Intimate partner violence is a significant problem in the United States of America. Each year an estimated 5.3 million women experience some form of abuse by their intimate partner; nearly 1 million are violently assaulted (National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2007), and more tragically, 1,232 are murdered (American Institute on Domestic Violence, 2007). Widespread public awareness of domestic violence was brought to the forefront during the 1970s. In conjunction with the feminist rights movement, a grassroots effort to combat domestic violence, spearheaded by domestic violence victims, called attention to the injustices suffered by women at the hands of their male companions. As the awareness and education regarding domestic violence spread, the practice of men controlling women through aggressive force was subject to public scrutiny. As a result, many domestic violence agencies held very suspicious attitudes toward male involvement during the early years of the domestic violence movement (Hatashita, Hirao, Brykczynski & Anderson, 2006).
However, in recent years it has been recognized that intimate partner violence not only transcends socioeconomic stratification, it is also not bound by gender or sexual orientation. Statistics reveal that men are also victims of violence within intimate partnerships. In 1998, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2007) conveyed that 157,330 reported cases of intimate partner violence against men were filed. With regards to sexual orientation, from 1993-2004, an average of 12% of male victims of intimate partner violence reported that the offender was another male, while 2% of female victims reported that the offender was another female (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2007).
In a report presented by LAMBDA (2004), a nonprofit agency dedicated to reducing inequality and homophobia in the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) community, reports indicated that between 25% and 33% of LGB individuals suffer abuse at the hands of their partners. Prevalence rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) among LGB individuals are comparable to reported IPV rates among heterosexual relationships (Greenwood, Relf, Huang, Pollack, Canchola, & Catania, 2002; McKenry, Serovich, Mason, & Mosack, 2006; National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2005).
It is important to emphasize that these statistics regarding domestic violence only reflect “reported cases.” The actual amount of intimate partner violence, regardless of gender or sexual orientation is likely much higher. With current research highlighting the diversity of domestic abuse victims, one may wonder if the staff/volunteers within domestic violence agencies are beginning to reflect such diversity.
Although research indicates that most men do not accept violence against women (Berkowitz, 2003), very few men work in the field of domestic violence treatment and prevention (Flood, 2004; Gillingham, 2006). Theoretical explanations point to the U.S.’s adherence to hegemonic masculinity, and strictly enforced dichotomous gender roles (Berkowitz, 2003; Blackburn, Browne, Brooks & Jarman, 2002; Gillingham, 2006; Robinson, 2003), which may also account for the overall lack of male representation in social service professions in general (Christie, 2001; Lloyd & Degenhardt, 1996). However, a complete understanding of why there is so little male involvement in domestic abuse work is unknown (Ringstad, 2005; Robinson, 2003).
What is known is that there is a great need for male involvement in the fight against domestic violence. Research highlights the possible benefits of male involvement in domestic violence work to include: providing positive male role models, enhancing diversity within agencies, creating a safe environment for male victims, and perhaps most importantly, sending the message that domestic violence is not only a woman’s issue.
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