Unique Experiences of Male Survivors: A Lack of Visibility and Resources

Unique Experiences of Male Survivors: A Lack of Visibility and Resources

This Father’s Day, Shelter Movers Nova Scotia wishes to acknowledge some of the hardships that men face on the topic of abuse and intimate partner violence. It is important to note that women and girls are disproportionately affected by abuse and that the majority of our clients identify as female, however Shelter Movers mission is to serve all survivors of abuse, regardless of faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. This blog is intended to recognize the lack of research, awareness, and support systems available to male survivors. 

Male survivors are subjected to unique vulnerabilities when they find themselves in an abusive relationship. This includes the misconception that men are always the perpetrators of intimate partner violence. While women are disproportionately affected by gender-based violence, many studies fail to recognize different types of abuse, resulting in underrepresentation of male experiences. Limitations like vague terms and misspecifications in these studies render male survivors less visible in statistics. For so many male survivors, there are multiple reasons they would hesitate to come forward, including:

  • The fear of not being taken seriously
  • The belief that police cannot do anything
  • Shame

What No one Sees:

 Unfortunately, men do not often fit into women’s services and it becomes extremely difficult for men to find support or emergency housing, especially to do so with their children. Shelter Movers is the only service of its kind in Canada – supporting survivors of abuse transition to a better, safer life. We believe that it is important to recognize and bring awareness to the fact that many men, some of whom are fathers, experience  different types of abuse. Though the most commonly recognized form of abuse is physical, men can also be subjected to sexual, psychological, financial, and legal/administrative abuse. 

 

Legal/administrative abuse is the use of systems, such as family court and police intervention to harm their partner. This is characterized by false allegations, or “withholding contact from children, manipulation of parental relationship, and even using the child themselves as a vehicle for abuse”. 

 

Women that perpetrate abuse may take advantage of the fact that police and judicial systems view domestic incidents through a gendered lens, and often assume men are the perpetrators. Cases in which abuse affects men’s relationship with their children and/or they fear losing them if they leave are shown to have a significant impact on mental health. It contributes to feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts. On top of these emotional barriers, men sometimes feel they cannot leave their abusive partner due to their controlling of finances, or if they don’t believe they can support their children on their own.  

Society’s Perception of Men Experiencing Abuse

Male survivors’ hesitation to report their significant other can stem from multiple negative societal attitudes and expectations of what it means to be a “man”. The notion that men are supposed to be strong, stoic, and in control of emotions impacts the way they view themselves and renders it difficult for them to recognize their situation as abuse. Many fathers cannot or do not want to believe that they are experiencing abuse.

Unfortunately, due to society’s perception that female perpetrated violence is not as serious, it takes a long time for men to share their experience, if they do at all. Men often do not feel comfortable sharing their experiences of abuse with family or friends, as their responses reflect these negative attitudes. 

Take for instance, the infamous Depp V. Heard trial. The media coverage of the trial was toxic and negatively impacts survivors’ willingness  to come forward (for both men and women). This case highlighted bidirectional violence, an issue that is largely neglected in conversations about intimate partner violence. It occurs when a person in the relationship reports both perpetrating and experiencing violence.” The trial also sparked a lot of controversy, stemming from claims that Heard hitting Depp would not be abuse because he has more power than her, physically and financially. This reflects a common  belief that men cannot be subjected to abuse, which is false and extremely harmful. Some men who experience abuse feel as though no one will believe their disclosure, especially if they are physically bigger or stronger than their partner. 

The Issue of Resources

There is very little understanding and empathy in the general population and in service provision for men who are survivors of abuse or intimate partner violence. Men who experience abuse are often invisible statistically and therefore are not adequately cared for. Due to gaps in research, there is a lack of professional training for supporting BIPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, which is based on the overwhelming feedback that treatment is currently administered through a gendered, heterosexual-oriented lens. In order to work towards preventing any and all forms of domestic violence, it is important to ensure that we, as a society, move away from heteronormative frameworks and focus on why instances of abuse are happening in the first place, regardless of one’s gender or sexuality. Community organizations and support systems need to become more inclusive and sensitive to the unique experiences of all socio-demographic groups. 

Resources for Men in Nova Scotia:

This post is to acknowledge that more awareness and support are needed for men who are experiencing intimate partner or gender-based violence.  

The following are some resources available to male identifying individuals in Nova Scotia if they are experiencing any kind of abuse, though if anyone is in immediate danger, they should call 911.

Call 211 to be directed to the Men’s Helpline. 

Shelters: 

HRM: 

Annapolis Valley:

South Shore: 

Counseling/Support/legal Services: 

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