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Tuesday
Jun282011

009: Meeting the needs of male victims of domestic and family violence - Part 1

This is a broadcast of a Panel Session called Meeting the needs of male victims of domestic and family violence, presented at the Australian Institute of Criminology's Meeting the needs of victims of crime conference held in Sydney on 19 May 2011.

Part 1 of the Panel Session features Dr. Elizabeth Celi, a psychologist in private practice specialising in men’s mental health. Since releasing her first book in 2008, “Regular Joe vs. Mr Invincible – The battle for the True Man”, Elizabeth has grown in her own awareness of the silent phenomena of male victims of domestic abuse. Astounded at the oppressive personal impact on men and the social blind spot on this sector of our community, she now actively advocates for this much needed area of men’s mental health.

As you can imagine, Elizabeth has never been short of stimulating discussions and debates on this issue and broader issues affecting men’s identity. With regular appearances on TV, several radio interviews and keynotes in Parliament for men’s health summits, Elizabeth sheds light on misperceptions surrounding men’s psychology. She facilitated, along with the panel, some healthy and robust discussion on developing awareness, understanding and services assisting male victims and female perpetrators of intimate partner abuse and violence.

In this part of the podcast, Elizabeth introduces the topic for discussion and sets the scene for the speakers to come.

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Josh Sweeney: Welcome to Meeting the Needs of Male Victims of Domestic and Family Violence. My name is Josh Sweeney and I'm from the Australian Institute of Criminology. The presenters today are Dr. Elizabeth Celi and we have on the panel Toni McLean, Greg Andresen and Greg Millan.

Now Dr. Elizabeth Celi is a psychologist in private practice specialising in men’s mental health and since releasing her first book in 2008, Regular Joe Versus Mr. Invincible -- the Battle for the True Man, has grown in her own awareness of the silent phenomenon of male victims of domestic abuse. Astounded at the oppressive personal impact on men and the social blind spot on this sector of our community she now actively advocates for this much needed area of men’s mental health. As you can imagine Elizabeth has never been short of stimulating discussions and debates on this issue and broader issues effecting men’s identity and with regular appearances on TV, several radio interviews and keynotes in parliament for men’s mental health summits, Elizabeth sheds light on misperceptions surrounding men’s psychology.

She is looking forward to facilitating along with the present panel today some healthy and robust discussion on developing awareness, understanding and services assisting male victims and female perpetrators of intimate partner abuse and violence.

Dr. Elizabeth Celi: Thank you. Thanks a lot Josh. Welcome everybody and good on you for lasting the distance this second day of a two-day and after lunch, so thank you very much for joining us this afternoon for this extended panel discussion. We do hope to get into some discussion a little later on with you. I'll briefly introduce an overview of this particular area, but first I’d also like to thank the Australian Institute of Criminology and the sponsors for us being able to share this information and discussion with you today.

So as Josh mentioned, I work as a psychologist in Melbourne specialising in men’s mental health with regard to general issues and in particular, since releasing my first book, this phenomenon that even I was very ignorant and unaware of up to five years ago, male victims of domestic abuse. I now do a lot more on the social and media education level. I'm very happy to be sharing this all with you today. So for a few minutes I'll just be giving you the social psychology side of this topic, that often many of us have confronted in doing some of our own work and education in this area, so that we can set some of the scene for you.

Just so that you are aware we do have a camera recording on the panel itself for our own professional debrief and development purposes, but none of you are being recorded, so that you’re aware of that. So as Josh had mentioned, we’ve got Toni McLean, who will also be speaking to you. Each presenter will be giving a different angle on this particular topic and Toni McLean will be sharing some of the research evidence and the methodological considerations with regard to this area. Greg Andresen will then talk to you about the personal and the social experiences of male victims of family violence, its variable dimensions and interplay. Some of the barriers to them disclosing and if they do disclose, some of the difficulties they may face in receiving the kind of care and support that they need. And last but not least we’ve got Greg Millan, a men’s health consultant of over 20 years and he’ll be informing you of a training program for providers, other service providers, health providers and workers in helping men that have been affected by violence.

So we’ll ask you to hold any questions for any of us until after all of the speakers have presented their information. We’ll have about 30 to 40 minutes after all the presentations so we can really dig into some discussion with you, so please jot down your questions along the way that arise for you and we’ll be sure to attend to them as we finish the presentations.

In my growing awareness of this issue clinically and in my social advocacy endeavours, myself and other workers in this field have constantly battled with a particular overarching theme that comes up. Please excuse me if this is repeating it for many of you in here, but it’s worth repeating just so that we’re always aware of a particular perception or a paradigm of “male perpetrator, female victim 100% of the time”. Now there is obviously no denying there are male perpetrators and female victims. Of course there is a lot of important work being done in this area that needs to continue. It’s the “100% of the time” part that we keep encountering. It’s probably best expressed, having been a Rotarian for five years and meeting various Rotarians in different areas. We had a district assembly a few weeks ago and I met a man I hadn’t met before and he asked, “What do you do?”.  I responded, “I'm a psychologist and I specialise in men’s mental health and work with male victims of domestic abuse”. He straightened up with a confused look on his face. His comment was, “They exist?”. That’s a common thing that we often get and people aren’t educated about. So this is part of the social perception we’re needing to break.

So as you’re all aware, domestic violence services were initially established and rightly so, to assist female victims, of course. Over the years, over the decades with constant reinforcement of assisting female victims and male perpetrators the psychological paradigm of ‘men can only ever be perpetrators’ and ‘women can only everbe victims’ has unfortunately become engrained. Whilst we know the research shows otherwise, it’s an innocent blind spot that has been developed over the years that makes it difficult for male victims to get service, attention and help. So it’s this perceptual bias and the blind spot that we’re looking to address that has been inadvertently developed in this particular field.

So putting this in a broader social context for you, where female victims were over four decades ago in terms of the silence of their plight and experience and distress, male victims are at that place now. There is a silent phenomenon of domestic abuse or violence toward men that’s occurring, as my Rotarian friend highlighted and many others in conversations I've had. So we’re very much focused on the community and service provider awareness and education that’s required. To really ensure appropriate services are available for men and as Greg Andresen will mention, some of the blocks that men may face through service provision to just get some support.

So a key perception or factor on the other side of the coin that I’d just like to pose to you as we go through our presentations is – where are we at currently in our views and approach toward female perpetrators of abuse and violence? So we can have male victims and speak about them, but we also need to assist female perpetrators so that everyone in this intricate dynamic gets the assistance that they need.

Please let me make some things clear for you. Given our collective experience with this topic, in speaking about male victims we’re in no way diminishing the existence of female victims, their needs, and the work that is being done in this area. It’s in no way about diminishing resources toward assisting female victims and male perpetrators. It’s very important work and that obviously needs to continue. And each speaker may reiterate this along the way, but if they don’t mention it, it hasn’t been forgotten, so we do most certainly espouse to that very strongly.

Having said that, the reality of female victims can neither be a reason that we disregard male victims or their needs, and a lot of work that needs to be done for them, nor disregarding female perpetrators also being accountable to their behaviour and being able to learn some skills. So on a human level abuse is abuse and it is unacceptable.

I'll finalise on this slide before I hand over to Tony, but just take a moment to review these myths and perceptions that are out there. Some of which again, you may already be aware of, but are very much worth reiterating as we hear a lot of the detail that the presenters will now be giving to you. I'll just read them out because they pretty much speak for themselves.

  • Myth 1, “That men are always aggressors or initiators in domestic violence disputes”, which is clearly false.
  • “How could she possibly hurt him? It just doesn’t happen” Again, this is false.
  • “Men are big and strong, therefore, he can take it” – most definitely false.
  • “Men aren’t afraid of women’s violence or psychological abuse”. In helping men through their experience, this is definitely false.
  • “He must have done something to deserve it” This is quite a difficult one for men to deal with when they’re experiencing the battering of abuse and violence. It is most definitely false.
  • And most important, “Men don’t feel it or aren’t affected by it”. They obviously show their symptoms or their experiences and distress differently, but just because they show it differently doesn’t mean they’re not affected by it, so this myth is definitely false.

So please just keep those in mind as you hear the presenters.

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