Changing for Good
In seeking to minimise and justify their violence, some men will claim to be a victim of violence from their female partner, yet actually be perpetrators of violence. We also recognise that men may be genuine victims of violence from a female partner.
Distinguishing between these very different presentations is critical to ensure workers avoid colluding with perpetrators of violence. Acceptance of his justifications can further reinforce his entitlement to use violence as well as also encourage him to continue to blame her for the violence in the relationship.
On the other hand, workers risk entering into a victim blaming dialogue with those who genuinely need support.
Rather than focus on the story, workers are encouraged to take note of the differing presentations of these two groups of men. The following descriptions give some ideas of these differences, and some clues as to how different questions might elicit more information.
Perpetrators claiming to be victims
These men will often maintain a righteous position in relation to their violence. They will often present details about one or two events, and tend not to provide details. They will focus largely on the actions of the other and avoid discussion of their own behaviour.
Often they will present aggressively, seeking to demean their partner in an effort to justify their actions. There may also be multiple intervention orders and police attendances and charges that have been laid against him.
These men can present as charismatic and charming and seek to get the worker on side.
Men who are victims of violence
Typically, this is a very different presentation with features similar to women who are experiencing violence.
Typically, men will report a series of attacks, will usually be self-blaming for what has occurred, are unlikely to have sought help from police or emergency services and will be able to describe a variety of past actions taken to avoid violent or abusive situations – this may indicate a level of fear of violence from their partner.
They may be resistant to the idea of involving police or courts. They may be quite socially isolated. Men who are victims will make excuses for their partner’s behaviour, including blaming themselves for what has happened. They might also talk openly and in detail about the violence they have used in response to her violence. They may describe symptoms consistent with trauma such as sleep disturbance, appetite loss, and other physical reactions. This may have led to lost time from work.