The Real Gap Between Men and Women isn’t the Pay Gap: It’s the Empathy Gap

Toronto Domestic Violence Symposium, June 5, 6 and 7th, 2015.  Get your tickets here.

CAFE billboardBy: Rich Harold – When the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) bought a billboard spot at Davenport and Avenue Roads in downtown Toronto, they expected some push-back. Their poster was designed to draw attention to the plight of men who suffer domestic violence and featured an angry, shouting woman, photographed to appear as though she was about to lash out violently. But that wasn’t what made the poster controversial; it was the claim , in huge lettering overlooking Davenport Road, that half of all domestic violence victims were men. It was a bold claim and one that immediately had the media in a tizzy. So outraged were some journalists that they attempted to debunk CAFE’s claims in print, albeit with little success. Days later CAFE members met with press in downtown Toronto to discuss the poster and found the same, unresponsive audience. No matter what they did, no matter how reasonable their message, they couldn’t make those assembled understand two simple facts: men are sometimes victims of domestic violence, and men need help too.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where this refusal to acknowledge basic realities stems from. Clearly, there are individuals and groups who are hostile to the ideas that organizations like CAFE espouse. Repeated demonstrations and protests at CAFE events, some of which bordered upon violent, attests to that.

For many in the feminist movement concepts like misandry are complete misnomers; the very idea is bogus because it stands in direct contradiction to one of the central tenets of feminist theory—patriarchy. Under this model, society is structured by and for men, to the detriment of women. Applying this standard to domestic violence results in a framework where only women are seen as victims and a model that denies the suffering of men—at least on a scale comparable to women. Not only that, but those men who are victimized are actually regarded as victims of patriarchy. At least, that’s how the theory goes.

But while the media may display incredulity at the idea of the existence of male victims of domestic violence and while feminists may display antipathy towards an equitable solution to the problem, there’s still a much bigger part of the picture.

The general public.

As people, we have become utterly desensitized to the ideas of male suffering. This is evidenced by the obvious fact that the overwhelming majority of homeless people are men. The majority of suicide victims are men. The majority of combat victims are men. The majority of assault and homicide victims are men. The majority of workplace deaths are also men. In almost every category, where people are hurt, abused, or victimized, it is men—not women—who suffer most.

As a society, we place immense expectations on men’s shoulders. They are the protectors, the breadwinners, the builders, the fixers. They keep the lights on, keep the water running and are encouraged, at almost every point to never complain, to never ask for help or to never admit that they might have a problem. Men are told to “suck it up” to “man up” when they fail to meet the expectations demanded of them.

Little wonder then, that there are no services for men in need. We’ve shamed men into fearing to come forward to tell their stories. We’ve shamed men into thinking that the abuses they suffer and the needs that they have must always come second. Society would stop functioning, after all….

It’s time for that to stop.

Society will not stop functioning because we allow ourselves to recognize men’s needs. Society won’t collapse under its own weight because rather than telling men to “get over it” we take some time to pause, and to listen. If anything, our society will be all the better for it; we’ll move one step closer to a society that’s truly inclusive and accepting.

In Canada today there are some 593 shelters for abused women. That’s a good thing. There are hundreds of helplines in almost every language in the world. That’s a good thing. There are groups, lobbies, organizations big and small that do outreach work and awareness raising all to reduce the impact of domestic violence on women. That’s also a very, very good thing.

But when we look at the services afforded to men there is practically nothing. There are no shelters. There are no helplines. There are a handful of bodies that operate to raise awareness and offer some basic psychological services—but most of them are operating on a shoestring. For those groups the mountain of work that they stand before has no summit.

It doesn’t have to be this way and it can’t be this way if we are to continue to call our society fair, if we are to continue to call our society civilized.

How domestic violence is violence against children


Toronto Domestic Violence Symposium, June 5, 6 and 7th, 2015.  Get your tickets here.

Domestic Violence is Child Abuse
Domestic Violence is Child Abuse

Attila Vinczer – It’s a sad, but everyday fact of life that not all relationships are destined for success. The fairytale of high school sweethearts walking down the aisle and raising a loving family together in a house with a white picket fence, is today really just that—a fairytale. There are any number of reasons why relationships can come to an end. Some people just drift apart, eventually coming to the understanding that the partnership is no longer working. But in some cases, relationships can turn particularly sour, and at times, violent; and a relationship turned violent is made all the more tragic when children are involved.

The impact of domestic violence on a child’s development cannot be overstated. Children raised in homes where domestic violence is the norm are more likely to act out and to be hostile to others. They can develop a panoply of emotional and psychological problems as a direct result of the trauma they endure. Issues such as heightened sensations of fear, depression, shame and anxiety are extremely common as are issues relating to self-image and self-esteem. Children can become so traumatized they may seek to protect themselves from what they’re seeing by withdrawing emotionally in everyday life—or in some cases literally running away. Concentration levels are also affected which makes academic success highly unlikely, and increases the likelihood of dropping out altogether.

Unfortunately, these problems are often compounded by a system that does not understand the root cause of the problem. Behavioural issues instigated by the trauma of domestic violence are often categorized as mental or behavioural disorders which are sometimes treated, oftentimes unnecessarily so, with medication.

While the most damaging effects of witnessing domestic violence for children are psychological, they’re not the only ones. Such children can also have a wide array of physical, stress-related ailments. Persistent headaches, stomach aches, rashes and sleep-related problems such as bed wetting and night terrors are extremely common.

But the impact on children doesn’t just stop there. As Children grow and develop so too do the attendant emotional and psychological issues. Children who grow up around domestic violence are far more likely to develop substance issues such as alcoholism and drug abuse. They are more likely to become homeless and far more likely to end up with criminal records. Girls are also at a far higher risk for juvenile pregnancy.

Finally, and perhaps most tragically, is the fact that children who witness domestic violence are more likely to become victims themselves. In relationships where domestic violence is the norm, it is an unfortunate reality that children too can find themselves at the centre of such carnage especially when alcohol and drugs are involved.

But while the realities of domestic violence are horrific, that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. The so-called ‘cycle of violence’ doesn’t need to be a cycle at all; there is room for hope. Children who come from such homes deserve to be given the best possible chance at success in life. One of the most important ways of doing this is by making the point to children that violence is wrong and is not an appropriate way to deal with conflict. Children should be made aware that violence in the family is an aberration, and that there is an alternative.

Relationships don’t always work out. Feelings can fade and things can go wrong. But children, who are the very embodiments of the love and care upon which relationships are very often based, should never become victims of such unfortunate circumstances. They deserve so much better.

Intimate Partner Violence: Not A Zero Sum Game

Toronto Domestic Violence Symposium, June 5, 6 and 7th, 2015.  Get your tickets here.

Dr. Tanveer Ahmed
Dr. Tanveer Ahmed – Psychiatrist, author, father, DV advocate.

The story of inter-partner violence is inextricably to the story of gender relations. There has been an upheaval of masculinity in recent decades, with men over-represented in suicide, school drop outs and relationship failure. Fatherlessness is on the rise. While we rightly celebrate the tremendous empowerment of women, there remains a degree of reluctance to fully acknowledge the worsening vulnerabilities being exposed among men. Gender relations is often treated as a zero sum game with advocates fearing that speaking out for men may result in a corresponding loss for women.

In my view, the position that male violence towards women is driven entirely by patriarchy and male entitlement is increasingly bogus. Both the research and my own clinical experience suggests that male violence occurs for many of the same reasons violence occurs in others settings, varying from mental illness, substance abuse and poor regulation of rage. The ethnically diverse migrant nature of Western societies add further complexities regarding the effects of accelerated male disempowerment. Without acknowledging this, the well meaning advocates working to help female victims will lack effectiveness. They also help perpetuate the myth of the universality of male strength and female weakness, directly at odds with feminist demands of equality in other fields.

Women remain disproportionately affected by inter-partner violence but there can be little doubt that female violence towards men is on the rise, as is public awareness thereof. Women are also more likely to be abusive to their children. The issue has importance because male victims lack legitimacy. Worse, they are often figures for ridicule.

Inter-partner violence remains a scourge that diminishes not just the people directly involved, but the environments in which we raise our children. For anybody interested in relationships and wellbeing, the real causes must be highlighted beyond the dogma.

Domestic Violence: Suicide, Silent Killer of 8-Men & 2-Women Daily in Canada


Toronto Domestic Violence Symposium, June 5, 6 and 7th, 2015.  Get your tickets here.

8-Men & 2-Women Commit Suicide Daily in Canada
8-Men & 2-Women Commit Suicide Daily in Canada

“John” was a U.S. marine who served his country in two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He was considered by his peers and commanding officers as a brave and exemplary marine, someone who put the lives of others before his own. When he was discharged he returned to his hometown in Wisconsin, said goodbye to friends and family, and set out to begin the next chapter in his life, in Canada. John had married a Canadian woman and to be closer to her ailing mother, moved to Saskatchewan.

The first year went well. John and his wife “Sarah” were happy enough. But after a while, things began to change. Sarah had a temper. It became a daily routine for Sarah to verbally abuse John. If he came home from work late, or hung out with friends, she wasn’t happy. Pretty soon, that abuse turned physical. She started with slaps and hair pulling. Then the slaps turned into closed fists. Finally, she started to use whatever came to hand…

When Sarah was at a friend’s house for a baby shower, John went into the garage, put a rope around his neck, and hanged himself. He simply couldn’t take it anymore.

For John, it was easier to take on Taliban forces than it was to seek sanctuary from his abusive wife. To many, that might sound shocking. The idea that John wasn’t able to call a domestic violence hotline, or take refuge in a domestic violence shelter seems absurd. What’s even more absurd though, is the fact that there aren’t any help-lines for men or domestic violence shelters. For men like John, who are the victims of such abuse, there is nowhere to turn.

There is no help. At least—not yet.

June 5-7 sees the return of the Toronto Domestic Violence Symposium. The event, now in its second year, will bring experts from around the world to discuss the issue of domestic violence—particularly as it pertains to men.

Among the featured speakers are:

Dr. Tanveer Ahmed, an Australia-based psychiatrist and politician. Dr. Ahmed will discuss domestic violence from a broad perspective in terms of how it affects families, and the role of the judiciary in understanding the issues.
Dr. Miles Groth, an American professor of psychology at New York’s Wagner University. Dr. Groth is editor of the International Journal of Men’s Health as well as the author of three books on German existentialist philosopher, Martin Heidegger.
Vernon Beck, a Canadian family conflict specialist and mediator. Mr. Beck is an expert on the Canadian family law system and will discuss the additional trauma that the system often inflicts on families.

One of the key aims of the TDVS is to undo the myths around domestic violence. Currently, the issue is broadly understood as one that mainly affects women, but decades of research shows conclusively that domestic violence is not a gendered issue—that it affects men and women almost equally. Unfortunately, men find it next to impossible to access services and help when they find themselves victimized. Speakers at the symposium will explain the roots of this misunderstanding and will argue for a system that is welcoming to both men and women and that understands the causes and effects of domestic violence for all people.

John’s story is tragic, but is also one that is repeated every night in homes across Canada. If more tragedies like his are to be avoided then the conversation needs to change. It is time to acknowledge men’s suffering as victims of domestic violence. It doesn’t help anybody if we keep ignoring the problem.

Dr. Tanveer Ahmed – Keynote Speaker 2015 TorontoDV Symposium

Toronto Domestic Violence Symposium, June 5, 6 and 7th, 2015.  Get your tickets here.

Dr. Tanveer Ahmed
Dr. Tanveer Ahmed – Psychiatrist, author, father, DV advocate.

We are delighted to present Dr. Tanveer Ahmed as our 2015 TorontoDV Symposium keynote speaker.  Ahmed is travelling from Australia to deliver what will be a spectacular presentation about the effect of Domestic Violence on men, women and children.

His comprehensive balanced approach will drive the direction of Domestic Violence to a closer end, where both men and women will be seen as significant victims and significant perpetrators thereof.  Dr. Tanveer Ahmed will deliver insight aimed at our Judiciary as well as the public they officiate over.  We desperately need to better understand the entire dynamics of DV and IPV.

Articles such as this one, authored by Ahmed are needed in greater numbers addressing the whole of DV and IPV, Intimate Partner Violence.

Men forgotten in violence debate

“There is too little acknowledgement of the importance of male disempowerment in debates surrounding domestic violence. Gender relations have changed dramatically in the past few decades, but discussions about family violence are stuck in the mindset of 1970s radical feminism.”

That article caught my attention and the backlash that it caused, was alarming.  Why?  Who would not want to include men as significant victims of Domestic Violence, when that is what science tells us?  It was clear to me, Ahmed would be an integral speaker at the 2015 TorontoDV Symposium.

We look forward to having you in Toronto this June 5, 6 and 7, 2015.

Tanveer Ahmed’s short bio.

Dr Tanveer Ahmed is an Australian based psychiatrist, author and local politician.  He is a general adult psychiatrist seeing patients in a range of settings, varying from hospital inpatients, doing legal reports for the justice system and seeing adolescents referred from schools.  Tanveer has involvement in the media and writes on social and psychological issues in various Australian publications. He also appears regularly on radio and television.  He is an elected local politician in a municipal area within inner Sydney.  He is the published author of popular migration memoir “The Exotic Rissole”. He was once chosen by a Prime Minister’s committee as one of a hundred future leaders of Australia under the age of 40.

Tanveer has long held an interest in domestic violence issues, both from his experience in ethnic communities as well as the patients he sees within his practice.  He was a White Ribbon ambassador in Australia for close to a decade, including helping to expand the campaign in Pakistan.  He was forced to resign from his position after a feminist backlash when he wrote an article in the Australian newspaper arguing male violence can be an expression of underlying distress and male disempowerment was a growing factor in driving male violence towards women.  Tanveer was born in Bangladesh but grew up in Australia. He is married and a father of two daughters living in Sydney.