Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday July 26, 2000

Report shows men also victims of domestic abuse

The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA (CP) - An angry wife wields a frying pan or hurls a vase at her husband in a fit of rage. Is it a serious social problem or the stuff of Hollywood soaps?

The debate over how to deal with domestic abuse directed at men is being stirred up again, this time with the release of a new Statistics Canada survey on family violence. The federal agency reported Tuesday that eight per cent of women and seven per cent of men surveyed reported experiencing violence at the hands of a partner.

Those findings garnered kudos from advocates of a non-gender approach to combating family violence and criticism from domestic abuse organizations that say the problem of violence against women is being undermined.

"It's a given that nobody should face violence, but I'm not prepared to spend two seconds of my time to think of a strategy to make Canadians take violence against men seriously when we haven't taken violence against women seriously enough," said Pamela Cross of the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women and Children.

"It's not the same reality since women have less economic power, less political and social power."

In 1993, a landmark Statistics Canada study that said violence against women was common shocked the country. Seven years later, the federal agency is making waves again by including men in its report.

StatsCan laid out violent incidents ranging from having something thrown at them to being choked or even shot.

In some cases, men were more often the victims - more men reported being slapped, kicked, bitten, hit or hit with something.

Women were more likely to report being sexually assaulted, beaten, choked, threatened with a gun or knife or hurt by a weapon.

"Women tend to experience more serious types of violence, more severe violence, and the outcomes are more serious than they are for men," said Karen Mihorean, a Statistics Canada researcher.

There are few resources specifically available for men. Health Canada has produced a report on husband abuse, but provincial or community outreach programs don't exist.

In the wake of incidents such as a recent sulphuric acid attack on a Toronto woman, some groups insist that women face a much harsher reality - and deserve more services - than men do.

Philip Cook, author of Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, said the debate in unfairly based on the premise that women could never possibly be perpetrators.

Society must begin to address all forms of family violence, said Cook, including violence against men and between same-sex couples.

"We have this myth that men can handle pain somehow to a greater extent than women, and we have this myth that men somehow cannot be hurt emotionally to as great an extent as women," Cook said in an interview from Portland, Ore.

"Those myths in fact perpetuate domestic violence because men feel they must live up to those myths by being able to handle it."

Cook says research shows female abusers throw objects, hit with them or wait until a spouse is sleeping or incapacitated to inflict violence.

In Canada, a group called the Movement to Establish Real Gender Equality has been pushing for recognition of husband abuse.

The group called recently won a Human Rights Commission complaint against an Edmonton social services centre for publishing all its literature with men as perpetrators and women as victims.

Senator Anne Cools has also spoken out on the issue.

© The Canadian Press, 2000

Copyright 2000 Ottawa Citizen