Societal abuse is a form of active abuse, that refers to the disadvantages an individual or group experiences, as a result of unjust social structures. In this case, the group that I’m referring to, is abused men. Particularly, gay, straight, bisexual and trans, male victims of domestic abuse and their children. All categories of societal abuse involve the manipulative control of time, energy, focus and connection between people, groups and organisations, in the service of one side, and to the disservice of the other.
But what is an unjust social structure? They are inequalities deeply woven into the very fabric of a society. They can be observed across institutions such as legal, educational, business, government and health care systems. It is the process by which an individual is dealt with unfairly, by a system of harm, in ways that the person cannot protect themselves against, cannot deal with, cannot break out of, cannot mobilise against, cannot seek justice for, cannot redress, cannot avoid, cannot reverse and cannot change.
Examples of societal abuse include sexism, racism, and other forms of oppression that grant variable human worth to individuals based on misconceptions about race or ethnic culture, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, socioeconomic background, or other status.
Let's be clear, this article favours no gender and is not an attempt to deny the statistics or diminish the experiences of women and girls. But there is an all-pervasive suspicion of male victims of domestic abuse and an obvious willingness to overlook female (straight, gay, bisexual or trans) perpetrators. This is lodged deep within the domestic abuse system, based on some perverse notion that male victims, by virtue of their masculinity, are unfeeling brutes, incapable of being impacted, as seriously as women, by domestic abuse. These male victims are left feeling criminalised, worthless, belittled, powerless and irrelevant.
Manifestations of societal abuse against male domestic abuse victims, range from overt or covert discrimination such as inadequate funding for support services, inadequate social policies to protect against abuses and negative images and stereotypes in the media. On both the individual and group level, societal abuse also tends to include the denial of victims’ pain and suffering, as well as blaming them for abuses committed against them.
Societal abuse of male victims is perpetuated by a society which embraces the negative gender stereotype, that men are the perpetrators and women the victims. An idea that is driven by the multimillion-pound industry, of domestic abuse charities that support women. This is achieved through its dominance of domestic abuse funding and Government influence. These groups minimise men’s experiences and exclude male victims from the conversation, as we are currently seeing in the Parliament debates on the Domestic Abuse Bill.
“Layla Moran was wrong to hit her partner. But domestic violence by women is not the same as domestic violence by men.” - By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown – Journalist.
Societal abuse is traumatic to the people who are targeted and can result in stress symptoms, caused by struggling with social oppression and marginalisation. Psychological effects may include depression, anxiety, shame, rage, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We know that the domestic abuse women experience as victims is far more dangerous and severe than that experienced by male victims.” - Polly Neate CBE - Former Chief Executive at Women’s Aid and now the Chief Executive of Shelter.
Marginalised groups tend to be disproportionately affected by suicide and homelessness - not because they have greater rates of pathology, but because discrimination often keeps them from receiving the same benefits enjoyed by female sufferers and survivors of domestic abuse.
Internalised oppression occurs when people absorb society’s attitudes toward their group and direct those negative attitudes toward themselves. People from marginalised groups often find it hard to access support services – especially if most of the staff represent the dominant female feminist culture and services are based on the feminist beliefs of the dominant organisations.
“Women’s violence towards men is frequently defensive or retaliatory.” – Sandra Horley CBE, Chief Executive at Refuge.
Marginalised groups such as the BAME community, have fought discrimination for years and we still have a long way to go. But in a decent, civilised country, in the twenty - first century, the majority of people recognise and support the fact that members of the BAME communities should be treated equally and should never be discriminated against. No person is superior or inferior, simply because of their skin colour and it should be the same for gender when we look to support sufferers and survivors of domestic abuse.
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