30

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