Where can abused men get help?
Q: On June 30 you attempted to take gender out of a discussion on controlling behaviours and domestic abuse, but the bulk of the piece seemed aimed at women. It is less common, but men can also be psychologically, physically and sexually abused by women. Where can they go for help?
A: Society does tend to see women as victims and men as perpetrators. So many women are dying at the hands of their male partners that public attention and resources are, quite rightly, focused on that sector. By mentioning the high rate of male suicide I was attempting to broaden our understanding of the negative effects of domestic dysfunction.
To bring about change, we need to understand every part of a negative dynamic. In this context, binary, "us versus them" thinking is unhelpful. Women rarely kill, but they are capable of controlling behaviours, disrespect, manipulation, bullying and violence.
Georgie Wolf, sex worker, freelance writer and sex educator, has a book, The Art of the Hook-Up, due for release in September. It teaches connection, communication and consent as essential skills for a successful sex life or relationship. In it, Wolf describes an incident where she was the abuser.
On holiday, 12 years ago, she and a girlfriend headed out, looking to hook up. Spotting a young guy (about 20) they started drinking, then invited him to have a threesome. He declined, saying he had a girlfriend. They kept drinking until he was totally smashed, then got him back to their room and
started making out.
"He never stopped looking worried … Halfway through the sex, he jumped up from the bed, pulled his pants on, apologised and ran out of the room."
Next day, feeling terrible, Wolf went to get coffee and saw the guy.
"When he saw me, he hung his head and turned away. And in that moment I realised that I'd done something terribly wrong. I didn't understand what had happened until later, after I learned more about consent. At the time I thought it was just bad sex, but … I came to understand … it was sexual assault."
Wolf continues: "I lacked knowledge and self-awareness. I tended to see men as sexual predators and women as sexual victims. I didn't realise it was possible to pressure a guy into doing something he didn't want – I was completely unaware of my own power. I also didn't consider that he might have trouble saying, "No". Guys often feel as though they can't refuse sex for fear of looking unmanly."
Wolf now realises that her behaviour was no different to that often ascribed to men.
"When we set out that night, we were looking for a conquest, not a person. I was focused on what he could give me, not on what he wanted. Because I didn't spend time connecting with him, I missed his distress signs."
Powerless to make amends, Wolf is deeply remorseful. Today, "when I ask someone for their number, ask them on a date, or ask them for sex, I now consider their needs too. I pay attention to body language and check in if my partner looks hesitant. I make it clear that a 'no' is welcome – and if I hear one, I take it seriously."
Wolf has learned a lesson. There were no criminal repercussions from the incident. No one went to prison or onto the sex offenders' register. Perhaps the exception proves the rule. If that young man had called the police would he have been taken seriously? If he was traumatised would other men have been sympathetic? Where could he have gone for counselling and support?
Limited resources are spent where there is the greatest need, so a websearch reveals that most services for men specialise in treating violent men. Eventually, I was able to find a resource for male victims.
The Men's Line (1300 789 978) offers counselling and information about relevant support services to male victims of abuse. Because they have a limited number of telephone counsellors, and can be busy at peak times, please be patient.
About Last Night
About Last Night Blogs are written by Maureen Mathews, published by Fairfax media. Maureen is the original owner of Bliss for Women. The current Bliss Team is excited to Maureen share her knowledge on our new site. It is fantastic to have Maureen as one of our regular expert contributors. If you wish to ask Maureen a question you can can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org using About Last Night in the subject of the email.
We were founded in 1996 by one of Australia’s most respected sex columnists, Maureen Matthews. She wanted to give women of Melbourne a place where they could explore pleasure and sexuality without the sleazy, without the gaze of the male-dominated sex industry of the time. Maureen’s determination for change was inspirational. This drive for change continues today with the new generation at Bliss.
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