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.